Thursday, April 01, 2010

Thoughts on a Kindle

Well, I'm finally over my 9-day bout with Saddam's Revenge. The bug, whatever it was, is gone, and good riddance to it. I'm able to go jogging again, and yesterday I hit the gym for the first time in a week and a half. Today I'm a little stiff and sore ... but it's a good stiff and sore.

The rain has gone, too, and the mud is pretty much dried out. Our weather has been alternating between cool enough for jackets and being a bit warm. Yeah, that's really specific, huh? Okay, to be more accurate, it's ranged from the upper 60's to mid-80's at the height of the day. Today is supposed to be in the upper 70's, and we're looking at 90 by Sunday. In other words, pretty perfect. As long as we don't get rain, that is.

For some reason, we're in a "conserve water" mode. I don't know why. The vehicle wash racks have been closed, so we're driving around in beat-up filthy Suburbans that look like they haven't been washed in months. Actually, they haven't been washed in months. It's getting to the stage where you want to change into your dirty clothes before climbing into the truck.

A bit over a year ago, my wife bought me a Kindle. It was a pretty cool little gadget. I could carry around a ton of books without carrying around a ton of weight. It was pretty easy to operate and the screen was easy on the eyes. No flicker, like you get from computer screens. I became a Kindle advocate and got into lots of conversations with strangers about this little "iPod-for-books".

But on my last trip back to Iraq, something on the Kindle's screen went wrong, and the top inch or so doesn't work anymore. That meant that every time I turned the page, a couple of lines went missing. I figured out a workaround and was able to finish the book I was reading, but then was faced with the question, do I get a replacement, or no?

I decided, no. The Kindle is a neat little thing, but it is not for me. Yes, it can carry around hundreds of books, but I don't need hundreds of books, I only read one or two at a time. More importantly, to me the Luddite, is that I feel a sense of technology inserting itself between me and the writer without any value added. When I'm reading a book on paper, I feel a direct connection - it's as if the author is speaking directly to me, personally. On the Kindle, there was a sense of (insert robotic voice here) "I will process this publication for your perusal" (end robotic voice) and I did not feel that direct connection anymore. Maybe it's related, but when I'm reading on a computer, or to a less extent the Kindle, I feel a bit rushed. There is no time for contemplation. Time is money. With a paper book, I can take my time.

Then there are the practical aspects. When I finish a really good book on the Kindle, I can't just hand it to somebody and say "hey, you gotta read this". Nope, the book is only on my Kindle, and the only way they can read it is to (a) borrow my Kindle (no way) or (b) buy it themselves. And although you can carry around a lot of books in a Kindle without increasing your baggage load, but you also have to carry around a charger. So in my luggage, I had chargers for my laptop, cellphone, and Kindle.

The final straw was in thinking about electronic obsolesence. Mine was a first-generation Kindle; the second-generation has been out for a while and the third-generation is probably well along in development. And Kindles and iPads and other e-readers don't have the same electronic formats, meaning a book on one machine is not compatible with other machines. So what happens when the format you use is no longer supported? You have to upgrade, buy replacements, or lose them. Remember 8-tracks? They went away and were replaced by cassettes. So those of us who went through that transition had to duplicate their 8-track collection on the new format. Then cassettes went away and were replaced by CD's. And now CD's are being replaced by a whole slew of digital file formats, which will probably be replaced again in a few years. Applying this line of thought to the Kindle, well, I have a whole bunch of books that I bought that (a) must use a special gizmo to read, but (b) that gizmo is broken, and (c) it will be replaced by some incompatible format in the future anyway. Meanwhile, a book on paper printed 500 years ago is just as readable today as it was then.

So I'm not going to replace my broken Kindle. Paper or plastic? Paper, please.


  1. My big problem when I thought about the acquisition of a Kindle was ....what will I do if I drop it?

    Because I drop books. They fall off the nightstand, I've dropped them in the tub, near the pool, and even when falling asleep reading.

    There's also something comforting about having the pages to turn, the weight of the book on your lap.

    I'm with you. I don't need to carry around hundreds. I only need but a few.

  2. Yeah! And, besides, how about all those books that are out of print and always seem to be the very best ones to read? And, how am I to leave my favorite books to nieces and nephews via Kindle? I expect I can think of at least an additional dozen reasons for a BOOK!

    I won't plead "Luddite" on prefering a book. If it ain't broke then don't "fix" it - especially if it is perfect in its current form. Besides, what really smells better than a bookstore?

    I agree about replacing everything because of changes in technology. Record albums, tapes, CD's, etc. - all resulting in much music that is lost forever. Same thing will happen with literature and poetry. If it doesn't sell at the grocery store then it will disappear. Even the Buncombe County libraries no longer keep books unless they are checked out regularly. As a result, there is an awful lot of banal trash lining the library shelves and not a whole bunch of books worth the reading time. Just my opinion, of course, but I would argue the point.

    Again, best wishes and welcome home from....

    Same old gray haired, semi-ditzed out woman in Barnardsville.