Hello, Mr. Kindle
Well, I did it. I bought a Kindle. For those who think "kindle" is what you do with little pieces of wood to start a fire—kindling—a Kindle, Capital K, is a computerized portable reading machine, an e-book reader. It's flat, it has a screen and a bunch of buttons, and you can read books, newspapers and other things on it. Reading material gets delivered by wireless connection from the Internet or from you can transfer documents from your computer to the Kindle. Some of it is free. A lot of it costs money but not as much money as a printed book.
Now why, you might ask (and I'm thinking of my dad here) would a person want this as opposed to books? Good question. Have you noticed how heavy my suitcase is when I come to visit? That's because I always have several books and a pile of papers in it. With the Kindle, I can carry hundreds of books on this little gizmo that weighs almost nothing. More room in the bag for presents for you. Or snacks for me.
So, the Kindle arrived on a Friday. I spent two hours reading the manual, which is of course on the Kindle. Part of that time, I was standing at the kitchen counter where the device was plugged in to charge the battery. When the amber light turned green, I was free to continue reading wherever I wanted. The commercials show you can even take it outside in the sun, but we haven't had any sun since I got the Kindle, and the manual discourages users from getting it wet in the rain and other damp situations.
Now that poses a dilemma for me. I like to read in the bathtub. Inevitably, I get my reading material wet, at least a few drops, no matter how hard I try to keep things dry. With my own paperback books and magazines, I don't care. I try not to read library books in the tub, but if I'm really caught up in the story . . . well, I'm careful. However, Mr. Kindle (I've decided it's male) must not go near the tub.
In fact, it shouldn't go anywhere in the bathroom, and I do tend to read there whether I'm brushing my teeth or doing something else.
And, I probably shouldn't use my Kindle at breakfast, where my grapefruit tends to spatter everything within three feet, and it's always possible I'll spill my Red Zinger tea. So this morning, instead of getting back to my book, I found myself reading the AARP bulletin with breakfast: Prosthetic knees, Medicare, prescription drug costs, finances for widows and widowers. Lovely morning reading. I could probably get the AARP Bulletin on the Kindle if I wanted it, but I get a certain satisfaction out of dumping it in the recycle bin (the bulletin, not the Kindle) when I'm finished skimming it.
Which makes me think I won't need as much space in the bin if I read most things on the Kindle, but then what will I wrap dead fish in . . . oh yeah, I don't have any dead fish. I just remember using the old newspapers for something . . . packing boxes? But I'm not moving. And no, I don't have a birdcage to line. . . .
I like reading on the Kindle. So far, I'm glad I bought it. I don't have to return the books to the library or figure out how to stuff them into my already crammed bookshelves. I can carry a whole bunch of reading material around at the same time, the pages are easy to read, and gradually I will stop having to go back to the manual to figure out how to do things. Like what? You can change the size of the type, you can look up words you don't know, and you can make notes right there in the machine. You can also share those notes with all your Facebook and Twitter friends, in fact with everyone else who has the same book. But why would I want to share my notes?
It is odd, however, not having a physical book. I like the feel and smell of real books. I remember how great it felt getting into the car after a trip to the old Campbell library with my mother and my brother. Each of us had a stack of books, hardbacks with crinkly plastic protective covers. We couldn't wait to start reading. In school, the day our Scholastic Book Club orders came in was like Christmas. For me, a bookstore is like Disneyland.
As an author, I have always wanted to fill a shelf with books I have published. I've made good progress, but a Kindle book doesn't exist as a physical thing. How can I fill my shelf with something that I can't touch?
Over the years, I have grown accustomed to hauling my books to readings, festivals, conferences, farmer's markets, and anyplace else I might be able to sell a few copies. I have some in the car right now. (And on sale at Books+. Click here.) If someone wants to see my book, I can just whip it out. How can I do that with a Kindle book?
Authors customarily autograph their books at readings, signings, etc. How can you autograph a book that is nothing more than a picture on a screen? Push a button and it's gone. What will authors sell and sign if the printed book goes away? Will we give out autographed cards code entitling the bearer to a download?
What will happen to bookstores and libraries? What if I want to give a book to someone for Christmas? You can't wrap a download. Sending a book in an email is just not the same.
