2010: Goodbye Books? Keep Your Eye On The Kindle

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Going, going ... gone? Could the end of the physical book be in our future? iStockphoto.com hide caption

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Book on a shelf

Going, going ... gone? Could the end of the physical book be in our future?

iStockphoto.com

Your 2009 holiday season might have been filled with Chinese food, sugar cookies or tropical vacations, but online retail giant Amazon's Christmas Day was magnificently different: For the first time, Kindle e-books outsold physical books. On top of that, the Kindle e-reader officially became the most gifted item in the company's history. As we enter 2010, is this the future of literature: slim, streamlined frames filled with endless texts, polished with a modern veneer? Author Jen Lancaster believes in the power of a good book — but she isn't ready to give up her Kindle anytime soon.

Asking me to choose between a traditional book and a Kindle is like asking me which of my dogs I love most.

Oh, wait ... my pit bull Maisy is the clear favorite, yet there's room in my heart for both dogs. Sweet little Maisy is a faithful and loving companion, whereas my shepherd Loki does a bang-up job of protecting our yard from squirrels and falling leaves. Both dogs serve a purpose — much like books and Kindles.

If forced to choose between a book and a Kindle, I'd opt for the comfort and ease of bound pages. I mean, I can't break a book if I drop it on a cement floor. And if books no longer existed, what would become of my shelves? Books are entertaining and decorative. Also, they're pretty much the only item guaranteed not to explode, at least according to new TSA guidelines. What's not to love?

I hesitated before buying a Kindle. I wasn't worried that the digital reader would ruin literature as we know it. Rather, my concern centered on using an electronic device in the bathtub. Fortunately, the splash-proof cover solved this problem and I gave in. My Kindle DX arrived the day before I left for vacation.

I groused during takeoff and landing when forced to close my copy of New Moon (sure, Bella and Edward's love is strong, but who'd have guessed it's powerful enough to mess with gravity?). Later I winced when I accidentally slammed the door on the bag containing the device. Had I made the right choice?

I didn't understand the Kindle's true value until I finished an e-book on the beach. In sixty seconds — and without benefit of pants — I had brand-new reading material at my fingertips. As there's no book jacket, people can't tell if I'm reading Finnegans Wake or L.A. Candy. And with its built-in dictionary, I don't spend a hundred pages wondering what the hell "perfidy" means anymore.

Jen Lancaster i i

Jen Lancaster is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoirs Such a Pretty Fat and Pretty in Plaid. Courtesy of Jen Lancaster hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Jen Lancaster
Jen Lancaster

Jen Lancaster is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoirs Such a Pretty Fat and Pretty in Plaid.

Courtesy of Jen Lancaster

For me, the biggest benefit is immediacy. I can have whatever I want right now. Take last night, for example. After a few glasses of wine, I craved a classic novel. Chardonnay in one hand, Kindle in the other, I snatched up free copies of everything from Anna Karenina to The Art of War. Had I gone on the same rampage in a bookstore, I'd have ended up in jail, not bed. (Granted, these iconic authors don't get royalties on free downloads. But as I see it, they're dead; they don't need my dollar.)

I admit I don't get the same satisfaction as holding a hardcover in my hands, yet I'm a huge fan of saving $15 on a new release. Because of lower prices, I'm willing to try authors I wouldn't have otherwise. Kindle has expanded the scope of what I enjoy.

As I glance from my overflowing bookcases to my Kindle to the sweet faces of my sleeping dogs, I'm glad I don't have to choose. Ultimately, they all make me happy.

Jen Lancaster is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoirs Such a Pretty Fat and Pretty in Plaid. She resides in Chicago with her husband and their ever-expanding menagerie of ill-behaved pets. Despite a hectic writing and appearance schedule, she still finds time to spy on her neighbors.

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