Should I Feel Bad About My Kindle?

December 30th, 2009

KindleThis year I got a Kindle for Christmas. Released by online bookseller Amazon in 2007 and upgraded in 2009, the Kindle is an electronic book that is perceived in many quarters as the death knell of the printed word, as much of a threat to physical paper books as Amazon was to brick-and-mortar bookstores.

Like a lot of people, I didn’t know I wanted a Kindle until I held the darn thing in my hands. Sitting at the dining table, I downloaded a free book in seconds (“The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). A few seconds later I was turning pages, lost in Dr. Watson’s narrative of his brilliant, eccentric, drug-addled friend.

Okay, I wasn’t turning pages: I was pressing a button with the words “NEXT PAGE” on it. The word “PAGE” is also a misnomer: Digital paper is closer to the truth. And even though said paper appears within a vertical, rectangular screen, the screen projects no light, which means it’s easy on the eyes and, like a book, requires a light source in order to be read. Font too small? You can make it bigger with the click of a button. Dozing off as you chase Holmes and Watson through the London fog? Flick a switch and the thing goes into sleep mode, automatically saving your place before powering down.

This should go against everything I stand for as a writer and editor at After all, an entire section of our site is devoted to antique books, first editions, signed books, cookbooks, science fiction titles, and biographies, to name but a few. Isn’t the Kindle my enemy?

I’m not so sure. I now have almost instant access to hundreds of thousands of titles, many of them free since they are old enough to be in the public domain. That means I have fewer excuses than ever not to plug the countless holes in my lifetime reading list. Holes like “Sherlock Holmes.” In fact, the whole experience sort of makes me want to find a nice old copy of the 1890s classic, which, according to our interview with rare book collector and appraiser Ken Sanders, I probably shouldn’t read anyway. “Don’t read it in the tub,” is his tongue-in-check advice about the care of a collectible book. Hmmm. I’m pretty sure that also applies to my Kindle.

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