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For the most part, reading an ebook on your Kindle is a lot like reading a real book. Some books, though, just weren’t meant to be read digitally. You can still do so, but it’s really not a good idea. The experience will be much more fulfilling if you undertake the journey in its original form.
Here are seven of those books. You should definitely read them — just don’t read them on a Kindle because they suck as ebooks.
Mark Danielewski’s most popular novel, House of Leaves, is known for its unusual style and layout — to the degree that it’s not even available on Kindle. You can buy his Familiar books on Kindle, but you probably shouldn’t. Many pages include images, sentences that don’t go left-to-right and top-bottom, or just a few words.
The absolute isolation of those few words is an important element of the aesthetic feeling the book is trying to create. And seeing them on a small screen, surrounded by the grey emptiness of e-ink isn’t nearly as affecting as seeing them surrounded by the white page — a vast and empty space of paper. It just doesn’t work.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to read a horror story in an IKEA catalog? No? Then you’re missing out. Horrorstör is exactly that. Three furniture store employees spend an all-night shift in the store to see what’s been wreaking havoc on the sales floor… and find horrors they weren’t expecting.
What makes Horrorstör a disappointment on Kindle isn’t what you might expect. Instead of publishing the book on standard book paper, Quirk Books released it in a glossy magazine format, mimicking the form of a furniture store catalog, complete with item descriptions, product illustrations, a map, and a mail-in order form. The Kindle version just cannot cope with this level of creativity.
Yet another horror story that the Kindle doesn’t do justice to, Through the Woods is a collection of five illustrated stories. They’re not just simple illustrations, though: they’re phenomenally gorgeous and unsettling. Even if you do read this on a Kindle Fire or another tablet, the stunning beauty of these illustrations won’t come through.
The fairy-tale-like feeling present in this book will bring you back to the stories of your childhood, which, unless you’re a fetus, almost certainly weren’t read to you on a Kindle. The perversion of childish innocence in these stories combined with the striking illustrations make this a must-read on actual paper.
Murakami isn’t known for following literary conventions. And The Strange Library lets him break away from the physical conventions of the book world as well. It’s an illustrated novel, so the images included in the book are crucial to the story. Seeing them in black-and-gray on a Kindle just don’t cut it.
Even the cover can’t be communicated well on a Kindle. Instead of simply opening it from right to left, readers need to open three different flaps to get to the story itself. It sounds like a pain, but Murakami doesn’t make these decisions lightly. There’s definitely a reason for how this book is presented.
This is a book about books — it seems like sacrilege to read it on a screen. By exploring the physical components of books, from paper and cardboard to thread and ink, Houston looks at the cultural forces that shaped (and were shaped by) the book as an artifact.
Color illustrations, illuminated letters, and pleasing pops of bright-red accents make this a joy on paper. On an e-ink screen? It just doesn’t have the same effect. And while e-readers certainly have changed the reading landscape for the better in many ways, it just feels right to explore a book about the physicality of books with paper in your hands.
6. Arcadia by Iain Pears (CA)
Pears’ latest work was published as an iPad app before being released in hardcover and Kindle versions. But it was an app for a reason. Pears is known for complicated, intertwining stories, and Arcadia is a sterling example of that tendency. So much so, in fact, that the app represents it visually:
Readers can move through the storylines in any manner they please, going forwards and backwards in time, revealing secrets in different orders, and choosing how the story unfolds. It’s a great book, and this flexibility is crucial. But in the Kindle version, you lose all of that. It’s just not nearly as good.
(On a personal note, I absolutely adore this book, and I highly recommend it.)
Originally presented as a serial novel, The Silent History also began its life as an app. And it’s still best experienced that way. The print and Kindle versions contain the main story, consisting of 120 testimonials from characters, but the app has an entirely different feature that you’d be missing out on.
Field Reports are short, location-specific stories that add to the central narrative. They’re still being written in collaboration with fans of the book, and they’re linked to specific GPS coordinates. When you reach those coordinates, you’ll unlock the Field Report. There’s just no way to replicate that sense of adventure by simply reading the main story on your Kindle.
Some Books Just Aren’t Meant for Kindle
Whether you’re a diehard fan of printed books or you think the Kindle is by far the superior option, there’s no denying that some books are just better on paper (or, in very rare cases, as apps). Some of them can’t make the transition to digital at all, which is why House of Leaves, Bough Down, and Griffin & Sabine aren’t even offered on the Kindle.
Some others are available, despite doing a disservice to the reader. The seven books above are never going to be as good on the Kindle as they are in their original forms. So please think twice before downloading any of them!
Are there any other books that just don’t work on the Kindle? How do you feel about the paper vs. digital debate? Which books would you never read digitally? Are there any books which actually work better on Kindle? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!