Kindling, or A Few Thoughts on GadgetryPosted: January 8, 2014
I just figured out why it’s called a Kindle and it’s unnecessary. Traditional books and e-readers can live together amicably. While we’re on the subject – e-readers? Smells like 1999. Next up: cyberstuff and surfing the information superhighway.
There’s a lot of book porn out there. People can’t seem to let go of books, and that’s fine, books are the cornerstone of civilization and all, but the book lovers are getting pretty militant about it. They fetishize the damn things, describing them as a particularly smutty writer might describe a daring encounter with some burly sexpot. The sighing crack of the spine as you ease the pages apart, diving into those inviting folds, that new book musk suspended in the air. Phew.
I got a Kindle for Christmas, and I have to say, I’m a believer. It doesn’t replace the traditional reading experience, but it’s a damn sight better than a desktop, laptop or tablet searing your optical nerve. I can read in bed at night without a bedside lamp, and I don’t have to figure out which books are worth taking on a trip. One time I packed AJ Ayer’s “Language, Truth and Logic” because I never finished it in Junior Honours Philosophy, and it stayed in my bag the entire time. I felt bad about that, but I don’t need to any more, because I no longer pack it with the intent to read, it’s just on the device with all my other books. The Kindle appeals to both my laziness and ambition.
The inexorable creep of gadgets and doodads that claim to take the effort out of life can get exhausting after some time. While adverts (Apple are particular offenders) will witter on about “intuitive interfaces”, they still require a certain investment of time to learn. Nothing is immediately obvious, and sooner or later, people tend to throw their hands up and say “Fuck it, everything I already have does everything I need it to already, I don’t need to spend any more money for the opportunity to learn a new system that will inevitably fall short of its grand claims”. People gush over how modern smartphones can navigate the internet, but I remember accessing the internet on my phone ten years ago. And to be honest, the modern smartphone isn’t so great at navigating the internet as it claims. Frankly, compared to a traditional computer, it’s fucking awful, but because you can carry it in your pocket we’re content to cut it some slack.
What I’m badly driving at here is that the Kindle, and by extension all readers with e-ink (e-ARGH) manage to hit a sweet spot for me. It has some benefits over traditional books (the backlight, convenience) and computer screens (easier on the eye, feels more book-like) while minimising the drawbacks (it’s still not a book, holy jesus the page turning is clunky). And most of all, it avoids the sour taste of BRAND NEW GADGET marketing by actually, you know, providing some benefits over our previous methods for reading instead of repackaging it all in pretty adverts and ‘design’ and ‘intuitiveness’ and all those buzzwords that mean precisely fuck all and bullshit pence to anyone with an income under 15 grand.
Basically, if you feel you can’t motivate yourself to read because there are far too many toys with internet and game access lying around, get yourself a toy without any internet access that can’t play games. Your brain will thank you for it.