Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Kindle: Akin to Books?

I’ve been reading (for the gazillionth time) Octavia Butler’s marvelous time-travel narrative Kindred, and wonder whether I shouldn’t be reading it on “Kindle.”

After all, Butler’s novel plays with the various meanings of “kin,” and Amazon’s Kindle inspires some of those associations in me.

I saw one up close during December, when a friend received one as a Christmas gift. Kindle didn’t kindle any warm thoughts in me, though, with its gray machinery disguised in an equally nondescript black book jacket. (Guess you can jazz up the jacket.)

Its type was easy enough to read, but I was surprised that the book “covers,” such as they are, weren’t in full color.

But this is not a review of Kindle; rather, it’s a contemplation of the gadget’s name.

Kindle is an ingeniously sly name, because it’s designed to connote a variety of “warm” feelings, including “kin” (for cozy associations; Kindle’s one of the family—that cyborg cousin from your father’s side); “kindred” (think of Anne Shirley and Diana Barry, kindred spirits!); “kindling” (ahh—a natural reference: kindling wood to start a fire, and wood also makes paper); and “kindle” itself (to illuminate [knowledge?]; to light).

There’s even “kind,” which denotes being sympathetic or gentle (Kindle is user-friendly!); or type (You’re one of my kind, a quaint recognition of PLU [People Like Us]).

Kindle thus seeks to dredge up warm, cozy feelings of sameness, simplicity, gentleness, family (happy family), and nature (wood, paper).

But despite all these banked-upon notions of community and warmth, the feeling that Kindle generates in me is kinDread. I prefer my books in paper, with full-color covers.

Do you want to take a match to Kindle or curl up with it on a cold winter’s night?

P.S. Don't forget to vote for the most fashionable blog in the 2008 weblog awards. My vote's going to WendyB, who is known to read a stylish book or twelve . . . (Click on Wendy's name to find a voting link on her page.)

*Top image by Ulrike Hahn

*Middle image of a "colorized" Phillis Wheatley; frontispiece to her book of poetry


materfamilias said...

For me, the aesthetic and even kinaesthetic (turning the pages, the weight of the book in my hands) are an important part of the whole book experience. I understand that Kindle comes closer to that in terms of the reading surface, but smell? texture?
Plus, while I haven't tried one personally, I understand that the page-turning is still not as quick as in old-fashioned paper technology. Plus so far the digital won't be able to replace the analog in terms of finding a spot to recover a remembered passage -- I do that by a combination of remembering where the passage sat on the page as well as what other passages were around it and whether it was in the first quarter or the last seventh of the book, calibrated by feel and book experience. I'll be quite happily sitting this one out for at least another decade.

WendyB said...

I bought a Kindle for MrB but I need to set it up for him, of course. I like to write in and dog-ear my important books so a Kindle won't substitute for that. But I might read more books that aren't so important to me on the Kindle, seeing as I don't have to make space for them physically like I do if they're from the bookstore (running out of room) and I don't have to schlep to the library.

enc said...

I'm a Luddite, and will only migrate over to Kindle when there are no paper books left anywhere. And even then, I'll still try to find some.

La Belette Rouge said...

I just wrote a comment on my blog just moment ago saying I will never give up books for one of these. I love books and hope that as long as I am alive there will be paper books. The day after I die those who remain can decide what they want to do about books or not to books and I will be fine with whatever you all decide.;-)

desertwind said...


I like book books. Paperbacks with good covers. Some of the new cover paperstock is good... a little tacky.. but some are too sticky, though.

jenniferz said...

I am 100 percent with you Miss Cavendish! Books are wonderful as objects and nothing can replicate the experience of holding one and turning paper page after paper page...
Digital technologies are terrific and so useful in so many ways, but a book is a book is a book and Kindle, or the Sony Reader, or anything else where you read on a screen will never compare to a book no matter what the companies selling them try to tell us!

Tara Maya said...

I believed as you, fellow booklovers. I have a personal library of thousands of books. And I thought reading on an ereader would be like reading on a laptop.

Then my husband gave me a Kindle 2.

It cuddles. Oh, it does cuddle. I love to snuggle in bed with my Kindle in my lap, or on the pillow beside me, while I nurse the baby or just before I go to bed.

Epaper. Not like a laptop at all. It's so wonderful. Once I turn a page, I can let it sit, and don't have to hold it open. As soon as I hear of a good book, I can buy it and start reading it a minute later. Oh, the instant gratification!

Now my husband is deluded if he thinks this means I am going to give away my treebooks. Never, never. But I do love my kindle.