Yesterday, I became the owner of a Kindle, the much-touted electronic book reader sold by Amazon, they of the ubiquitous online book store.
My mother, were she dead, would be turning over in her grave.
Amid the digital revolution, I of all people, one who makes his living literally off the bark of trees, should be the world’s most stalwart support of all things physical print. And I am, really. Mostly. But I’m also a sucker for the latest electronic gadget, and easily succumb to the newest “must-have” marketing ploy.
The Kindle, for the uninitiated, is a pencil-thin tablet, roughly 5 x 8 inches, that displays downloaded books. It’s sleek and shiny and very Star Trek in its technical glory. You can download an entire book in less 60 seconds, and page through it at your leisure. It’s got a crisp, clear screen that’s easy to read and its diminutive size eliminates the need to foist a book from one hand to the other (I’ve always been a one-handed reader), turn pages, or carry multiple volumes on a long trip.
Not that I go anywhere. Or read all that much, for that matter. But, last night, in the privacy of my own room, I downloaded comedian Kathy Griffin’s memoir, “Official Book Club Selection.” There’s one I’d probably never have the gumption to walk up to a book store counter and purchase on my own. But download it and tear into it on a device which doesn’t allow prying eyes to see the tell-tale book cover of what you’re reading? Heck, I might start reading those “Twilight” books next, who knows?
And what did I pay for this modern marvel? About two hundred and fifty bucks. Granted, books are about 1/3 the price to download, and I suppose there’s some “save the trees” argument in saving one less volume from being published, and ultimately shelved … but here’s where the voice of my mother, the former Oxford librarian, echoes in my head. “You PAID for books? You PAID for a contraption to read FAKE books? When you can get REAL books for FREE at the library?”
Yes, Mom, I did. But it’s really cool.