We'll Always Have Books

During the holidays, I received a Kindle. I opened the box with great anticipation, read the directions, and started to “play” with it for a while. I couldn’t wait to return it the very next day.

I found the screen very dull, grayish. No doubt, the bright screen of the Mac, as well as the much brighter and more readable printed page has spoiled me.

Going back and forth between pages in a printed book, say between page 10 and page 40, which have been noted for some reason, is difficult with the Kindle.

I missed the physicality of the book, the attractive cover, the typeset that that was employed, its particular odor, and sheer presence on my shelf.

The screen is much smaller than a printed page and, as a result. there’s much more “turning” of e-book pages, if you will. This takes a little bit of time, while the blank screen gathers in the next page.

Saving passages, essential to my reading routine, is a cumbersome procedure that involves several steps. First you need to scroll to the start of the passage, which requires knowing how to scroll. Then you press a button whereupon you scroll to the “Add Highlight” selection. Once that’s figured out, you are told to scroll to the end of the passage you want to save. Press the scroll button again. You’ll see on the Kindle page that the complete passage appears in a box. The box is automatically added to your “Clippings” file.

To move your clippings (saved passages) to your computer you need to connect both the Kindle and the computer with a dual usb cord. The clippings file shows up on your computer screen in a Kindle box; then simply drag the clippings file to your computer to edit it, if you wish, or add the saved passages to those you are saving from other books you have read, say in your commonplace book, as I do. Whew! I need a nap.

I also write notes on the pages of a printed book or on the inside cover if the book calls forth an idea that I’d like to think about. There’s a way to do that on the Kindle that is somewhat similar and just as complex as the highlighting-transfer-to-computer procedure, which also requires using that itty bitty keyboard that I found takes as much time as making a long distance call to a friend in Ouagadougou, Burkina Fasso.

Give me a good old book and a pen any old time. Reading on the Kindle is clearly not for me. Frankly, I have no idea why it is or might be for anyone else. The paper book is quite simply the state of the art now and my hunch is it will be that way for the foreseeable future and beyond.

In my case, pretty much the same holds for reading any lengthy piece I find on the Web or the digital version of a newspaper or periodical. I wonder how many Kindles will be returned this year and once the initial novelty of the thing wears off, I wonder how many others will continue reading with the device. Of course, Amazon is silent on these matters.

I see a lot of people reading these days, far more than the statistics would lead you to believe, and while I don’t get around too much and they may not be reading Proust, never once have I encountered another person reading with an e-book.