Not often in the course of this blog does the Author and Compiler of these recordings proceed to enlighten his audience upon such personal matters as relationships — the topic being both an awkward item of sorts as well as a fruitless campaign, much like drawing water from a water-less well. However, a relationship of sorts began last Christmas, and though it began on a promising note, the Author and Compiler of these musings eventually put it to rest as the following paragraphs will prove to manifest.

Last Christmas I was given, upon request, a Kindle Touch, and I have now (it being the season of Yule once again) desired to discuss both my appreciations and criticisms of using such a device, particularly discussing how it affects reading. As was stated above, our relationship flourished at first, but after some time an amiable split was necessary. Though when writing it is always best to begin with the negatives and conclude with the positive so as to end on an uplifting note, (this being different than life — for we know not when our Great Author will call us home, so we shall eat our vegetables last) I believe that chronologically speaking, this post will be far more effective if we begin with the positives of the union before discussing the correlating reasons for the breakup, done, mind you, in a positive and forward thinking mindset.

Observation, not experience, being the precedent for this argument, I believe the ending of any relationship usually does not symbolize one’s sudden abhorrence of the other individual. This is the case in the current discussion. The Kindle — be it a Touch or Fire etc. — is a highly valuable resource when reading, and my experience when using it was largely positive. I will proceed, for convenience sake at one positive followed by a better negative argument and endeavor to continue until I feel a weighty enough document has been produced.

The first thing I noticed when reading with a Kindle is the freeing up of the hands. It happens when I read that nothing quite suffices as a large mug of tea. Tea being hot and my skinny fingers being all too brittle, the holding of such large devices of (relatively) heavy weight, altogether too hot for the palm to absorb directly, creates a (rather) annoying pressure on the fingers (specifically the index). Meanwhile, in my experience with reading books in general, I find that inevitably the ankle connecting the foot finds its way to the knee (eventually sending that appendage to the mouth at some time or another) thus creating a smallish version of the Eiffel Tower with my knee sticking out into space. As I am highly inflexible, that knee is a bit unruly. In fact, it functions more like a mule and will not be ruled into place, yet in the end a nice nook of sorts is created in which the book can rest so that I can (carefully) grasp my hot mug of tea with two hands allowing my knee to freely flail as the book peacefully resides in its niche and I am thus transported to another world with short  homecomings as I sip in between paragraphs ever so timidly. This pleasant little picture, however, can only be achieved if in the middle of the book, for otherwise it closes in on itself, and as one vainly lunges to save his spot, tea is spilled and a day ruined. Kindle, upon entering my life, solved all of these problems. And that, I believe is a huge plus when reading.

The issue I ran into with the Kindle in this regard is that your hands are (suddenly), after many years of habitual experience, told to chill out. A large mug of tea (generally and unfortunately) does not last a whole reading (it shouldn’t), creating an absence after the effect. My hands, I have found, must be doing something, and anyone who so chooses to spend and afternoon or evening and watch me read will notice that my hands are (constantly) fondling that book I’m reading — whether this be flipping ahead to see how much farther I must proceed to the next chapter or merely following along with my skinny fingers. The Kindle Touch does, of course, not allow for this, and I must add, the “conversation” that often takes place with my books and myself (often done with a pen) is altogether laborious with Kindle. In short, she is not much of a conversationalist in this regard but dominates the dialogue into a panegyric which does get old. I suppose, if you are not a conversationalist or if you can control your hands contentedly in your lap with no threat of them flailing around like large moths in search of a light, than the Kindle will suit you just fine.

The second positive aspect of the Kindle cannot be matched, and I confess this was the hardest part of the breakup. When reading with Kindle one may not be able to respond with much ease (let alone get a word in), but the accessibility and knowledge contained in the device is second to none. This truly changes the way you read. Whereas I would normally just skip many of those difficult words or obscure references, the Kindle has all that information (literally) at your finger tips with a built in dictionary and Wikipedia access. When thinking about future readers who will unfortunately be brought up reading on these devices, I see no real negative to this. (Unless of course, one considers the broad negative concerning all technology in which “looking up” information is so easy that working for knowledge is irrelevant.) As it is, the kid would usually skip over the word, now he has no excuse.

