why i won't buy an amazon kindle

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Not once since it was first released have I really coveted a Kindle. Part of it is that it was ugly, yes. But more importantly, it destroys the most important part of the book owning experience for me. No, not the smell, or the feel, or the look of the paper and binding.

It's that for me, books have always been, and will always be, social things. I don't just want to read a book. I want to share the book. I want to lend it to a friend...or better yet, give it to a friend and encourage them to pass it on when they're done. I want to see the back cover of the book you're reading on an airplane, and ask you when you put it down whether you're enjoying it (or tell you how much I enjoyed it if I've already read it). I want the books on my shelf to create a visual impression on visitors to my office, one that lets them see at a glance what's important enough to me to keep it near my desk, how I've chosen to organize them, what themes of interest and specialty emerge. I want to take the books I've "outgrown" and leave them outside my office every quarter, so that the students can swarm over the pile enthusiastically and leave the floor empty in their wake.

The Kindle is a supremely selfish machine. It says the book is mine and mine alone. It can't be lent, or given, or shared without giving up my entire library in the process. That so fundamentally breaks the book experience for me that it kills any interest I might have in owning one.

Perhaps in the future I'll change my mind. But unless that future involves the removal of DRM from ebooks, and the ability to easily show the world what I'm reading, I doubt it.

(In the meantime, I'm loving Stanza on my iPhone, which allows me to read a wide variety of public domain and creative commons ebooks, including all of Cory Doctorow's science fiction. Yay!)

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This is also how I feel about not just the Amazon kindle, but basically everything that does not need revolutionary changes--but still gets it regardless. If something functions and functions well (books in this case), there is no need for it to be fixed and made more "efficient." (Less trees will be killed, that is true, but at what cost. It's as if we're reducing damage to something physical and giving sanction to damaging something internal, mental, and intrinsic. Virtue for virtue, it seems like we have yet to examine the larger scale of things of the whole picture.) Or at least that is what I believe.

Here's a little something I wrote back then, on the topic of the prevelance of cell phone novels in Japan, when someone claimed that books need to be revolutionized so that the youth who rarely even touch books will start.

He continues by stating something I find rather absurd:

"If this can happen in North America as well... that would be amazing.. youth, like me, around the world returning and contributing in publishing and BOOKS once again. Books have nearly disappeared from youth culture. But a new type of novel can be revolutionary."

I believe that this WILL open new windows as well as influence those (youth) who would have went without--but there is a problem. Here we are talking about a young member of society who CHOOSES not to read books, but will--for some magical and strange reason--if it was encoded onto a cell phone or electronic device. For example, this is a youth who knows nothing of Friedrich Nietzsche (this is only an example and can be replaced with just about any writer who is deceased) nor would he ever think to read any of his works, because let's say he thinks Nietzsche is boring or because his friends do not read him either. But when flashed a text message, from one of his friends, quoting Nietzsche--the man whose works he eschewed--this person would automatically learn to appreciate his works because his friend does too. No longer does this seem like an interest that is bona fide, but rather forced and biased at most: because it was in pixels on a cell phone as opposed to on paper--the conventional appeal.

To him I wrote:

In our age of immediacy, everything and everyone has been maximized into a form of efficiency. Technology has found (invented rather) superfluous ways to expedite and make portable anything and everything. Things that need not be "enhanced" or "fixed" are thrown onto the platter with the rest, and categorized as suboptimal, unacceptable, and even inept.

A mainstream breakout causes the mass to encompass a popular belief without individual examination.

Must it be that literature has died, that it must be resuscitated in order to reach newer and more ignorant minds? Must it be that we ourselves are dead to the point of needing new things to please ourselves with, that that which was competent can no longer be perceived in its competent and potential light? All is potential and potential is all!

Is it because literature has died to some, or is it because it has never existed for them at all? An inauthentic breed breaks free and flourishes; no one dares to comment each others lack of genuine resolve. Masses and herds, shepherds and puppet masters.

The youth reads from the hands of a more questionable creator. Thrown into oblivion is his brother, who the youth saw nothing in but promises of ennui. Oh literature, oh literature, where have you gone? For I grow weary of the pretentious shadows emanating your fall.

Everything becomes questionable in the hands of the seeker.

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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on February 17, 2009 2:50 PM.

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