About two years ago I was speaking to my friend who lives in California. She had been given a kindle for Christmas and was eager to tell me all about it. When she said kindle, I thought she was making a reference to Christingle or some kind of secret Santa. Of course she didn’t buy my weak “oh cool, that’s nice,” and realised immediately I hadn’t a clue what she was talking about. She explained that a kindle was an e-reader, a device that would hold thousands of books and weighed no more than a paperback. In California there always seems to be a new trend that hasn’t yet made it to our shores, or at least hasn’t taken off the way it has on the west coast of America, and I assumed the tingle, I mean Kindle, would be the same; a fad.
Boy was I wrong. The following summer I visited California and brought a small pile of paperbacks for reading whilst soaking up some much needed sun. My friend looked horrified and asked me why I hadn’t yet got a kindle. By this point I had seen kindles in England, but they were few and far between. To be honest I couldn’t bear to think of holding a machine and not a book. How could I forsake the familiar smell of the pages or the feel of them as you flick through to find your bookmark? How could I, a compulsive hoarder, give up the opportunity to put another finished book on my ever expanding bookshelf? As someone who was a fairly slow reader as a child, I still couldn’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction and achievement when I read the final page of a book and added it to my collection. Surely the Kindle would take this away. So I went on happily ignoring the “fad” that was clearly here to stay.
Over the next year however, I found myself more and more curious about these ever more popular devices. There were adverts on the underground, and dozens of commuters every morning with their own kindles. I watched with jealousy on a packed train as the person next to me held on to the rail with one hand and her kindle with the other. I on the other hand, had to give up entirely with my book, because every time I let go of the rail to turn the page, the train decided it was time to jerk and I found myself falling into a not so very happy business man in front of me.
This all changed in June when I opened my birthday present and found myself staring at an Amazon Kindle box. Despite the fact I had told myself I preferred real books, a surge of excitement ran through me. I had my very own kindle. Where had this delight come from? I emailed my friend in California and informed her I had joined the kindle craze, to which her reply was “Finally.”
But unlike her there were others who reacted to my “I got a kindle for my birthday,” with a look of disdain or even pity. I found myself saying “I was also bought a leather case, so it kind of feels like a book.” I was apologising, trying to somehow prevent myself from being shunned by the hardcore paperback fans. It was a weak excuse and did not fool anyone. I found there were lovers and haters. One of my friends had been bought a kindle for Christmas 2010; she is yet to use it. Other people seem in love with the convenience of the device, carrying multiple books around without any of the weight. I still felt slightly guilty when around the haters, but was reassured when I undertook an internship at a well-known publishing house and saw that the editor had her kindle charging beside her computer.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have not been completely converted. I still have a stash of paperbacks beside my bed and am reading one at the moment. I find that my kindle is reserved for long or awkward journeys where I have to change trains numerous times, or for holidays as it saves my luggage allowance for souvenirs. But my general understanding of attitudes to kindles and other such e-readers is you either love them or you hate them, just like marmite. Of course I was one of those extremely rare people whose stomach rolled just at the smell of marmite as a child but as an adult seem to like it more and more. Maybe this is just me, maybe I’m a little weird, but for me the kindle was just like marmite.
So are you a lover or a hater? Or do you find yourself sitting on the fence?