Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Take A Load Off

Note: I'm getting rid of my books! Keep reading if you want one...

With Earth Day coming up this Friday, I figured it’s high time I do my share to contribute to a cleaner environment, not necessarily through the books I write (though that would be nice) but also the ones I buy. Everything’s digital now, and though I kicked and screamed all the way to this party, I finally broke down and purchased myself a Kindle.

Hear me out before you judge. I make tremendous use of my beloved library membership, checking out dozens of books, possibly more, each month. But I also have a little book-buying fetish, one that I justify by the fact that my library system doesn’t carry all the books I’m interested in reading. (They’ve cited vague purchasing criteria whenever I’ve recommended a new title so I’ve finally given up.)

But the books I buy are slowly taking over my house. They’re expensive, collect dust, and breed tiny critters. I don’t reread most of them. And whereas once they were my pride and joy, now I hope no one trips over them getting from one room to another. More on that later, but in the meantime, I've discovered another problem.

Did you know deforestation to clear way for new neighborhoods is one of the leading causes behind the spike in Lyme disease? The paper industry claims they use mostly recovered paper and lumber byproducts (such as sawdust and wood chips) to make paper but still: the United States alone prints more than 2 billion books, 350 million magazines, and 24 billion newspapers each year. That’s a lot of reading material, not counting all the many other types of paper products we not only consume but fill our landfills with.

As though those weren’t reasons enough, the cost of the Kindle went down from $189 over the holidays to $168 a few months ago, $139 a few weeks ago when I bought it, and I see there's a new offer for $114 today. That’s a substantial difference from the $250 the Nook is going for, which made it easy for me to decide between the two. (However, since then, a friend told me there’s a way to use the Nook as a small handheld computer, a feature that may make the extra cost worthwhile for some of you.)

So far, I like my little Kindle. It doesn’t display in color as the Nook does, but that’s okay. I read my books in black and white anyway. It’s easy enough for a technophobe like myself to navigate. I have yet to figure out how to view the front and back covers, inside flaps, intro pages, and so on. I don’t see page numbers on my screen, though I’ll probably figure that little feature out as soon as I post this. Instead, the bottom of the screen shows me what percentage of the book I’ve read, which I’m not sure what to make of yet. (It’s a little annoying, yet if I were holding a bound book, I’d probably be making a mental estimate anyway.) Also, I do find a lot of books aren’t yet available through Kindle. Not worried about it though. I’m sure that’s changing quickly, plus it’s not like I’m giving up paper books entirely.

Other than those quibbles, I’m fairly impressed. The no-glare screen in particular makes you feel like you’re reading real print, not text from a computer screen. I kept tilting the screen to all angles to see how that works but haven't figured it out yet. Also, the size of this extremely portable little device is hard to believe, even after seeing pictures galore. Its height and width are about the size of a trade paperback but much, much thinner. In fact, it’s only about a third the depth of my little iPhone. As well, it took no time at all to charge the battery, which so far, seems to hold a charge a good long while.

I recently won a copy of my first Kindle book, Bloodstains, through a Facebook contest by author Jeff Mudgett. (Thank you, Jeff!) I just started reading this excellent memoir and, while I'm enjoying the book itself, I was surprised to find I'm greatly enjoying the Kindle experience too. I’ve downloaded free excerpts of other novels I’m interested in reading (ones not offered through my public library) and found the prices on many others to be much lower than their print counterparts. (Side note: I attended an agent panel a month ago in which the agents said the low cost of digital books is not at all industry sustainable and that, at some point soon, publishers will have to raise their prices to match those of paper copies.)

Either way, I think I'm making a small contribution to the environment while also making my life a bit easier. What could be better, right?

Speaking of which, I'm clearing my shelves. If you're interested in winning a book from my collection, I'm conducting a random drawing for anyone who comments on any of our Earth Day-related posts this week. (The more you comment, the better your chances of winning. NA bloggers excluded, of course!) Closing date for the contest is Thursday, April 28, 9 pm EST (New York time). The winner will be drawn at random, and we'll announce the lucky winner on Friday, April 29. Good luck!


  1. Supriya, you've almost convinced me I need to get myself an e-reader. Almost... I have always said you will need to pry a paper book out of my hands on my death bed, but when I think about the environmental aspect of paper books, well... it does make me stop and think. Thanks for an eye-opening blog, Supriya!

  2. There is a way you can have your paper and read it too. It's called the Library. Check it out!

  3. I received a Kindle last fall and love the fact that I can now collect books without taking up more space in my house. My bookshelves are already overflowing.

    Yes, reading on the Kindle takes some getting used to, especially not knowing what page I'm on or needing a bookmark that "kind of" shows me what percentage I've read. Still, I love the fact that I can adjust the font and spacing to make it comfortable to read and use the dictionary when necessary without even leaving the book I'm reading.

    When it comes down to it, I love reading books, whether in paper form or on my Kindle. If I do win a book from you, please let me know at:

    gkw9000 [at] Thanks.

  4. Supriya, you echo my thoughts exactly. I, too, have collected many, many books over the years and, yes, I trip over them or accidentally push over stacks that won't fit in my bookshelves.

