Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A new page?

When I read a book, I prefer to do it the old fashioned way: holding a bound volume in my hands. Amazon has come out with a new, $399 electronic reader, the Kindle, a "wireless portable reading device with access to more than 90,000 books, blogs, newspapers and magazines."

Personally, I don't know why someone would need to carry around 90,000 books. With an iPod, I can understand wanting to carry around a few thousand 3- or 4-minute songs, or an hourlong podcast. Plus, an iPod is about the size of a deck of cards, and the Nano is even smaller. And just as you probably don't want headphones in your ears all day, you probably don't want to be looking at the Kindle's screen for hours on end either.

Gizmodo has given the Kindle a mostly positive review. Larry Magid, writing in the San Jose Mercury News, also likes it, although he touches on some of the drawbacks including the price and an annoying black flash on the screen when you push a button to go to the next page. My friend Dan at Media Nation has weighed in on how the Kindle could affect newspapers (scroll down).

I remember in the early 1980s, when I left paper, typewriter and White-out behind and started working on a computer. It was a disorienting experience and I didn't think I'd ever get used it. I missed being able to hold what I'd written in my hands. It was a much more tactile experience.

While I eventually got used to writing on a computer, I doubt I'll ever feel comfortable reading a book on one, although I read plenty of newspaper and magazine articles online.

I own The Complete New Yorker on CD-ROM, so I have access to some great works of fiction and nonfiction that first appeared in the magazine, like Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood," and John Hersey's "Hiroshima." But "In Cold Blood" is over 300 pages. I'm not going to sit and read something that lengthy on a computer, even sitting on the couch with my laptop. I could probably buy a copy almost as cheaply as printing it out. (Although if I ever have an uncontrollable urge to read either one at 2 in the morning, I'm all set).

Granted, I haven't even seen a Kindle, much less tried one. Supposedly, the screen is better and easier on the eyes than previous attempts at electronic readers. It's lightweight and feels comfortable to hold. Maybe I'll fall in love with it. But right now, I don't think there's a replacement for holding a book in your hands, cracking the spine and turning the pages one by one.


Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Call me old-fashioned, but when I read a book or even a newspaper or magazine, I love holding something tangible in my hands. Does that make me a Luddite?

Esther said...

No, of course that doesn't make you a Luddite! While I end up doing a lot of reading online, I much prefer the old-fashioned, dead tree version! (Hopefully printed on partially recycled paper). You're absolutely right - there's just something irreplaceable about holding a newspaper or magazine, or especially a book, in your hands.