The Kindle and Why I’ll Stick To Bound Paper
I recently ordered a Kindle, cancelled it, and ordered it again. When it arrived I was excited. I was excited about a couple different things. First, the ability to read faster. I knew that without the page turning, and with my love for gadgets I would read more, at every opportunity (not that I need more incentive, reading is incentive enough). Second, I could store all my books in one location instead of piles strewn across rooms.
Through the Kindle I quickly purchased On Writing, then I purchased Josh Hamilton’s biography, Beyond Faith. And that is when it hit me, when I noticed a change. What hit me was that reading using the Kindle had changed the concept of reading despite me not using it to read yet. I was simply purchasing literature and already the experience was less fun, less involved, and less personal. You see, I didn’t own anything. There was no paper, no receipt, no heft. There were no pages to hold receipts, mementos. There were no margins in which to write notes. But what there was plenty of, was empty shelves at home that would never be filled with books with words printed on paper.
I eventually read a few pages of the books I had purchased through the Kindle, then turned it off, re-packaged it, and requested a refund. After that, I repurchased the books, and they are sitting on my nightstand right next to me, right this very minute. I don’t need to turn anything on to see the contents, I can loan them to my friends, and I can write potential tweets in the margins to check back with later on.
The Kindle has it’s place. But for me that place certainly shouldn’t cost $359. I would love a place to store all my PDFs, and I’ll give you $75, but I’d still hesitate.
All my books have a story. Not just the story by the author, but a story that corresponds to the experience of reading the book. I can think of a few examples right now, with some illustrations.
1. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
So I’ve read this book a zillion times. I once had this book with me when I was walking with a friend through North Beach in San Francisco, behind the famed City Lights Bookstore when we came across a poem written on an alley wall. It goes like this (and I’ve written of this before):
i wonder how this city will look one thousand years from now,
burning bright from the ashes of our great passions;
will it’s people wear our faces?
will it’s drama’s cross worlds of travelled space?
will it’s magic enchant like the whispering beauty of here?
will it’s dreams grow from the spirited creations of now?
All I had was my copy of On The Road, and a pen, and that was all I needed.
The book itself is a joy to read, and for years I would practice memorizing this little gem of a sentence that to me summed the book up quite nicely:
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes Awww!
2. Catcher In The Rye – JD Salinger
Another repeat book for me. According to the image of the receipt below, it was purchased on April 22, 1997. Most books that I own still have the original receipt. It’s one of my quirks and it comes in handy when a memory needs extra help to be recalled.
Another memory is attached to On The Road, quite literally. I had a Beagle, Desmond. He was named after the Jazz saxophonist in the Dave Brubeck quartet. So the fact that he “cut his teeth” on the best of the beats was no surprise, and didn’t anger me in the least.
I bought On The Road and Catcher In The Rye on that same trip to Barnes & Noble and just before a group of us boys went on a road trip to Mexico. I read both books during the trip, and made chapter notes at the beginning of each Catcher In The Rye chapter.
On one of the internal pages are some phone numbers and a quote that belongs to me saying:
These people don’t know me.
We were eating at a Denny’s-type establishment and I was looking around at all these interesting people and realized, maybe because of the alcohol in me, that there wasn’t anybody in this restaurant, in this city, maybe in this state, that knew me. And it struck me. And I felt small. But at the same time I also felt like a vein of gold in an undiscovered mountain and when saying “These people don’t know me”, it was more out of sadness that they would never get to know Brian Utley. I wasn’t a cocky kid, but Kerouac and Salinger put me that place, and I wrote it in the book. I remember it clear as day, almost 12 years later.
3. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
I spilled so much pico de gallo on this book. There was this little peruvian restaurant in Provo, Utah that I would eat at on a fairly regular basis. A carne asada burrito with a sangria and Ernest Hemingway. Our own little party. The book has stains throughout.
4. Immortality – Milan Kundera
Even to this day I have no idea what this book was about. And I’ve felt a little embarrassed by that until this week when Stephen King says something similar about reading passages that he doesn’t understand, shrugging it off, and remarking that some lyrics to his favorite songs he doesn’t understand either.
The history behind Immortality was that this was the book I was reading when I met Shannon Flores, my now ex-wife. The book still holds our wedding picture.
The receipt is still in this one as well, and I just realized it was bought on 6/6/1997. A significant date.
I could literally go on and on, I have a stack of books next to me that I chose at random just to see what I could find. Like the wedding picture, I had no idea it was there, and Senja certainly didn’t either. But there you go, the historical importance of books and the trinkets alongside them. Some quick associations:
Shampoo Planet – Douglas Coupland : Melanie from B&N talking about “giving him the time”, or some foolishness.
Einsteins Dreams – Alan Lightman : A book I literally couldn’t put down for hours and have read at least a dozen times.
The Perks of Being A Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky : A book written when it was probably much easier to get published. I was coming out of the beats and this contemporary first novel was the perfect segway back into my own generation.
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald : Reading this book in our basement apartment, with leaves blowing down the stairs and into our house. I read over 70 pgs that afternoon, with my feet propped up on the kitchen counter.
What would I have to share if I started reading from the Kindle 15 years ago? I’m not sure. But I have a treasure trove of books downstairs, with all sorts of memorabilia from my past. A Kindle wouldn’t give me that.
Also, you know that moment in a book when the characters have been introduced, the story is taking flight, you’ve just finished page 82 and for the first time you bend that spine and crease that book right down the side? I love that. Try doing that on a Kindle.
A good friend eventually purchased my Kindle from me, saving me having to go through the Amazon return process. At some point I’ll revisit the device, but my love of books AND love of reading will most likely keep my reading habits in the new old-school.The Kindle and Why I’ll Stick To Bound Paper