This Dr. Strangelove
titled post chronicles my love/hate relationship with the Kindle and more broadly, e-books. First off, I should establish that I enjoy going to bookstores. Much as I mourn perusing the aisles of movies stores (Netflix browsing just doesn’t quite do it for me), I miss Borders already. Sure, Barnes and Noble is still around, but there’s something kind of eerie and foreboding about its existence. It’s not that I think it’s haunted or anything, it’s more like when a twin goes to camp without his brother/sister for the first time and they’re just kind of awkward 100% of the time.
And yes, I know the two headed monster known as Amazon still lets you order hard copies of books, and I appreciate that, I do, but again, like Netflix, it’s a different experience than holding a copy of a book in your hand, reading the first few pages (a feature I know Amazon offers) and leaving the store with your purchase. It reminds of when I was a kid and would go into bookstores with a spiral pad of paper to write down information from magazines because I couldn’t afford to buy them.
Today, everything is available digitally and while I wouldn’t argue that it’s a bad thing, I think the decline of hard copies has diminished the products that we read. Because the web is an endless stream of information, some good, some bad, it can be very difficult to sort through which is which. I believe the same argument can be applied to the emergence of digital film.
In the digital age, anyone with a camera can shoot a short film/movie with little to no cost involved. Is this a good thing? On paper, sure. But the side effect is that there are now a glut of films produced that are just lazy products. Because they are shot digitally and the filmmakers don’t inherit the costs, time spent in preparation and the strain that goes along with shooting on film stock, they often become careless with pre-production and production elements, telling themselves either that they’re unimportant or can be corrected in post production.
This same problem pops up with e-books. The fact that their authors can publish them for almost no cost encourages people to release old word processor files of unfinished, unedited, unproofed fantasy epics that they convinced themselves are much better than Game of Thrones or Wheel of Time. Sure, this problem still existed in the age of paperback self-publishing, but now it is even more rampant.
So, inevitably we have to call into question the value of Kindles, e-readers and e-books. At one point, I marked the advent of the Kindle as the demise of the written word. Farenheit 451 fully realized. I was convinced that it was only a matter of time before e-books became e-illustrated books and then soonafter e-illustrated-book-movies themselves. This may still inevitably be fate of e-books (there are already some iBooks with moving illustrations and interactive elements), but for the time being, there is still some actual reading involved.
I have owned a Kindle (I actually own an iPad with the kindle app, but for the sake of argument, we’ll just say they’re the same) for a few weeks now, and as much as I’d love to tell you that I hate it, I can’t. I am unable to deny the convenience of e-readers. I know the format of books has pretty much stayed the same for as long as we can remember, but that doesn’t mean we were weren’t bound to confront some sort of evolutionary crossroads for how we read books. Am I saying that e-books are a necessary change? No. Is it going to happen anyways? More than likely.
I also have to acknowledge that my experience turning the corner with e-readers may be heavily influenced by the iPad itself. I feel somewhat biased because of the iPad’s additional features. If I owned a straight Kindle, I would more than likely become frustrated with its lack of features (to my knowledge, its sole feature being the bastardization of books) and find myself shaking it like an etch-a-sketch more often than not.
For me, I will still buy books in paperback and hardcover form. That is always going to be my preference. Will I buy Kindle books though? Sure. I’m not exactly sure what dictates which genre or type of book I’ll buy on the Kindle, but for me, e-readers represent a window into impulse buy reading. These are books that I might not previously have had convenient access to, low listing prices for or a medium that clued me into their existence.
As I previously mentioned, I don’t think e-books are a necessary step in the evolution of reading, but they’re happening regardless. We can kick, scream and call Ray Bradbury for advice on how to stop them, but it would just be a pointless gesture and I’m sure a little frightening for Mr. Bradbury.
What are your thoughts on e-readers/e-books? If you have old published books still out there in circulation and have the rights to do so, have you thought about putting them up on the Kindle? What is your favorite Kindle only/indie published e-book out there? Do you own an e-reader? If so, which one?