A negative aspect does correlate to this, however. While searching for specific quotes in the book may be easier, a drawback occurs in the way of reading. As  a “research” tool, highlighting specific passages can be beneficial when searching for them later. And when you have that one quote that you only know part of, finding it is far more efficient than flipping tirelessly through the novel. Yet as I later found, specifically after reading Chesterton’s Everlasting Man, all the highlighting drowns out the rest of what is being said, elevating only portions (this being one reason why I’ve never been an “underliner” when reading the Bible, but to each his own). Subsequently, with all this one inevitably encounters the issue of what I now coin “reader’s claustrophobia.” When reading any book as I previously stated, I often flip forward to see where I’m at in relation to the chapter, and I always have a good idea as to where I am in the book as a whole. The Kindle attempts to overcome this problem with its locations and updated percentages telling you how far along you have progressed. But for me, I often felt boxed in when reading off the Kindle. The real feel of a book was replaced with a screen as if I was reading a pdf file off the computer.

The Kindle’s advantage is for many a disadvantage. But it is first an advantage. Before reading with the Kindle, I discovered that I was always conscious of where I was in any particular book in relation to chapters, parts, or the novel as a whole as I stated earlier. This is essentially a good aspect of reading I feel because “context is king,” and if you feel you are at the end of a story in which you have only just begun you may be a bit confused and disappointed. Frodo’s adventure does not end at Tom Bombadil and Anna Karenina is not a novel about the mere beginnings of an immoral tryst but how one will devour your soul. Essentially, when we read we should always have the broader context in mind as a whole. If one can get past all the poor writing of someone who longs only to excite and move the reader along (such as in those slovenly mystery novels or teen literature), than even knowing the entire story and its end will not take away from the reading but possibly add to the genius of it, if it is any good of course. For me, however, I do find the danger when reader rather large books. That deadly sin of pride creeps in and tells me the greatest of all lies in which I then feel an impetus to finish the novel quickly, forgetting at once that I am in a current part and chapter and paragraph and sentence for the sheer beauty of reading those particular words: for the boundless joy of reading.

This temptation is taken away almost entirely with Kindle. No longer is one goaded on to finish the novel so quickly, but they are invited, in a way, to enjoy that part of the book they are currently reading. The readers of Kindles forget, nearly altogether, that they are reading at all. Never before Kindle had I really experienced this so much because, for perhaps the first time in my life, I was reading great literature without those (at times) stifling and intimidating amounts of pages staring back at me. It is, in short, much easier to forget where you are in the novel and to appreciate good writing for its own sake. Now, this of course transitions into the disadvantage I have already touched on slightly. Context is King. The Kindle brings with it more of a frustration than a temptation when regarding this. There is something about holding large books that stirs us when we read. As I touched on above, we have the ability (it being our book now doubt) to speak directly back to the author, and perhaps one of the many joys of borrowing a book or buying a used one comes in reading the conversations of those pilgrims who went before us. And when we read these large, old books, worn down with much care, we cannot escape our context. Every time we open the book, we are reminded as to where we are in the context of the whole. Whereas the Kindle relieved us a bit from the temptation to simple “read to finish”, it brings the greater temptation of forgetting where we are in context with the story. The best readers do both at the same time.

Lastly, and briefly, the Kindle’s other great advantage comes in the availability of cheap books. But this is too easily refuted for various reasons. (1) It so happens that with many of those free classic books one receives on their Kindle the editions are so marred it is very distracting to read. Typos are so common, that in one book (for which I paid about $5.00) I discovered myself highlighting nearly every page I turned to, not stopping for multiple paragraphs. When the numeral ‘1’ is inserted for the preferred letter ‘I’, something went wrong. (2) Most importantly, we cannot begin to disregard the libraries and bookstores of our culture. I do not refer to those highly overpriced and glitzy stores in which the customers pay for bells and whistles but the many used bookstores containing jewels upon jewels of literature. And when we step inside those stores, we cannot help but realize that we are stepping into a thousand different worlds — more imagination, more controversy, more ideas are found in the smallest of bookstores than the thousands upon thousands of video stores available to us. And if we all took to our Kindles, those lovely nooks of bookstores would probably vanish as would the joy of holding a very old book.

All in all, the Kindle is an incredible device, and I would recommend it, though with those disclaimers. For me, however, I will stick with that paperback book which was my first love. Nothing can replace the feeling of a book and the accomplishment of destroying its spine in the course of your first read. Nothing can replace those large libraries of the many thousands of books you once meant to read but can now display to all the travelers and guests that reside in your home for spells of times. Nothing can replace the prideful feeling of pulling out large tomes when amongst crowds of people — an essential tool to impress which will most likely be a necessity in the future as both the Author and Compiler of this blog and Kindle herself will be on the market for some vague foreseeable future.

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