I despise the Kindle. Do I have one? No. So do I know what I’m talking about? It would seem no. So, perhaps I’ll adjust my statement. I hate the concept of the Kindle.
Why so vehement? Is it because I’m a purist? Is it because deep down I’d really like to just go buy a cabin in the woods and write there? Is it because I’m more of a sensory being and enjoy the tactile existence of real paper pages between my fingers? The answer to all of those is yes. Most definitely yes. And as for whether or not those facets of my personality contribute to and/or create my disdain for the Kindle, all I can say is they probably do.
The three main arguments for this contraption are thus: 1) it saves space by putting all of your books in one place, 2) you can take multiple books with you on a trip, and 3) it cuts down on paper consumption.
The first one is true. It does significantly cut down on your shelf space. Soon, bookshelves will probably be an obsolete piece of furniture, forever sequestered to the banks of memory and historical documents. This will make moving easier (boxes of books are a bane), and because of the Kindle, we’ll probably all be nomads in the next twenty years. Praise to the Jesus.
The second argument for the Kindle is so dumb and is the one that is most disappointing. Is it true you can take multiple books with you wherever you go because of this gizmo? Yes, it is true. But why would you need to? Look, if you’re taking a weekend trip, you only need one book (maybe two) to stuff in your backpack. You’re not going to need twenty at your disposal, my friend. “Well, yes, but what if I get tired of the one I’m reading and want to move to another one.” Exactly. That is what is so sad about the Kindle, and the thing that irks me the most about it is what it represents as a piece of our culture. You see, real books test and work against the ever-present tenants of the microwave culture we occupy. Attention spans have been growing shorter and shorter and shorter with each technological advance, and when you have twenty books to choose from on a trip, the moment one of them gets “a little too hard to read,” you’re going to become a flake and bail on it. What happened to literature being something to chew on, wrestle with, and work through? I only need one book to take on a trip with me. I probably won’t even finish it on that trip, should it be as long as Steinbeck’s East of Eden or Mistry’s A Fine Balance. Ergo, they are not taking up any more space than a Kindle would in my luggage, other than the fact that those books are a tad thicker than that gadget.
The third argument seems legitimate until you consider the wealth of used bookstores. Just buy your book from there. You can find just about any book at those locations—yes, even newly published works. The naysayers will throw in this (as if they care): “But if we’re only buying used books and not new ones, how will the artists make the money they need?” Okay, first off, artists are used to not making money. Second, if they need more money, they’ll get a job to support themselves while they work on their craft. And third, a used bookstore isn’t going to stop them from continuing to write. It’s okay. They’ll live. Buy used books.
Am I against the fight on paper? Of course not. I’m all for tempering our consumption of paper products as a planetary people, but if we’re going to wage that war, books aren’t the place to start. Let’s consider where the majority of waste comes from: toilet paper, coffee cups, paper towels, facial tissues, unnecessary copies made at the office when an e-mail could’ve sufficed. You get the picture. It’s not books that are the problem.
Why real books? Well, for me, I just don’t want to stare at a screen all day. Harsh glare removed or not, it’s just not aesthetically pleasing to me. A real page with a real hardbound cover is so much more appealing. Those who think that focusing on the presentation is an approach of superfluous fluff should remember that their Kindle comes in a vast array of cover choices. Aesthetics play into that electronic book, as well. So is it wrong for me to be focusing on the appearance and tangible facets of a book? No, because we’re still talking about art. Even a book’s structural qualities lend to the artistic experience of reading. It is all interdependent, and that encounter with a real book is, thus, something I relish from the first crackling opening of the front cover to the creaking close of the back.
Now, I will admit that the important thing is that people keep reading. If someone prefers a Kindle over a real book, that’s their prerogative. I don’t get it, I don’t understand it, but then again, they probably think it’s weird that I’m so “archaic.” But such a debate is really just a re-run of when J. K. Rowling hit it big. Everybody was lamenting how children were reading “wicked magical things” in Harry Potter, and I was just overjoyed that eight-year-old kids were reading seven-hundred-page books. And so it is with the Kindle. If this nasty little technological device will help further the cause of reading (which is so very healthy intellectually, physically, emotionally), I can’t be angry at that. Just don’t lose your attention span in the process. The internet already does enough of that and doesn’t need our help.