Kindle: just kindling?

My mom is a planner and a worrier. That’s why she’s asking me to make a wish list—not only for Christmas, but also for my birthday, which falls days before the holiday.

I protested. I’m too old to be thinking about opening presents, and November is too early to be thinking about that sort of thing. My mother explained that a friend of hers had suggested getting me a Kindle. I have a reputation as a bookworm, but my mother knew to cross that off of my list.

The Kindle became available in Canada about a year ago. It’s an e-book reader: a piece of technology that’s no bigger than a book itself, with a screen that displays the text of a novel, magazine or newspaper.

I’m not bothered by other people wanting a Kindle, because I understand that it has practical value. But why is there a need for practicality when it comes to glorious books, when a few pages of text bring such comfort to me and make me feel so much smarter.

Books take up space, wear with age, and buying new ones inevitably means leaving the house. The Kindle is turning books into a high-tech pastime, where you have to download stories and stare at a single computer screen to read a novel. But this is what I don’t understand—how do people get enjoyment out of these things?

My childhood was spent staring at bookcases at the library, at the bookstore, at my house. Shelves of books that made up a rainbow of colours with fancy fonts and authors’ names that sounded exotic to an eight-year old.

I still remember the words of Goodnight Moon, and I Love You Forever still brings tears to my eyes.

The experience of opening a book for the first time is like no other. The crack of the spine, the smoothing of the pages, the crisp black text and the first folded page that acts as a bookmark. And don’t even get me started on that new book smell.

Books bring people together. As you sit on the bus or in-between classes reading a novel, someone recognizes the title and stops to chat with you. They declare their love for Little Women or ask you if you really think Wuthering Heights is as romantic as some perceive it to be.

That’s not possible with the Kindle, which has no front cover to recognize, or a title to indicate which fantasy world you’re immersed in. Even worse is that the Kindle cannot show the same physical declaration of use that a well loved book can. There isn’t the broken-in spine, the dog eared pages or even the strange stains that slowly accumulate on the pages over the years. Instead, the Kindle just has ugly scratch marks and dents that hint towards carelessness—and a need for a new edition instead of a much adored book.

This is not a complaint about technology, but a celebration of a childhood love that has become a central part of my adult life. Technology makes our lives more efficient, but books are not supposed to be efficient: they’re meant for a leisurely read on the beach with a cocktail under the sun.

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