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!