Since the English Husband boycotted Amazon because of a small matter of not paying their fair share of corporate tax in the UK (along with the illustrious likes of Starbucks and Google), I’ve inherited the unloved Kindle.
The Kindle was a controversial Christmas present from a year ago that never sat well with the Husband, who held it responsible for the destruction of the printed book and the bookshop. These things, I would argue, are debatable, although there are plenty of rather depressing statistics about the end of bookshops.
According to one statistic – and there are many – the sale of consumer ebooks in the UK were up 366% in 2011. They are likely to be even higher now. Meanwhile, the sales of printed books are down year on year. In one article in a national newspaper in this country, it said the sales of printed novels in the first four weeks of 2012 fell by a over a million copies compared to the same month a year ago.
As a book lover, I must admit to being sceptical about the Kindle (read my first Kindle blog), but not because I don’t like Amazon or what they represent. I am American and generally greet success happily and without too much suspicion. The English, however, are a bit sniffy about it.
What I don’t like about Kindle derives mainly from how I use books and my love for print. I suggested reading The Diary of a Nobody for my book club. It’s a short and amusing story of Victorian life, mainly centred on one lower-middle-class family and their rather eccentric friends and acquaintances. It’s often referred to in other books and has been a gap in my reading until now.
You can get this book free on Kindle because the copyright has expired. This has generally been regarded as one of the great pluses of the Kindle and it’s certainly an argument I have used to champion it. On this occasion, I decided to buy the book because it was only £1.99 and I figured I might need the physical book on hand for a discussion.
The thing about classics is that they generally have a glossary at the back, which tells clueless Americans like me about certain phrases, expressions and trivia that I wouldn’t otherwise know. There was also a lengthy introduction to The Diary of a Nobody (not essential) but which made for an interesting reference point.
The Kindle readers in my group didn’t get any of this and they also lost out on the very critical illustrations in the book, which were sketched by the author’s brother and added substantially to it.
All in all, the Kindle readers lost out hugely. Okay, they kept their £1.99 but they really didn’t get the best from the book and probably skipped over the passages they didn’t understand but which were explained in the glossary.
This wouldn’t be the case for many books – modern novels don’t often have pictures and glossaries. But I learned a lesson. Sometimes it’s better to pay for things you can get for free. Better yet, get it from your local bookshop.