Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I've been Kindled

No post yesterday because I was called away to help K with some wedding business that involved a very boozy lunch. We tried to go shopping after that (always  a good idea) but we quickly got  overwhelmed by the inexplicable hilarity of walking around amongst all the boxy cardigans at J. Crew and had to hide out in the foyer until we could compose ourselves  a bit. My old company was always closed the week between Christmas and New Years so it feels really wrong to do anything productive this week.
With the weather as bad as it is and my big trip coming up, I mostly just want to sit at home and read on the new Kindle that I got as a Christmas gift. I should say that for a long time I was against the idea of an e-reader. As a lifelong lover of books, the problem for me has always been that I just don’t think that the experience needs to be improved upon. A book is small and portable to begin with and the whole point of reading a book is that it doesn’t need bells and whistles; you’re quietly alone with the story and the words. But faced with the prospect of lugging a month’s worth of reading to Argentina with me, I asked for a Kindle for Christmas this year.
And  Reader, I’m a little in love.
If you have yet to experience the Kindle, perhaps  the best thing about reading on one is the fact that you forget you’re reading on one; it does not (contrary to my fears) feel like reading on a screen. It’s also incredibly light so you can hold it in one hand with a glass of wine in the other—which as far as I’m concerned is a major attribute. It has a note- taking feature (which my editor pal loves) and a little cursor that you can put over any word to produce a bubble with the definition (handy for reading authors like Jennifer Egan who throw out words like lepidopterist and expect you to follow along). And for people with as little patience as I have, you simply cannot beat the instant gratification of finding and downloading a book you want to read in less time than it takes to update your Facebook.
And yet.
I feel like I’m cheating on books. I can’t quite get past the feeling that I’m not quite reading the book the way I would if I had it in my hands; it’s a little like I’ve watched the movie instead. And sleek as the Kindle is, I really miss having the cover art to look at.  It just doesn’t look the same on the nightstand; the screen pulls up literary-themed illustrations as screen savers which are nice but have nothing to do with the actual books you have loaded (this feature erroneously led me to believe that a former boyfriend of mine was reading Dickens). And perhaps it’s just that the whole idea of reading on a device leaves me a little cold. I love to see people reading in public—to crane my neck to see what it is they’re so absorbed in. Every reader has had the experience of seeing a stranger out and about reading a book they love and feeling an immediate kinship with that person without ever even speaking to them. You couldn’t have this with a Kindle; somehow a person with an e-reader seems engaged in something more private than a person with a book does.  
In the spirit of not letting the dialog die out, I’ve resolved to ask the next person I see with a Kindle what they are reading on there and how they are enjoying the device. And if this person happens to be attractive? All in the name of research.
How do you feel about e-books?


  1. I love mine. I just got it a few days ago, and have been fiddling around with it periodically ever since. I totally agree with what you say about feeling like you're cheating on books, though. I am currently reading Just Kids by Patti Smith, and that book now sits beneath my Kindle, on which are now a dozen books, all purchased in the space of about 2 minutes, all neatly aligned on my "Home" page. It's just...strange. But maybe it just takes time to get used to?

    I am a HUGE fan of the note-taking and the dictionary features, and will definitely be able to use the Kindle at work (I'm the editor pal). I'll be able to email proposals and manuscripts to my Kindle and take notes without dropping pages everywhere or digging a leaky pen out of the bottom of the enormous bags we all carry around in NYC.

  2. I love books. The smell, the feel, the pages as they turn. But if someone gave me a Kindle, I wouldn't return it.

    I think both - the ereader and books - have a place.

  3. I adore my Kindle. The best thing? I can read in bed or on the couch much more comfortably. A fat hardcover is annoying sometimes for the slouchy reader. And I take mine everywhere. No wait is too long with a book to read.

    I still buy paper books though, all the time.