Friday, June 4, 2010

A Kindle Review

As both readers know, I have recently made the dive into the world of e-books. For one thing, I have bought a Kindle, so I have been reading a lot more, and a lot more widely than I have since college.

I will say right away that I love it. There are many reasons for this, most of which have been written about so much that it sounds like an ad for the Kindle, and doesn't really bear repeating.

However, I will say that one thing I like best about the device is the fact that I can browse the bookstore at my convenience and download samples to my Kindle for later. It's like going to the bookstore, picking up all the books that look interesting and taking them home to read the first chapter or so before sending them back.

There are some drawbacks to this device as well.

One thing I don't like about e-books in general is their homogeneity. All books look the same. Now if you are really concerned with the content, it might not seem to matter, right?

In fact, one of the main ways that I keep track of what I've read turns out to be by remembering which book I read it in. And remembering a book is more than simply remembering its contents.

In many ways, the physical cues that are associated with a book help my brain keep the information that I gain from it distinct from information I've gotten from other books. This process sounds almost medieval, but in fact, it's the way that my brain has been programmed. Remembering the book itself is sort of like a shorthand, an easy way to mark content mentally so that it's easier to retrieve and make use of later. A lot of times, I have 'forgotten' the contents of a book, only to 'recall' them later when I pick up the book and turn it over in my hands for a minute.

There is no such luxury with the Kindle. Oh, you can go back and find that book, but 'handling' it won't evoke any thoughts, since they all now 'look and feel' the same.

This isn't a huge problem, but it does affect my thinking. For example, now I am often faced with trying to remember just where I read something, and all I can recall is the e-ink. Since I love to read on various subjects--like politics, history or economics--all at the same time, I have trouble remembering just which point was made by which author and in which context. In fact, the e-ink removes so much of the context that my thoughts seem the only things stitching this content together.

It is true and well known that the physicality of books provides a great deal of pleasure for readers. What is also true but less well known is how the physicality of books helps us store and sort the information contained therein.

1 comment:

bc said...

And you still love Kindle? Your con arguments are much more pithy than your pro comments. You gotta HOLD a book!