Kindle versus Paperback

“I did not know people your age still read books,” Penumbra says. He raises an eyebrow. “I was under the impression they read everything on their mobile phones.”

“Not everyone. There are plenty of people who, you know–people who still like the smell of books.”

“The smell!” Penumbra repeats. “You know you are finished when people start talking about the smell.” He smiles at that–then something occurs to him, and he narrows his eyes. “I do not suppose you have a…Kindle?”

Uh-oh. It feels like it’s the principal asking me if I have weed in my backpack.

(Excerpt from Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan)

*raises hand* Kindle-user here. I feel ya, man.

About four months have passed since I received my Kindle Paperwhite (1st Generation) from Dad (who was still in California that time). My decision to finally get an e-reader, a Kindle in particular, was finalized when Dad himself suggested it, although in passing, I think, when I was giving him a list of books I want him to find for me in the States.

I rarely request my dad to do favors for me, especially with the business of books (he’s not into it), but when I find myself out of option and craving my bones out to get a book in my hand, I resort to using connections. I recall Haruki Murakami’s Underground (non-fiction) was the root of it.

Almost all of Murakami’s books are sold in the Philippines: novels, short story collections, and memoir, except for that non-fiction. I’m not sure why. I suppose the topic of the book might seem to alien for the non-Japanese news/culture/society reader as it was about the 1995 Tokyo Sarin Gas Attack.

Anyhow, you might ask why not order online? Have I ever heard of Amazon? Well, I have no spare money for shipping fee, and my credit card is out of the question. Why go the extra peso/dollar when you have a father living in a place where ordering online is more preferable than walking to a bookstore? The catch is, I’d have to wait for my father to come home or his “balik-bayan” box to arrive. All indefinite in time.

I guess eight books taking space in his luggage was not a great sight for my father, so he suggested the next time that I should just get an e-reader. Previously, I was able to examine my friend’s Kindle, and boy was I blown away. I mean, I know the advantage of carrying a library with you wherever, but I guess the e-ink technology was a definite push. I was amazed at how clear the letters are on the monitor of a Kindle, as clear as reading words from paper. Hmm, in retrospect, I was so into paperback that I never bothered to investigate what the Kindle-fever was all about.

Pseudo-protesting the damage of ebooks to publishing, yada yada. Yep, I’m a snob like that. *snort*

Moreover, I learned that not only e-books but also personal files (fanfic, web articles, pdf, manga, etc) can be stored in the device, so that was great. Before the Kindle, I had to read manga and chapters of fanfiction from my mobile phone’s very humble screen and my eyes would hurt like a bitch the next day. Thankfully, I can read for three hours straight from this new device and my eyes sparkle in delight the next morning. Sweet! Thank you anti-glare, nice screen, e-ink, and bigger screen. YEY!

Now, Mr. Penumbra, I hear you, believe me I still do. No matter what, I would forever be a lover of paperbacks because I love the smell of the pages of a book. I love the feel of the tip of the page, waiting for turning, that miniscule second of a sound created between the spine and the paper interacting with each other. I love looking at book covers, different art to depict a story, typography exhibited for a catchy title. Oh, Mr. Penumbra, I do love paperbooks. I really do. But…

(yep, we have a but.)

I am somewhat getting more and more accustomed to reading stories from Sir Benedict (my Kindle’s name, yes, after my love, Benedict Cumberbatch).

The first novel I finished from this book was Welcome to the N.H.K. which was not a good experience because 1) the copy’s format was horrible: the paragraphs were indistinguishable and so many typographical errors, and 2) I was in adjusting stage with the device. Then came the web articles I am able to read directly in my device through Kindle Push in Mozilla/Chrome and the fanfics. My eyes and mind were getting more comfortable with the experience of an e-book reader. I am enjoying the fact that I can read stories in the dark because of the built-in light and I can adjust the fonts, font size, spacing, and margins to suit my need. I can highlight a passage (or a whole page) and save them in memory. I’d be damned to use a Stabilo on my paperbooks, hell no. The closest touching my books’ pages is a pencil’s lead. Moreover, I can add notes for my thoughts, and search the meaning of a word with single touch instead of opening Merriam-Webster from my phone. The Kindle is as any modern gadget out there, customizable and convenient

On the other hand, my relationship with paperback books is a bit more personal, intimate.

When I buy a book, I am first mesmerized by the cover, then the title, and then the synopsis tries to convince me if it’s my taste. Once I’ve decided to carry a book out of a shelf of a bookstore to the cashier, I’ve already committed to reading it, no matter how long it takes for me to get there. I removed it from the shelf of the bookstore to my dusty room, squeezing it to other paperback captives but dedicating necessary space, nonetheless, it’s my responsible from there on.  I make sure it’s protected from stains and liquid with a plastic cover while it waits for me, or even after our journey has concluded. When I decide to open a book, what I see is what I get. The pre-selected font, the size, spacing, margin, type of paper, every physical aspect of it is part of its personality, like a friend.

So you see, paperbacks come with more baggage, they weigh a lot more than Sir Benedict, and needs more room in a bag. Furthermore, they are more expensive too. So even if I want to grow my collection of paperbacks to start a library (which I’ll pass on to my child/ren), my working class fee does not support this vision. A paperback is worth two hours of work, whereas I can get some e-book for free on the internet. I know, it’s shameful. As much as I want to support writers and publishing companies, I am just greedy with stories to read, so I’m getting in a way that I can. Well, at least for now.

I still buy paperback though more second-hand than brand new. It also occurred to me that I’m now always having second-thoughts on whether to buy a paperback book from a bookstore or not, even with enough to spend on, because I’d tell myself I can get it somewhere on the net for free.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHH THE SHAME. Yes, I’ve had that episode of every time I store a novel in my gadget, I hear someone say “TRAITOR!” in my head. Oh, I’m afraid the the voice is losing its edge.

Well, this is how it is now.

Anyhow, I’m trying to not always use Sir Benedict when I have the paperback copy. I switch between versions in the morning and at night. Recently, I’ve also made a stand for Sir Benedict from an old picture frame stand I found in our blackhole of rubbles:


(Do forgive my doodles. I love the hot-air balloon though. Alright, I’m kinda proud now. Hyukhyuk.)

I place this thing beside my netbook, so I can read between work hands-free! If I manage to find a bigger stand, I’d also decorate that for a real bookstand. See? Equal chances!

Anyway, I love reading, I realized I really do. I’m not a bookworm, far from a bibliophile, but I do enjoy reading whatever tickles my fancy. It’s not my preference to read important stories or books, I read the ones which are interesting to me. That may sound selfish and ignorant, and quite unlikely of a Lit graduate, but that’s my relationship with stories. I can only wish that the ones which I find interesting, or the stories which have already connected to me, touched me, are important in my life, or for the world at large.

2 thoughts on “Kindle versus Paperback

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