Thursday 19 January 2012

Kindle Surprise

Last Saturday my wife surprised me with a lovely present. After the clan had demolished the bacon and eggs served up for our now traditional Saturday morning brunch, we cleaned the yolk out of the one-year-old's hair and fed the dog his share of the leftover bacon. Then I was handed a little cardboard box from Amazon. I knew what it was from the dimensions right away as me and my siblings had chipped in and bought one for my dad at Crimbo. Plus the product name was stamped on the box. It was a Kindle!

My wife thought it was a bit mad that I was pushing my novel, WEE ROCKETS, only available as an ebook, when I didn't own an ereader. And to be honest, I felt a bit bad about that too. I'd bought a few ebooks for the Kindle app on my iPod Touch but they were a pain in the arse to read that way. And while I tried out the Kindle for PC app, I found that wasn't for me either. But this thing... wow. I'm currently blazing through Anthony Neil Smith's All The Young Warriors (bloody brilliant it is too) and have lined up a host of exciting ebooks when I'm done with it. Yesterday I was able to eat a big sloppy sandwich and read at the same time as the Kindle sat on my desk without me having to battle a paperback spine with my thumb. And I love the font size I picked for my poor, punished eyes.

I say all this a little grudgingly, though. I'm usually a fan of the underdog, and these days Amazon is the alpha in most consumer packs. Maybe a different brand of ereader would salve my conscience a little, but I hear Kindle is simply the best in the price range, so why bother messing with an inferior product? What I can do, however, is support writers who haven't landed that mainstream publishing deal but are very much worth reading. Writers published by Blasted Heath, for example. That makes me feel a bit better.

I don't think I'll ever give up on real books, though. It's a different product than an ebook. Its packaging is part of its charm; part of the reading experience. And the feeling of calm I get simply browsing through a bookstore? It's a mini holiday for me. So, whether or not I'm a little giddy with techno-joy, I'm still a bibliophile at heart (but not really a book-sniffer).

If you think Kindle is the devil or that books are a dead god, do share your views. My interest in the subject is peaked right now.


Unknown said...

mixed feelings here - but the bad ones are mostly related to the power that this all gives amazon. I still prefer to hold a "proper" book in my hand - but feel it is an exciting time for many talented writers who won't get a chance these days with the traditional route.

Gerard Brennan said...

Michael - That's really my biggest qualm here. I think if I could walk into an independent bookstore and load up my Kindle or some other reader there every month or two I'd feel a little better about the whole thing, but that's just not a realistic model. Instead I'll buy some ebooks from Amazon and buy hardcopy books from No Alibis at author events and when a book I'm sure I'll love comes out.


seana graham said...

I have a foot in so many of these worlds and dilemmas--I work at an indie, I have some stories out in ebook anthologies, and a lot of people I want to read have their work only as ebook editions and sometimes only as Kindle editions.

I am not crazy about Amazon, but I don't think they're evil either and in many ways they are providing a real service. On the one hand, I worry about people putting all their eggs in the Amazon or even the virtual basket. But on the other, it kind of irritates me that people who want to do right by indies and others have to take so much of the guilt on their own shoulders. It's great that so many people are reading given all the other distractions available to them. Let's spend at least some time celebrating the fact!

Gerard Brennan said...

Seana - Yeah, that's a great point RE people reading more. It's why I don't get too wound up about all those celebrity bios and the fiction 'written' by the likes of Katie Price (AKA Jordan -- who I doubt you've even heard of on your side of the pond but is very famous here). If it gets people reading, it has to be all right.

And RE the guilt, that seems to be a default setting for me. Insert cliché about catholic upbringing here.