Saturday, January 22, 2011

Reader's Remorse?

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Is Kindle the end of the world as I know it?  Despite my y chromosome and the fact that I grew up at the beginning of the consumer technology boom (even being one of those crazy early adopters who upgraded from a VIC-20 to a Commodore 64 right off the bat-ha!), geeking out finally gave me more headaches than buzzes, and I left it mostly behind.  I would put myself right smack dab in the middle of the pack--or even lagging a bit--when it comes to most forms of technogoods.  My motto:  neither a Luddite nor a technophile be. 

There is one area, however, that I thought to remain sacrosanct, eternally protected from the metallic tentacles of the ever-encroaching robot armies, and that was my reading.  Like a lot of people who share my professional interests in literature and librarianship, I love books.  And I love them for all the same reasons that all of those other people do:  the smells of ink and mold, the crisp feel of the pages,  the heft, the easy visual cues of reading progress, etc.  Furthermore, my reading memory has a very strong spatial component.  I tend to remember exactly where on a page I've read something, and it may not even be the words that I'm remember (which could be found with a keyword search in an electronic context) but just my own internal reaction (which, obviously, cannot).  It's safe to say that, until recently, I had no desire to read a book unless it was a good old fashioned ink and paper artifact.

But two things have started influencing my thinking.  First of all, the age difference between my students and me, and therefore the resultant technology gap, is only increasing every semester.  Purposely dragging my feet when it comes to electronic devices only puts me at greater risk of becoming stranded on the other side of an entire worldview from them.  Secondly, I am very deep into working on my MLIS at the University of Southern Mississippi, which not surprisingly has me thinking quite a bit about the ways information is now accessed and will be in the future.  In short, I've been hearing Dylan belting out "The Times They Are A-Changin'" in the back of my head and am in no hurry to sink like a stone.

Thus, for Christmas, I took the plunge and asked Santa for the new generation Kindle.  Not being a geek, I confess to doing very little homework before purchasing.  I use Amazon all the time (who doesn't?) and kind of let the Amazon connection sell me.  Of course, I read a lot of consumer reviews, mostly of the Kindle and the Nook (I sure wasn't interested in making the jump to something like the iPad) and thought the Kindle sounded just fine.

What I've discovered, however, is that, while I've enjoyed reading a couple of novels on the Kindle so far, it really would not serve me well for reading textbooks (thanks to a lack of page numbers and poor graphics) and won't work for library books (because Amazon is fiercely protective of its proprietary platform).  And that is what now has me thinking about e-readers and libraries. . . .

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