inTouch: The Kindle, Unplugged
People have been buzzing about the news that Amazon says more people are buying Kindle e-books than paper books. Smartplanet.com reports that “Since April 1, for every 100 print books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 105 Kindle books.” This figure includes books that aren’t available on the Kindle, but does not include Kindle books that are available for free.
As a culture, we knew this day would come, but we still seemed surprised by it and are still trying to explain it to ourselves. So we really admire the creativity of Rachel Walsh, a second-year student at Cardiff School of Art & Design, who–when given the task to “explain something modern/internet-based to someone who lived and died before 1900″– decided to explain a Kindle to Charles Dickens. She managed to visually capture the essence of this phenomenon that many of us can hardly explain to ourselves.
An e-reader is not just a container for one book, but a container for many. And like your home library, your e-book library will grow and change over time. Amazon chose an apt name for this product since the word “kindle” can mean to start a fire or stir things up. The appearance of Amazon’s Kindle did stir things up—some people got interested in reading in a portable electronic format and competitors got stirred up to produce their own e-readers.
In Charles Dickens’ time, a book could be used to stir up imagination, to light a fire in the mind or, if necessary, to get an actual blaze going. I recently attended a panel where fiction writers were asked about what books they’d take on a deserted island. One person said this was the time for an e-reader, since you could take a large number of books. However, another joked an e-reader would be of little use if you needed to start a fire.
Some of us cling to the idea that an e-book will never replace the tactile experience of reading a paper book. Is that you? Or have you tried an e-reader and found that you like the convenience it offers, despite the changes in your reading experience?