Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oh, Get Over It: Kindles are Good

I don't understand the animosity toward Kindles.  I thought everyone likes trees.  Maybe we should all read on papyrus scrolls or stone tablets. Two or three generations of e-readers down the road and we'll have a reading experience that perhaps rivals books. Romanticism of the past is almost always a deeply conservative response to change.

I miss illuminated manuscripts too.  But, art books, coffee table books, (and for the moment) books that require lots of thumbing of pages will for a long time be better read and studied in paper form.  I find my Kindle is best for pleasure reading, especially fiction, which I don't dog ear a lot.  It's basically a replacement for paperbacks.  Anything more scholarly is too cumbersome to read on my Kindle, but I look forward to the day when an e-reader is as liberating as a book.  Wouldn't you like to live in a society where people have reading material on them all the time because it's so convenient?  Where they read in airports rather than watch Fox News on giant monitors?  (And where they also enjoy epistolary experiences with a great variety of people, many of them strangers, because communicating by written word is easy and accessible?  And which is why I'm a fan of the blogosphere!)

I'm as nostalgic as the next pedantic literary snob for the smell of yellowing pages. But, I like living trees more.  And I find the animosity to Kindles and e-readers to be unwholesomely elitist.  It's worth remembering that it's only the present generation and soon-to-come generations of e-readers that are expensive.  Five years from now they'll be cheap.  Paperback novels and internal combustion engines will (hopefully) soon be artifacts of the Industrial Revolution.

It's always, always easier to know what we lose rather than imagine what we gain.  That's why it's easier to be a critic than an artist.  Let's be artists.


Jon said...

It isn't a matter of animosity or hostility (or good heavens, "elitism") with me. Really.

I just enjoy the sensation of reading a book. I don't enjoy the sensation of reading an electric device. It doesn't give me the same pleasure. It's as simple as that. It may be irrational, but then pleasure IS irrational.

David Millstone said...

Jon, rest assured that my target isn't those with a mere preference. Rather, I have in mind some knee jerk ideological blathering I've read of late. I am immensely irritated when people seem PROUD of their unwillingness to consider new things. They're smug about what they haven't experienced. And, because I'm talking about avid readers, I'm talking about people who should know better.

P.S. The screen on the Kindle is much less 'screen like' than other devices. It helps enormously that it's not backlit. I don't particularly care for holding a piece of plastic in my hands, but I wouldn't be surprised if we see developers improve their designs to make the 'hand feel' far more enjoyable.