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Jane Isay

Jane Isay

Posted: October 9, 2009 09:40 AM

Kindle Confessions

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My name is Jane and I'm a Kindle addict. I spent over forty years as an editor, and I love the feel of books, the look of books, and even the smell of books. I'm a speed-reader with a taste for mysteries, and I used to gobble up the freebies from my publishing friends. After I quit my last job, I struggled to find enough good junk for my habit, and I know what it feels like to need a mystery fix and to go without. Still I couldn't see myself reading a book in not-a-book form.

Then two things happened. Charles McGrath, former editor of the New York Times Sunday Book Review wrote a column about his Kindle use, and he didn't seem at all guilty. Then I got sick (reading is the only thing that makes me feel better), too sick to get to the bookstore. The medication made me impatient, so on-line bookstores were too slow. I wanted what I wanted right away.

And so I bought a Kindle. I read every day, for as many hours as I liked, and without restraint. I couldn't work; I couldn't go out much, and I didn't need to: there was always another book waiting in line (and on line) for my reading pleasure. I read like a madwoman. I would get drowsy, and on those long reading afternoons when the Kindle slipped from my hand, it fell silently on the pillow and I slept. I found myself talking to it, wishing it a good morning, explaining my time away from it. My Kindle was my constant, quiet, light, and refillable companion. Bliss.

But as I recuperated, my conscience began to nag me. I believed that Amazon was paying the publisher the same price for Kindle edition as for the purchase of a book, so I wasn't hurting the author and the publisher -- yet. (That will happen when Amazon raises the price or lowers the money it pays publishers.) I was, however, hurting my beloved bookstores. If they don't have people paying full price for books made of paper, they will perish. I could not give up my Kindle, so I made a bargain with myself.

For every book I download on Kindle, I now go to my local independent bookseller and buy a book in hardcover. I choose books that don't have a mass audience, the ones that benefit from every retail sale. These first novels or works of scholarship benefit when real people to go into a bookstore, ask for them, find them, and enthusiastically pay money for them to a live person behind a counter. I love doing this. I get to read the books I used to wait for in paperback in their beautiful, tangible hardcover versions, and my guilt pushes me to try all kinds of books I wouldn't have bothered with before my Kindle.

If I limit my Kindle use to bestsellers and heavy books when I travel (now I'm Kindling David McCullough's The Great Bridge on the subway from Manhattan to Brooklyn) and I purchase one-for-one nm hardcover, I'm reading more and spending more, but having a lot more fun. But enough of this. I have to head to the bookstore, and I bet you know why.