Happy endings: Throwing off the bad boy-- Kindle

I’m a little embarrassed. Not so long ago (Has it been two years? Seriously?) I spouted off in this public forum about my love– well, let’s call it infatuation– for you, my Kindle e-reader.

Back then, I thought you were The One, and I was so over all those clunky paper books. I cleared the dusty to-be-read pile from my bedside, and it was all about you (only about you!) every night. The sleek warmth of you in my hand, your immediate response to my every desire– I didn’t know who I was anymore. Whatever it took to keep you filled with new titles, I was happy to do.

You were the bad boy in my life. And I loved it.

Suddenly, privacy meant nothing to me. I just didn’t care anymore. Amazon wanted to keep track of my reading habits? Okay. And when I discovered that they could reach into my collection of electronic books and delete something if they felt like it, I merely shrugged and accepted it.

Just let me have my sweet plastic toy, push those buttons and swing from title to title, switching books, all the while caressing the same warm, smooth unit. I was happy– we were happy, weren’t we? For a while, anyway.

And, oh, you make it so easy to acquire new electronic books! Click and voilà. Click and voilà. I could do that all day. Want it, get it. Want it, get it.  I have pages of titles nested inside your memory, Kindle, but I have no idea what those titles are.

Well, I do remember the ones I got for free: the complete works of Shakespeare, all the Oz books. Will I ever read those? Doubt it. But I have to admit that acquiring them felt good.

Here’s the part that’s tough to say, dear Kindle, but I have to be honest with you: I still have feelings for paper.

I know, I know! We thought this would never happen— couldn’t happen. You and I, we seemed so inevitable. We were what progress looked like, right? And how could I turn my back on progress? I swear I didn’t set out to do this; it just happened. Oh, it kills me to have to tell you this.

One by one, paper books have crept back into my life. People pass them along to me, or maybe it was a title you couldn’t give me, and I was forced to turn to paper. And the tactile allure has become overwhelming. Paper and ink books call out to me wherever I go.

Sometimes I trip over them. Or I’ll have to push aside a book or two when I’ve lost the remote. Or I hear the phone ringing from inside a heap of books and papers.

The red letters over black that run down the spine of La Seduction beg me to pick up that book and fall back into Paris. The slim new novel, We the Animals, by Justin Torres sits atop the pile next to my bed, whispering, “You could finish me in an evening. What’re you waiting for?” And Jon Stewart’s Earth lives just inches away from my pillow, ready to send me into convulsions of giggling when I open it to any page. I can’t help but smile whenever I move it aside to reach my alarm clock.

I find myself with some reason to handle a paper book, and before I know what’s happening, the world falls away and I’m tumbling into a story, stroking each page as I turn to the next one and the next one, and just one more, always wanting just one more.

Here’s what it comes down to, Kindle: Paper and ink books try harder to seduce me.

It’s their heft and scent, their colorful covers, engaging fonts. And I’m sure it seems trivial to someone as complex as you, but I like that I can write in them, flip back and forth from one part to another. You know, all that 3-D stuff.

Oh, forget it. Just forget it. I knew you wouldn’t understand.

But here’s another thing, something I know you can relate to: when I’m packing for a trip, it seems like your battery is always run down, and I don’t have time for hours of charging, so I tuck a paper book into my carry-on.

Face it: we just don’t communicate like we used to.

But the allure of the bad boy is a powerful one, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m still drawn to you. That sleek profile, the way you’re filled with information about my reading preferences. You know me. When I turn to you, I know you can give me what I want.

The thing is, I find I’m turning to you less and less. For me, dear Kindle, the kick– the spark between you and me– is all about the thrill of instant acquisition. And that thrill is entirely separate from the experience of reading.

Oh, Kindle: it’s not you, it’s me. You still have all the magic you’ve always had. It’s just that I never could get paper out of my mind. You were an exciting fling– something shiny and new.

But with you in my hands it’s so easy to click around in your menu and go from title to title (I don’t even have to cross the room to a bookshelf) that I seldom make it all the way though to the end of a book.

And so, if I want to finish what I start, live a substantial, meaningful life, I need to go with what works for me. And paper is what works for me.

We can still be friends, of course. It’s not like I’m planning to get rid of you or anything. It’s just not what it used to be. We’re not what we used to be.

But some late night, I might find myself drunk dialing you, downloading a book when I just can’t wait another second, looking for a quick thrill.

You’ll still be there for me, right?
Janis Jaquith has decided not to toss her Kindle into the fireplace of her home in Free Union.

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1 comment

Big advantages to electronic books=free downloads, ability
to read really big books comfortably esp in bed, light weight for
traveling and ability to take lots of books, screen much easier
to read than paper books in environments with any glare
Big disadvantages=difficulty flipping back and forth esp
for reference, nonfiction, scientific books, impossible
to annotate, graphics reproduction hugely inferior