Kindles in Paradise.

(NOTE: This was written last week while I was on my honeymoon. Slow Internet access, combined with the fact that I WAS IN MAUI meant I wasn’t posting this until I got back. Also, doing homework on the beach is awesome. Why did I go to college in Ohio again?)

I told myself I wasn’t going to work on homework for my Creature class while I’m in Maui on my honeymoon, but I’ve been doing a lot of reading this week (and watching people read), and my subconscious stubbornly likes to do it’s best work when I’m not working. This is also how I sometimes explain away my midday Xbox marathons.

In my class, we are struggling to figure out how to keep Barnes and Noble relevant in an age of iPads and Kindles. Sure, eBook sales are going to overcome printed book sales in just a few years, but what exactly are we going to lose when we’re all reading trashy Jackie Collins novels on a sleek grey Amazon slab of plastic in a few years’ time? Fabio must be terrified.

Before I left, I borrowed my mother-in-law’s Kindle to test it out before buying one. I’ve been reading books through the Kindle app on my iPad and iPhone, but I knew I couldn’t read either of those well on the beach, where I intended to do a lot of my reading. I was fairly certain I’d be purchasing a Kindle when I returned from Maui, now…I’m not so sure. 

There are actually quite a few things that real books have in their favor that eBooks don’t. Better pictures, for example. For all of the benefits eInk offers, pictures look positively horrible on that glorious eInk screen. Tina Fey’s Bossypants has a number of pictures scattered throughout, and for the most part, the pictures are a grey, low-resolution, pixelated, indecipherable mess. (Mrs. Fey, at this point, would probably sarcastically note that this is, in fact, an improvement.) While describing her adventures as a Sarah Palin doppleganger, she puts a scan of the script of her very first Palin SNL sketch in there, and it’s almost jarring in how impossible it is to read. Sure, all of this looks better on the iPad Kindle app, but have you tried to read that thing in the sun?

There’s also not the same sense of accomplishment in finishing an eBook either. I’ve read several books on the Kindle, and when I finished it, I simply moved on the next one. When my wife finished the book she was reading yesterday, she closed the book with a satisfied sigh. She had read that book cover-to-cover in two days. Saying I read Bossypants JPEG-to-JPEG probably won’t feel as good.

You can beat the shit out of a book, too. I watched people sitting at the beach throw their book in the sand, bend the spine all the way around, use their beer as a bookmark, use their book as a coaster, and generally made that book their bitch. On the other hand, I spent half my time worrying about sand getting into the USB port, and the other half eyeballing my beer to make sure I didn’t set it too close to my Kindle. It felt like I was working for my Kindle, instead of the other way around. I’m not going to lose too much sleep spilling beer onto a $13.99 book I grabbed off the bestseller’s rack at Barnes and Noble. You would, however, hear the screams all the way over there on the mainland if the same thing happened to my $500 iPad.

You also lose the sense of the journey that you get when reading a paper book. As I type this, my wife is sitting next to me on the patio reading her book that’s she starting reading this morning. With a quick glance, I can see that she’s about a third of the way through it already. On my Kindle, I have a drab progress bar on the bottom of the screen noting my progress. I am 83% of the way through Bossypants. Not nearly as rewarding as you’d think. 

I also feel like my reading is slower than normal reading on the Kindle. Stopping to jump around through Fey’s numerous footnotes that would normally camp out at the bottom of a page is time consuming. About 34% of the way through the book, I just gave up on it.

The weird thing is, the things I like about the Kindle already live on my iPad. I like having a bunch of books at my fingertips, and I like being able to jump around them. I like having my reference books at my fingertips. I pulled up the Adobe Fireworks CS5 book I’ve been thumbing through on the Amazon Kindle, and it was nauseating. Pictures flat out work better on the iPad Kindle app. And while it’s easier to read eInk versus what is essentially a backlit computer screen, the iPad app gives you a ton of settings to make it easier on the eyes. And the Retina Display on the iPhone almost reduces it to a non-issue. 

I was positive I was going to buy a Kindle when I got home, now I’m not so certain I need one. While the Kindle is certainly easier when traveling, for now anyway, I think I’m happy with hardcover books and my iPad.

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