Friday, December 11, 2015

Ms. Hen bids adieu to her Kindle

Ms. Hen and her to-read shelf

Three years ago Ms. Hen bought a Kindle as a Christmas present to herself. She was excited that she would join all the other people using this new technology. She bought the cheapest model available, not the Paperwhite or the Kindle Fire; she bought the bargain basement version, since at the time she did not have money to burn.

At first, Ms. Hen was excited to read books on her Kindle. She was happy she was up to speed with new things. She read lots of books on her Kindle. At first, she didn’t like that there were no page numbers, just the percentage she had read, but she got used to that after a while.

She really enjoyed reading on her Kindle at first. She told herself that she would read some books on her Kindle and some hard copy books, but she got so used to reading on the device that she preferred it to real books.

But then she started reading more hard copy books than on her Kindle.

And she realized that she likes reading real books better than on the device.

She thinks that the main reason she prefers books is that she is able to read better when she reads a book. She can comprehend better; she remembers better, and she digests the book better than on the Kindle. She can’t explain why. She thinks it might have to do with how the book is a tangible thing, and it might sink into her mind easier. It could have to do with the fact that a book is an item that people have been using for hundreds of years, and the computer is so new that we don't register the words on the device as well as paper.

She thinks that there is a good explanation of the idea of the book versus the Kindle in Sven Birkert’s collection of essays, CHANGING THE SUBJECT: ART AND ATTENTION IN THE INTERNET AGE. He talks about how reading devices like the Kindle and computers are ruining reading, and how he fears for the future of literature, among many other things.

Ms. Hen thinks her Kindle was good for two things: 1. It is very small, and it could fit into almost any bag or purse, including Ms. Hen. 2. It is good if she travels on a long vacation, so she doesn’t have to carry five heavy books with her on the plane.

What finally broke up Ms. Hen and her Kindle’s relationship was when she wrote her blog post about THE STORY OF A NEW NAME by Elena Ferrante. There is a part in the novel which mentions a chicken coop that Ms. Hen wanted to put in her blog post because she loves to mention the chickens in fiction, but she had to flip through her Kindle to find the exact quote and it exasperated her! She is a hen who doesn’t want to be bothered with searching through fifty percent of a book on a Kindle to find a quote about chickens. She threw her Kindle down in disgust. When she reads a book that contains a quote about chickens, she usually bookmarks the page, then goes back after she finishes.

Since that episode, Ms. Hen has not read any books on her Kindle. She buys books at bookstores and gets books from the library. She doesn’t want to throw her Kindle in the trash because she does not believe in being a wasteful hen, but she is not planning on reading anything on her Kindle any time soon.

Ms. Hen knows that she is not alone in her opinion of the Kindle. But she thinks there is a generation of young people who would prefer to read from a Kindle, an Ipad or a computer. She is afraid, like Sven Birkerts, of the death of books and the disappearance of the libraries of the world. She is holding onto her own small library for as long as she can, and hopes the readers of books will as well.

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