Do Kindles make bookshelves obsolete?

    Just as much as they are heavy and bulky to carry around, nothing proclaims progress than having two books you've finished reading neatly stood up on a bookshelf.

    Home Office Bookshelf
    I have two beautiful cherry bookshelfs in my home office filled with books I have read over the years. I love the feel, look and smell of books.
    Home Office Bookshelf
    I have two beautiful cherry bookshelves in my home office filled with books I have read over the years. I love the feel, look and smell of books.

    I am happily reading my third book on my Kindle 3.

    Author Stieg Larsson can claim the most austere title of the only author whose books I have read on my Kindle to date. The first book I read was Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and of course after becoming hooked on the character of Lisbeth Salander, the rest is history. There is a part of me that regrets missing the movie when it screened during the Cinequest film festival this year.  At the same time, I am glad the first encounter I had with Lisbeth was through the words of Stieg Larsson, as translated by Reg Keeland.

    I wrote a while back about my initial impressions of moving from paper to digital with the Amazon Kindle 3.

    So what is the verdict after polishing off two books and well into my third?

    Firstly, I do love my Kindle. It is simple, dependable and the battery life is something I wish I could achieve with all my electronic devices (Apple iPhone?). Having traveled recently to Tallahassee Florida to speak at a digital government summit, I did look at passengers with large wads of paper between their hands and marveled that at one time, I too read books in such a manner. Yes, I have averted the fate of becoming a Luddite.

    Having a new gadget is also like purchasing a red pair of shoes. All of a sudden, it seems everyone else in the world has one as well. While in the lobby of the hotel, I noticed two other travelers with Kindles. One did have the older generation and I both delighted at having the new slimmer, lighter version and there was a bit of anxiety knowing this fate would soon befallen on me.

    The Kindle is also so convenient and slips nicely into my laptop bag. In fact, it does this so well one time I panicked thinking I had lost it because it didn’t leave any perceivable bulge in the side pocket.

    What I do miss more than I thought though is the sense of accomplishment of having completed two books. Just as much as they are heavy and bulky to carry around, nothing proclaims progress than having two books you’ve finished reading neatly stood up on a bookshelf. With the Kindle, I have no such trophy. No dog ears on pages to say, “Loni was here and read this book.” No, when I am done a digital book, the words look just like they did when I first approached them, clean and crisp.

    Perhaps I need to create some digital bookmarks. Alas it is not as easy to do this as it is to take a pen and underline or fold the top corner of a page over.

    I glance at my bookshelf in my home office. I know it will be a long time before I part with such a sentimental artifact and my need to leave a mark.

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    • Random anecdote: the other day I walked into a big chain bookstore to buy a specific book but after passing the display of ereaders I ended up using the store’s free wi-fi to download the book direct to my phone, cutting out the store entirely. That store has a lot of bookshelves rapidly becoming obsolete.

      I love my dusty old books but I recognize my attachment to them is irrational and I shouldn’t value them any more than my ebooks or even books I borrowed from the library. Still I can’t help feeling we’re losing something as we move from the physical to the digital.

      • All Camino, I agree. Love my dusty old books as well!

    • Counterpoint: “Contrary to rumors, books are not history” http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/10/13/EDAM1FS751.DTL

      • Good point, I think children’s books will be one of the last areas to go digital. It’s hard to replace the colorful pages and textures introduced in children’s books.

        Those that are skilled at procuring books in the second-hand market would also be pressed to find it cost-effective to move over. One of the passengers on the plane says she gets used books for about $7 for an entire bag. You may not always get the books you want, but one could make an argument it is much more adventurous.

    • Chris G

      I have read that something like 80% of books purchased in this country are actually for show and do not get read. So I don’t think ereaders (kindle 2nd gen in my case) will make book shelves go away. Or at least not in the home.

      • Thanks for that statistic. Now I know I share my book fetish with many others in the world.