Kindling an Obsession

I TOOK the Oxford Dictionary of English, The New Oxford American Dictionary, the 2010 update of Roget’s Thesaurus, actress Cybill Shepherd’s autobiography Cybill Disobedience and Howard Jacobson’s award-winning novel The Finkler Question to bed with me last night.

I have seen the future, you see, and for me its name is Kindle.

My graphite-coloured e-reader is sleekly beautiful. Pictured top left nestling next to some of my favourite books, it can hold them all – as well as a few thousand more! And, at only 247 grams, it’s light as a whisper and almost as thin as one of those tasty after-dinner mints.

Not only can I take my whole library with me wherever I go but I can also look up a word in any e-book I’m reading in an instant: move the cursor to the word and, as if by magic, up pops the dictionary definition. No Internet connection necessary – not even a page to turn.

I can change the text size, the line spacing, “clip” excerpts to store separately, zoom in on pictures, make notes as I read, and even highlight sections to share with others.

Dangerous …

New e-books are dangerously accessible – to my bank balance, that is, even though they’re much cheaper than their tree-related counterparts. I click on a link and the entire book seamlessly appears in less than a minute on my Kindle, even though it isn’t hooked up to my computer.

The special Kindle “e-Ink” is easy to read and, with no back-lighting, there’s no glare or eye strain. But if I’ve been burning the candle (as opposed to the Kindle) at both ends and my eyes are too tired I can even turn the text of some books into speech and – get this – I can then tell the clever little machine whether I’d prefer a male or female voice to read to me! And when I switch this little darling on again, it takes me straight to the page I left off reading – no bookmarks required.

In my house I have nine book units, one of them almost floor to ceiling and each groaning under the weight of books I couldn’t do without. I can’t fit many more books in – and I think the beloved would have a hissy-fit if I even tried.

Besides, if it’s not a special edition – like my treasured 50th anniversary copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road – or a beautifully illustrated “coffee table” book, I really don’t see the need.

… Obsession

Retired German literature professor Ruth Kluger is someone whose fire’s also lit by a bit of Kindling. This “dyed-in-the-wool reader who is nearing her ninth decade and who has been consuming the printed word like a kind of drug since she was six” points out in Me and My Kindle, regular books “are just not all that comfortable … You start on your belly or lying on your side, in a soft chair with your feet up or on the floor with crossed legs or with a firm back rest and your feet on the desk. One leg goes to sleep, or needs to be stretched after sitting in the position too long. Often the book is too small or too big or too heavy, the print too weak or too bold, the lines too close together or the pages too thin ….”

And, after all, as Toby Shapshack, editor of the South African edition of gadget magazine Stuff, said on a South African TV talk show the other day: “A book is just a delivery mechanism for content.” – Stevie Godson
(A shorter version of this column first appeared in the Daily Dispatch)

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This entry was posted by stevieg on Monday, December 13th, 2010 at 10:14 am and is filed under General . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Chris Mercer says:

    Excellent summary of Kindle features, told in an upbeat and amusing way.

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