Amazon Kindle

I have a bone to pick with the Amazon Kindle. Now, I understand what they are trying to do – access to millions of books under a minute is an interesting and noble cause. However, I just don’t understand how people can think it is superior to a book, or even that it will replace books. (ASU is even experimenting by giving some students Kindles to replace their textbooks!)

Now, it’s not just the ridiculous price tag that bothers me, but the experience of reading from a Kindle itself. To me, reading a book is not just about receiving information, but an experience (partly tactile). I was reading The Library At Night by Alberto Manguel this afternoon and he summed up how I feel about reading from a screen:

“As any reader knows, a printed page creates its own reading space, its own physical landscape in which the texture of the paper, the colour of the ink, the view of the whole ensemble acquire in the reader’s hands specific meanings that led tone and context to the words. (Columbia University’s librarian Patricia Battin, a fierce advocate for the micro-filming of books, disagreed with this notion. “The value,” she wrote, “in intellectual terms, of the proximity of the book to the user has never been satisfactorily established.” There speaks a dolt, someone utterly insensitive, in intellectual or any other terms, to the experience of reading.)

… leafing through a book or roaming through shelves is an intimate part of the craft of reading and cannot be entirely replaced by scrolling down a screen, any more than real travel can be replaced by travelogues and 3-D gadgets.”

If people enjoy the Kindle, good for them. I hope it encourages reading for people who normally wouldn’t (if you shell out $500 for the latest gadget, hopefully you’ll force yourself to use it!). I’m all for anything that gets people to read, even if it means books like Harry Potter and Twilight, and overpriced gadgets like Kindle. However… for me personally, I’ll stick to my old fashioned tomes that line my walls, not my hard drive. Aside from the supposed enormous selection (they are currently only at 275,000), I think I, as a huge book nerd, can live without the supposed “benefits” on the Kindle… as seen in the comic below:

(click to enlarge)

In one last caveat: I love how the kindle is marketed as a “wireless reading device” – isn’t that what a book is??


3 thoughts on “Amazon Kindle

  1. Great post, and I agree. I would like a Kindle, which I would use for junk reading and some old stuff that I can get on there for free that I would otherwise have to read on a normal computer screen or pay money for. Still, I have 15 cents to my name so I don’t see that happening any time soon.

    I’m also reminded of a bit that I think Jackie Mason used to do (and I heard someone reference recently) about how excited everyone would be if the newspaper were invented today. It costs next to nothing, you can read it on the john or the bus, its got all the scores, when you’re finished you just throw it away, etc.

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