My first Kindle experience.

Today while on the bus, i had my first in-person experience with a Kindle.  An old guy with glasses was holding one about two inches from his face, and I leaned forward in my seat eagerly to see how he interacted with it.  Was it truly easy to navigate?  How did the weird screen impact his already damaged eyes?  As an old man, was all this newfangled goodness too much for him?

I have to get the obvious and disturbing portion of my observations out of the way first.  Within the first five seconds, he picked his nose.  And I’m not talking about a subtle scratching that starts on the outside and moves inwards, or even the quick pick.  I’m talking about the possibly brain-damaging deep in there picking that I could barely look away from.  i had to do a double, then a triple take.  Was he still picking?  Yep.  What about now?  Still digging around in there.  It was intense.

The man himself was obviously a little disturbed, even in his  reading habits.  Watching him turn pages, it was difficult to ascertain if he was a really fast reader or a really slow skimmer.  Perhaps the tech WAS too much for him.  Maybe he couldn’t navigate properly and was unable to find what he was looking for, buttoning through pages and pages of files on a never-ceasing quest.  Or maybe he just gets bored with text easily.

My only real observation of the Kindle itself had to do with the page changes.  There is an odd inversion of color before the page change, reversing the image of the old page.  Is this necessary, some sort of imaging reset for the paper?  Or is it a user choice, selected by this old man for some unknown reason?  I should probably read reviews or something to find out, but I guess I’ll wait until I’m desperate enough to get me one.  After all, it’s heavy carrying ten hardbacks around on vacation.

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Book burning for all?

As I am a writer, and and avid reader (some people don’t suppose those things go together, but I’m not one of them) I’ve been more than a little hesitant about the Kindle. Mike has, of course, extolled the virtues of electronic paper multiple times. If you’re interested in that kind of thing, Wikipedia has an easy-to understand article that explains how it works. And the Kindle is supposed to be very flexible, very thought out, and about the same size and weight as a paperback. So especially for traveling, probably a good thing – store enough books for your whole trip in the size of something one book big. For me that’s a big issue, as I often take more books than clothes, especially on longer trips.

But I’m still not convinced. Yes, I read the reviews, and listened to all these tech guys and other avid readers extol the virtues and honestly address some of the hiccups. And I am genuinely impressed with the product. I may even buy one some day, even at the current high price. As I’ve said before, I’m sure it would be ideal for travel especially more travel. But still, something holds me back from totally confirming the advent of a new reading age. Is it my inner traditionalist coming out, the reactionary who knows the old ways were the best? Or is it something else?

It’s not that I haven’t done my share of electronic reading already – take a look at this post on Baen.  But that hasn’t made me a convert to only electronic reading by any means.  True, the Kindle won’t eventually hurt your eyes like a computer screen will.  And true, there are many functions that allow you to treat it as a normal book – bookmarking, notes making,, highlighting, all kinds of stuff.  And it might even be good that I wouldn’t be able to beat up a Kindle like I do a regular paperback, bending the pages and breaking bindings and covers.  But still, there’s something missing from an electronic device like that.

Maybe it’s all in my head, but I don’t think I could get into it in the same way.  I’m not sure I could allow the page to blur before my vision, forming only story, not words.  I’m not sure I could let my mind open up, and really inhabit the world of the characters.  Most certainly I couldn’t surround myself with the smell of the bindings’ glue and the ink on the pages.  Even though Amazon may one day also vend perfumes to mimic these smells, something would be missing.

And what of my library?  What of that little collection I’ve build up of physical objects that I can touch and see surrounding me?  What of the book spines I run my fingers over gently, knowing friends within?  It’s true, when e-book first got big, some predicted the end of fiction as we know it, and this is just another chapter in that book.  But really I can’t see Kindle as lighting a book-burning fire.  At least not yet.