More Kindle Bashing. You Can Never Have Too Much.

Posted: July 29, 2009 in Library, General, Uncategorized

“Kindle” is synonymous with “the death of enjoyable reading” — here’s why.

July 28, 1:40 PM · Michaela Zamloot – SF Young Adult Literature Examiner

Take a look at the latest in false prophets — it even looks evil. (open.salon.com)

You’ve heard it all before: we are running, not walking, into an age built upon the immediate exchange of information. Emphasis on the immediacy – the instantaneous is swiftly becoming the norm, and it’s rolling over to influence our expectations in other walks of life as well. Just as quickly, to the tune of closing bookstores and dying newspapers, it’s become apparent that the world of literature had better hike up its pages and join the race.

The savior of the readers’ universe, our Superman, calls itself the Kindle. Actually, that’s what Amazon dubs it – and the concept is only slightly less ridiculous than the name. Acting as a a kind of adult-oriented Leapster, the device is a computer gadget about the size of a hardcover novel, though much thinner. It displays the text of your desired reading material on a gray (not harsh white, like those nasty desktops) screen in a page-free environment that safeguards you from the hazards of windy days and paper cuts. The Kindle provides you the opportunity to read it yourself, with the option of reference material for words you might not understand at the touch of a button. Or, if you’re feeling less motivated, your trusty library-on-the-go will read to you, in a polite but halting tone described by Nicholson Baker of The New Yorker as similar to Tom Hanks’ character in The Terminal, though more prone to mistaken auto-correcting. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos proudly explains, “we think reading is an important enough activity that it deserves a purpose-built device.”

Don’t make me laugh, Amazon.

The purpose of the Kindle is not to usher novels and newspapers into the age of technology. Nor is it to inspire legions of new readers. No no. The Kindle is a wolf cleverly designed in futuristic packaging that will take the first opportunity to huff, puff, and blow your library down. Despite the intensity of the publicity (ads thwarting your every click on Amazon.com, testimonials from average and celebrity readers alike) surrounding this innovation, it is in many ways a step backwards. To begin with, the device itself isn’t entirely streamlined. In the poignant words of Baker, “some engineer, tasked with keyboard design, has again been struck by a divine retro-futurist fire: the result is a squashed array of pill-shaped keys that combine the number row with the top QWERTY row in a peculiar tea party of un-ergonomicism.” As for the sophisticated screen, it achieves its advertised optical mildness through a color palate of gray upon gray upon gray. Medical texts are robbed of their colorful diagrams. Illustrations are an afterthought, small and squished – if they’re included at all. Newspapers suffer the most at the hands of this eco-friendly imposter, completely restructuring the careful page layouts, removing ads and illustrations, and occasionally even neglecting certain articles altogether.

As Baker once again so caustically summarizes, “Amazon is very good at selling things, but, to date, it hasn’t been as good at making things.” The Kindle may lessen environmental damage and possibly boost readership in its portable convenience, it’s true. But what is it that we receive in exchange? The careful formatting (which forms the basis of many jobs, I might add) of the newspaper is lost. The painstaking illustrations that accompany novels and nonfiction alike appear in low-quality grayscale, if they’re remembered at all. Worst of all, the investment in the Kindle is actually a temporary limitation of the quality of your library: titles of such prominence as The World According to Garp, Love in the Time of Cholera, A Clockwork Orange, and Jasmine are conspicuously absent from the list of available titles. Granted, they will be added eventually, but at a high cost, often much more expensive than the physical books themselves.

Those with the desire to read should research their alternatives first: there’s the Sony Reader, which has a better page-turning control and can handle PDF documents without conversion. Or better yet, save your money and download the Kindle application for your iPhone or iPod touch (yes, I know you have one, and yes, it’s ok) – the same portability with a more familiar whiteness to your pages. The other choices are worth looking into, if for no other reason than the fact that Kindle books are not transferrable. Whatever you purchase goes to your Kindle and stays there, trapped within the thin little plastic and protruding keys.

So I implore you, the readers of the 21st century and beyond, not to abandon your bookshelves. There is something so immaculate about the sight of the neatly arrayed titles, waiting to be displaced and perused, something so alluring in the smell of an old book, something so provocative in the crackling of a library cover. These things may not be widely appreciated, but they are the small mementos left in the consciousness of one who has read and enjoyed it. Array yourself in Blackberrys and iPods, have a field day in Best Buy. But for goodness sake, remember that it’s ok to pick up a book every once in a while – and a real one at that.

Still not convinced? Check out Nicholson Baker’s review.

Copyright 2009 Examiner.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Author
Michaela Zamloot is an Examiner from San Francisco. You can see Michaela’s articles at: “http://www.Examiner.com/x-14893-SF-Young-Adult-Literature-Examiner”
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