Lust; or, Sticking it to The Man

             The Kindle is sleek and stylish.  It is Annette Benning in an elegant black dress.  It is charming and seductive, like Pierce Brosnan as a superspy or an art thief.  The Kindle woos me from an island in the middle of the ocean, tempting me to stay forever instead of returning home to Penelope as she awaits me in Ithaca, assuming of course that Penelope were a lesbian and I some sort of cross-dressing Greek warrior.

            The point is that I have a terrible case of Kindle-Lust, a fire stoked a few months ago when I met Jen, who allowed me to fondle hers.  (We won’t tell our partners.)  Oh, that beautiful device that would allow me to buy a book in a matter of mere seconds, sparing the forests I will undoubtedly fell in my lifetime of book acquisition.  The bookshelves we will save; the room we will have for other things, like tables and chairs.  The money we will eventually save as I buy books for under ten bucks.

           I want a fucking Kindle.

          Except.

          Kindle only buys books from Amazon.  It consolidates the Great Amazonian Book Monopoly by making sure that its owners not only shell out several hundred bucks for the device, but also cease and desist all noxious purchasing of books at Other Stores.  While this process clearly will not be halted if I deny myself a Kindle, somehow holding off feels a little like sticking it to The Man.

           There are magnificent things about e-books, don’t get me wrong.  I love that people can so easily self-publish, allowing a much wider range of voices space to be heard.  This is clearly the future of publishing.  Soon, college textbooks will all be electronic, as all those pre-meds rise up out of their dorm rooms and refuse to schlep about both Organic Chemistry and Biology 101.  Once the textbook industry has been overtaken, there will be more and more books published only electronically, just like we all know that paper newspapers are soon to go the way of all good things.  Much as we all bitch and moan about loving the feel of a real book, electronic books are greener, cheaper, and more chiropractically sound. 

           Think about how much easier high school would have been if you hadn’t needed to go to your locker between classes to get your math book.

            I understand that the Kindle is the best book-reading device out there.  But the thought of giving all that power to Amazon makes me shudder.  Just look at what happens when we hand over the organization of our reading habits to one giant retailer.  A little change in some classification, and suddenly LGBT books are classified as “adult.”  Heather Has Two Mommies should be classified as boring, but it is definitely not adult. 

            I am just not comfortable handing that level of power over to Amazon this week.

28 responses to “Lust; or, Sticking it to The Man

  1. I want a Kindle, but it’s completely academic in my case since we can’t get them up here in Canada. And even if I imported one it wouldn’t work anyway, since we don’t have the supported cell phone provider. So I feel sort of the opposite way – for me getting a Kindle would represent sticking it to the man. With the man being the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, who regulates all media and prevents us from having the same choices other countries enjoy.

    Not that I’m bitter or anything. ;)

  2. I was just debating the Kindle over dinner this evening with a few friends. I want one, mainly because I’m not someone who remembers to grab the book they’ve been reading forever when they run out the door.

    A Kindle would sit right in my purse next to my Crackberry. Plus, the instant gratification would work for me when I hear about a great new book. I want one, and I love the tree-saving part of it all, too.

    On 60 Minutes or one of those shows, they interviewed heads of the largest libraries, and guess what, they all had Kindles even though they worship hard copy books.

  3. I have had a very similar mental debate myself, although your experience sounds so much more exciting than mine.
    Cheers

  4. let the technology progress, and when it does you will be able to get one from apple.

  5. I don’t particularly want a Kindle, but I understand your reasoning here with regard to amazon. Perhaps you could point me to some information that assesses the environmental benefits of the e-book. Most book paper comes from sustainable sources, but I fear that the kindle will quickly be replaced by Kindle 2.3, then the next year by Kindle 4.1, and so on into eternity to maintain Kindle’s profits and all that electronic and plastic stuff will end up in landfills til kingdom come.

  6. As the proud owner of a Kindle, I can tell you that it’s a terrific device and that you are NOT married to Amazon for purchasing of books. The Kindle supports any non-DRM’s mobi-pociket formatted book.

    There are literally thousands of “open-source” and out of copyright books available for free for the Kindle right now. Here’s one handy guide (there are others):

    http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=17465

    Additionally, any PDF can be quickly converted to this format using the free mobi creator software found here:

    http://www.mobipocket.com/en/DownloadSoft/default.asp?Language=EN

    I’ve had my Kindle for over a year and have read quite a few books with it but have only bought a few directly from Amazon.

    Probably the best feature of the Kindle is the subscription feature. I subscribe to the New York Times. $10/month. Think of the environmental savings there. No paper wasted yet I get the full text of the Times in an easy to use format (MUCH better than the web) on demand, every day. Many magazines and newspapers are available and I’ll gladly fork my $$$ over to Amazon for this.

