Saturday, August 30, 2008

Some day... but not yet for me, Thoughts on the Kindle.

I've been looking at these since they came on the market. No, I haven't handled a Kindle, and No, I don't know anyone who has one I can play with. For me it would be a sight unseen purchase and that goes against my nature. I'd rather pay a premium and do the touchy/feely thing before buying.

I like to read, as my 'library thing' (Thanks Breda!) on the sidebar will attest. I have loved reading almost as long as I can recall.... almost.

When I was a itty bitty chillun, I put off the that whole 'reading' thing. Right up to elementary school.... and nobody twigged to it. How could I pull off such a stunt? Were the teachers that inattentive? No.... I'm sure they did their best... but I was different. I memorized the information. If it was read in class, I recalled enough that I didn't need to read it. If it were discussed, my memory banks snatched it up and it was mine from then on. Lord, I wish that skill was still mine....

At some point a teacher did figure it out, and took an interest. Her face and name are engraved deep in my memory. Mrs. Pratt.... with a common beauty that a child would not recognize. She caught on, and found the key that started me reading.

Tom Swift.... and that was all it took.

It turned out I could read, mostly, but had never bothered to as it was easier to remember the assignments than read them. By introducing me to Tom Swift, at my tender age, she showed me a world that I wanted to know more of. Most importantly, it was a world that no one was going to read in class, and no one else was going to discuss there. If I wanted to know more I would have to read it myself. She only read me a chapter or two.. as a teaser.. then handed me the book.

The first one, I read in a week or so. The next, quicker. Towards the end I was reading one every few days and had the entire series under my belt by the end of the school year. She kept them behind her desk, and would quiz me on the book I had just read before giving me another.

That was the start.... and my love of reading a good book has never gone away since. Science Fiction is still my number one choice, but I won't turn away from a biography or history book. Cook books are fun, and technical articles are candy.

As a boy I read a book a week, sometimes a book a day. The library was a weekly trip and I maxed out the limit every week. Now, I am back to the 'book a week' pace, although I read for hours on the net most days, getting my words-in-a-row fix straight from the authors keystrokes.

This love of reading is what interests me in the Kindle, but I have reservations.
The E-books are not cheap, and more importantly they are not permanent.
All technology fails, especially computer technology. The more sophisticated it is, the greater chance of failing in weird and wonderful ways. Even the master works of Herr Mauser and John Moses Browning fail, although so seldom that one can almost bet one's life on them.

Suppose I had a Kindle.... and one day it simply did not turn on? Pushee button... but no lighty? Do I lose all the books I paid for over the years, or months, that I owned it?

I have books that were my fathers... and they have not failed their purpose in generations. I have books ,with published dates in faded ink, that have been doing their job for over a century. Will an electronic book do the same?

My oldest copy of Atlas Shrugged has never failed me, requiring it's battery charged before I can enjoy it. My mother's favorite cookbook has never once had a button stuck down by a snippet of sugar cane. Not a single Pratchett novel of mine has fizzled out because I choose to read on the porch on a rainy day. The books hidden under the seat of my truck, stored against the long wait one day, do not complain or demand recharging.

Perhaps one day I will add such an electronic reader to my library, and think it the second coming of Tom Swift, but not today.

Maybe some day.


Anthony said...

I myself have been wondering about the Kindle as well. I have a ton of books that I will keep on good ol'fashioned paper, but I have recently (as in a few days ago) downloaded some eBooks to my computer. There are some websites that give them for free because the copyrights are up and now they can do this. I have downloaded some classics such as Ulysses by James Joyce. If you want the Kindle but are worried about losing your books (something I have not thought about but now am worried about before I decide to buy one)check into whether or not they can be backed up onto your computer or even better onto an external hard drive.

If you want to know what websites offer the free eBooks drop me a line at my blog and I'll find the websites that I used to get some good ones.


stbaguley said...

I have a very similar story of growing up as a late reader. My stepmother made me read every article in the "My Weekly Reader" child's newspaper one summer between 1st and 2nd grade, and the fuse finally caught fire. I forgive her quite alot on the basis of that reluctantly received gift. The following school year I found the row of SciFi books on the bottom shelf of the school library and devoured them. My Tom Swift was "David Starr, Space Ranger" (in the later books he went by "Lucky") An alien gave him a piece of duct tape which, when stuck to his forehead, would act as a space suit. You know I just now figured out that the silvery metalic rectangle he stuck on his forehead was duct tape! Another use, who knew! Still enjoying that read after 45+ years. That has to be some kind of record. I also have the same fears about the Kindle. I have a house full of books but I just packed my leather bound Encyclopedia Britanica away in 2 large waterproof storage containers and filled the leftover spaces in the box with a Shakespeare, a Bible, a Merk's manual and a set of The Illinois Revised Statutes from back when they fit into 4 large volumes. All the while musing on "A Canticle for Liebowitz".