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Crossing the Kindle Threshold

No, I didn't go out and buy one, the gadget that is. But I did follow through on a commenter's suggestion of downloading Kindle ebooks from Amazon onto my netbook. I chose a freebie of course. Buying books is a "bridge too far".

I firmly rejected the option of reading the eBook in the over-hyped "cloud" since that requires an internet connection, the very thing I want to liberate myself from. Instead, I opted to download the Kindle eReader onto my (Windows PC) netbook and to do the same with the eBooks themselves, since an internet connection is only needed during the downloading process, itself. Soon I was using it on a free classic, Samuel Johnson's Preface to Shakespeare. By his own admission he could write a preface to anything, even a cookbook, and the preface would be more popular than the book, proper.

There is no "Edit" tool at the top of the screen; to copy a juicy quote you must highlight it first and then right-button for copy and search capabilities. Thank goodness for that; otherwise I would have pronounced the Kindle eReader worthless. I smiled with satisfaction to recognize certain quotes from this famous preface, such as:
Shakespeare is above all writers, at least above all modern writers, the poet of nature; the poet that holds up to his readers a faithful mirrour of manners and of life.

Johnson, Samuel (2004-04-01). Preface to Shakespeare (Kindle Locations 37-38). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.
The copy function automatically dragged over the acknowledgement to Kindle. I'm not sure why this is necessary since this Preface is in the public domain. But to quibble over this would be an example of another famous quote from Johnson's Preface, "the petty cavils of petty minds."

This same classic Preface is available from, and downloadable in various formats that make for pleasant reading, including the Kindle format. But I prefer to download books from Gutenberg as plain text files so that I can fully edit them, that is, expurgate them. Such files aren't as easy on the eyes as the Kindle format, however.

In posts past I have argued that expurgation -- or as the reader, Samuel Johnson, was accused of: "ripping the book's heart out" -- is a fundamental qualitative improvement in the process of reading. This notion was unpopular with my readers, who apparently are too comfortable being apologists for the publishing industry and venerating the traditions of reading. Apparently the vaunted Progress that we worship today must be restricted to mere quantitative improvements, to matters of convenience, megabytes, and gigahertz. Nor will all the gadgets in the world bring any qualitative improvement to the content of books.

The Kindle eReader shows up as a shortcut-icon on my desktop; it's a fellow sitting under a tree, reading. If only that were true. This time of year many snowbirds sit out in a chair, outside their RVs in places like Quartzsite or Yuma, reading books. I've never had any luck reading outdoors; there are too many distractions.

Nor can I imagine reading in bed with old eyes. In fact my sleepy eyes can't even watch a DVD movie; the eyes close while the ears rock the baby to sleep.

But perhaps it is more comfortable to hold a tablet in the hand while eReading. A clamshell display might hold the words at a distance not quite perfect; and you must sit erect in an office chair to look at it.


Terri Johnson said…
I love my Kindle 3G, I do use it to read in bed when I can't sleep.

I also have the ereader but there is a problem, I am a book hoarder so I have over 800 free titles, the ereader crashes when you get up in those numbers, with no way to open it up and repair it.

The Kindle handles everything fine though.

Won't be going to the Kindle Fire anytime soon, they don't have a 3G model, and we are often where there is no wifi.

Enjoy the classics, Gutenberg is great, make sure you check out the free titles on Google Books too, have found a great deal of obscure literature that helps me in my historical research.
TomInBellaVista said…
Reading outdoors, zero gravity chair, kindle... it has a certain sense of inevitability doesn't it?

Tom in Orlando

On 3G access to books, the free books available from my library for my kindle wont load via 3G. You are restricted to downloads via Wifi. Amazon controls this and I don't know of any work around.
Wow, must be something new, haven't downloaded a book in a few months, will have to give it a try!
I knew it was too good to last!
Anonymous said…
I also find it difficult to read outdoor due to distractions. But I read in bed all the time with my small 14" laptop. I am near-sighted, so without glasses, the 16" or so distance between the laptop screen and my eyes is just right. I am writing this right now in bed with the laptop's keyboard edge on my stomach, its screen folded back to a 135-deg angle from the keyboard and resting against my knee.

Ah, it's comfortable, and I have never been interested in a tablet. I guess nearsightedness finally pays off in one's old age.