  7. I had Kindle-envy for awhile, but it passed. I want my kids to see me reading actual books. They already think my laptop and phone are permanently connected to my fingers. And I love getting books from the library.

  8. Until you get a Kindle, you can always check out http://mnybks.net/, which will let you download public-domain titles in a format you can read on your mobile phone. For free!

  9. I want a Kindle, but I’m going to wait until the “experimental features” like the web browser are worked out. I want to do more than look something up on Wikipedia when reference hunting.

  10. It might be worth feeding the monopoly (though Chris M’s comment is enlightening) to save a few thousand trees or so.
    I’d miss the dusty, woody smell of my home library, though. Reading my little notes in the margins, left during memorable times of my life. And passing a worn, well-loved copy of Franny and Zooey to my daughter just wouldn’t be the same in pdf format.

  11. if you get an iPod Touch you can download the kindle software for free and get kindle books. You can also purchase books at itunes then too.

  12. Yes, but who wants to read a whole book on a phone or ipod?!

  13. I love books and libraries and bookshelves and spines and musty pages and that crinkle sound and that nothing more sinister than wrinkly pages happen when you are laughing so hard while reading in the bathtub that your volume slips into the sudsy water…

    Also, I can’t read for very long off of a computer screen before my eyes start to cross. Does anyone else have that problem?

  14. I think litlove makes a good point: the environmental waste due to computers being dumped is huge and damaging as the poisonous minerals and residues sweep into the environment, especially as it’s often shipped to 3rd world countries where children eke out pennies digging through toxic rubble. I also have lust for electronic gizmos. But I just know that I’d lose my reader or drop it in the bath and then what? Not to mention no doubt built-in obsolescence. Once people are used to using e-readers, new books will only work well on the new versions etc. Another argument against e-readers though it’s going to be a digital world, is that research shows that the brain processes differently on a screen than in 3d. I want my kids reading books they have to hold and turn the pages as long as possible.

  15. I have the Kindle software for the iPhone as well. I would not be able to use it to read an entire book, but it’s a nice stop gap solution. It will sync your place with the Kindle.

    Practical upshot. If I’m out and about and find myself waiting around doing nothing I can pull out my phone, open my book, read a few pages from right where I left off and then when I have my Kindle, fire it up, open the book and start from where I left off on the iPhone.

    it works very nicely.

    To respond to some other comments:

    Nicole H: It’s actually a pretty full featured Web Browser rather than just a “wikipedia” thing. It doesn’t work very well though (quite slow). The Kindle is not really a research tool. For that you need an actual computer. Think of the Kindle as an electronic library.

    Evenshine: You can take notes on the Kindle, highllight passages and when you search on the device it also searches your notes so it’s great for cross-referencing.

    I’m a book lover as well and still buy hard copies of those books I truly love, but for travel and day to day use, the Kindle is hard to beat.

  16. emily: I too cannot read off a computer screen for any length of time. The Kindle and other e-readers use a different screen technology. The “pages” on the Kindle look very much like paper. I had high hopes for the technology when it was released and they were pretty much fulfilled. I can read the Kindle for hours where I can only read a computer screen for 15-20 minutes before eye-fatigue sets in.

    Lilian:
    You can back up your kindle easily enough just by plugging it into a computer and using drag and drop. If you drop a book into a bath it won’t survive either. As far as children in third world countries and device manufacture, paper mills aren’t exactly the safest work environment. And to address the point of obsolesence, this is much less of a problem now. Over the last decade more and more technologies are backwards compatible (Blue-Ray and DVD being a good example) and since this is an electronic format, software can always be used to “upgrade” previous versions of a book (in much the same way you can open a document created in Microsoft Word 1.0 with Word 11.0).

    And as for your comment re: 3D. Sorry but that is just not applicable here. The content of a book is 2D. There is no 3D there (other than the <1mm thick ink). Turning a page does not suddenly make the content 3D, one’s imagination does that.

    I’m not trying to come off like an evangelist here though in effect that is exactly what I am. I understand the reluctance to give up a tangible thing like a book, but in the end it isn’t the paper or the binding that makes a book worthwhile, it’s the words. The first time I read Treasure Island it was a beat up softcover version that was missing a page here and there. The story exists in my head and the emotional state is something I remember and can re-capture by re-reading the book regardless of whether or not it’s on paper, parchment, or a screen

  17. I go back and forth in my Kindle-lust, for many of the same reasons listed here. But also, I would miss going to used bookstores and digging through their treasures. Going to used bookstores is a favorite date for me and the boy – I’d hate to miss out on that just because of electronic convience. Also, books are the number one gifts that I give – I don’t think it would be nearly as fun to send “Kindle-bucks.” And yet, everytime I see someone on the bus with a Kindle, I can’t help but yearn….

