Tuesday, July 28, 2015

You Shouldn't Care That I Love My Kindle

I love my Kindle.

Maybe you have one too, or a Nook, an app on your phone, some other gizmo to pull out when you’re in that mood. Maybe you’ve sworn off eBooks altogether. I don’t really care.

Kindle3 Kindle Fire "on" button
via Zhao!

What I do care about is when you assume that one way is better than another.

Do you know what a book is? Sometimes I wonder if people do… I’m sure that many people think a book is a bound volume that can be set on a shelf, or a small file that can be read on a device. Those definitions appear deceptively true, but that is all they are—deceptive. No, these are simply the things that give character to a book, so that indeed it might sit on a shelf or a device. It is a dimension.

A book is not a physical thing. A book is a meal. We writers stew our words and pepper them with dreams and plot bunnies and deaths picked fresh from the vine. They are cooked and rinsed and simmered and served, so that it is not a collection of food to be consumed standing over the sink, but a meal—a real meal—to be served and shared and enjoyed among friends and comrades. They are the ideas that nourish our souls.

There are a lot of pretentious readers who assume that they receive a fuller experience because they could test the fibers of the pages with their fingers. There are a lot of pretentious readers who assume they too receive a fuller experience because they have read the book the modern way. Both are wrong.

Picture Independence Day. The neighborhood families have set up shop in the park, and your dad and Mr. Mendoza next door chat over their spatulas while they wait for the burgers to brown. Mom helps set up the food on the picnic tables—watermelon, potato chips, carrots, tomatoes, pickles, even an apple pie! A few of the other parents set up fireworks in the street, and you smile, because the neighborhood feels like home, and it is divine. 
“Burgers are ready!” Mr. Mendoza calls. Finally! You rush to the line, where Dad is passing out plates pre-filled with burgers and buns. He passes you yours, and you stare. 
“I can’t eat this,” you say. “It’s on a paper plate.” 
Dad blinks. “So?” 
Ugh, old people. “Dad! I can’t eat my food off of a paper plate. What kind of person do you think I am? Paper plates are bad for the environment! I won’t have really had anything to eat if I got it off a paper plate—I want to eat my food the right way, on a porcelain plate.” 
“Are you joking?” Dad busies himself with handing out the rest of the traitorous burger-filled paper plates. “You can’t bring porcelain plates to a picnic. Who would you expect to wash them? It’s cheaper and easier for everyone this way. Besides, what if one of them broke? There are little kids running around; it could be dangerous. Trust me, paper plates are better.” 
“It won’t be a real meal without porcelain plates,” you insist. “They look better.” 
“Well it ain’t gonna be a picnic without paper ones!” Dad retorts. “This is all we have—eat off a paper plate or don’t eat at all.” 
“Ugh!” 
As the two of you argue, neither of you notice that the rest of the neighborhood has already seated itself on the picnic blankets, and are sharing sticky watermelon smiles as they wait for the fireworks to begin.

Books are like hamburgers. We can dress them up and devour them and go back for seconds, and we can all do it together, too. But whether we spend that Independence Day alone or at the picnic, the character of those hamburgers are not changed by the plates they are served upon. The character of the books we read are not changed by the manner we receive them, either. In fact, the format used says more about the reader than it does the story.

We assume that books can be destroyed by water or pen-markings or wear and tear, but I don’t believe that to be true. Books are independent of their condition. Even if you drop your hamburger into the dirt on accident it is still a hamburger. Except maybe you should get a new one because who knows where that dirt has been. Or just rinse it off in the water fountain. It is totally up to you.

When it comes to the matter of hamburgers and books, what I know is this: if you’re turning it down because of the plate it’s served upon, you aren’t really championing dinnerware dignity everywhere. You’re just missing out on a meal.

I would ask what you use to read books, but I don’t really care. Instead, why don’t you tell me about the books you’re eating right now instead?

23 comments :

  1. Amazing. That analogy with the burgers really got to me. I was actually one of the people who thought paper books gave you a better experience than e-books. *hides in shame* In all seriousness, though, you made a fantastic point about the content of the book mattering more than the medium itself. I think I'll change what I usually say to "I personally prefer paper books". :)

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    1. Well, I was a little harsh... Sorry. :/ But, yeah, the content to me really matters more—but I'm glad of your change. You rock those paper books, all that you like!

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  2. I'm reading the Help, and I just finished David and Goliath. I find devices useful (although they seem to get killed in my presence) I loved some of the phrases in this post lie 'books don't depend on their condition' and 'books nourish the soul' . Funny story : before kindles, we had to take about 20 books on holiday. It sucked. I approve of non-physical books.

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    1. Oh, you'll have to review those. I've heard really good things about The Help. I'm glad you liked this post, and I'm also glad that you don't need to take 20 paper books anymore! That would be heavy.

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  3. Love. This. Post. Especially the descriptions of the food--only now I'm cravng hamburgers, so thanks a lot. I agree, the book is the soul of the work--the idea--rather than the physical manifestation. My only issue with my kindle is that sometimes the lighting hurts my eyes, but otherwise, I don't really care what I'm reading on, as long as I get to read. (Seriously though, that picnic scene was the best.)

    As for books I'm eating right now--I'm re-devouring Allegiant, I'm nibbling on Inkspell, and I'm contemplating adding Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine to my plate, along with a few other side dishes.

