My wonderful family gave me a Kindle for my birthday. I was curious to see what the reading experience is like on one, and I have to say that I am a bigger fan than I expected I would be.
First, the screen is completely different from that on a computer. It is truly no-glare and very sharp in contrast. Second, the controls are ergonomically well-designed – going from page to page is as effortless and unconscious as turning pages in a real book. Third, the simple convenience of being able to carry hundreds of books and periodicals in a small, lightweight device is liberating. Fourth, the built-in dictionary and highlighting features are really helpful. Finally, the instant gratification of considering buying a book and having it downloaded and ready to read in seconds is irresistible.
There are lots of other features that aren’t essential, but they are certainly nice – such as the ability to play mp3’s while reading, changing the font size, text-to-voice, and a “My Clippings” file that you can transfer to a computer.
The first book I bought was James’ Gleick’s The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood. I also downloaded The Orthodox Study Bible, which has the best footnotes of any study Bible I’ve read. For classics lovers like myself, the Kindle is a dream come true. I purchased the complete works of Charles Dickens for a whopping $2.99! The fact that I can have access to every word he wrote for less than 3 bucks is mind-boggling. I’m hopeful that I can find some G. K. Chesterton and Dostoevsky that are navigable and cheap.
A disappointment is the lack of decent poetry collections. I would like to have a Kindle edition of Harold Bloom’s The Best Poems of the English Language, but it is not available. Also, some poetry collections have terrible formatting, so I’ve learned to read the customer reviews before downloading.
I feel a twinge of guilt every time I switch my Kindle on. After independent Davis-Kidd bookstore closed last fall, Nashville is now losing a huge Borders store near Vanderbilt, and as far as I know there are no independent bookstores that sell new books left in the city. I think the only store in Davidson county selling new books is a Books-a-Million. One of my favorite things to do is just browse through a bookstore, perusing the shelves and checking out the latest titles. I guess that is becoming a thing of past.
Are books themselves becoming a thing of the past? I don’t think so; there will always be a market for attractive editions of literature and art. However, it’s hard to see how most journals, newspapers, and magazines will be able to keep printing hard copies. Getting a newspaper downloaded instantaneously to a Kindle is convenient and cheap. Environmentally responsible, too, when you think about it. I can foresee the day in the near future when my students will not carry a single book in their backpacks, but rather an ereader like the Kindle, and a tablet computer. I know of one school (Cushing Academy) that has already eliminated books from their library. I posted my notes from a presentation their head and English department chair gave at the 2011 NAIS conference here.