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Saturday, September 1, 2012

RIP Kindle?


My Kindle died two days ago. First it froze on the second contents page, then flickered to the Agatha Christie cover and a loading bar appeared, showed it half loaded, and froze. After that, nothing.

A day after the sudden death, I found myself wondering at the difference Kindle had made in my life. Not all good.

I never intended to buy a Kindle. I was the one in my reading group who held out, nodding patronizingly at those who praised its variable fonts and compact size. Um-hmm, how nice. But what about actually holding the book, admiring its cover, sniffing that new book smell? What about never needing a recharge? How about that?

Then two things changed. I decided to publish my debut novel (Chicago Stories: West of Western) as an ebook on Amazon Kindle and I entered the hospital for a double knee replacement. I would be in the hospital for almost three weeks of intensive rehab before escaping. I knew I'd go through a book a day and it just wasn't possible to take fifteen or twenty books with me, so I bought my first Kindle and loaded it up with the classics, which were free. Cool, I thought. Free is good. I also bought a few new books.

Kindles are great for hospital stays, compact and easy to hold, but my battery ran down and there was no outlet available near my bed. Yeah, I thought, just as I suspected. The fatal flaw. So when I got home, I went back to my beloved paperbacks.

Then right after Christmas, I published Chicago Stories: West of Western and discovered KDP Select, which gives authors free promo days. Soon I was scanning Facebook and Twitter for freebies and loading up more than I could read. It didn't take long to realize that using the 'look inside' feature was necessary to avoid the poorly written and formatted ebooks. I also realized that if a book read like cold molasses, I could delete it after the first page or so.  But still, I was downloading more than I could read, even though I went through at least one a day. I had over a hundred unread novels on my Kindle when it died (and can get them all back when I get the new Kindle).

So I'm not buying a new Kindle for a while. I'm sorting and rereading some of  my enormous collection of paperbacks first. One thing is coming clear: I don't think about paper books and ebooks in the same way. I buy a paper book as a forever thing--something I'll reread again and again, a part of my life. An ebook is more like a TV show, a one-time thing to enjoy (or not) and forget. Hmm. Some of my friends have been encouraging me to publish my Chicago Stories series as paperbacks through CreateSpace. Maybe I should?

I still buy my favorite authors in hard copy--Daniel Silva, for instance, Laurie King, Lindsey Davis, the ones I'd hate to lose. Because there's something inherently temporary about a Kindle ebook. I know they can be replaced, but still--what if I was, say, on the Camino in Spain and my battery ran down? What about that?