To Kindle – or not to Kindle – that is the question…

gertrude and alice’s Jane Turner takes a leap of faith.

178161_10151531943184348_817856936_oJane Turner

I always knew that this day was looming.

As a bookseller, that nasty little ‘kindle’ word has been mentioned in my presence all too often of late. Customers in our little cafe bookstore have even started reading them in the shop – is it wrong to want to pour water over their heads when we see them doing this? It just doesn’t look right – reading kindles inside a bookstore. It doesn’t feel right either.

However, a recent impulse holiday with my two grown children to Malolo Island in Fiji for three weeks, raised a big question for me. I had always justified the use of an e-reader in my head when I was travelling. I mean, loading up six books for me (I ended up reading seven), four for my daughter and two for my son (albeit they were the Games of Thrones series so in pages and weight equal four books he says) – it was a lot! We are a family of readers so I figured that we had just as much weight in books as we did in our other luggage. I was taking my iPad for emails and checking in at work – so I decided that if I ran out of books I would load the Kindle iPad app and experience the e-reader.

This holiday was just about reading for me, so selecting the books to take with me meant an ever-changing pile on my sideboard that I would add to and detract from on a daily basis. Someone at the shop mentioned that they loved Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver and I thought, that sounds like great holiday reading, so I added that to the pile and took one off. Another customer, whose recommendations I usually really enjoy, said that she would grab her copy of The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, before her valuables, if her house was on fire! On to the pile went the Hedgehog. I also had All that I Am by Anna Funder, which was a big seller for us over the summer and has won numerous awards – I wanted to read what everyone was buying. My best friend David had said The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach was the best book he has read in years and he is a prolific reader – so that was on the pile too. I had a copy of a friend’s young adult book called Grymm by Keith Austin and I devoured this one in a single sitting. I also had Zoo Time by Howard Jacobsen, which is a book about authors, writing, publishing and booksellers, so this one was close to my heart.

Now I just needed peace and quiet and sunshine. Well, we got a lot of rain in the first week, with gaps of sunshine. So we would rush out to the deck in the house where we were staying to soak up the rays – books in hand. Then it would pour with rain as it does in tropical Fiji and we would be back inside curled up on lounges reading, reading, reading. People asked me how the holiday was and I talk about the books that I read. Fiji is the perfect place to recharge. It is relaxing, calm and after a couple of days, when you realise that you don’t have to be anywhere at a certain time – no deadlines, no ‘to-do’ list, you gradually feel the stress just leave your body.

My daughter had her Christmas gifts – Waging Heavy Peace, by Neil Young and A Natural Woman by Carole King – you guessed it – she is a music lover. They were both in hardcover, having not yet been released in a paperback edition. Reading in hardcover on the beach or by the pool was not ideal. They are heavy and if you fall asleep reading as you do while on holidays – they can almost break your nose. We discussed kindles as there were many people at the resort where we were staying using them. She said she would definitely use a kindle when travelling but only if I would like to buy her one! Generally though she still preferred the feel, the smell, the touch of a book – something that you can’t replicate in an e-reader of any kind.

kindle 2Eventually, I did run out of books and downloaded a book to read. It was surprisingly easy and fast. Did I enjoy the reading experience? No, not really. I don’t believe that they will ever fully take the place of books and yet agree that they have a place in our lives. As so many bookstores are closing, both majors and the independents, we may be left with no other choice than online purchasing.

I was able to read in the water with my book, which I did everyday – no one did that with their kindles. Some of the pages got wet and yes, my book looked fairly well read when I finished. The resort had a bookshelf where we could leave books for other guests and staff and so I chose to do this so that other readers would be introduced to different authors. There were some Australian authors in amongst my picks too, so I hope some travellers will pick them up and read writers they may never have heard of before.

So I’m planning another reading holiday next year  – any suggestions to add to my pile?