“I feel like I’m betraying books.”

January 18, 2011 Personal, Writing Comments (0) 59

Even as I spoke the words, they caught me by surprise.  My mother told me she was considering a gift for my 32nd birthday, and was thinking about either a pressure cooker or a pasta roller, unless there was something else I wanted.

“Actually,” I found myself saying, “I think I’d like a Kindle.”

I must say that when the e-Book revolution began, I regarded the devices with a mixture of fear and horror.  Though far from a Luddite, I’m a purist when it comes to books.  I enjoy a good hour spent perusing the shelves at The Book Trader, my local used book store, and in recent years even taught myself to hand-bind books, creating limited-edition versions of my own writings to give away as gifts.  To me the advent of the e-book reader foreshadowed the ultimate death of book stores, the end of libraries, and ultimately a lurch forward in the slow death of the written word.  I took no interest in the devices – in fact, I would say I avoided them.

That changed the first time I held an actual Kindle, while Christmas shopping in December.  It was so light – like lifting one of the fake notebook computers at IKEA.  I started thinking how I might finally finish books like Under the Dome and A People’s History of the United States, whose sheer bulk made carrying them around for reading on the train or at the laundromat impossible.  I was curious about e-ink, which had been the subject of much praise when the Kindle debuted, and felt a sense of wonder when I realized the letters displayed on the device were not, in fact, a translucent decal – they were the actual display.

My mind was made up during some downtime at work, when I noticed my new boss, Bruce — a published novelist himself — did his reading on a Kindle. When he mentioned that it had a search function, I was won.

My mother and my aunt both expressed surprise that I’d embrace the device, and I admitted that I had some reservations.  I really did feel like I was somehow betraying books – and I still do, in some ways.  On the other hand, I expect I’ll now be reading many more of them.  I’ve owned the device for two days, and already I’ve nearly finished Catching Fire.

In the meantime, I’ve also downloaded A People’s History, along with Sex at Dawn, which I’ve been wanting to read for a while, and Guns, Germs, and Steel, another tome I started reading but found inconvenient to transport.  Having all of those books on my person at all times, in a size and shape that I can easily hold with one hand, is revolutionary.  Add the fact that the Kindle app on my Android phone synchronizes with my Kindle, and it means that as long as I have my cell phone I can pick up any of those books exactly where I left off. Never again will there be a bathroom break, flight delay, waiting room, or laundromat where I find myself without whatever book I’ve been reading.

Bruce speculates that printed books may go the way of live theater – moving away from mass consumption, but kept alive by people with an appreciation for the specific experience.  In the meantime, I have to admit that I already love my Kindle.  The benefits are simply too numerous to ignore.

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