I held out for a long time. I thought, “I love my books. I love the smell of books. I love the tactile moment of holding a book in my hand and feeling its heft and flipping ahead to see how much of what’s left is book and what is footnotes.” I had seen pictures online of people proudly showing off how their favorite author had autographed their Kindle, and I thought, “It’s not for me.”
I caved in August and bought a Kindle. I still buy books to put on my shelves — the books I want to keep, the books I can get for a better price in the real world, the books I hope someday will be signed by the author — but for library reading, for classics I can get for free, I now have my Kindle.
But here is my confession of nerdiness: More than the idea of reading going digital, more than the lack of scribbled margin notes and post-it flags, more than being the bibliophile who shook her fist at the world and said “You took my newspapers and now you want my books too?” my hangup on getting a Kindle came down to typeface.
I love typefaces. Very little makes me happier upon completing a book than to turn to the back and find that the author and/or publisher has seen fit to include a little blurb on how the book was set and in what typeface. To me, typefaces are like handwriting, and I associate different authors and different types of books in my mind by what sort of typeface they use. If I read a book by a certain author in a different edition than I’m used to, it throws me off because I don’t recognize them. It takes chapters for me to get used to seeing a voice I recognize in a typeface I don’t. At least once I have stopped reading a book by an author I loved because it was an older printing in a typeface that felt incompatible with the story and the voice I knew.
So you can imagine my concern over the idea that I could read literally a million books with only three typeface options: Regular, Condensed, and Sans Serif. I could sit down and, in theory, read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and they would all look the same. I finally decided to order a Kindle (helped in large part by fire-sale pricing in August that gave a deep discount on the device to holders of the Amazon Visa card), and hoped that I would just see the default font as the Kindle font and not as a roadblock.
Thus far, I haven’t had any major problems regarding typeface. I have read only two full books on my Kindle (Mansfield Park, which I didn’t enjoy nearly as much as I hoped I would and unfortunately wins the title of my least favorite Austen novel, and Jane Eyre, which was pretty good for being written in first-person, another one of my literary hangups that we can discuss at a different time), but I’ve perused several others from varying genres and time periods. Flipping between two books bothers me, as there is nothing visually different about them on the Kindle, but all in all, I had nothing to worry about. I don’t like the default typeface — I think it’s rather ugly, actually — but Amazon developers did a great job in selecting a typeface that is generic enough to make even me, the typeface nerd, ignore the setting and just read the book.
(Note: I have seen hacks and apps for the Kindle that allow you to change the default typefaces, and someday, if my nerdiness wins out, I may look into that more fully.)