I have a bookmark that reads, "You are never lonely with a book." Books have been my allies for as long as I can remember. Getting immersed in a story that takes double-digit chapters to resolve or following someone's theory or life over hundreds of pages adds a break from life like nothing else. And unlike other pauses in life, what you read in a book can stay with you for years, and maybe even change your life.
Alice has written about the paper-based book and has linked to an article whose author feels that a Kindle would be as distracting as his computer apparently is.
First of all, anybody who wants to have a good read will shut their computer off. You are not a Real Reader if you can’t figure out how to hide away (i.e. have an arsenal of sneaky tricks and good excuses) from things and tasks and people and clocks so you can Read!
Secondly, when I’m reading something that really interests me, I lose all sense of time and place, anyway. (Which is absolutely wonderful!)
So, what about printed versus digital? Paper versus pixel?
Both, I say. It depends on the technology and your own preferences.
I was off on a quest a couple of months ago and didn’t want to wait for shipping for a relevant book, so I downloaded the Kindle software from Amazon (it’s free) and bought the Kindle version of my desired book and have read a couple of books now on my iPod Touch. Not a bad experience. I liked the software but eventually missed having a bigger screen, something more page-sized, something that was closer to how the author/publisher wanted the book presented.
I have just held my new Kindle in my hands. It is just as advertised: Thin, light, gray, and very, very easy to read. In fact, it reminds me of the monochrome LED screens of the handheld devices of the 90’s. It’s plain, the display has no color or shades of gray, and the interface is so old-school that menu items are highlighted with underscores. I have fiddled a bit with it, read the getting-started articles, and was basically done with the “novelty” after 10 minutes. As others have noted, there is no sense of reading from a screen; it really does feel like reading from paper.
Surprisingly, the Kindle is not giving me a sense of moving forward, of entering a more advanced or complicated technological era. Rather, it is giving me a sense of simplicity and nostalgia. It’s taking me back to when most things were printed, photocopies were only in black and white, computer screens were monochrome, and computers themselves were limited in what they could do because they ran only one program.
The Kindle focuses on letting the reader read. The wireless connection is for synchronizing between devices and buying more books. Other than that, you can turn off the wi-fi and just do what you usually do: Page back and forth, bookmark a page, highlight a passage, jot down a note in the margin, look up a word you don’t know (without having to keep a separate dictionary with you).
My new toy is charging (update: It charged in 90 minutes, not the 3 hours suggested) and will be used tonight for reading in bed. I’ll find out if the hype about the electronic ink is really All That.
I agree that technology shouldn't intrude on reading, but technology per se is not a deterrent to reading. People have different needs and technology has made it possible to meet more needs. Some folks don't read; they listen to audiobooks. Some need large-print books. I have had my reading enjoyment spoiled by lousy typography in a printed book. A digital reader can let me adjust type-size, and it can read out loud to me. It saves space in my shelves so I can actually own more books. I'd say there's room for both paper and digital; the most important thing is to Read.
PS: Something else has just happily occurred to me: I have a friend overseas who also has a Kindle. We can actually borrow books from each other! Wirelessly! How cool is that?