My reading habits changed when I bought my Kindle a few years ago, and they continue to evolve. When I first got the Kindle it seemed so much more convenient than dragging around a bunch of books, and I started carrying it around. I still use the Kindle when I am at home or on a business trip, but I now I find it inconvenient to drag it around with me all the time. That’s because I do carry around my slick little cellphone, and I use that for reading books in small doses while sitting in waiting rooms, over a cup of coffee, or riding the subway. It took me a little practice to get this to feel natural — the problem wasn’t the small screen or backlighting, it was just finding the right hand position and mastering the quick page flip so it felt natural.
Some books work better for this than others. I enjoy reading Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Ariely and all the Freakonomics-type books this way, but not fiction and narrative nonfiction like history, biographies and memoirs. Short stories, essays, and all those books of “fascinating facts” also work well on the phone. I don’t think this would be nearly as convenient if Amazon didn’t sync my collection among all my devices (the Kindle, desktop PC, netbook and phone) and keep track of my place.
But it’s not that I never read paper books anymore. I still borrow lots of library books, buy some books I know I want to own, and reread books from my home library. And while I bring the Kindle on business trips and find it very convenient for reading on the plane and in a hotel, I never bring it on vacations where I am going to be traveling around with a backpack, staying in random places where I feel it would be just one more thing to worry about keeping safe. For those trips, I bring one or two long but compact paperbacks, often old favorites that I want to reread. For example, when I went to Jamaica I brought my old Signet Classics copy of “Great Expectations,” bought for sixty cents when I was in high school. That’s a very cold, damp, wintery book which contrasted beautifully with the dazzling warmth and beauty of Jamaica in the spring.
Back when I bought that copy of “Great Expectations,” there were fewer reading options. Buy or borrow from the library, hardcover or paperback, that was about it. Now everything is much more complicated. Both paper books and ebooks can be bought or borrowed from the library, and ebooks can be read on any number of devices. It’s complicated, but as a reader, I appreciate having so many options.