Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Just watched Kindle guy defend Kindle 2 to Jon Stewart. I'm by no means a Luddite. I own or am caretaker to a private arsenal of technology. I'm typing this on a Mac and I was one of many thousands Twittering (but not over-Twittering) last night's Oscarcast.

Therein lies my main resistance to turning my library "green", though. Do I really want one more device, when one of the pleasures of reading is an escape from what the industrial revolution hath wrought? Does the act of reading a book have a different physiological and psychological effect than reading text on a screen? I believe so, and I don't believe I'm imagining it. I feel much more at ease when I've spent a healthy part of a given week deep in reading, thankfully apart from anything that attaches itself to the pace of the outside world.

Beyond that, for all the time I spend online, it's primarily consumptive, not reflective. I have to stand back from the deluge of information I receive before the wheels start rolling and I turn it into work, or more accurately, begin to pose greater questions or attempt to interpret. Another electronic device might stir up an already ingrained consumptive predilection on my part. Which is fine, but I'm not sure I'm consumptive when I read a book. I think that act is supposed to ignite different impulses, which my body has reserved for the reading of a physical book, not a screen.

When I read a book or any non-electronic text, I find myself freed up. Isaac Asimov once described a book as a non-electrical video cassette that required no screen and started merely upon looking at it. It would pause when you looked away and required no more than your attention to unpause it.

I suppose that leaves me with having to defend myself from the self-righteous position of the Kindle partisan, assuring me but really castigating me that it's the way to "go green", as a reader. Sure, because no electronic device leaves a carbon footprint, certainly not one hooked up to a 3G network downloading information on a daily basis, my no, that doesn't require energy consumption at all. I'm pretty sure my owning a physical library is not on par with driving a four-by-four or spraying aerosol cans into the air, thanks. Plus, you probably own a car and a Kindle, whereas I own neither.

Still, having said all that, I'm not entirely unsympathetic to where our economic and sociopolitical repletion will eventually encapsulate us. We'll all be in our own cubicles eventually, and I guess I can just hope it gets to that after I'm gone or don't care anymore.

In any case, I wouldn't rule out the notion of owning one. It has significant scholarly possibilities to say the least, and would be great to travel with.

But I'm not about to make a trade.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Yeah, paper mills (and the concomitant effects vis-a-vis bleaching, etc.) are fairly nasty shit, and when you factor in ink.

Bah. You could get all wrapped up in a discussion like this (which we're all having on laptops hooked up to the internet, which you noted) but basically all information storage and retrieval takes some energy, no?

Some people may like these things, but books have ease of transport and markup (and the ability to take a certain measure of abuse) that just makes them more practical for me.