In an ongoing effort to read more and kick certain habits which shall not be named, I purchased a Kindle. My initial impressions of the device are positive, but we’ll see how well they hold up over extended use. Unsurprisingly, people on the internet have opinions about the Kindle. Shocker, I know. Most people hate the DRM, some are willing to put up with it, some recognize a necessity. Some people hate the size or the grey tone or the quality of the display, others herald it as The Next Big Thing in reading. Some people hate the price, others are happy to plunk down nearly $400 for the device.
The thing the critics really hate, though, and the one thing that dwarfs all of the other objections to the Kindle, is that it isn’t a book. It doesn’t feel like a book, it doesn’t smell like a book, and most of all, it doesn’t lend any character to the specific book you are reading right now. I hadn’t really thought about this before using the Kindle, but it immediately struck me how much of the character and tone of a book I get from the body of a book itself—the weight, the cover, the binding, the quality of the paper, the font choices, the density of words on the page—all of these have a distinct impact on how I think about and remember a book.
I have an old paperback copy of Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, one that I read innumerable times growing up. It’s not so much a paperback anymore, since both the front and back covers were mostly lost at some point during my adolescence. I loved the book so much, though, and wanted to be able to take it with me without damaging the thin, brittle pages, that I made my own cover and binding for the book out of cardboard and packing tape. It’s quite a feat of teenage engineering, I think, and has held up masterfully for twenty years. Now that is a book. A real object that acts as a physical referent, a nexus for my intangible memories about the trilogy. I’ve read the other books in the Foundation universe, and none have carried the weight that those first three did—I now wonder how much of that is because of my physical connection with the book as an object.
Every book on the Kindle feels exactly the same. There is no physical object, and the visual components of the book that do carry through the device—the font choice, mostly—are determined not by publisher or author, but are fixed by the device itself. Maybe the attachment to the physical object is mere nostalgia, an artifact of history; maybe the Kindle will let the writing itself, the author’s story, imprint more directly in my memory, unbounded by the ephemera of its physical packaging. I don’t know yet, but I will tell you this: you can have my Kindle when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.
A few things bouncing around:
- Vanity Fair’s story on the making of The Godfather, and a followup about the cast’s late nights with a real mob family.
- What Facebook is really for, according to some grey bloke.
- Pre-Photoshop bliss from Sonoma Valley.
- The end days of Tabula Rasa; I wonder if they had street preachers foretelling the virtual doom?
- Hamsters in jackets—our energy salvation. Now I just need to roundup the 1000 hamsters necessary to power my mobile phone.
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