The Joy and Fetishism of  Kindle

The increasingly liverish Steve Jobs said that 'people don't read anymore'. It was this statement that led me to reject the siren call of ipad in favor of a device that is specifically designed for readers. Now a Kindle DX sits on my desk and not only am I convinced I did the right thing, I'm pleased to report that I'm over the moon with my new purchase.

Nine Groovy things about the Kindle

1.    You can read on it. Yes, you really can. Really really well.
2.    No movies
3.     No games
4.    No freaking Facebook.
5.    No email.
6.    No twitter.
7.    Web surfing is too clumsy to bother.
8.    No spam.
9.    No color.

It may seem a little defensive to make a plus factor out of all the things the kindle can't do but there are some of us out here who are heartily sick of being pestered by the needy bright lights and incessant attention seeking apps on our computers. We, the minority who dare not whisper that we rather miss the old days of the net when gophers burrowed deep into the bowels of endless text files, the height of graphic cool was an ascii sig file and nothing blinked at us like a sign from a strip joint.

The virtue of the Kindle is its simplicity. It is designed for readers pure and simple and there are a lot of readers out there despite what Steve Jobs says.

There are many of us who've read on average two books a week since they were teenagers and who spend much of their lives in libraries and book stores.  Yet book prices are now astronomical and many of us now cruise the online used book sites rather than splashing out on a brand new paperback.

The Kindle takes it one step further. There are thousands of classic texts freely available to download. If you're a fan of early C20 or C19 literature you'll be a like pig in poo. Delving into the listings of out of copyright texts is like discovering a treasure chest of delights way more satisfying than bejewelled faux scimitars and ornate tasteless brooches.

My new Kindle DX is now brimming with Trollope, Chekov, Turgenev etc and esoteric titles from back lists that I've never seen in any book store. Since the Kindle can adjust font sizes readers don't have to hunt around for their glasses. This alone should be a major selling point for us older folk who are forced to ignore many excellent texts in Everyman size due to visibility problems.

Nicholson Baker in his New Yorker Kindle piece was struck by the greyness of the screen.  He made the point that the display was sombre and was not conducive to reflecting humor. He may be right. I haven't attempted to read anything funny yet. The font chosen is a little sombre but this hasn't impacted on any of my reading up to now. In fact it's interesting to read something written in the early 1900's and then follow it up with a downloaded copy of The Independent (UK newspaper). Both are displayed with the same font and one gets the impression we're all living in an eternal post modern steam punk era.

There are of course numerous hacks that will change the font for those determined to fiddle. There are many kindle forums where tips and tricks are exchanged and Amazon's customer service is discussed. Kindles (as do all e-readers) break and it seems that Amazon responds very quickly to complaints. This is key as a Kindle can't be passed on to a local tech guy if something goes wrong. I bought my machine on the understanding that Amazon will do the right thing if there's a drama and much of what I've read on the forums suggests that they will.

A current worry seems to be that buying a Kindle will tie the consumer to Amazon. If one can be bothered this seeming monopoly can be circumvented with various file conversion apps. Yet one could do a lot worse than being connected with Amazon. I've been buying non digital books from them ever since they opened shop and have never had a complaint. I've found their storefront with its 'other readers who bought this also bought this' section to be invaluable.

There are lots of alternative e-readers out there and there are going to be many more. This is just the beginning. The wonderful ipad and similar tablets are really great no mistake but a dedicated e-reader is always going to be preferable for hard core readers to a machine that has its focus elsewhere.