The Physical Experience of Reading

Kindle with books - whiteI’ve been using a kindle for around 18 months now and its functional, small, gives fast access to heaps of good reads, but… it just doesn’t feel like a book.

Which raises the question – ‘what is a book?

Is a book a collection of information and ideas or is a book a physical item to be held, smelled, thumbed and treasured?…

You can see where this is headed can’t you?

I see great value in the kindle and I doubt I’ll get rid of it, but after reading 60 or 70 books on it I always feel a little gypped when I finish the book. I am realising I have a physical attachment to books more than I do to ideas or storylines.

I have tossed plenty of books out in the last few years – a kindle would be a real winner for these kinds of books – simply hit ‘delete’… but I have also got a collection of my favourites, the ones I like to have there just in case… Just in case what?… I’m not sure. Maybe so I can pick them up and read them when I feel like it, maybe to lend to a friend?…

I like the ‘sample’ versions on kindle, I like the savings in $$, I like the portability… I really do… but I miss a ‘good book’.

Which leads me to wonder if there is something in the kinaesthetic experience of reading that is more significant than maybe we have realised. Sure – you can read a kindle in bed, in the beach, upside down, you never need to worry about it being too thick, or destroying the pages when you fold it back on itself… But I’m missing books.

So I think its time for me to clear the shelves of some more ‘junk’ and to replenish again with some treasures.






3 thoughts on “The Physical Experience of Reading

  1. I’ve had a Kindle for about two years now (a pre-Fire version so it really *is* just a reader) and I prefer books as well. Along with the things you point out, I miss “the flop” and “the flip”. Taking a book and opening it in the middle (or any other part) and just skimming. Then flipping a few pages.

    Sure you can jump to page numbers/locations but it isn’t the same.

    I also have a need to “count ahead” to see how many pages are left in the chapter I’m reading (for example). Electronically, this is possible but slow and, occasionally , my Kindle changes the pagination so I have a hard time getting back to where I was.

    I *do* like the inline dictionary/thesaurus, the highlighting, the ability to add notes, and see my Clippings in one place. You can highlight/annotate conventional books but the summary can be interesting. I also like being able to borrow books from the public library at any time without leaving the house.

    But there’s no law that says you have to do one or the other. I’ll probably do both for the rest of my days.

  2. Hi Andrew, an interesting post, I don’t have a Kindle, but I do have a Kindle app on my iPad and iBook, strangely I really enjoy reading scripture and textbooks in that way, but still not comfortable with fiction, on reflection I think its to do with my sense of curling up and flipping the pages of a novel as opposed to sitting and reading.

  3. As a bookaholic I have to say I like both formats. The kindle for convenience and portability not to mention its great for my budget and that is quite a consideration at times. There will always be books added to my overflowing shelves for as long as there are books though, simply because I love the look of books, I love being able to walk past, see something and pick it up just because it caught my attention. Also there are authors whose books I love to revisit and share with others. I wonder though how much of actual books I love because with as many as I’ve got I can just about say I have a library of my own and I’ve always wanted one of them.

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