Saturday, January 24, 2009

My Argument For The Kindle

This morning, when I woke up at 1pm, I decided that I needed to relax for a while by taking a bike ride to Aroma cafe to get a fancy breakfast burrito, coffee, people watch and catch up on my reading. I've been reading a lot lately, but I'm not very good at focusing on one thing at a time, so I'm in the middle of 6 books and 1 magazine article. Most days I carry my computer with me everywhere I go, but when you're already toting 6 books, a five pound laptop is the last thing you want in your bag.

Now I realize my previous post got a little bit of a heated discussion going by the book loving community, but look at this, it's ridiculous:
It's no secret that I'm an environmentalist, and I'm not suggesting that the Kindle is a more environmentally friendly option than actual books - who knows how much copper, coltan, mercury, and other heavy metals go into the production of the device. And books are obviously far more bio-degradable. I'm just saying that for the avid reader, a digital reading device really frees up some satchel space. And Christina, I'm not trying to threaten your profession. I ran my fingers over the raised type on the dust-jacket of "Captivating" - it was nice. But I'm reading the book to "unveil the mystery of a woman's soul," not just to admire the lovely cover.

I understand that those of us who have grown up reading traditional books find it hard to imagine reading out of a plastic box, but for the new guard, I think it's going to be common-place. I for one, have 10 rubber tubs, weighing in at about 500 pounds, waiting in my closet for the library I will one day have in my palatial estate. But on afternoons like today, I'd rather carry one tiny device, than have to lug around a sack of books while navigating L.A. roads on my bicycle.

I just wish the Kindle was a little more affordable.


crackers and cheese said...

Remember that video of a filmmaker (I think it was David Lynch) that you posted a while back, saying something about watching movies on your "f'ing phone"? I sorta feel the same way about the Kindle. I know they say the digital pages look just like book pages, but they sure don't feel like them, you can't turn them, and you can't underline them with the pencil in your purse. I've tried reading articles online, and it doesn't work for me other than for skimming, I inevitably print them out, though I know that I'd save money by reading them on my computer.

Plus, there's the price. Not just the price of the machine, but paying $9.99 or more for digital books, not even books that are bound. Most of the books I own were given to me, or I bought for less than $5 at half price books. I still use the library to get books for pleasure reading, and I borrow books from friends. Books are expensive, and I have a very hard time with the idea of spending that money on merely digital books. If I buy a book, I want to keep it on my shelf, and underline it, and loan it out to friends. If digital books went down in price, say to $3 or $4, then I'd certainly consider this as an option.

Them's my thoughts on the kindle. This coming from someone who just in the past year started buying more mp3s instead of CDs, but I still think books are different.

Anton said...

Allow me to rebut:

While the Lynchian metaphor seems to work upon first glance, I have to say, movies are much different than books in their delivery. First of all, movies are shot on a particular format, be it 35mm film, digital cinema technologies or DV video. This summer, a camera with be put on the market by the people who make Oakley sunglasses, called The Red Epic. This camera will shoot on an uncompressed format in 6k, meaning that the image it produces will be over 6,000 pixels wide, or 18 million pixels in depth. Standard HD right now is less than 2k, meaning you see 2 million pixels in an image. Your Iphone on the other hand is about 480 by 360 pixels wide, or 172,800 pixels in depth. And not only that, but the pictures it displays have to first be compressed to inferior mpeg codecs, to make the file size more manageable. So to take a picture, reduce it 104 times, compress it and try to get the same experience, is just a tragedy. Not only that, but movies are designed to be experienced by groups, whereas books are made for individuals.

I remember being in 8th grade, weighing about 90 pounds are carrying my backpack, filled up with 7 giant text books. The bag was so overloaded that the straps ripped off. And this was a rugged skateboarding backpack. Imagine if all those books were on a Kindle!

I am willing to bet that when Gutenburg invented the printing press, many a scribe and nobleman was up in arms that 500 pages could be printed using moveable type, rather than being penned painstakingly by a calligrapher. And now many people such as myself can barely write with a pen (save one Jay Vegors, who used to right golf tourney scores in calligraphy). Is this a tragedy as well?

In college, I had a friend who was in a book making class. She gave me a book that she hand-bound as a gift. The pages were made of real flower pedals, I kid you not. So as a collector, I appreciate that, but I'm no less likely to absorb the ideas in a book made of flowers, than I am to appreciate one written in digital ink.

Books are about the ideas and the eloquence, not the medium. The price we pay for them is based on the fee for the author as well as the binding. I often wait until books come out in paperback so that I can pay 70 percent less to own them. I don't mind paying the author for their work, but I don't like paying more to own a heavier volume.

All this is coming from a guy who doesn't even own a digital reading device yet. I'm just trying to be a forward-thinker.

By the way, I love you guys so so so much. I hope you know that :)

Anonymous said...