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    1. I'm right there with you for the eyestrain thing. I mean, I don't have a Kindle, but most electronic screens hurt my eyes after a while. I wish I had a Kindle, tho. ebooks are usually so much cheaper than paperbacks. XD

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    2. *waves hands flippantly* It's not my fault that I made you crave hamburgers, with the exception that the statement made before is totally untrue. I tend to keep my Kindle on the lowest lighting system no matter what, so I've never really felt like it hurts my eyes, but yeah. The important thing is reading, even if you do need to take a break.

      I haven't finished any of those three books, ha ha. Still, I hope you enjoy them all, regardless of format!

      And Rachel, yes. Eyestrain can hurt. Alas. But, you're also right—eBooks are cheaper, and if you follow a site like Bookbub, you can even get some for free on a weekly basis!

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  4. Yessss. I love how you compare books to a meal. I agree! What makes a book a book is its story--that's its real substance. And I'll devour it whether it's in ebook or paper format.

    I just ate Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and am currently reading Jurassic Park and The Heir.

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    1. I felt it was appropriate. You're exactly right—the story is the real substance of a book! And like you, I'll take it either way. :D

      I've read the first two, but not the third. How do you like it?

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    2. I'm enjoying both books so far!

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  5. "Deaths picked fresh from the vine." What an enchantingly macabre visual that makes. XD

    I totally agree. Books are books, whether they're typed on paper, displayed on screens, carved into stone tablets, or formed by freaking SKYWRITING. XD

    I'm eating....*checks* Soulless by Gail Carriger, the Sword in the Stars by W. T. Batson, and a beta story from a fellow blogger. ^.^

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    1. XD "Enchantingly macabre." That is one of the most poetic phrases in a comment I have ever received. Thank you.

      AGREED although a book written with skywriting would be less than permanent. Really cool, but you'd have to coordinate with the flier so you didn't get stuck only knowing the ending or something.

      I haven't read either of those (and certainly not the beta story, lol) but they sound interesting. Do you like them?

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    2. Hehe np! X)

      LOL yeah, probably not the best idea. ;D

      Yeah! I'm not super far into either of them yet, but Soulless is very witty and humorous (I find), and an interesting look at what Victorian London might be like if supernatural creatures were the norm. And Sword in the Stars is a high fantasy about a has-been...something (I don't even KNOW what he "has been" yet) who rescues a baby that will save the world. :)

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    3. :)

      Both of those sound very interesting! Soulless especially seems up my alley, but I think I'd be willing to check out both of them. Thanks, Rachel!

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  6. Oh oh, I do agree. I don't think any way is "better" than the other. I think what's important is that you find a medium that suits YOU. Kindle doesn't suit me so well, but that's because of my iPod! IT'S TINY. I'm like turning a page ever 5 seconds. -_- Buuuut AUDIO BOOKS. I know a lot of people hate them, but I loooove audio books.
    Ohhh, what am I reading. omg, NOTHING. I just finished Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo and I can't decide if I should attempt the Rosie Project (erk, scary adult book, what am I doing) or Rogue next. :D

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    1. Exactly—it's a matter of preference, not of rules. Aw, tiny iPod words would make me sad! I have a full sized Kindle, so the size doesn't bother me at all. I'm not against the concept of audio books, it's just that it's hard for me to listen to them because while I can do music and stuff it's hard to do books and stuff. But it's good that other people like them because it would be sad if people didn't make audio books just because of me.

      Ooh, I know all those books! (Well, maybe not Rogue... which Rogue are you speaking of?) Anyway, my sister really liked the Rosie Project to the point of specifically buying it, so, I hope you like it, too!

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  7. Thanks for the discussion, Heather. The mediums I use- audio, physical and e- do make a difference, but they don't change the words, it's just about where and when I read.
    I just started Temeraire by Naomi Novik, and I'm loving it. I've also been slogging my way through Room by Emma O'Donohugue for the last two months. It's not bad, but it's not attention grabbing

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    1. I use two of those, and I can agree that it's really the experience that you get from the mediums you use, and while it can make a difference for you, the story is still independent.

      I'm glad you're liking your books! What are they about?

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  8. A book is a book is a book. It doesn't matter where the words are, if they're on paper, or on a screen. They're still the same words, telling the same story with the same plot twists and the same amazing characters. Just with Kindle the words are digital. I love stories, not the form they're in.

    What am I reading at the moment? I'm just about to start Gathering Blue. I haven't been reading nearly as much as I'd like to recently though.

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    1. Agreed. Stories have a magic all their own, and paper, computers, and sounds do not. They just interpret it so it can get from itself into our brains. :)

      Oh, I hope you like Gathering Blue! I haven't been reading much either. :P

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  9. Awesome post! I especially love the hamburger example.
    Personally, I'd get a new hamburger if it fell in the dirt, but *shrugs* That's just me. ;)
    Right now, I'm enjoying Hacker by Ted Dekker and IT IS EPIC!!! I am just adoring this meal, and I'm absolutely desperate to get to the next course! Mr. Dekker is phenomenal.


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbositybookreviews.wordpress.com

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    1. XD I would probably get a new hamburger too, but who am I to say how to live your life? I'm glad you're liking your book! I've heard a lot of good things about Ted Dekker. :)

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