Here’s the thing. I’ve become deeply attached to my Kindle Fire. I can watch Orange Is the New Black on it while I work out. I can play the twentysome games of Words With Friends I’ve got going at any given time. I can read The Washington Post—helpfully delivered free for a trial period by the very thoughtful Jeff Bezos, who now owns the venerable publication. I can look at the fashion magazines I used to subscribe to physical copies of. I can find recipes for my weekend cookfests (the chili-polenta dish I tackled last week was delicious). I can impulse buy (that little clothes steamer is a marvel)….
However, the thing I seem to do the least on my Kindle these days is read the more than 300 books stored in it. Part of the problem is that, while I am a fan of digital content and really appreciate how much kinder this device is to my perennially aching back—which, of course, got that way from a lifetime of lugging around hardcovers and manuscripts and hunching over thousands of pages (my eyesight is bad too)—I still prefer the heft and feel of the paper product.
As this piece in The Guardian tells us, we actually absorb less information electronically because part of the reading experience involves an array of sensory input that helps us recall the physical space the words appeared in (as well as our own physical space) while immersed in the narrative. I used to pride myself on my idiot savant ability to find a passage in a paperback I’d read 20 years ago fairly quickly by visualizing where in the book I’d come across it. You can’t really do that on a Kindle or other e-reader, as these devices flatten the reading experience and turn it oddly two-dimensional. Also, my Kindle doesn’t smell like anything other than plastic and maybe nail polish remover that I spilled on it while using it as a platform to do my nails. Real books smell like musty old shops, like winter evenings, like nostalgia, like adventure.
My point is that I need to learn to read better on my digital devices and I need to do more of it. Because with all of the distractions (see my first paragraph above) these devices allow and foster, it feels like books are an afterthought. And, I don’t mean to be overly dramatic but when books become an afterthought, civilization as we know it is over.
So, given that e-reading is better for my back, I’m going to make a concerted effort to get more acquainted with the book side of my Kindle. If nothing else, it should save me money on all the duplicate copies of titles I have lying around my house and hibernating in the Cloud. What about you guys? Do you have these problems or is it just me?