Reading is one of my favorite activities. In normal years, it’s not unusual for me to read at least 100 books in a year. I generally prefer “real” books, but I must admit that I enjoy my Kindle as well.
I did not realize until today, though, that I read differently on my Kindle, and this difference may have something to teach me about how I live my life as well.
When I read on the Kindle, I do miss the smell and feel of the paper of “normal” books, but the Kindle comes with several advantages that make it useful at times. I can carry quite a number of books with me at once when I am traveling without taking up a lot of space (or hauling too much weight). It is much lighter weight than many larger books are, especially in hardback, and this is easier on my hands when I will be holding it to read for an extended period of time. It’s great for immediate gratification when there’s a book I want to have right now, and I can download and begin reading it in minutes. I love the ability to try out new authors with the free Kindle books. I’ve discovered several new authors this way that I might never have found otherwise. It’s also helpful to be able to download and read the first chapter of some books before I decide whether to buy them.
I read two different books by new authors today on my Kindle, and I realized that there is one important way that reading on the Kindle transforms the way I read above and beyond all of the things I list above. When I read on my Kindle, I always read straight through the book because it is not as easy to skip around in the book as it is with a paper book. Today’s reading made me aware of how seldom I read a paper book straight through.
Yes, I confess, I’m one of those that always reads the ending ahead of time.
I know this deeply disturbs many people, but I get so anxious as I’m reading when the outcome is unknown to me that the anxiety not only causes me to enjoy the reading of fiction less than I would otherwise, it also causes me to race through the book so fast to get to the end that I miss out on so much along the way. When I am able to reduce my anxiety level by checking on the ending early, then I can slow down and luxuriate in the details and the journey to see how the author gets from the beginning to the ending. In fact, my most pleasurable reading is almost always re-reading old favorites where I find new things to love each time I open the well-worn pages because my knowledge of the story frees me to appreciate all of the little details, nuances, and foreshadowing that I may have missed on earlier reads.
Of course, there is a price to pay when I do this. If the journey from start to finish is not well executed, it’s much easier to lose interest in the book when I already know the ending. I have gone through many half-read books because of this. The two books I read today were not great literature by any means, but I found myself completely unable to put them down because I wasn’t able to easily flip ahead and check on the ending. I walked about the house, fixed dinner (if you can call it that), and ate all without pausing in my reading in my rush to get to the end. It’s been a long time since I have been that engrossed in a plot.
The realization of how the medium impacts my reading style is something to keep in mind as I make books choices in the future. Clearly some books will be better choices (for me) in one format than the other. But it also strikes me that learning to live with the higher level of uncertainty in my fiction reading might well be good practice in learning to better live with all of the anxiety that comes with living an uncertain life. Perhaps doing a bit more of my fiction reading on the Kindle will help me learn to better tolerate risk, something I could certainly stand to improve upon.
Learning to better tolerate risk in my life is not an outcome I would normally have thought of as a side-effect of reading on a Kindle instead of a paper book. But then life is full of little surprises, isn’t it? My observer-self continues to surprise me with what she notices when I get out of the way.