Opinion and Publishing and Viewpoint and Communications

FAENZI: Can Kindle and books co-exist?

September 26, 2009

While on a long flight recently, I noticed that the woman sitting next to me was using a “Kindle,” the e-book device that allows one to download books and click through pages.

Compact, perky and upright, the Kindle presents itself just as Amazon markets it: an efficient, high-tech, cost-effective tool that does away with some elements of books—like weight and the need to hold onto something.

I have to confess, my heart sank while this innocuous activity was taking place mere inches from me.

As beverages were being handed to us, I asked her how she liked using it.

She enthusiastically responded and said the best thing about it was that she could load more than 1,000 books on Kindle. She could access any newspaper instantly.

“It is just so, you know, efficient,” she exclaimed.

I had a few hours to ponder this and wondered why I felt discouraged by her comment. After all, efficiency is touted as being highly attractive when it comes to getting things done. I suppose so.

As a writer and an avid reader myself, I am simply in love with paper. I love the smell of it, the touch of it. I love writing on it. While I was in Italy writing a book, I wrote the stories in longhand, not wishing to lug around a laptop. Writing on paper slows you down, allows for new thoughts and inspiration to filter through. (Efficiency is not usually seen as being a desirable goal in Italy.)

Sitting in a café, watching passersby and reading the current edition of Corriere della Sera, I cannot imagine sipping espresso with a Kindle propped up in front of me. (You can’t flirt with someone from behind a Kindle.)

I like to read in bed, too, and sinking down under the covers with the cold Kindle just doesn’t seem appealing. If I fall asleep reading, a book just sort of falls away gently, too.

But then, I remember trying to read on the subway, handbag and briefcase or satchel slung over my shoulder, jostling among my fellow riders, holding onto a heavy book and trying to figure out how to turn a page.

Now, that might be the place for Kindle—and yes, maybe on an airplane, too.

Will the day really come, though, when bookshelves will disappear and we will simply place our library within the confines of a box? Will great places like The Strand in New York and other independent bookstores evaporate because every book ever written can be acquired online?

Yes, yes, yes. It’s efficient, some will say and I do believe there are times and places for this technology. I am not a complete Luddite. But I mourn the fading away of the tangible, the sensual—books, newspapers, letters.

We may be more efficient as a society, but we pay a high price for it.

As I tried to make the peace with Kindle in my mind, I glanced over at my flying companion, intending to say something supportive about this new way of reading, and noticed she had put the Kindle away and was holding a paperback in her hands.•

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Faenzi is an author and speaker and is vice president of business development for Rowland Design. She may be reached at cfaenzi@rowlanddesign.com.

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