Kindle vs. Books — The New Literary Battle

by Katy on July 3, 2008 · 12 comments

I wrote yesterday about books that support The Non-Consumer Advocate lifestyle. I received this question from “Daniel.”

What is your opinion on the Kindle device? It does save quite a lot of paper and allows for less expensive distribution of books. Just wondering what your take was on this.

Since I do The Compact, (buy nothing new) I’d never even given one minute’s thought to Amazon’s revolutionary wireless reading device. 

My first impulse is to outright dismiss The Kindle. I’m a bit of a techno-phobe, and have repeatedly turned down my husband’s offer to buy me an iPod. 

“No thank you, dear. I’m perfectly happy listening to audio books on my Discman.” 

Or, maybe something far less polite.

So I clicked my way to the Amazon website, where the Kindle is featured prominently on the home page. The cost is $359, with free super-saver shipping. Hmm . . . that’s a lot of moolah, folks.

I read through the description and user-reviews. Once you buy the Kindle, there’s nothing further to subscribe to. You can instantly buy most any book you want for about $9.99. (That is kind of cool.) It holds around 200 books at a time, and you can store books you don’t currently need on the Amazon site. The battery sounds like it holds up well and re-charges quickly. It weighs less than a regular paperback, yet holds 200 books?

I can see why people are going nutso for this Kindle thingy. 

Wait a minute?! What’s going to happen to all these Kindles in two years when Amazon comes out with a newer, shinier, improved version? (Titanium for him, pink for her.)

Electronic waste is a huge problem in today’s world. Wired magazine had this to say:

“The refuse from discarded electronics products, also known as e-waste, often ends up in landfills or incinerators instead of being recycled. And that means toxic substances like lead, cadmium and mercury that are commonly used in these products can contaminate the land, water and air.”

The Kindle takes a recyclable and virtually indestructible product – a book — and replaces it with a fragile, toxic device that will be obsolesced in a few years. Drop a book and it can get bent pages. Drop a Kindle and you’ve just made a nasty piece of electronic garbage.

But are books perfect?

Not really. Publishers print too many books, many of which then get destroyed. (Recycled? I don’t know.) Few books are currently published on recycled paper, and the inks are usually far from natural. The last Harry Potter book was  printed on recycled paper in the U.K. and Canada, but only partially so here in the U.S. 

And yes, they do have to be distributed to the bookstores.

What’s my verdict on the Kindle?

Thumbs down.

I do see how the Kindle would be a great addition on a long vacation, or a trip to the Mir space station. But for most of us, reading an actual paper book is no burden.

I see each purchase I make as a validation of consumer ethics.

What am I supporting with this purchase?

Am I telling the manufacturers to be responsible?

For now, I’ll continue with my juicy stack of old-fashioned library books, knowing there are no damaging components to poison the land.

Besides, my fancy living room shelves would look pretty stupid filled with electronics. 

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

For information on electronics recycling in your area, click here.

Do you have a Kindle? Let me know how you like it, in the comments section below.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Marie July 3, 2008 at 5:20 am

And it sure is easy to come by dirt-cheap used books. Way less than $9.99.


Andy Goodell July 3, 2008 at 6:37 am

The kindle doesn’t actually fulfill any need. No one needs to carry around more than one book at a time or maybe a few if you are traveling, but in that case you should be out doing things rather than reading. It’s just another device for Americans to swoon over, wish they had, and become more in debt to get them for people for xmas.


Meadowlark July 3, 2008 at 9:18 am

Even though the thought horrifies me, at least if I had to, I could utilize books for other needs… TP or warmth. Heck, I could use them to prop up a sofa, act as a mini-nightstand, vent a window that keeps sliding closed, wallop a husband who comes home late 😉 Let’s see you do some of those with a Kindle.

Thumbs down Kindle.


Anne July 3, 2008 at 9:32 am

I like to read my books in the bath and at the beach. Water and sand don’t mix well with electronics! I prefer old-fashioned used paperbacks.

Your electronic waste comments remind me of the upcoming television switch to digital in February, 2009. How many people really want to replace a perfectly working television with a new digital television (or buy some electronic digi-conversion box thing)? How many people will not bother to e-cycle their old tv if they buy a new digi-tv? How many public service messages have you seen about where to e-cycle old tv’s when the digital move happens this February? I haven’t seen any.

Anyway, I won’t be watching much tv in the future if it means I’m forced to buy new electronics. (I’m not a luddite – I’m a techie by profession.) It’s just so wasteful.


Darcy July 3, 2008 at 12:37 pm

I wouldn’t want a Kindle for books for a number of reasons. One of them being that I can’t “resell” or even “lend” my Kindle books.

What I would want one for is magazines and newspapers. There are a number of magazines that I enjoy but don’t subscribe to because I hate the disposable nature of them. A Kindle is more portable than my laptop and designed for reading.


Quasimodo July 3, 2008 at 12:53 pm

I agree. Thumbs down. It’s a neat idea, but what I find is that gadgets tend to be novel for a while, but then I put them down for the easier version of whatever, be it PDA vs. pen and paper, Kindle vs. book, or whatever.


tomlinton July 6, 2008 at 3:07 pm

Gee I bought mine first day
I’ve read more books in the last 7 months
than I gotten to in years
Example: The six Jane Austen novels
which I picked up free
And I take risks on books
that I couldn’t take paying hardback prices
It’s kinda fun wouldn’t you think
See a book out in the old treehouse
and download it about a minute?
It beats waiting for it at the library
or the used book store


Sarah July 8, 2008 at 8:45 am

Meh, give me the library anytime. The vast majority of libraries now enable book requesting online, so that you can just go in and pick them up, and you can check your due dates (and renew) all online. They don’t have it? Your library probably can get it through interlibrary loan.
And it’s free.


Kathleen July 10, 2008 at 12:00 pm

I have to give a hearty thumbs-up to the public library. Since being laid off earlier this year, I’ve found innumerable ways to live with less income. The library is number one. Who knew our library system had so many excellent DVD’s available? Not quite Netflix, buy I can search for them online, put in a request, and be notified by email when they’re available. And the best part…FREE!

Don’t even get me started on books. I love books, but when it comes to fiction, the library system has pretty much everyone I read. There really isn’t a good reason to buy a fiction book, unless it’s children’s books for story reading where you’ll use them over and over. Even then, the library might fill your needs.

It’s amazing what discoveries lie waiting when you’re hit with a little adversity.

reduce, reuse, recycle…


thenonconsumeradvocate July 10, 2008 at 12:09 pm


You’re talking my talk!



Mary August 3, 2009 at 11:00 am

All of the arguments make sense so I’m not going to give anything a thumbs up or down; to me, that’s arrogance talking. I use both and am extremely delighted to purchase a book to add to my current library or use my Kindle when I want to sample a book before purchase (at less than bookstore cost) or download during sleepless nights. It doesn’t have to be an either/or.

But, I will say that those who slam the Kindle make themselves sound pretty stodgy. Electronic books are here and going to stay. My house is a lot less cluttered, too. The books I had stacked all over, I donated. Be honest, all the books you have aren’t first edition legacies. Btw, I take mine to the beach all the time (it comes with a cover).

As for the library, it’s ok, but mine isn’t the greatest in the world and they have one of the most antiquated search engines on the planet. Sometimes they have the book, sometimes they don’t. And they’re pretty uppity about upgrading and tell me ‘it’s worked this way for a long time and will continue to do so.’ There ya go.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: