Sunday, December 13, 2009

Notes on a Kindle

Having lusted after the Kindle ever since Amazon first put it up for purchase in my sophomore year at college, it was with great pleasure that I received one from my parents as a graduation gift. I've alway been an avid reader and to me, an iPod for books had the potential to be the most world-changing device since Apple said that you could have music without CDs. I also saw it as freeing me from airline overweight baggage fees because I would no longer have to pack 15 books to travel, I could have them all available on my Kindle. To my disappointment, while I love my Kindle, and use it most of the time, there are certain things that I did not expect and still cannot get used to.

1. I feel cheated out of the bookstore experience. Before I would enter a bookstore with the same reverence that someone would enter a church. This place was going to give me my next epiphany; the book/s I walk out with will change my life somehow. That sort of thing. Instead going to bookstore now its unsatisfying. I find books that I like, but I'm hesitant to buy it because the amazon store might have it for much cheaper. Because of this, I no longer get the same pleasure from picking up a book and that upsets me.

2. When flying, because the Kindle is an electronic device you cannot use it during take-off or landing. For me these are perhaps the most crucial times when I need to read; my iPod cannot be used, the movie has been turned off and all you ever have to do is read. So now with the Kindle, all I can do is sit there concentrating on how long it is taking for the pilot to land the plane.

3. I miss the weight of a book in my hand, and the smell of slightly worn pages and the crease in the spine that means its one of your favorites.

4. Last but not least, you cannot lend your Kindle books to a friend.

For all of the admittedly wonderful things that a Kindle does. Such as its portability, accessibility to Amazon's vast e-library, there are certain things that one cannot ever recreate with a digital book. And I may be an old fogey in saying this, but I will miss books when they are gone. The digital will become the convenience and the norm and people like me will be thought of as eccentric or clinging to a bygone era. Be that as it may, the act of holding a book brings back memories of every book I ever held, and to a certain extent every book I've ever read.

The move toward digital literary content got me thinking about a science fiction short story I read once (of course! ). It was a tale of xeno-archeologists (studying alien artefacts) who come to a planet where they are unable to make head nor tails of any of the old buildings, monuments and artifacts that they find. In the end, they reason, that particular civilization had gone digital, meaning all of their art, literature and cultural content had moved into a completely insubstantial medium. After the civilization became extinct, noone could celebrate them or study them because no one could truly know them.

Perhaps that is a gloomy thought but at the end of the day, progess stops for no man (or however the saying goes) and we will continue to evolve and change as we please. In the meantime however, I guess what I'm saying is that I will continue to celebrate books in their most tactile form until I no longer have that option.

1 comment:

  1. I feel the same way about my Kindle. I just got it two months ago for my birthday. I use it occasionally and have bought a couple books on it, but I definitely miss the feel of a book when I am using it.I still borrow from the library as well, so I get the best of both worlds.