The Kindle kinda cool

Published 4:16 pm Monday, December 28, 2009

Like many a peruser of all things print, I despised Amazon for its release of the Kindle in November of 2007. The Kindle – a handheld digital “e-reader” – had just sounded the death-knell for my most treasured of all possessions: the printed book.

As creatures of comfort, (and habit), we crave the book as our sources of knowledge. And have for some period of time. Ever since Gutenberg devised movable type in the 15th century, humanity has had a love affair with the book, its feel, its weight, its stories. Books have exposed both lies and truth. Books have opened eyes. Books have explored the human condition in ways that no film and no television dramatic series can ever hope to equal.

Since the advent of the desktop computer, though, more and more people have gravitated towards a monitor as a source of news and multimedia. But staring at a laptop or desktop monitor for long periods of time was hard, difficult, and even harmful, for the eyes. And who wanted to read a book that way? The gods of print quietly went about the mass production of paperbacks, hardbacks and softcovers, content in the knowledge that technology wasn’t up to the challenge of accommodating their readers.

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Fast forward, then, to the Kindle. Reading the Kindle, said experts, was the wave of the future. Technology, they said, had finally caught up to the peculiarities (and frailties) of the human eye.

Whatever, said I. I’d take my reading the old-fashioned way. Bound printed matter. Real books. Those that looked nice on my bookshelf, all lined in a row in a rainbow of colors. Black. Brown. Red. Blue. Yellow. Big and small. (I’m particularly fond of the Library of America series; black dust jackets, pristine type, and a thin red ribbon for a bookmark. Beautiful books, really).

Books-A-Million was my haven. The library was my sanctuary.

So I received my Kindle this Christmas as a gift.

And I wonder whatever could I have been so stubborn about.

I downloaded my first book on Christmas Eve. Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut. I’d seen the film a few years ago, (Nick Nolte in one of his better performances), and wanted to read the novel.

By Christmas Day, at noon, I had completed it. An extremely fast read, especially by my usual acts of procrastination. Printed, the book numbers 288 pages, yet it read quite quickly on the Kindle. Once I started reading, I understood why the Kindle has helped bridge the gap between the book’s past and the book’s future.

Simply put, reading the Kindle is fun.

The “digital ink” of the Kindle’s screen is much easier on the eyes then printed paper. A few simple buttons control how you navigate from one “page” to the next. The type is adjustable: you can make the letters bigger or smaller simply by pushing the button. It’s won me over. I’m a convert. You can download books from Amazon at a cheaper price then you could purchase it from the bookstore.

Which is not to say I don’t still love the printed book. You can’t get every book that’s ever existed on the Kindle. And considering some of the obscure authors I like to read, that’s a minor shame.

But as I write this, I’m halfway through Mark Childress’ One Mississippi. And that tall bookshelf laden with dead trees in my bedroom looks like so much waste.