    Living here in Panama, where books in English are very limited and expensive, the Kindle was a no-brainer. Still, I was amazed at how easily I adapted. I fell in love with it after only a few pages and have never looked back.

    Right now, I have over 200 books in my Kindle and it's still as sweet and tiny as it was the day I bought it. Plus, no trees were cut down. It's definitely a win-win.

    Jane Vasarhelyi
    skidawayme (at)

  5. Do I take the plunge and get an e-reader? You've mentioned 2 of the big advantages for me personally. The environment and space.

    I ADORE paperbacks. I have so many i've lost count. The feel and texture, knowing exactly how many pages until the next chapter, gorgeous covers you just want to touch...

    Will I get used to a Kindle? I've downloaded e-books before and tried reading on my laptop or even my iphone but the charm isn't there and I quickly lose interest. I'm not sure whether this is just because I don't have the optimum e-reader or that i just dislike e-books!

    Decisions, decisions :) Thanks for the post!

  6. Supriya! Hi! I didn't know that about books and Lyme disease. Wow, very interesting. Is that what you mean by breed little critters. Okay, I've got my Kindle. I'm enjoying it, but as you know I do interviews, and I like to highlight, flip back etc. And the Kindle has bookmarks, etc. but I do miss the thumbing through, look at the cover, the sighing with delight and the smell of the paper. But even this dinosaur respects that we have to evolve. Great post!

  7. We do use our Nook as a little computer - often! We also borrow library books on it. There are so many choices these days. Color? One that has advertisements but is cheaper? I like the spin that an e-reader is an environmentally sound choice. However, I will still read actual books to my children.

  8. I was one of the early adopters of Kindle -- got one for Mother's Day 2008 and have been hooked ever since. I still buy paper books, but the vast majority of my reading is now done on my Kindle--and you can't beat it for long vacations. Beats lugging ten pounds of extra baggage with you.

  9. Hey guys, GREAT discussion--thank you all for chiming in!

    I know, we kind of feel like traitors reading books on e-readers but I think we can do both and not have to collect more stuff.

    Jane and Kari, do you ever find a favorite book through your e-readers then have to run out and purchase a paper copy?

    I'm with Xandra on missing the texture and smell of a paper copy. But maybe it's like renting movies at home... it feels extra special when you go out to see one and soak in that old, familiar movie theatre, you know? Nothing wrong with watching movies at home though, right?

    And Trina's right--it will make packing for vacations so much easier. :)

    Rebecca, the options ARE limitless these days. It's almost intimidating in a way, trying to keep up with it all, no? Krishna, who commented above as well, sent me this link, which may help me combine my use of both the Kindle and the library:

    I can't wait to try it out.

    Thanks again for sharing such thoughtful comments. One more week for this contest then we'll announce the winner next Friday.

    Stay tuned. :)

  10. Oh Donnell, almost forgot to address your question about the critters. You know, those silverfish and such that start breeding when you store books a long time?

    Years ago, we helped our widowed aunt clear her attic. There, we discovered her late husband's vast collection of beautiful, old books that he'd collected on his many travels over many years. It was an absolute goldmine -- till we discovered all the silverfish scurrying out of them. We balked at bringing any of these books (or pets) home. I keep reminding myself that's how my books could end up someday, if I keep hording them.

  11. I read ebooks a lot these days, but I haven't given up the paper variety, either. It took me a while to get used to the electronic variety, but now I'm equally comfortable with both. Still, there are certain authors whose books I have to have in paper form because I like to see their names on my bookshelf. Funny quirk of mine. :)

    Xandra, iBooks for Apple devices shows how many pages are left in each chapter. I love that feature. Maybe Amazon will add it to the Kindle in a future update.

  12. Hello Supriya,

    You asked if I've ever fallen in love with a book on Kindle, then felt the need to buy a paper copy. So far, the answer is no. There are books that I've thoroughly enjoyed reading on my e-reader, but I have sooooo many paperbacks and hardbacks that my shelves are overflowing.

    I'm not saying I would never do it, but haven't yet.

  13. Kari, that's interesting to know -- thank you! I bought the device but I find I'm still reaching for my paper books more often. I'm sure it'll change, but I had to share this: I just received my first digital AUDIO book from my local library and as I install all the software on my PC, I found it's compatible with Nook, iPad/iPhone, and a long list of other products.... everything except ... the Kindle. Hmph. Of course, it is an audio book so I'm hoping I'll be able to download regular e-books.

  14. Thou too, Brutus… I’m gonna start a “We still love books” movement – just kidding. I have such mixed feelings about Nooks and Kindles. First, electronics aren’t entirely environmentally friendly. It’s rather expensive and not so “planet-healthy” to recycle them – and yet we recycle them all the time, a life span of a laptop is 2-3 years. All these lithium batteries. I still keep wondering if this is just a marketing trick. The other thing that bothers me is – what happens it fit breaks, where do all these e-books go? And – here’s my BIG BUT – ebooks cost almost the same, but the amount writers make on ebooks contracts is much less – which I consider unfair. But, with all this said, I periodically think how much easier it must be carrying those books around on a small little thingie that weighs so little…