The Obligatory Kindle Post

I got a Kindle for Christmas, and now am obliged to write about how it looks like a real page, how cool it is to be able to carry my library with me and won’t it be great for travel, and how it will revolutionize reading, writing, printing, and life as we know it. And I will probably admit that while I love reading on my Kindle, I will never part with my dead-tree collection.

Consider all that said. I’ve read plenty about eBooks in general, and the Kindle in particular, and that pretty much says it all. If you want a reading list, I can refer you.

What I do have to say about it is this (and these observations are by no means unique, either):

I love to read — in theory. In reality, I have trouble seeing the page. I thought that going to bifocals would make it easier to read, but most of the time my arms aren’t long enough to hold the book where I can see it. And I don’t like holding books. If I can read with my book on the desk and plenty of light, it works, but reading in bed is tedious. Reading from my computer or iPhone hurts my eyes.

Kindle is allowing me to read more. Easy to hold, easy to turn pages, easy to adjust the size of the print. It keeps your page. You can write notes and underline without messing up your book. It’s like having an exercycle or a treadmill — now I have no excuse.

There are many people who love books as objects – the binding, the pages, the feel of a volume in their hands. I’m sure there were readers who didn’t want to give up their scrolls when the codex was becoming popular. But Amazon doesn’t sell a lot of scrolls these days. Eventually more ebooks will be sold than paper books.

I am quite ready to get rid of as many books as I can. Most of them are just containers for text, and they take up a lot of space. There are a few which are more than containers – they are objects in and of themselves, with some sentimental value. Many are out of print, and some are not available on Kindle yet. But many of the books I buy are read only once or not at all. I used to go to the library, but Amazon is quicker. I find myself stocking up on books I might want to read, or feel I should read. My reading list is stacked all over my office, making me feel guilty every time I look at them.

Kindle has a wonderful cure for people like me who buy every book that looks interesting, only to set it aside after one chapter – Samples. Before I pay for and download an entire book, I can grab the first chapter or so and read it at my leisure. At the end of the Sample, I can click to buy it, or delete it. Since I’ve been using Kindle on my iPhone for the last two years, I have saved a lot of money doing this.

One thing Kindle cannot replace — the borrowing and lending of books between friends. I’ve lost a lot of books this way, or had them returned with highlighting and writing in the margins, but sometimes sharing a book helps us bond. So far, there is no way to share a Kindle book, other than to lend someone your Kindle.

Today Amazon announced that Kindle has become their best-selling product of all time – surpassing Harry Potter 7. They don’t release numbers, but I am guessing that more Kindles were sold this month than in any previous month since it was introduced.

Four or five years ago, students returned from Christmas break — all of them with new cell phones. Suddenly, everybody had one, and that changed everything.

I don’t know if everyone will have a Kindle anytime soon; there are still plenty of people who don’t read much at all, and I’m not sure Kindle will be able to change that. But Kindle is already experimenting with a web browser. It’s possible to upload documents to the device, and it can read many books aloud. I can see it giving the iPad some competition.

The printed word isn’t going to supplant movies and television, but it’s not going to disappear, either. Electronic books are the next logical step. Not everyone is ready to take that step, but eventually it will happen. And trees everywhere will rejoice.

Edit: I just learned about (but haven’t yet checked out) an ebook lending service:  OverDrive

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Becky Leff
    Dec 29, 2010 @ 03:10:29

    On the subject of new technologies and how they change things, for the better and worse: a book you may find interesting is Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers. I heard the author speak at a conference and bought the book, though I haven’t read it yet. The big idea of the book is taking control of technologies, so that you aren’t a slave to checking your email and Facebook, etc. He researched technology in history to show similarities in how people reacted then and now to the changes that a new technology causes. The title refers to several scenes in Hamlet when Hamlet talks about his “table,” which was a nifty new pocket-sized device in Shakespeare’s time (not a piece of furniture) that allowed people to take notes and then erase them later by wiping with a sponge. They were enormously popular and people who used them swore by them, including Thomas Jefferson and Montaigne. For me, listening to Mr. Powers talk about his book and ideas, it was a revelation to realize that all the fuss about cell phones, iPods and computers ruining our ability to concentrate and read is not new — with every new technology all the way back to Plato, people have been exclaiming that this (insert name of new gadget) is the end of every good. I don’t know if the book is available in electronic form, though. It would be rather ironic if it’s not.


    • escher dax
      Dec 29, 2010 @ 11:04:49

      Interesting. I’d never heard of ‘tables’ before. I checked – the book is available on Kindle. At $11.99, a bit more expensive than most Kindle books. But it sounds like something to at least sample, if not read. Thanks for the tip!


  2. becky leff
    May 05, 2011 @ 14:53:57

    The Libraries Didn’t Burn
    by Elaine Equi

    despite books kindled in electronic flames.

    The locket of bookish love
    still opens and shuts.

    But its words have migrated
    to a luminous elsewhere.

    Neither completely oral nor written —
    a somewhere in between.

    Then will oak, willow,
    birch, and olive poets return
    to their digital tribes —

    trees wander back to the forest?


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