Monday, March 29, 2010

Kindle’s Not My Kind

Last night I went to my monthly book club meeting-our book this month being The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. If you’re looking for something great to read I highly recommend it. It’s the first of a trilogy by Stieg Larsson and I’m going out to get the second book today. I can't wait. 

Many of my bookclub members share books or check them out from the library. I choose to purchase my books for book club for a number of reasons. For one, I like to own the things I’ve read and it’s a great resource for my children (when they are older) or family and friends who happen to need a good book suggestion. I like the way the books fill up the shelves on either side of my fireplace, like that they remind me of a library and peace and quiet. I also like the feel of a book in my hands, the way the pages smell new when you fan them in front of your nose; the slick, clean cover, the slightly rough pages waiting to be turned. If nothing else, the books serve as a tangible reminder of time spent reading. Taking them back to the library or returning them to a friend leaves me feeling like I’ve got nothing to show for the hours I devoted to the characters while ignoring my family. The books are proof positive that I’ve accomplished something worthwhile. I also purchase books to support the author, for the time it took to create that story, edit and revise. I don’t have lattes every day, don’t have acrylic nails, and don’t have a gym membership. The least I could do is drop $15-$20 a month on a book that supports the author and my local bookstore. A part of me also hopes that it will come back around someday when I publish my own book. While I support public library efforts, that wouldn’t exactly help pay my bills. Writers have bills too you know.

A few of our book club members are proud owners of Kindles and now download their books to read. Personally, you won’t see me owning a Kindle anytime soon unless they can figure out a way to make it look like, smell like, and feel like a book. I doubt the creators will go to all that trouble when I could just go out and buy a book the old-fashioned way. There is something impersonal about the nature of a Kindle, the first being it doesn’t have that new-page smell. You can’t fan it’s pages, or gasp at the thickness of the book and wonder how you’re ever going to get through it, or see the thin binding and know you’ll have it read in 5 hours flat. There’s no pretty cover design to look at when you download Kindle stories, which probably puts a cover designer somewhere out of work. Kindles also don’t allow you to pass down your most cherished, beloved stories to your children after you kick-it. Books they can hold in their hand and imagine you holding in your hand, whose dog-eared pages, scuff marks, stains, and underlined passages give them a glimpse of how much you loved the story line, the characters, or the setting. I have books from grandparents on my shelves, usually with some tribute to a holiday or personal thoughts written on the inside cover. You can’t write on a Kindle. And you can’t dog-ear your favorite pages. And I can imagine that sharing a word file with your brother or sister after mom or dad dies, doesn’t produce the same amount of emotional connection an old-fashioned book does.

Reading text on a printed page also gives me a break from reading text on a computer screen. I sit at the computer reading, typing, editing, researching, and revising words on the screen for many hours a day. When evening comes, or when my eyes start burning, reading books gives my brain a break from the virtual, back-lighted print I read constantly. It also makes me feel like I’m not at work anymore.

Another problem with the Kindle is that you can’t leave it on the back of the toilet, or in a basket filled with other quick reading materials for time on the commode. It’s just not practical. Sure you could read it while doing your business, but it can’t reside there in the bathroom for others to use and enjoy. And you’ll probably be worried about it falling into the toilet or getting damaged from shower condensation. On the other hand, if a paper book falls into the toilet, no big deal. It’s a $15 replacement.

Here are some other problems with Kindle as I see it:
-Authors can’t sign your Kindle.
-The phrase “Don’t judge a Kindle by its cover” doesn’t make any sense.
-You also couldn’t say, “I’m going to have a cup of tea and curl up with a good Kindle.”
-Blind people can’t use a Kindle.
-You can’t use cute bookmarks with your Kindle.
-Your Kindle could crash, deleting your entire library. My books will still be on the shelf.
-Flipping a page is quicker than hitting a button and waiting for the page to appear.

As technology becomes more advanced I find myself becoming more old-fashioned. I still do not text. I do not own a Kindle. I certainly do not have a hands-free phone device to use while driving. I understand the need for our society to progress, but there is something beautiful about a shelf full of books, that a list on a computer screen just can’t replace. I know that someday books may be obsolete, but for now I’m happy to walk into a library and surround myself with that historical, papery, musty, book smell; run my fingers down their spine and dream about what those pages contain. It incites in me a feeling of nostalgia that a Kindle just can’t kindle.


jennymc02375 said...

As a Kindle owner, I do have to say that I miss the real book. I just finished up one that I had borrowed from a friend at work. It was nice to "hold" the entire book. I also miss being the girl at work with the "book drawer". So hard to lend a book to a friend when it can't be transferred over to another Kindle owner.

Megan said...

I would like to recommend The Help by Kathryn Stockett - just finished it for our book club and it was AWESOME!