Ah Kindle, how the literati hate you, or sing your praises. Two years ago, when the first version was released, Dana posted about them and I made my feelings clear in the comments section. Well, it’s been a few year and we now have Kindle 2.0. My feelings haven softened, but not really changed.
I do not really want a Kindle at the moment for a few reason:
1. They are expensive. Do you know how many books I can buy with that money?
2. There’s not (yet) a mechanism yet for sharing Kindle books. If I buy a Kindle book, I can’t loan it to my friends and I can’t check out a Kindle book from the library. (I can check out other e-books from the library–can I read these on my Kindle? I don’t know. Do you?)
3. I fear reading a Kindle in the bathtub, which is the best place to read books ever.
4. Books smell good. And they’re pretty as objects.
5. Do they have an optional back light yet? While I do like that there isn’t one there by default, it would nice to have one so you can read in the dark.
6. Seriously dude, expensive.
I think some of these objections will fall away with later versions– price will fall, I’m sure we’ll figure lending out…
BUT! Over at Marginal Revolution today, another problem presents itself that I never thought of–
We can’t see what you’re reading, and you can’t signal things with what you’re reading.
I’ve posted before about judging you by your books.
So, on one hand this is nice–I can read all the Gossip Girl and Twilight I want on the metro and no one will know and so I won’t feel weird about it. On the other hand, how are you supposed to pick up chicks in the coffee shop by conspicuously displaying your copy of Ulysses?
Sitting at the coffee shop reading a Kindle shows that I’m an early adopter of technology. Doing the same thing, but reading the newspaper in print shows something different and it shows something different if I’m reading a textbook, or if I’m reading Oprah’s latest pick, or if I’m reading in a foreign language, or if I’m reading Twilight, of if I’m reading Mao’s Last Revolution, or if I’m reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. All those minor distinctions, which make people watching so much fun, are lost, because if you’re using a Kindle (or, let’s me honest, ANY e-book reader thing) I’m not looking at you as a reader, but as a technology user.
Discovering you and your partner need to break up over literary tastes will be harder now. It is so much easier to discover the object of your affection is in love with your of your literary deal-breakers if you can, you know, scan his bookshelves.
And now what will I do when I come over to your house? I can no longer look at how many bookshelves you have and what’s on them to help me discover your character.
I like the signals I send based on the book I’m reading. I actually do enjoy the silliness of deciding what book to bring based on the signals I want to send. I like that once you are invited into my house, you can see my full shelves and get a much more complete picture of my interests, my likes, my professional duties, and who I am. The amount of space devoted to shelves says something about me. The amount of books falling off those shelves says something about me. What those books are say a lot about me.
All those things together say a lot more about me than a Kindle does, or ever can. Sometimes, the privacy of a Kindle is a nice thing, but the overall picture I present to the world with my books isn’t something I’m willing to give up yet.