Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Great Kindle Debate

Over the last few days, I've been on an out-of-state trip with my husband's high school band. That means hours on a bus (charter, at least, not yellow school) and nighttime chaperone duty (he was nice and gave me the 5 a.m. shift instead of the 3 a.m. one) and sitting-around-waiting time -- all of which are perfect reading opportunities. One of the other parents on the bus had a Kindle reader, which prompted the following mental debate between Self 1 (S1) and Self 2 (S2).

S1: Did you see Suzy P's Kindle? It was the coolest thing! I never really expected to see anyone with one of them. It was really cool!

S2: Yes, it was cool.

S1: Is that all you've got to say about it? I was surprised at how small and light it was. I swear it couldn't have been more than a quarter-inch thick! I had expected it to be a little clunky, maybe about the size of a trade paperback. But it was sleek and very, very lightweight. And it had its own little carrying pouch.

S2: But the screen wasn't all that big. It was probably an area about the size of a 4 x 5 photograph. That's not much of a book page - can't fit much text on that.

S1: Well, that's true, but you could easily scroll from one page to the next. It looked like there was a little button just under where you would hold your right thumb that you could press to get to the next page.

S2: And you're reading off a computer screen. Who wants to read a 300+ page book on a computer screen? I can't stand to read really long webpages on the computer - and even the longest webpage isn't going to be more than 4 or 5 pages of printed text.

S1:'re not having to sit at a desk and read it like it is a computer screen. You could curl up in your favorite chair with the Kindle, hold it up to read in bed, lie on your stomach in the grass, lots of different positions. And some of the bigger books are not all that easy to read in bed - sometimes I hit myself in the nose when I doze off and the book slips. Did I mention how thin and lightweight the Kindle is?

S2: Yeah, yeah, you did.

S1: Suzy told me how many books she has on it. I can't remember the number, but it was a LOT. And she said she has an account at Amazon where she can store the ones she doesn't want to keep on her Kindle all the time. She said she has the Bible on her Kindle -- the WHOLE Bible! I could have used that on this trip. I didn't bring my Bible, thinking it was sort of big and bulky and there would be one in the hotel room -- but there wasn't. If I'd had a Kindle, I could have had it with me, no big and bulky. I did take three other books to read on the trip - one for myself and two for my daughter. The one I took for myself is a pretty hefty hardback from the library -- it definitely weighs more than a Kindle! My shoulder bag would have been that much lighter if I'd had the book on Kindle instead of in hardback.

S2: So? You would have had to buy the book. You couldn't just check it out from the library.

S1: That's true. I'm glad enough I'm reading this book, but I don't think I'd want to buy it.

S2: And what about the aesthetic experience? You know, the feel of the paper, the smell of the book, the heft of the book in your hands -- people have been reading books for centuries. Do you really want to break with that long and proud tradition?

S1: Oh, come on, Self 2! Reading is about the content of the book, the story. The aesthetic experience is secondary. I don't pick up a book to read because I like the way the paper feels. And some books (older ones especially) smell pretty awful.

S2: So you would just dump all your books and replace them with this electronic gadget? What if it crashes and you lose all your saved books? You know computers - they can be pretty crazy...What if it runs out of battery in the most exciting part of the story?

S1: Sure, the technology aspect of it is a little intimidating to me. I still can't access the internet from my cell phone.

S2: Just stick with good ol' paper books. They don't let you down. And anyway, a Kindle is EX-PEN-SIVE!

S1: I don't know. I'm not going to rush out and buy one right now. Like you said, they're pretty expensive, and I'm not confident all the bugs are worked out yet. But there are a lot of advantages -- it's more environmentally friendly, and there aren't a lot of books around collecting dust, and if there was a fire, I could just pick up my Kindle and save all my books--

S2: What about all the books you already have? It would cost a bundle to get them on Kindle, and I bet some of your favorites are not even available on Kindle. You'd just have to start with new books - and there would go the only type of shopping you actually enjoy, going to used bookstores!

S1: That's true, I guess. But it was cool. And Suzy seemed really happy with hers....I wish there was some way I could try one out for a few days. I wonder if Suzy would show me hers again?

You! Never content with what you've got! Always running after the newest gadget! You had a perfectly good clipboard, legal pad, and pencil -- but you just HAD to get that laptop computer for your writing..... (goes away grumbling)