The Kindle Has Brought Out My Dark Side . . .

kindleI wasn’t desperate for an ebook reader. I wanted the perfect tablet instead. A tablet featuring E Ink and color, one that was easy to hold and reasonably priced. There’s no such thing. At least not yet. But there are plenty of books coming out in electronic form only, and I couldn’t read them easily. So I bought a Kindle Paperwhite.

It does the job. The lighting is terrific; it’s easy to hold. I never run out of reading material, and I don’t have to remember to take a book when I know I’ll be waiting somewhere. It’ll be great the next time I travel.

Friends said owning an e reader would change my reading habits, that I’d never buy physical books again. I don’t think so. A hardcover sits perfectly on the elliptical at the gym and I prefer a paperback in the tub. Plus, what would a cookbook be without those luscious, glossy pictures?

But the Kindle has done something. It’s brought out my dark side (And I’m not talking about how much I’ve spent in the Amazon store, though that certainly has its dark side). No, the Kindle has made me an impatient, stingy reader.

When it comes to physical books, I’m generous about giving a writer time to draw me in. I’ll read quite a long way before giving up on a story. I figure even a poorly crafted book teaches me something. With rare exceptions – that exception being a book that sucks so totally my eyes cross as I read – I pretty much finish everything I start.

Not on the Kindle.  That screen is small. I read fast. If I’m not drawn in with a few swipes of my finger, I get cranky. My mind starts to wander. And if I’m not completely hooked in those first five or six pages (probably the equivalent of one or two pages in a physical book), then I’m hitting delete.

At first I felt guilty. Then I got worried. Maybe I had an arrested case of ADD. Or something worse. Maybe I needed to see my doctor  (I don’t; the Kindle Paperwhite lets you google Web MD).

What I have instead is a new relationship. My Kindle and I need to get used to each other. Maybe my dark side will recede. Maybe I’ll become more generous and patient and revert to my old reading patterns. Maybe. Maybe not.

Either way, this dark, guilty business has reminded me of the importance of craft. The critical need for smooth, clear, and irresistible story openings. Openings so compelling the reader can’t stop reading. I’m not the only Kindle user out there. And I may not be the only impatient one.

What I’m reading this month:

On the Kindle – Angelfall by Susan Ee

At the Gym – Stay by Allie Larkin

Beside the Tub – Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott

8 thoughts on “The Kindle Has Brought Out My Dark Side . . .

  1. Nice post! I’ve discovered I have a dark side, too. I’ve quit reading a lot of books in the last six months because they didn’t sustain my interest. Impatient in capital letters! But it applies to all types of books, so I think I’m just getting cranky. Well, no. I used to feel guilty if I didn’t finish a book I started. But I think it makes a lot more sense NOT to waste time on a book that bores me. I’m not getting cranky in my old age, just in better control of my time!

    1. Not cranky, discriminating! But seriously, as a writer it has reminded me all over again about the importance of craft and why we need to make sure those opening pages are so polished, and so gripping, a reader simply cannot walk way. Sure, every reader has his/her preferences, but for those who like the kinds of stories we tell, we need to grab them fast and not let them go.

  2. That is MOST interesting! I will buy (or take out of the library) books, based solely on the opening line. Sometimes I’ve been fooled and the opening line was the best part of the book, but I don’t think I’ve ever taken out a book with an opening line that has NOT captured me. And other than “Eat Pray Love” and “The Da Vinci Code”, I’ve finished them all. (Those two I finished, but only by turning great chunks of pages at a time after about the first 50 pages – by the end I couldn’t have cared less what happened to any of them.). I’m an e-reader luddite — are you paying for the books you’re reading, and what happens when you hit delete? (As you’re an author, I’m assuming that you’re buying the e-books, but early deletes could get expensive!)

    1. The Kindle is tied to Amazon which will allow you to download samples before you buy, but in most cases I buy the book out of the gate. I figure it’s the least I can do as a writer. When you push delete, it’s erased from the Kindle library though I think it’s stored in the Kindle ‘cloud’ somewhere. Like you, I’m picky about openings but even more so on an e-reader. It’s also making me anal about my own book and chapter openings. I spent about an hour on a revised opening today before moving on to the rest of the chapter. I’m still not satisfied so I’ll revisit the opening again tomorrow.

  3. I agree, Laura. Reading on a small screen makes me want to get to “the end” faster. Maybe we’re used to instant when it comes to digital, whereas paper feels like an indulgence and we like to take our time.

  4. You said: Plus, what would a cookbook be without those luscious, glossy pictures?
    That’s where my iPad comes in. It sits up with its folding cover tucked into a neat triangle at the back, shows me lovely photos of what I want to make, and never flips the page closed on me. In the gym, on the bus, on the plane, the boat–anywhere, I listen to books from Audible with my noise-cancelling headphones turned on.

    As to reading paper books, I’m now in the process of trying to collect as many of my old favorites as I can in digital format. As I age and my eyesight fails, digital is what I need, either in print or audio.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Judy! I hear you on the tablet. And quite honestly if there was one with e ink, I would have been all over it. Quite possibly my reactions would have been different. My daughter has an iPad and loves it for reading. My son (also an avid reader and tech savvy) downloaded some books to his but set it aside for paper books. It’s been an interesting experience all around. I wouldn’t be without the reader now and I am adjusting, but I was surprised by my impatience.

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