Is The Kindle Really So Bad?

18/07/2011 11:56 | Updated 22 May 2015

It's been almost a year since I bought myself a Kindle.

At first I wasn't sure how I'd feel about reading from a screen. I thought I'd miss the look and feel of a real book and I didn't feel entirely comfortable with more-or-less pledging to buy all my future reading material from Amazon.

But I ordered one anyway.


Well, for one, I was going on holiday and I couldn't face the thought of filling my suitcase with books - I can get through four or five in a week, given half a chance - when there was a lightweight alternative.

Then there's the fact that my house is beginning to look like a second-hand bookshop. Two English Literature degrees and a book habit that spans more than two decades means that there are books everywhere. I've given some away, put some in storage and flogged as many as I can bear to part with, but they're still stacked three deep.

So although I'd never even seen, let alone tried reading from a Kindle, I decided to take the plunge - and I'm so glad I did.

I love my Kindle. Since I bought it I've been reading more than ever, mostly because it's so small and convenient to carry around.

It's light enough to hold with one hand, which means it's even easier to handle than the average paperback. But it really comes into its own if, like me, you're partial to reading books as soon as they're released; hardbacks are expensive and bulky, taking up lots of room in your bag and on your bookshelf.

It holds up to 3,500 books - and if you lose it or it breaks, Amazon archives them all so you can download them for free whenever you want to. You can even add them to another device such as a phone, iPad or computer.

Lots of Kindle books are completely free and most cost less than the physical copy. Plus, they download within seconds so there's no need to wait for delivery - or make a trip to the bookshop - if you fancy something new to read.

I especially like the fact that you can download the first couple of chapters for free - so I'm more likely to take a chance on a new writer or a book I'm not sure about.

And sales figures suggest that there are plenty more Kindle converts out there.

Citi analysis of Amazon's business shows that Kindle-related sales expected to account for 10 per cent of the company's total revenue by 2012.

They predict that Amazon will sell 17.5 million units in 2011, and up to 26 million next year.

This spring, ebooks became the single bestselling category in US publishing, totalling £55.2m by this February, overtaking paperbacks for the first time.

The UK is lagging slightly behind, but we're expected to catch up within a year.

Of course, critics say that the Kindle is ruining the publishing industry and giving Amazon too much control over what we read.

But I'd argue - as a reader and a writer - that ebooks are changing the publishing industry, not destroying it.

I know that I've read, and bought, more books than usual since I've owned a Kindle - and I'm all in favour of any kind of technology that encourages people to read.

As the Kindle is so light and easy to hold, allows you to adjust the font size and has an inbuilt dictionary so that you can look up any unfamiliar words, I'd say that it opens up a world of opportunity for would-be readers who struggle with traditional books. I suspect that, in time, it will become very popular with younger readers who often need extra encouragement to pick up a book.

It's proved to be a big hit with writers, too.

John Locke recently became the first self-published author to sell over a million copies of his book on Kindle, joining the ranks of seven conventionally-published authors, including Stieg Larsson, Charlaine Harris and Lee Child, who share his achievement.

Locke, who has written nine bestselling novels for Kindle, says: "Conventional publishing is not a good fit for me based on the current industry model. I like to publish quickly and write and price books my own way."

There's no doubt that Kindle has already changed the way we read, and it's beginning to change the way we write, too.

And given that the UK publishing industry has been in steady decline for a numbers years, I fail to see how this can be a bad thing.

So if you read enough books to justify the initial cost, then give the Kindle a go - you won't regret it.


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