  18. I’ll chime in as another Kindle owner. I was raised by uber-bibliophiles. Honestly, my childhood home had bookshelves in every room (okay, bathrooms excepted, but you always took a book in with you so the exception is minimal). I read the entire works of Agatha Christie before I was twelve – in crumbling, deteriorating paperback. I stuffed towels under my door to block the light so I wouldn’t be caught staying up late to finish my book. I LOVE books.

    And I love my Kindle.

    I have an enormous FREE library on it of project Gutenberg works, downloaded from the site I couldn’t use before because reading on a computer screen was so annoying. I have Josephus and Pepys and L. M. Montgomery and (sadly only a couple) Dorothy Sayers. I have a whole bunch of ridiculous mysteries from the 1880’s through the 1920’s that I could never, EVER find in a used book store, certainly not for any price I would want to pay.

    When I moved last I had to give away 12 boxes of books – and because of the circumstances I couldn’t give them to anyone who would really need or love them. Horrible, awful waste. Now I have a small, lightweight little tool that lets me take my library with me. I’m buying one for my daughter who graduates this year and will be living in a cramped little room with no space for the endless miles of books she loves.

    Few notes: The screen is excellent. It is easy to read in full sun and does not strain my eyes at all. I was most concerned about this as I work on a computer all day and knew how irritating reading large chunks of text is. The screen really, truly does read well and easily. The page “turn” is quick enough, the buttons easy to use and understand, and the navigation pretty simple.

    Caveat: the screen is black and white only – just shades of grey. I do need and use many physical, hard back books that require high def color illustrations or photos. I wouldn’t ever consider the Kindle a replacement for those.

  19. chris–you can back up the contents of a kindle, but if you lose it or wreck it, you still have to shell out for another.

    on another point–what about people who can’t afford the technology? what happens to all those people who could buy a used book, but not a digital reader? or publishers who will donate books but not the readers?

  20. there is a wonderful post here about a drop a book program for teens. i don’t see how something like that can happen with kindle. even donating ebooks would depend on someone being able to afford the reader.

  21. Lillian! You stole my next post :)

  22. I love my kindle and read more because I have it. I consider it a portable bookshelf and it saves soooo much book clutter!

  23. I must admit that I have never tried a Kindle, but I am just not there with wanting one (at the moment, anyway). I kind of love that we have no wall space b/c bookshelves fill any available walls–sans one with kids’ art. I love literally being surrounded by books. I love the colors of their spines and that when I hang on my couch different titles catch my eye. I love that my kids can browse books and grab them off the shelves and reread them and start one and put it down and pick up another. I am guessing you can do most of that on a Kindle, but for me, I guess I just welcome the book clutter!

    Maybe it’s related to the idea that when Peter and I married, having met during Peace Corps service and after many years living abroad for him– the only physical items we both brought to our first home together was loads of books. The first big expense we had (long before buying a car, a sofa, etc.) was hiring a local carpenter to build floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Peter’s taken over the building of the shelves now, but we still have those original ones, now in our third apartment (in our third state), thanks to clever pop off molding. So with no judgment, I say enjoy those Kindles– it’s clear from the comments that many of you do. I’m just not there.

  24. I like the tangible quality of a book, and the fact that they are free at public libraries, cheap at used bookstores, and wonderful to pass along to friends.

  25. LOL Emily. On another note, this post here supports your argument about Amazon’s power. For returning non-related items, Amazon has closed some people’s accounts, which means that they no longer have access to any kindle subscriptions or future purchases for their kindle, turning it into an expensive paperweight.

  26. I want a Kindle badly. I hadn’t even thought about the only buying books from Amazon thing.

    My issue with it, is that I adore real books. Adore the feel, the smell, the going into a store and choosing of the pretty shiny….yeah, maybe I don’t need a kindle.

  27. Chris – the majority of paper used in book making comes from paper mills in Sweden that are not staffed by children and are careful to manage their sustainable sources. After all, they want to stay in business and would be mad to use up their resources. The worst process in book making comes from bleaching wood to make the kind of glossy white paper for coffee table books – and I don’t think the Kindle could replace those, could it?

  28. Cheeky Monkey

    What Maggie said. I am not currently tempted by the Kindle. But I bet if you wait, just a bit, Amazon will lose its monopoly. Patience, my dear. :)