My husband and I always thought we would invent the Kindle. We were two journalism grads who talked a lot about the future of newsprint and saving trees and words captured on a screen. Alas, we never got around to it.
Now, two children and several house payments later, our entrepreneurial energies churned into building a business specializing in editorial services, Web development, and book production services, we own two handheld wireless reading devices not of our design. Now we format books for the Kindle and Nook, including our own books.
We read books on the Kindle. For our business, we explore the intricacies (and limitations) of presenting the electronic books of the future. We look up words instantly and effortlessly with the Kindle’s dictionary, far away from the 9.5-pound Webster’s Unabridged on my desk. I could be out in the middle of the ocean in a raft and find the definition of cirque: “a half-open steep-sided hollow at the head of a valley or on a mountainside, formed by glacial erosion. Also called corrie, cwm (pronounced koom)”—and discover a killer Scrabble word to boot.
The Kindle has much going for it; when you’re reading in bed at night, drifting off, and your book slams down on your nose, a Kindle may leave a smaller dent than the average hardcover.
But there is also much one misses when using a Kindle: the feel and smell of turning pages, the softness of an often-read book, the feeling of being connected to some great literary tradition, and the vast—and free—selections at the local library (although this is changing as Kindle is now invading local library systems).
Still, I do like the Kindle’s adjustable text size feature. Those of us with eyes that threw in the towel at 40 appreciate the ability to control our squinting. And if I were in college, I would much prefer lugging a 10.2-ounce Kindle than a backpack of heavy textbooks slowing giving me curvature of the spine.
Still, there is one futuristic image I can’t get out of my mind. The Kindle holds more than 1,500 books. Would I rather walk into a library and see the shelves packed with 1,500 hardcovers, paperbacks, novels, gardening books, Harry Potters, and Ernest Hemingways—or one Kindle?
No doubt the children of tomorrow will have no choice. So I am going to enjoy them—both my lovely books and my useful Kindle—while I’ve got them.