Kind(le)red Spirits


As I mentioned in my previous post, I managed to buy myself a Kindle (a few weeks ago).  I purchased it from a local outlet when the price of the "special offers" version dropped to $99.  The "special offers" means there are bumper advertisements when it is powered off, and there is a narrow strip at the bottom.  Whatever, no ads are visible while reading – not like you have to flip past ad pages in a magazine – and it was something like $75 cheaper (I look at that as $75 I can spend on more books).  I got the keypad version with Wi-Fi, and also a leather holder to protect it from dust/impact.  Set-up was a snap, for anyone who has a passing familiarity with wireless technology.

(Muse:  And you did it without it blowing up the device in your hand.  Amazing.)

I like the Kindle.  It's lightweight, it reads easily enough, and – a real selling point – I can carry dozens of books at once.  It's great!  And still, I feel a little like a traitor.

I wrote about this a while back here, when a CNN report about the massive upswing in e-book sales.  I admit, it's easy-peasy; when I buy a book on Amazon, by the time I click "Purchase", and turn from my monitor to my Kindle, it has already downloaded.  That's frighteningly, tantalizingly decadent.  Buying a book could not be any easier.

But did I buy a book?  You know, there is some merit to the principle that there is some intimacy in holding the printed words in one's hands that the electronic medium cannot match.  I love the smell of old books; on buying any text older than me, one of the first things I do is shove my snout in between open pages, right down to the spine and inhale.  (Sorry if that creeps anyone out.)  There's just something about the scent, the feel of the browned paper beneath one's fingers that just enhances the reading experience.  In some ways, it feels like I bought a hollow, soulless specter of a book.  There are also some issues with flipping pages; not from a physical perspective, as the buttons are quite easy to use and laid out in a very ergometric design, but trying to back-flip to a previous point, to refresh your memory or re-read something can be tough without knowing the page off the top of your head.  Same can be said of flipping between stories or chapters; it is not always as intuitive or easy as one might hope, which can be annoying and frustrating.

But that said, it is hard to beat the appeal.  Like I said, there is something to be said about being able to switch from Wells "Time Machine" to "World War Z" to an e-book by a little-known author in the blink of an eye, all without having to tote around those volumes.  And once you purchase said book, you never truly lose it; even if deleted, you can re-download it whenever – or until Amazon shutters it's doors, which probably won't happen for some time.  I've lost real books to water easier than that – or just plain lost them.

As I tossed this conundrum around my melon, I decided that it doesn't really matter whether it's an e-book or not.  What do I always say?  "Anything that gets people reading is a good thing."  I abused the hell of out of El Kindle on my recent travel, and read 1.5 books in three days.  It was a complete pleasure.  I haven't done a good read like that in ages.  If this gets me reading more, so be it.

If you haven't tried an e-reader, I recommend you do so, with an open mind, before you pooh-pooh it.  You might just surprise yourself.


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