When Kindles first stormed the markets I was horrified. As an English Literature graduate, I had dedicated years of my life to studying novels, poems and plays that had survived centuries from their first transcription. I scanned, or read, on average fifteen books a day, sifting through library shelves, getting down on my knees in dusty corners to locate a specific critical study, then pouring over open texts at a desk, writing almost illegible notes in my adjacent notepads. In University, a Kindle is unnecessary. There is a well-stocked library, and easy access to any relevant journals or critical texts. Moreover, it seems odd, if not totally wrong, to read Austen, or Hardy, or Shakespeare from a screen and not well worn pages. Tutors would visibly curl their upper lips when students entered seminars with suspiciously light bags, forgoing the necessary (extremely heavy) anthologies for a light little device which they smugly placed on their laps.
It seemed to many that the pure, ancient tradition of Literature had no real place in the modern age, and technology should be solely intended for the New – computers, phones and such like. More importantly, worries for the future of the printing industry; between 2008 and 2010, electric book, or e-book sales rose by 1. 260 percent, which could only have damaging effects on the printing industry, as well as bookstores. As expected, independent bookstores — those gems of the literary world with all their niche, homely and quirky glory — were the first to suffer, though it must be noted that their suffering was more brutal due to the economic recession, which affected many small businesses. The literary world, however, gasped in 2011 as Borders, one of the institutional bookshop chains, declared bankruptcy.
The future seemed bleak for the paper book industry, and as Kindles became more commonplace, the horror of such a concept settled into recognition and even acceptance. I, however, soldiered on, fighting the good fight for another three years until 2014, when I was due to set off on a backpacking trip around South America and India for a total of six months. When I am on holiday, I read. My mother would take my sisters and I as children to the local library pre-holiday, where we would each choose a pile of books to take with us. By age thirteen, eight library books would just about last me for a two week beach holiday, wherein I would sit by the pool for most of the day and gulp down the pages. For six months, even with the possibility of book swaps or book shops, I was looking at a minimum of ten wedge-like books. The problem was, I was also looking at 10 kilos of luggage, the realistic amount that I could carry on my own back when wandering around strange places searching for a bed in which to spend the night. The maths was way off, and something had to give.
I was secretly relieved when my husband presented me with a Kindle a few months before we were due to set off, it was the only way that I could read as I needed to, and I set about searching Amazon for literary jewels. The Kindle was my constant companion whilst travelling: it was light, the books were cheap and they arrived instantly so I could choose my novels on a whim. Plus, (and I still consider this the biggest advantage of Kindles) you can read in bed without a dead arm, or awkward positioning, excellent. Post-trip, my Kindle continued to accompany me everywhere. I found that whilst reading paper books on public transport makes me feel a little ill, electronic books didn’t bother me one iota – I could even sit backwards! My journeys to work were a joy, waiting for a friend to show up to a lunch date was a pleasure as I happily settled down to a couple more pages.
Whilst the Kindle is certainly valuable, far more than it’s counterparts such as iPads largely due to the ‘paper white’ screen of the Kindle, which eliminates the toxic, migraine inducing white glare of a screen, I have ultimately reverted back to paper books. Mainly because many of the novels I were interested in reading were not available as e-books. This is a current trend, in the first quote of 2015, e-book readers fell by 22 percent from 2012, largely due to publishing houses’ efforts to quickly replenish book stores, to ensure that they can offer the best service at all times. As of a couple of weeks ago, Amazon reduced the prices of many of their Kindle models, indicating that they themselves may be struggling. The publishing industry can, and are, breathing a big sigh of relief. They are safe, for now.