Saturday, March 7, 2009

No Kindle for me

From Cool Tools, a paean to the Kindle, by Alexander Rose:

Yes, it is now time to get a Kindle. . . .

I have discovered the real reason why you want one. It is because you think of books that you want to read while you are reading other books. On the Kindle you have the unique ability to buy the book right then and there, while you are thinking about it, and it appears on the device moments later all via a free cellphone link they call Whispernet. This feature is one of the least discussed, and to me most useful parts of owning a Kindle, especially compared to the other readers out there. It is because of this feature that I am now reading more than ever.
I sometimes feel that I must now be living on Twin Earth, where "reading books" means something quite different from "reading books." To my mind, reading a book involves a form of attention that make Rose's "real reason" almost laughable. I don't want to stop to buy another book while I'm reading, no more than I want to stop to buy another movie while watching one. On Rose's model, reading turns into a mode of consumer activity, impulse buying at that, the Kindle ready at every moment to take your order. The library? Posh! Get that book now. I expect the day will come when one can click on a word or phrase in an e-book — cashmere sweater, Swiss Army Knife — and be presented with a range of objects for purchase.

I don't doubt the enthusiasm with which some readers have greeted the Kindle. But there are many ways to think about one's relation to books. Annotating, re-annotating, lending — these are activities that undergo essential redefinition or become impossible via the Kindle. The craving for content-on-demand seems to miss the ways in which one might want to go back to a book — one's own copy of it — over time, as it accumulates annotations, as it begins to show wear, as it turns into a record of one's reading and one's life experience. And how does one inscribe a gift book on the Kindle?

One of my great pleasures in listening to music is listening to the copy of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue that my dad brought home in 1959. (It left the house with me when I went out on my own.) One corner is torn, the result of my "indexing" my dad's records for him with slips of paper and tape when I was a kid (dumb kid!). This 1959 LP is my favorite Kind of Blue. Such attachment is not merely sentimental — or if it is, it might be necessarily so. We human types get attached to stuff. Proust understood that.

[The last two paragraphs of this post began as a comment I made on this Boing Boing post. Yes, I have Kind of Blue on CD. My dad does too.]

Related reading
From the Doyle edition
"So cheap, so accessible"

comments: 5

Slywy said...

When I travel, I take notebooks, stationery, pencil/pen cases, and a few pounds of books. Yes, it all weighs me down. And I love it. I don't love the clutter and someday hope to get it under control, but I love the substance of things. You can make notes on a Kindle, but you can't whip out a fluorescent pencil and underline and pencil in comments in the margin. Because I have so many books, most of my read ones are left behind with a bookcrossing.com tag. I left a duplicate copy of Cervantes in Ann Arbor once, and the finder was thrilled. I love that kind of connection, too. And, yes, the Kindle is all about impulse buying—something that keeps us in adolescence vs. allowing us to more thoughtful adulthood with greater emotional intelligence (look that phrase up on your Kindle).

End o'rant.

Michael Leddy said...

Well said!

Bandwagon, pass by.

Chaser said...

I have friends who love their Kindles, but...I read in the bathtub, primarily. I can't see that working out.

Thom said...

I'm a pretty big technology fan - I'd be lost without my MacBook, for example. But I like reading real books printed on paper, keeping my schedule in a Moleskine weekly planner, and picking up a genuine newspaper to page through. The sensory experience is a big part of the pleasure.

For that reason, the Kindle doesn't appeal to me, either. And I bet you're right - within a few years the electronic text of books will be clickable to link to shopping sites. It'll be an updated version of product placement in the movies.

Berit said...

Oh, the horror! I had not considered the prospect of eReaders as a product placement venue!

I was beguiled into buying a Kindle about 6 months after its launch by my love for tech and reading. For the few previous years I had gotten pretty heavily into that "penny dreadful" housewives favor so: The Regency Romance novel.

These offensive paperbacks were quickly cluttering my shelves--their cheap paper yellowing before my eyes, corrupting even their ridiculous covers to a lurid shade. Yet, I couldn't throw them away--they are Books!

I also let my desire for the shiny gadget convince me that I was more concerned for my carbon footprint than I really am--it would be great to read these things without cluttering the house with them! My virtue fair demanded it!

In the few years I've had it, I've probably bought about 20 or 30 books (90% of them those particular page-turners). My interest has waned, perhaps as I got more heavily involved in studying Japanese and so began devoting my reading time and budget to books in that language.

While I haven't "gotten my money's worth" out of the thing I don't regret it. Though he can email with a surprisingly deft turn of phrase my Programmer-by-trade S.O. is No Reader. I can get that (admittedly dangerous) instant gratification without rousting him out of his roost to go to the Library or Bookshop.

And, it's great for the bath--just tuck it in a zipper bag and slosh ahoy!

But...I don't think I'd buy it again with knowledge of my usage pattern these past years.

And I still never leave the house for even "an Afternoon" without tucking a handful of books into a tote. The kindle stays home.