November 28, 2011

November 28, 2011

Fired Up

As I hinted earlier, I’ve been given a Kindle Fire. Though we’re still getting to know each other, I’ve found some definite advantages to an e-Reader versus my beloved regular books. Keep in mind that 90% of my reading is done during my commute (ie in public places that are often crowded). Your mileage may vary.

Books are available on demand. Now, I’m as big an advocate for libraries as you will find. I have spent literally thousands of hours in libraries. When I go on vacation, I stop at the local library. I have library cards in five jurisdictions. I still remember my card number from the Milwaukee Public Library (25260001812164, no longer valid). I am a huge supporter of this, the only part of public infrastructure I use and care about.* But browsing the fiction section at the library only goes so far. (What, you expect me to read nonfiction on a regular basis? About, like, science and stuff?) Another thing about libraries: they aren’t always open. So when I finish a book during the week, I tend to grab something from my own collection to tide me over until the weekend. Thus how I end up reading Nancy Drew books in front of the Pentagon. Suck it, terrorists!

But with a Kindle and the internet, I can access Great Literature any time I want. Also, Angry Birds.

No one but me knows what the book looks like. Remember how I said earlier that I read a lot in public? And how my fellow passengers are often more interested in my book than I am? That becomes a problem sometimes. Like when I read this:

Now, the book itself was a sort of modern-day Lord of the Flies, with beauty pageant contestants. But I’m pretty sure the typical assumed subject matter is…how can I put this delicately…boobies.

With a Kindle, I don’t have to worry about titillating covers. When your commute involves the Pentagon, you have to think about these things. I have probably inadvertently offended a lot of members of the armed forces. Suck it, terrorists!

Size doesn’t matter. Large books are heavy. Logistically, this makes reading while standing difficult. And my commute, even on its best days, involves a fair amount of standing. (On a bad day, I waited 50 minutes for a bus before giving up and taking a train.) Since I have the upper-body strength of a two-year-old, I much prefer the weight of a Kindle.

Large books are also large. (QED) Now, you car people don’t think about this, but we public transit folks must be able to carry all of our stuff during the commute. Beverages, work items, lunch, gadgets, all of it. Ideally, we must also be able to carry it while sprinting 100 yards to the other end of the Pentagon bus bay, because the 7Y IS JUST ABOUT TO LEAVE THE STAND.

Anyway.

One of the main reasons I checked out and immediately returned Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals was its immense size. (Also, nonfiction, bleh.) That thing was like a Gutenberg Bible. I couldn’t fit it AND my lunch, so obviously the book had to go.

But now I can fit even the Gutenberg Bible on a tablet the size of a Nancy Drew book. Suck it, terrorists! (Less appropriate here, but I feel as if I have to live up to the trend.)

Kindles help you look busy. Granted, any tablet or smartphone achieves the same end here, which is to discourage conversation or communication of any sort. My fellow commuters, I am not interested in discussing the weather, the traffic, the upcoming holidays, sports, news events, the economy, elections, your family, or health issues. While you used to be able to see that I was obviously Not Busy when I was reading a fluorescent yellow Nancy Drew book, note that I am now tapping on a tablet. I am probably recalculating** the nuclear launch codes, which requires MY FULL FOCUS. Suck it, terrorists!

Look, I’m as surprised as anybody that I’ve come up with such a full-bodied defense of an e-Reader, which is what I consider the Kindle Fire to be (alert: soapbox coming). It’s a souped-up e-Reader. It’s not a tablet computer, or an iPad, or a portal into the future. It’s a way to read books and occasionally use the internet. So stop comparing it to full-bodied 3G-enabled devices, OKAY?

I’m not yet a convert (I think books with pictures would be better in regular form), but I’ve definitely come around.

* I don’t go to the hospital, use the schools, or call the police. I own no property and have no dependents. Election ads focusing on the use of my tax dollars don’t go very far.
** You think they don’t need to be recalculated? Ah, the innocence of youth.

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