Mention the Amazon Kindle and most people think in terms of an e-book reader with an e-ink display, meant to replace “real” paper books. It is seen by most people as a gadget. And is generally evaluated in terms of hardware – the kind of display it comes with, how fast it works, the amount of storage it has, its battery life, the way in which the display changes shades (it does), water resistance and so on. Of course, all this is important as it is an important part of the Kindle experience.
However, there is one feature that makes the Kindle pretty much a must-have for any book lover. And it is not often not talked about. Even when mentioned, it is just brushed over. Taken for granted. Because it is so obvious. What, however, is NOT obvious is how important it is. And no, I am not referring to the fact that e-books help conserve the environment, although that might be relevant given the fiery happenings in different parts of the world.
No, I am referring to the always open, anytime anyplace massive bookstore.
It is always there on the Kindle. So much so that many tend to take it for granted. I am talking of the biggest bookstore in the world – the Kindle Bookstore. It has more than a million books and well, it is available for you to browse in all its glory on the Kindle. And it is always open. More often than not with readers’ reviews on most books out there. Yes, you can access it on an Android phone as well, but believe me, you experience it best on the Kindle e-book reader, mainly because of the wider display and the fact that there is nothing else to distract you – no phone calls, no alerts, no mails.
Just you in a massive, massive bookstore.
What’s so important about that? Well, to understand that, just remember the last time you had to go to a bookstore. More often than not, you have to keep distance and time (and often the availability of parking) in mind. And then again when you do get there, you also have to hope that there is space enough for you to browse. And finally, there is the little matter of wondering whether you will be able to find the book or the sort of books that you are looking for – there’s only so much physical space a bookstore can have. And yes, if you happen to be in Delhi, then you will also have to hope that the book you are looking for is not encased in plastic (it is a fashion out here, ostensibly to keep books clean), rendering it unreadable.
Got all that? Now, consider the Kindle Book Store. You can go to the store on it at any time you want, as long as you have an Internet connection (if you have no public Wi-Fi, just create a hotspot using your phone) as hey, it never closes. And it is never crowded – you do not have to stop browsing to let someone squeeze past. Then there is the matter of finding the book you are looking for – given the sheer expanse of titles available out there, it is a fair chance that you will get the book. In fact, you can even get books that are not at book stores yet because books generally arrive much faster on the Kindle – there is no printing, carrying or physical storage space involved – and almost never leave.
You will also almost never have to deal with a book that you cannot open and read – one of those “sealed book” scenarios. That’s because you can always download a sample (generally spanning about thirty pages) of a book, totally free of cost. That’s generally more than enough to decide about buying it or otherwise. Imagine being able to spend close to half an hour sitting and reading in a real book store, as you try to make up your mind about it. Or asking the store owner if you can take some pages of the book along with you to get a better idea about whether you wish to buy it or not? Incidentally, this is a book store that has books in different font sizes. So if you think the print is too small too read (an increasingly common occurrence these days), just increase the font size (pinch out on the display)
Then there are the other book browsers in the store. They are often pleasant enough company in a real bookstore, but let’s face it, they do get in the way more often than not. The ones on the Kindle Book Store not only keep out of your way, but some of them are also kind enough to leave reviews of books, giving you a second opinion if you need one (keep some salt handy when considering them, though).
There are no assistants in the store, though, but the help function is good enough for finding books. And well, if you want advice on what to read, there are links to titles similar to the ones you are browsing and also information about what others have bought. You can also opt to browse by categories, date of publication and there are also special best-seller lists and recommendations from Amazon itself, along with suggestions about what you might find interesting to read. There is also no question of standing in a queue for the final billing, as buying and selling are often as easy as entering a password with no waiting.
Sounds almost perfect, doesn’t it? Well, to be fair, it is not. It has its headaches. Typing on the e-ink display can be a pain at times, as response times are slow. And you will have to budget for gadget-y aspects like brightness (auto-brightness is overrated) and battery life. Most importantly, you will never get that sight of seeing a truckload of books all around you. You will never get the “feels” of a bookstore, from the smell of books to the sound of turning pages, to the murmur of a few voices. That said, you will also not be jostled around, get the angry stares of owners who think you have overstayed your visit, long queues at the counter, or the “closed today/for lunch” notices.
What you WILL get, however, is a bookstore with more books than any other. And most importantly, one that you can go to at any time (battery and connectivity permitting, and those are not the issues they once were). As someone who loves reading, the book store is often my go-to place when I need to calm down. And I have found myself increasingly powering up my Kindle at odd hours – midnight, early morning – not to read books, but to just browse the Kindle Book Store. I spend some time browsing books, downloading samples (some of which I will read, others not), reading reviews, checking out what others are reading, and more often than not, just going back to life, a lot calmer and happier.
They will tell you that the Kindle is an e-book reader. They are not wrong. But they are not being totally truthful either.
It is a massive book store. Which is always reachable. Almost always has the latest books. Lets you turn a few pages over and read without bothering you. And never closes