Paperback books or just more kindling?
January 27, 2010
I'm picturing a dimly lit police station where a tough, street-weary cop leads a scruffy looking, handcuffed wiseguy by the sleeve to a desk and barks out "Okay, Dano. Kindle 'em."
(Insert radio show descending note sound 'wahwahwahwah.)
Now I see an old country church, whitewashed against a pale yellow backdrop of dried cornstalks fluttering in the cold breeze. Inside the wooden building, the knotty pine walls glow red, yellow and blue as the early morning winter sun streams through arched stained glass windows. The rapt congregation stares ahead at the black robed preacher, hanging on his every word.
"As the Good Kindle says, love thy neighbor..."
Insert radio show corkscrew-type sound 'Bwoiiiiiiiing')
It's late and I'm really tired. Stepping out of a steamy shower, I wrap the old gray robe around me and say "I can't wait to hit the sheets and snuggle up to a good Kindle."
(I'm out of radio sounds). And fortunately for any readers, out of book-analogous old sayings, too.
After all, "you can't tell a Kindle by its cover." (I lied).
Actually you can tell a Kindle by its cover because a Kindle always looks the same. What's inside the Kindle, though, can change and change and change just about instantaneously, which I suppose is why it was among the top-selling tech gadgets during the holiday season.
The Kindle is Amazon's popular e-reader. A slim, tablet-like wireless reading device that sells for about $250 brand new. Kindle owners can download a bestseller in less than a minute for less than the price of a softcover book.
There are more than 400,000 titles to choose from, including newspapers and magazines. Touted as weighing less than a typical paperback at just 10.3 ounces, readers can devour the title of their choice on a six inch screen. For the more old-fashioned types, a leather Kindle cover is available for $29.99.
A Kindle owner literally has the capability of carrying around some 200 titles in that slim little computer.
Tons of people think the Kindle (and a couple other similar devices) is great and would never pick up a regular, multi-dimensional pulp and paste collection of words again.
I must say as low tech as I like to keep my private life and for-pleasure activities, the instantaneousness of the Kindle appeals to me greatly. Sometimes when I hear of a new book release I want to read it right away. And I'd be more likely to read it—right away or otherwise—if I could get my hands on it for half the cost of a new hardcover, which is the case with Kindle. The New York Times bestsellers can be had for just $9.95.
While this is rather quickly sounding like a pitch for Kindle, it definitely is not.
I simply cannot picture laying down at night, covers up to the chin, with my hands clasped around a slim metal framed object, tapping a glowing six-inch computer screen to turn the page.
And sure, a Kindle is extremely portable, but I've never minded carting around—hardcover or soft—whichever book has my fancy at the moment. I rather like the weighty comfort, the papery pages, ridged cover.
What about bookmarks? Whether they're a note someone left me or a laminated prayer card, porcelain clip, feather, smooth purple ribbon with a star charm on the end (my aunt gives the best bookmarks for presents), I would miss them one and all. There is a way to set a bookmark with the Kindle, but it's just not the same as seeing that familiar piece of art or scrap of paper moving step-by-step through the pages of a book you can't wait to get back to.
And of course there's the snob factor. While in some circles it is likely the pinnacle of cool and height of hip, now, happenin' success to sport a Kindle, who's going to know about the Shakespeare, Chaucer, Faulkner, Steinbeck, McCullers, Kerouac, Vonnegut, Claudel, Calvino, Hughes, Dickinson, St. Vincent-Millay, Olds (Paddy that one's for you), Plath, and on and on that you've read? Floor to ceiling bookshelves filled with varied works and volumes have been coveted by kings and paupers alike since the beginning of time...
...Unless, of course, the books just become so much kindling...Now that's a real nightmare.
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Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.