I love my Kindle, especially given the limited shelf space I have for actual books, not to mention the fact that, as a commuter, it's great to be able to read books and/or manuscripts whenever I'm on the subway. But this wonderful device could never take the place of paperbacks. Why? Well, here are a few thoughts:
- As a secondary school teacher in the UK, I taught literacy to children from age 11 upwards. One of the very first lessons I'd teach the new kids every year was how to open a dictionary at the right section. In other words, if they were looking up "kangaroo" they'd know roughly where the "K" was. And with "lemon" where the "L" was, and soforth. Not only is this an important skill, but it also speaks to the importance of reference books. There is only a certain way of scanning or searching a Kindle book, but with real books, there are many.
- The same goes for annotation. You can annotate a Kindle book, but (in my version, at least) I haven't found a way to have the annotation visible at the same time as the text. The ability to scribble in the margins can be liberating.
- I came across a sticker at the front of my Collected Works of Shakespeare the other day. It said, "Susanna Armstrong, Class Prize, 1984." Print books have a history and a story. This makes them more than words.
- I adore book stores. And they're educational places. It is exciting to be able to scan the bookshelves, picking up books, looking through them. I like being able to feel how long a book is, by weighing it in my hands.
- There's nothing like a beautiful cover. Kindle doesn't do this justice, especially on mine, which is black and white only.
- When my father died, it was a while before I was able to handle his things without pain. But once I could, his books were important. They had been touched by his fingers, his memories, and sometimes, his notes. Books are tactile possessions, items we treasure and make our own.
But that doesn't mean the Kindle isn't a wonderful instrument. Perhaps someday, when I'm dead and gone, a loved-one will pick up my Kindle and say, "Ah yes. She loved this. Oh, the stories we shared..."