For as long as I can remember, I’ve traveled with a book or two. Whether I’m taking the bus to work or spending a few weeks in Europe, there’s always an omnipresent bunch of flattened trees sitting around that I’ll have my eyeballs process. When I was growing up the weekly trip to the library was a highlight, and the discovery that the green phosphor computer monitors allowed me access to even more books via a library hold system was essentially akin to finding the Holy Grail.
I’ve always been somewhat wary of eBooks. I liked the concept that they’re fairly portable, but there was the nagging concern that the kind of books I liked to read were either unavailable in the format, or translated poorly to the smaller format.
After a bunch of light hearted mocking from my reading friends, I decided to grab a Kindle Paperwhite that was on sale. I figured I’d try it out for a month and if I didn’t like it, I could send it back and consider it a failed experiment.
Six weeks in, most of my initial suspicions were more-or-less confirmed: graphic novels, technical books, and those with more complex graphics failed miserably in the format.
However, the Kindle does excel in allowing recreational reading to be less of a hassle. You all know these books: the kind you’ll read once and that you can finish in a couple of days without having to put much thought behind them.
It’s nice to not be penalized by having to carry around multiple books in case you finish the first one (a common occurrence). Going to the library isn’t required in most cases, as you can simply pick up and return the book online. eBook pricing is sporadic: usually you can find a pretty good deal for a book that you’ll like, but often prices will hover around the same price as a mass-market paperback.
An unexpected side effect of a Kindle is that it makes it a lot harder for strangers on public transit to figure out what you’re reading. Despite the fact I have my headphones on and reading a book, people loved to come up, stare at the book, and then decide to start asking me about it. A Kindle eliminates a lot of those interactions.
I still travel with two books: one more complex tome, and the Kindle. Together they complement each other rather nicely. I’m not entirely sold on the concept as a replacement for all physical books, as my curated print library attests to, but the Kindle has a utilitarian benefit that allows for another tool in the reader’s toolbelt.
A good rule of thumb seems to be is if you think it’ll be a book you’ll read actively by scribbling notes in the margins, highlighting passages, or quickly jumping around to other sections, you’ll want to get a paper copy of it. Otherwise, it may work well on an eBook reader.
Finally, if you’re into this sort of thing, I have a Goodreads profile where I offer all sorts of poorly written literary criticism.