The Post-Kindle World

August 27, 2009 | 7 books mentioned 4 2 min read

coverToday represented some kind of personal tipping point. As if by prearrangement – or super-stealthy guerilla marketing plan? – the Kindle was everywhere I went.

First: a faculty meeting. More than one colleague praising the seductions of the e-Reader, as opposed to the good old book. Except who am I kidding? They didn’t use the term e-Reader. They used the term Kindle.

Then: the subway. I fell into the pleasurable habit of scanning the titles being read by my fellow travelers.

(The woman reading Bolaño switched halfway through my ride to a Kindle, on which she may or may not have continued reading Bolaño . I’m not making this up.)

Finally: Bryant Park. Right behind the New York Public Library. Summer Associates getting their drink on. Kindle. Abandoned newspaper. Coddled Kindle. Homeless man with obscenity scrawled on jacket. Kindle in handy Kindle carrier. Outdoor library. Outdoor Kindle.

I began to imagine a day where outdoor libraries won’t exist. Nor will my beloved newsstands (already struggling with cigarettes at $10 a pack). Indoor libraries will struggle even harder than they already do to justify their existence; everyone will be carrying her own. Well, everyone but the guy with the obscenity scrawled on his jacket. And Nosy Parkers such as myself will be unable to tell what anyone’s reading on mass transit. Except that they’re all reading on e-Readers.

covercoverThis day is doubtless drawing ever closer, but as a lover of newsstands, libraries, and ubiquitous dustjackets (remember, MTA riders, the month when everyone was reading Absurdistan? Remember the autumn of Oscar Wao?), I realized today that I’m not looking forward to it. Nor do I believe my life will be improved when putting down The Magic Mountain to check TMZ.com is as simple as clicking a button. Which is to say: I won’t make it past page 2 of The Magic Mountain. And also: I believe reading The Magic Mountain will improve my life. But the Kindle is just a tool! my colleagues insist. I want to remind them: when you’re carrying a hammer, everything starts to look like a Kindle. Er…nail.

is the author of City on Fire and A Field Guide to the North American Family. In 2017, he was named one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists.

4 comments:

  1. I’m avoiding the Kindle for an entirely different reason: DRM. When I want to read a book on paper, I don’t have to worry about digital encryption locking me out. I can even loan my book to a friend or sell it on eBay or give it away. The only reason why I might consider a Kindle is for newspapers, which I pretty much get for free online anyway.

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