Space Ramblings

The Kindle and the Magic of the Printed Word

I saw an article recently that listed 10 useless things that no one needs anymore. On the list were books, the print kind. Apparently we aren’t going to need those anymore now that the Kindle is here. Today on the bus I saw someone actually using a Kindle for the first time. Now just the fact that I’ve seen thousands of people out and about using iPhones and only one using a Kindle, says volumes about its realworld popularity. But it was the first time I was up close and personal with the gadget, at least in an over the shoulder voyeuristic sort of way.

The Kindle was smaller and neater than I expected. The text was clear and very readable when compared to a laptop or a media player. But imagining myself with a Kindle still held no appeal. Sure I could in theory load every single book I could ever want on it and carry it with me anywhere, and still for all that even the thought of reading lost all its appeal. The Kindle isn’t ugly. It didn’t look clunky. It was flat and thin, and so is the idea of reading books on it.

Once out of the bus I stopped by a bookstore, just to compare the experience, and there is a real magic to seeing the tangible volumes all around you. Hardcovers and softcovers. New and used. Plain covers and big tacky and splashy covers. The Kindle and ebook readers turn books into something intangible and unreal. They break them up into a page of electronic text. And somehow by doing that they also kill the appeal of reading. Reading Lord of the Rings on a Kindle feels as appealing as reading a tech manual, practical but joyless. There is nothing alive in an eBook. It’s dead and broken down into bits for your convenience. Thank you Amazon, but no, I’ll stick to the magic of the printed word.

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