Last year I forced myself to buy a Kindle. I repeat, forced myself. Of all the purchases that I have ever made in my life, I’ve got to admit that this was probably the one that I was least excited about. (I’ve been known to show more enthusiasm when forking out for a new set of brake pads for the car) When the package from Amazon slithered through the letterbox and plopped down on the hall floor my heart actually sank. I knew that inside that brown corrugated casing was an ugly, hard bit of grey plastic that was potentially going to be replacing books as my future reading material.
Now you may wonder why, if I am so stuck up, and horrible about Kindle, that I bothered to buy one in the first place, and you are right to wonder, but the truth is my friends that it was a purchase borne out of necessity, practicality if you like, and Fear. Yes, fear that when I moved to Indonesia the following week, I might not be able to find enough books to read. This is quite a terrifying thought for anyone who loves reading as much as I do and it seemed to me from what I’d read and heard about it that buying a Kindle might solve the problem however resistent to the idea that I was.
The fact was that out of the 30 or so boxes that we shipped out to Jakarta, 20 of them contained books, but it didn’t seem to register with me when I typed in my credit card details and address on the Amazon site. I just wanted the reassurance that I could get hold of books, any books, that I might want to read during my sojourn in Indonesia.
I unpacked the Kindle and took a good long stare at it. The Kindle unblinkingly stared back at me, which then reminded me that I had to plug the damn thing in to get the battery charged. In the time that it took for the frigid piece of plastic to become fully powered, I could have read half of War and Peace but since I had now parted with my hard earned cash, I tried not to think such unkind thoughts about it and started to play around with it instead.
I downloaded two books which I had wanted Irishman to read for sometime and was horrified then to discover that they were almost as expensive as if I had bought them in a bookshop. Already this machine, plus the purchase of two ‘books’ had cost me as much as, well, a first edition of some highly prized novel perhaps. ‘Oh a fool and his money are soon parted’ I thought, as later that evening I tucked the Kindle under my arm and wearily climbed the stairs to the marital bedchamber. Once in bed, Irishman started reading his book, and I turned on my Kindle.
With only one bedside light for the both of us, and on his side of course, reading in bed meant that I had to curl up very snugly next to him to be able to get enough light to read by. At least with my new machine I thought that there would be some sort of back lighting which would enable me at last to read more easily but no, it seemed that there was not. In fact it was proving even more difficult to read because at least with the printed page of a book there is some illumination given off from the whiteness of the paper. My disenchantment was obvious as I gave up and slung the wretched thing down on the bedside rug, turned over and went to sleep.
The following day I wrote about my Kindle problem on Facebook and how I was struggling to fall in love with it. I got lots of responses from friends all keen to share their passion for their Kindles with me. Things like ‘I don’t know how I ever lived without mine’ Or ‘I love the fact that I can read The Guardian in bed every morning without even having to put a foot out of the door to go and buy the paper’ ..or words to that effect. You see this is my problem. I actually love paper and print and the smell of books and the fact that they are beautiful to look at. My friend does have a point about not having to go out in the rain to get her paper, but I like my morning chats with Mr Constantinos when I go to buy mine from the corner shop. That’s because print, papers and books are as much about social interaction as anything else, I wouldn’t have those chats and banter if I got it sent straight to my Kindle. I love nothing more than sharing my books with my friends, or giving someone a copy of a book that I have read and loved, you can’t do that with a Kindle either. The thrill of finding a book that you’ve wanted and buying it for pennies off a second hand stall or from a charity shop and then taking it back to the charity shop afterwards for someone else to enjoy. I like the feeling of turning a page, of running my finger slowly along the lines whilst I inhale the print, digest the words. Of sticking a tube ticket or chocolate bar wrapper in between the pages to remind myself of where I left off. I like seeing what books other people are reading especially on public transport. You can spend an entire tube or bus journey guessing what sort of person they might be just by the type of book that they are reading. It’s fun, you should try it! You can’t do that if they are reading a Kindle. It’s hopeless, I’ve tried.
Once we arrived in Jakarta the Kindle sat gathering dust on the coffee table for 2 long months before I reluctantly decided to give it a second chance and take it with me on a month long trip that we were making to the Uk and the States. At the very least I reckoned that it might come in handy on one of the many long haul flights that we would be making. Not so. For the first two weeks away, the Kindle never left the suitcase. Instead I made straight for the nearest bookshop, Waterstones in Piccadilly and ravaged the shelves of anything that took my fancy. By the time we left London for the States, my suitcases were groaning from the weight of books that I had bought and been given for Christmas.
Irishman hates to see anything go to waste and so unbeknownst to me, he had put the Kindle in my hand bag for our flight over the pond. Whilst rooting around in it’s contents mid-flight for some nicorette, I found Kindle lurking in the depths of my bag. Since it was there and since I was a bit ‘movied out’ with the in-flight entertainment, I thought that I might read instead. I switched it on and yes, the battery had run out. The battery was a dead as a dodo so I could not read. If, on the other hand I had had a book in my bag I could have read to my hearts content but yet again, this Kindle was doing nothing whatsoever to ingratiate itself towards me.
By the time we had flown several times round the States, then back to the Uk and finally the last leg home to Jakarta, the Kindle had not so much as seen the light of day and remained untouched and unloved in the bowels of my bag. During the course of our travels, my handbag and it’s contents had had to endure being pushed and shoved through countless security scanners and airport x-ray machines so that by the time we eventually got back to Indonesia and I emptied it’s contents out onto the floor to find our house keys, not only were the ancient emergency tampons with their split wrappers and greying fuzzy ends totally irradiated, but I was intrigued, and just a little excited to see that the Kindle had taken on a new look of it’s own. The cover, if that’s what it’s called, had become sort of scrambled. Text and images had woven themselves into each other making a rather interesting collage effect. Later I did a bit of research on the internet and discovered that I was not the only person whose Kindle had this happen to it – it seems that those airport scanners are the culprits.
This morning I’ve been thinking about our imminent trip back to the Uk for Irishmans Doctoral presentation in two weeks time and so I have started to gather together bits and pieces that we will need. Rummaging around in a cupboard I found Kindle still scrambled. Lord only knows what came over me, but I decided to charge it up and see if after 5 months it was feeling any better. It’s been charging now for over 2 hours and some of the scrambling has disappeared only to be replaced by a different sort of scrambling. To say that I am ambiguous as to whether it will ever work again is an understatement.
Do you have a Kindle? And if so, do you love it? And just in case Kindle does start to work again (which at this moment is looking highly unlikely) can anyone offer me any relationship counselling on how to learn to live happily with it.