I’m a book snob.
Most writers I know are. As far as I’m concerned, a book is pretty much a perfect form of data dissemination—it’s compact, holographic, easily accessed, and it can be extremely striking from a design POV. I love books. It’s true that they can fill up a bookcase (or a house) pretty quick; still, for the enjoyment and information you get from them, the footprint isn’t that big.
(I used to have a lot more books than I do now; had a house with a garage converted into an office/library, and the walls lined with bookshelves. Probably over a thousand books, all told. Visitors would always exclaim over them: “You have more books than anyone I know!” Well, maybe, but I sure as hell don’t have more than anyone I know. I haven’t been to Harlan’s house in years, but the last time I saw it he had managed to pack a fair-sized Barnes & Noble into the place.)
So when I heard about electronic book readers my first reaction was to turn up my nose. Yet another piece of soulless technology attempting to replace art. How dehumanizing. I simply couldn’t see how something made of plastic and circuitry could ever trump paper and ink.
Then a friend showed me her Kindle. Demonstrated the way the screen looked, the options (variable print size, built-in dictionary, the virtual marketplace), the compact size of it ...
And I bought one the next day.
The great thing about it is it’s not an electronic book—it’s an electronic library. I’ve been reading a lot more lately, mostly non-fiction, and sometimes it’s positively dizzying to think about the thousands of books quite literally at my fingertips—most of them at less than half price. I have access to over a quarter of a million titles through Amazon.com.
Granted, it’s not perfect. Like I said, a book is holographic—you can go back or skip ahead easily, whereas with the Kindle you have to go to the table of contents and from there proceed linearly, page by page. But that’s a fairly minor annoyance. And I’m very much hoping that the next upgrade has a built-in booklight for reading in bed.
I still buy books—only now I can limit them to books I want to keep and reread. But with the Kindle I finally have the answer to that old question: What book would I pick to take along were I stranded on a desert island?
Any of an entire virtual library ...