Sunday, December 09, 2007


So, on Cyber Monday, I was doing some Christmas shopping and was on They are heavily promoting a new device called Kindle. For the price of $400, you can purchase this "revolutionary electronic-paper display" device which "looks and reads like real paper".

It has wireless technology, so if you're laying in bed and the mood strikes, you can say, "Hey! I need to read 'War and Peace'" and download it instantly (for a price, of course) to your Kindle and then read.

You can download free samples, you can download blogs, you can download newspapers and magazines.

You can use it to email word documents and photos.

It holds over 200 titles at a time.

Short of making you dinner, this thing does it all. And it's sold out.

I've been thinking about it. Trying to decide how I feel about it. Here's how I feel:

hi, i'm pissed off

First of all, there is a wireless, portable reading device with the look and readability of real paper already available and it doesn't cost $400. Let me introduce you to it. It's called A BOOK. You can get them for free at your local library. You can get them for free by trading for them online. You can get them cheap at your local bookstore and read them over and over and over again. And there's no storage limits--you can buy as many as your house can hold if you want to.

But let me get this straight. I should buy a $400 piece of equipment that I will then have to pay $10 or so for each book I want to download? For the price of one Kindle, I can buy 100 used books at a used book store, or I can buy several hundred books at my annual library book sale.

Technology isn't always the better way. This kindle doesn't have the smell of an old, worn, well loved novel. You can't stroke the pages that are smooth with age and a thousand turnings. You can't crack the spine on a Kindle the way some people so satisfyingly do on a new paperback. You can't give your Kindle books to friends and tell them how much you loved the book and hope they'll love it too.

I have been on vacation and seen people spend dinners on their phones connected to work. I have been on vacation and seen people so desperate to check their email or read stuff on line that they can't think straight--they drive to cafes and hook into wireless ports because the world will end if they don't find out if someone emailed them--they turn their back on the ocean, the mountains, the Grand freakin' Canyon, all to be wired up and connected when they should be taking a break.

And now a bunch of them are turning their back on books. What a crying shame.

5 pearl(s) of wisdom:

Talmadge G. said...

Newsweek had a piece on the Kindle a couple weeks back. In the new issue, several people wrote letters. Most all shared your contempt, except for a teacher who saw opportunities with a Kindle: the ability to download TEXTBOOKS, hence no longer having to lug huge numbers of those things around the hallways.

As for what you say, I have to agree. I have an MP3 player. Okay, three of 'em. One of 'em has nearly 6,000 songs in it -- just about every favorite song I could ever want, literally at my fingertips.

Awesome as that is, it is not a substitute for the look, and feel of the actual CD in my hands, knowing I have a real, unlossy recording as part of my music library. There's a magic about walking over to the far wall, and pulling out a CD, or an LP from the shelf behind me. I know that same 'magic' dynamic exists with actual books. Hell, I can't stand the idea of downloading entire albums from iTunes. I HAVE TO BUY THE ACTUAL CD ITSELF. T'AIN'T THE SAME ! ! !

(Too bad one can't "rip" real paper books onto a Kindle the way one can do with CDs. Of course you CAN "rip" a book, but that would be sacrilege....)

I see opportunities with a "Kindle" like device. I don't worry about them replacing actual books, as I sometimes worry about happening with recorded albums. (btw, one of the letters in Newsweek expressing your sentiment came from a 19-year-old. I feel a little less worry for our future.

Melissa said...

I agree! Nothing like curling up with a good book as opposed to a good "paper like electronic substance"

Now, I do mostly agree with Talmadge's thouhts on Textbooks - however I like to write all over my books - and save them for later reference - can the kindle do that?

Off to curl up with a good book now...the 3rd Stephanie Plum...I think they get funnier every book!

Lesley said...

Yeah, I have absolutely no interest in this or any other similar type product.

And I am now going on about 4 months without a cell phone!

Elizabeth said...

Wow! I'm astonished by the vehemence of the opposition to this gadget. As far as I know, no one is advocating abolishing good old paper books, so it's unclear to me why some literary people find this device so threatening to their way of life. My reaction was "a way for me to bring dozens of books on vacation without collapsing under their weight? Sign me up!!" It's the content, and not the format, that I attach to in books.

Lauren said...

I have something new for you to be indignant about. It's a really cool service where you can....wait for it...RENT books! Kind of like going to the library, but you get to PAY for it! Or like PaperbackSwap, but you don't actually get to keep the book if you like it.

I suppose there may be some good to this site, but I haven't figured it out: Bookswim.