It wasn’t so long ago that I was full of angst over whether I should get an e-reader. Having set a challenge for myself of reading at least 20 books in a year, and finding it awfully hard at times, I wasn’t sure if an e-reader would make life easier or just take me farther away from the printed page. My first job–ever–was as a page in a library, shelving books, and I truly enjoy the tactile experience of holding a book, turning the pages, and reading the book as the author intended. Still, it’s hard when you run into storage issues, as we have. We have seven 7-foot-tall Ikea bookcases filled to the gills with books, stacked up and shelved so thickly that there’s barely any space for new additions (and that doesn’t even include the bookcases in our living room or the kids’ rooms, all of which are also full).
Last Fall, I bought an iPad Mini 2 after much internal deliberation of iPad Mini versus Kindle Fire HDX. Ultimately, I didn’t want something as large as a traditional iPad, but I wasn’t impressed with the Kindle native app–and the iPad Mini seemed to be the most compatible with my environment (where I already have an iPhone and a MacBook Pro). Staying with an Apple product also meant little to no learning curve.
I took my iPad Mini 2 with me on a trip to California, and it seduced me immediately. I wasn’t excited by the movie options on the plane but–lo and behold!–I had downloaded “Captain America: Winter Soldier” onto my iPad Mini 2 before I left the house, so I was able to watch that on my way westward. Reading became simply a matter of flipping open the case, jumping into the Kindle app, and going for as long as my eyes would stay open. Even before I could finish my current book, Amazon was RIGHT THERE with an email offering a free book (their “Kindle First” program) or deeply discounted Kindle books (often $1.99-3.99 per book). Unsure of what I wanted for Hanukkah or Christmas, I asked for Amazon gift cards to feed my addiction.
Using Goodreads to track everything, as I aimed to get to 23 books this year, I’ve found myself flying through my reading list. Not having to wait to go to the bookstore (or stare endlessly at our shelves of books to see what I’m up for reading from dh’s collection), I’ve been consuming books at a nearly alarming pace. We’re just barely three months into the new year and already I’ve finished 12 books. That’s incredible.
There’s a part of me that pines for the days when I read paper books. I still have some, and occasionally I’ll get handed a new one to read (or there will be a book coming out that I insist on acquiring in print), but our storage problems and the far too few barriers to acquiring more e-books have sucked me into the e-reader lifestyle all too easily. There’s a part of me that rationalizes this as, “Well, at least I’m still reading and at least I’m still supporting the writers that I like and discovering new writers more easily”, although it’s hard for me to imagine how much of the $1.99-$4.99 that I typically spend per e-book actually makes its way back to the author. Then again, I don’t know how much of a $9.99-$29.99 printed book gets back to the author, either, so it’s possible that it’s all just publisher and bookseller margin with roughly the same pennies thrown at the writer.
I also have a terrible time justifying spending much more than this on e-books. After all, it’s an electronic file that’s distributed to thousands of people without the additional cost of printing presses, binding machines, and shipping/freight. So, really, perhaps $1.99 is closer to what the publisher actually spends per item (based on a projected number of units sold), before you factor in the costs of the book’s physical presence?
I don’t know. There’s a lot I don’t get about all of this, but what I do know is that I’m reading almost incessantly. I’ll probably be posting some more book reviews than I previously had–and anyone who wants to see what I wrote about any of the books I’ve read thus far is welcome to check out my Goodreads feed. Some of the ones I’ve read have been really good. Some have been meh. I’m discovering more about my personal tastes and how they have or haven’t changed in the last few years, like how I will occasionally read what could be classified as “chick lit”, but I still shun traditional romance as derivative pandering. Sci-Fi/Fantasy will always be a sweet spot with me, but I also love biographies, and historical fiction is an area I’m interested in exploring more.
At $1.99 per book, the barrier to entry is low. And now I’m sucked in, exactly as I’d feared. It’s almost as if I should set a goal to read a certain number of paper books per year, just to make sure I don’t completely and literally lose touch with that medium.
I don’t know why I feel so guilty for using an e-reader, but there is definitely a part of me that feels like I’m cheating on the printed page. It’s a first-world problem, to be sure, and one I’m not likely to resolve anytime soon. I adore my iPad Mini 2 (and not just for its e-reading capabilities), so this is likely the path I’ll tread for years to come, if not the rest of my life.