Have you noticed the Widget thingy on my sidebar – I am “on page 0 of 576 pages” of The Book Thief. I’m not actually on page 0, but I have no idea what page I am on.
The beauty of the Kindle.
Beauty? Not knowing what page you’re on? Absolutely. Reading is no longer a race to the finish, because who knows where the finish is. Nor is it about flipping to the finish, to see if its worth it. The decision on what to read is no longer a cost/benefit analysis based on amount of time available v. the desire to read said book. There’s just no way of telling how long a book actually is — your progress is noted in percentages, not pages.
I’m reading things I never would have dreamed of reading, had I been able to flip through and evaluate the time commitment. Take the New Yorker. When I had a subscription to the paper version, the one that came in the mail every Monday, and fell into the pile next to the toilet by Tuesday, I would flip through for the cartoons. Then, on the second pass, I tended to read the shorter blurbs – the about town, the small reviews, the short story perhaps – but not the long, long, long featured essays that went on for pages, and pages and pages – did I really want to make a two hour investment in reading a 20 page article about Barthleme and what it really means to be post modern?
Apparently, when I don’t know how long the commitment is going to be, I’ll bite. On Monday, when I started the article, I had no idea it wouldn’t be until Wednesday by the time I finally finished it.
So time commitment is no longer an issue – it just is what it is, you can’t worry about what you can’t see. The other thing that goes hand and hand with length is also obsolete – weight. Never again do I have to ponder the following question – based on my schedule now, can I lug that hardback book around, or should I go for the slimmer paperback? And, the question doesn’t boil down to cost – that paperback is in the same ballpark price as the hardback, as even a NY Times bestseller is generally only $9.99 (except for the rogue author here and there trying to buck the new system).
And, I am a sucker for the NY Times book review – like yarn, books become, I have to read it now (the New York Times said so!) – and not last summer (because I spent the summer on the beach, and hence, made the tactical decision just to go with paperbacks – see the question of “weight” above), but the summer before, I got suckered into hardback after hardback that I ended up hating – The Yiddish Policemen’s Other Ball, Divisidero, The Falling Man . . . two summers ago, and I still remember how much money I wasted! With the Kindle, the new books can be more expensive than the paperbacks (sometimes even as high as $16.00 – but a $16.00 mistake is still less painful than a $24.00 mistake). And, speaking of “I have to read it now!” you really can read it now. With Amazon’s wireless delivery, you can have your latest heart’s desire in a matter of seconds.
Length and weight no longer an issue, neither is a pretty cover. You can be told from the time you start to walk and talk that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover(although, when you start to walk and talk, you’re only looking at picture books, counting books, books that go “mooo”, and you probably can judge a book by it’s cover – maybe that’s why the advice never stuck) but a pretty cover, a good blurb, and handsome jacket, can go along way. You go into Borders or Barnes and Noble and there are tables and tables of books – what catches your eye? Author of course. A snappy title, maybe. But when you have the book in your hands, a snazzy cover and a well written blurb might just push you over the edge into purchasing.
Not any more. No more covers. Everything is so egalitarian! And, with no covers, you have so much more privacy. Ever been embarassed because you’re reading something completely brainless – a guilty pleasure trashy romance? or perhaps a book you read as a child that now seems silly as an adult? No worries – no cover means that no one can see what you’re reading! Reading is again a private thing – enjoy what you want, no one is judging you for your cover (alghough, that does work in reverse as well – I am totally a cover judger).
Now, there are some books that are not on Kindle, that I do want to read – and that’s the only true dilemna now — since I just love my Kindle so much. For instance, I really want to read 2666 – but frankly, I only want to read it on Kindle. The last paper book I read, The Given Day, at 800 pages, was completely overly cumbersome – I could never prop myself into a comfortable position, the book was just such a beast. 2666 is 912 pages! I don’t want to invest in 912 pieces of paper. So, am I missing out – it just won the National Book Award?
Yeah, probably, but there’s so much other Kindle content out there, and you can’t read ’em all. The web is loaded with free e-book content, all of which are readable on the Kindle. My queue is backed up with free classics – books that I was supposed to read in college, but chucked and read the cliff notes, or read so fast just to get to my next assignment. And, unlike in college, when I had to carry around a backbreaking bookbag of books, the Kindle holds them all in either it’s memory or (since I have Kindle 1), an SD card that holds thousands – right now, I’m carrying around at least 200 books.
It sounds like I’ve abandoned paper, doesn’t it? When I got the Kindle for Hanukkah (hmmm, I guess that’s one factor I haven’t had to worry about – the price of the Kindle, since it was a gift – so put it on your Holiday list for December), I said, eh, I’ll always read paper books – but now, really, I have no desire. The e-ink technology is so good, that sometimes I get tricked, I go to turn the page instead of push the button, because that’s how much it feels like reading a book.
And, reading is fun again – and I’ve overcome any shame in saying that its because the book is on a gadget. I like being able to push a button and look up a word I don’t understand. I like having a clipboard, where I send things I want to think about later, or with Joey’s reading Olympics, things that are going to make it onto index card question cards for study purposes. I have to admit, I’m not a reading purist – I embrace the technology, and I look forward to what comes next.
And not only is reading fun again, but the more I read, the more desire I have to write – not to go too far with my point, but I’m not sure this new blog would have happened had I not been reading as enthusiastically as I have been since I got my Kindle. I wrote about it here somewhere – either in the first post, or the the about page – about this strange phenomenon I’ve been experiencing – that of losing words, like they’ve all run away and abandoned me.
Kindle has given me back a handful, and the desire to use them.