So those of you who know me will remember that things have been terribly slow at work recently. All my projects have lined up and are currently out-of-house/department at the moment – of course, this means that soon they’ll all be coming back in-house/department at the same time – but for now, I’ve basically had nothing to do and, since we’re full up on AEs again, no one else has had anything for me to do either.
So I spent most of the day today playing with our company’s Kindle. What’s a Kindle, you say? (Did anyone actually say that but not click that link? This is for you, then.) This is a Kindle.
It’s Amazon’s e-book reader and it was/is a topic of much debate in the book world when it came out. I’m not sure why, there have been e-book readers around for a while now, but for some reason this one really…well, kindled a lot of talk. Get it?
I was definitely in the book camp – sure, the Kindle was light, easy-to-carry, basically the iPod of the book world. Carry your personal library in one small device! But it had no character. You couldn’t bury your face in it and inhale the smell of ink and paper, you couldn’t dog-ear corners (turns out you can, actually) or make notes in the margin (Beast! And again, actually, you can.), you couldn’t drape it over your eyes to take a nap, and, at $350 or so, you really couldn’t take it in the bath or to the beach with you.
And after spending all day today with it…I’m still in the book camp. Come on, how many of you actually thought I’d have switched sides? I know I adore my iPod more than is probably healthy, but nothing will EVER replace the feel of a book in your hands. NOTHING! And it’s basically for all the reasons I listed up there. To be honest, though, and it pains me to say this, I didn’t hate it. I don’t think I quite liked it, but there is no animosity between us.
And I think that’s part of the problem – it doesn’t inspire great feelings either way. I can’t imagine getting passionate about something I read on the Kindle. I think it distances the experience of reading somehow – maybe because you can’t point to it and say ‘Here’s where I dropped in in the Mediterranean and here is some sand from Dover that got caught in the spine and this bookmark here was my train ticket that weekend in Spain.’
As a design, it’s not bad – certainly the screen is much easier to read than I was expecting. It doesn’t have to be held at a certain angle in order to be read. I don’t know how it would hold up outside or in the dark (I’m not sure it has a backlight – it seems odd that it wouldn’t, though, so maybe I just didn’t find that function). The buttons are a little awkward – I kept inadvertently ‘turning the page’ while trying to press a different one – and they don’t feel or sound very satisfying. Also, it’s slow to turn pages – and you have to wait while it flashes a negative image of the page at you before it happens – making it very difficult and frustrating to just flip through it.
And, no matter how user-friendly they make it (and it was fairly intuitive), it just can’t compete with the hands-on appeal of a book.
But, like I said, it’s not horrible – it’s not for me, but I bear it no ill-will. I’m sure it will make some jet-setting businessperson very happy indeed. But in the end, I prefer the aching back of carrying a bookbag too heavy for my own good if it means enjoying the more carnal appeal of actually holding a book in my hands and turning the pages myself.
Yes, carnal. Anne Fadiman has got my back on this one…