Limits of the Unlimited

"Kindle 3" by Zhao! Used under Creative Commons.Recently, Amazon released an unlimited Kindle plan in which readers can use what’s affectionately known as an “all-you-can-eat” selection of books.  As long as you maintain the subscription, you can read these books whenever you like. The books are unlimited…or so, at least, is the illusion.

Now, it’s no secret that I hold no love for Amazon. However, through a series of unfortunate events that would take some time to explain, we have a Prime membership, and it doesn’t look like we’re getting rid of it any time soon.  I do not own a Kindle, as I intentionally choose to use Barnes & Noble instead, mostly just to give business to Amazon’s competitor. Even if I did own a Kindle, though, I wouldn’t use this so-called “benefit.”

Why? Glad you asked.

I’ve struggled with a love-hate relationship with e-books since I first bought my Nook. My book purchases are about evenly split between physical books and ebooks. One of the reasons that I prefer the Nook is that, whenever and from whomever I purchase an e-book, I want to make certain that it’s in what’s known as an ePub format, which is the standard for e-books and will work on most devices (unlike Amazon’s proprietary format). When I add a book to my collection, I want to know that I have that book in my collection, because there’s something about having a collection that’s extremely important. I don’t mean this in a materialistic way. I’m not advocating hoarding (we downsize our library by donating books occasionally, at least). I just recognize that there’s something important about being able to go pull the book off the shelf that has that thought or concept that’s on your mind so that you can reference the entire chapter. This is why we still have shelves filled with old undergrad textbooks, which do, in fact, come off the shelf on a somewhat regular basis.

Our bookshelves aren’t unlimited. Space on them becomes a topic of much debate in our marriage at times. Still, we devote a lot of space to bookshelves in our house, and I love the fact that I can retrieve a book from one of them to loan to a friend, to re-read, to reference. The books that are important enough to earn a permanent spot on these shelves are ones that have been of the most importance to us. They’re not beholden to a continued subscription fee. They’re always there, those words and ideas always ready to become a conversation piece when needed, a part of us. I think that an unlimited plan of this nature would cheapen that experience, devalue each book as some possession rather than something that has influenced me, in some ways profoundly.

I actually have enough of a disconnect with e-books in that regard, and sometimes wonder if, futurist thinker though I am, I might leave them behind altogether.

Perhaps I’ll do just that.


Image attribution: Zaho! under Creative Commons.


  1. Glad to discover someone else feels the same way. I buy used books and CD so there is a physical product to remind me of the song or ideas existence. Otherwise I’m beholden to whatever Amazon, Google, Youtube, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter decides to steer me towards.

    1. And whatever they decide to steer you towards will be driven by marketing data…usually mutually exclusive of good art.

      My wife refuses to even purchase movies by download. We own physical DVD’s for everything.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.