We bought one for my 11 year old son for Christmas. He LOVES it! He does till however check out books from the school library and borrow books from friends. He is truely a lover of reading and I'm happy for him to read electronically and traditional books. And you can make notes on your reading with the Kindle and I second the idea of replacing heavy text books my son weighs 74 lbs and his backpack weights almost as much as he does when packed with text books.

BRICE BAUM said...

Yeah I've been working at Oink for maybe 3 weeks? I only work on the weekends and yes, James does get to rest on Saturdays now. Hopefully I can get the Facebook page looking nicer soon. The videos you make are excellent. Hope all is well in Cali.

mirandaray said...

how is Che?

Nathan said...

I realize that this post is now a few days old, but reading it I felt, nonetheless, compelled to add my two cents. As a graphic designer, I suppose my relationship to the printed word is not ordinary, just as your relationship to film is not ordinary. You claim that film transferred to phone is vastly different from print transferred to screen, and in many ways it, no doubt, is, particularly for one so versed in the medium as yourself. However, to your average movie watcher, a film is not about the nuances of production that you are so keen on, but rather about some method of effortlessly filling their mind for a time. For them, there is no major loss in the transfer. The film industry was up in arms over the VCR as well, for it altered the purity of presentation that they felt they had a right to. Has this harmed film? Yes, of course. The one true way to see a film is as it was intended to be seen. Has this furthered film, introduced film to a broader group of people, allowed us to carry fifty pounds of reels in a backpack and watch movies in remote places, in unusual ways? Yes it has. Then has this harmed film?

Now allow me to defend the book. You treat the page narrowly as a pedestrian might treat a film. A book is not words slapped on a page just as a film is not images slapped on a screen. It is not experienced in a vacuum. Readers may rarely appreciate the amount of work and consideration that goes into the production and printing of a book, but that does not render the effect void. Consider the typeface and its visual and historical implications, the weight of the book in the hand, the taughtness of the binding, the cover design which introduces us and continues to supplement our understanding of the written word. A book is just as legitimate an experience as a film. It IS about the medium and imbued within that medium is an inherent message, a message we mustn't blithely disregard for convenience sake.

Consider also the activation of the senses. Theory holds that more activated senses can increase the ability to learn. Films engage the viewer visually and aurally. Viewing a film in a cinema may also add smell and taste to the mix. Books engage the visual, tactile, and olfactoral senses in unique ways. I can't imagine being enamored with either the smell nor the feel of a Kindle. It renders these senses null. This, I believe, is a loss. The question we must ask is 'are we willing to make this sacrifice?'

You mock the scribes who, perhaps, saw with horror, the automation of the printing press. I suggest that they were right to be indignant. They were just as right as those who decried email as dehumanized and cold. They are right. Words are merely messengers, symbols of meaning. They have no essence. Handwriting is a messenger as well. It can carry heavy symbolic meaning. We might say that it is a language carrying a language. The method in which a word is rendered can drastically transform the received meaning of the word, though the dictionary may claim otherwise. I'll assert even that the chosen method of writing has much more transformative power than the chosen method of displaying a film.

I'll close by saying that none of this is either good nor bad. Or rather the goodness or badness can only be determined subjectively by the viewer/reader according to his or her intention. If you merely want a way to pass the time on the commute, a compressed film will do the job. If you only want information, then the Kindle will do. But if what you want is an experience, then damn technology and damn convenience. You must seek experience and only experience.

Anton said...

First of all Nathan, great use of the word "pedestrian."

Second, I received a hand written letter from my 87 year old grandmother today that was just beautifully crafted, on stationary, by her shaky hand. The way she wrote my full name on the outside of the envelope was incredible. She crafted the "S" in a way that I could never replicate with my own poor penmanship.

I like what you had to say about experience. One of my favorite places in the world is the British Library, where one can view 1,000 year old copies of handwritten Biblical text. I don't mock the scribe, I'm just embracing the technology even in the face of what we're losing. I have a feeling we'll either have to go back to antiquated living-styles or perish.

I love graphic design and hand-drawn, hand-painted images. I've seen Van Goghs all over Europe and even gone so far as to smell the canvas. It's not quite the same to look at a printed poster.

mirandaray said...

Nathan wins best argument, in my occassionally humble opinion.

good topic anton.

Martha Elaine Belden said...

totally ditto'ing what miranda said. i had all these thoughts and imagined writing them. and then i read nathan's response and decided nothing more needs to be said.

plus. no way i've ever been able to say anything so eloquently and succinctly.

but for the record... i agree with him. still stuck on "no" as far as digital books. fine for others... not so much for me.

:) love you, too.

Martha Elaine Belden said...

p.s. captivating? ugh. i'm totally not a fan. i think it's grossly stereotyping girls and making blanket assertions that just aren't true.

but that's just me. it's definitely worth reading to analyze how wrong it is. just don't believe it's really a good map of the woman's soul or psyche.