As usual, I have more questions than answers. So why did I buy a Kindle besides the fact that I love electronic gadgets? Two reasons: More and more publications are coming to me as ebooks and PDFs, existing only in digital form, and it's a pain trying to read them on the computer. The other reason: I'm about to publish a book on Kindle, and I wanted to become thoroughly acquainted with how books appear there.
I grew up in the days of lead type and typewriters. I don't trust that anything on a computer will last forever. What happens when this Kindle falls apart or becomes obsolete? Amazon.com says it will store copies of all of the things I have purchased, but what if something happens to Amazon? I will not feel secure until I can hold my book in my hand.
I have old books that belonged to my parents and grandparents. I have ancient books from antique stores. Nothing I read on a Kindle can ever have the feeling of history that comes with these books. I will continue to buy books. If I love the book on Kindle, I'll want a copy to hold in my hands.
But I'm convinced that every book should be made available as an ebook AND a print book. If books are cheaper and easier to get, people will buy more of them. The Kindle is so fun that even for a bookaholic like me, I'm reading more than ever. Ebook sales are said to be higher than actual books. People who don't usually read are reading books when they can read them on a screen instead of a page.
Kindle, sold by Amazon.com, is not the only ebook reader. There are several other brands. You can also read e-books on your iPad and your "Smart Phone", as well as on your computer. Publishers, authors and readers have a lot of things to figure out, including how to get paid, how to protect copyrights, and how to preserve content over the long term, but anything that gets more people reading what we write has to be good.
P.S. One can also download games, such as Scrabble or Sodoku, on the Kindle. Don't let me do it.
Fred: He had another difficult month, with two more surgeries and many trips to doctors and hospitals. He is confined to a wheelchair and appears to be barely conscious most of the time. We can only pray that he feels relatively peaceful. On March 30, I found out that he will not be going back to Timberwood Court Memory Care Community. He needs more care than they can provide. For now, he is at Regency Albany. Stay tuned.
Sue: I have a new blog, Writer Aid, replacing the old Freelancing for Newspapers blog. I'm moving in new directions in my writing and want to address all types of writing here. The focus will be on providing information, inspiration and explorations for my fellow writers. I am nearing publication of a memoir called Shoes Full of Sand as an ebook (on Kindle and its brethren). If you click on the Sand link you can find out more about that project. Childless by Marriage will follow right on its heels as both e- and print book. I'm doing other writing and as much music as possible in between trips to Albany and various personal/household needs.
Annie: She's good, all 79 pounds of her, but she wishes she had somebody to play with while Sue is so busy with everything else. She's tired of rain but loves puddles, especially if they're deep enough to swim in. She got an ear infection rolling around in the muddy water, but it's mostly gone now.
Mink River by Brian Doyle, Oregon State University Press, 2010. As a writer, I want to keep this novel and study every section to figure out the magic, to learn from Doyle's poetic language, his weaving of story, theme and layers of history with plot, characters and setting to paint such a vivid picture that I am certain all of this really happened. I also despair of ever writing so well. As a reader, I don't ever want to finish the last page. Mink River is the story of a fictional town on the Oregon Coast where we meet Worried Man and Cedar.They run the Department of Public Works, which goes far beyond roads and water mains in their mission to serve wherever there's a need. One of their missions is to preserve the stories of their people, mostly Irish and the Native American. The tale expands to their families and to every one in the community: Maple Head, No Horses, the boy whose father beats him, the man who sells boxes and other containers, the priest, the doctor, the nun. We follow their stories and learn the stories of their cultures, not so different in many ways. The writing reminds me of Jose Saramago, the Portuguese author. Like him, Doyle does away with quotation marks, leaves some characters nameless, blends the realistic with the mystical, and gives beautiful lists of things like plants, animals, and the sounds the river makes. This is not a quick read, but it is a beautiful, wonderful book.
I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron, Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. This collection of light-hearted essays is much like Ephron's previous collection, I Feel Bad About My Neck. As with everything Ephron writes, it's not deep, but it's entertaining. In this one, we learn about her "Aruba," the place on the back of her head where her hair separates. We read her feelings about growing old, her experiences with Lillian Hellman, how her friends' Christmas dinners fell apart over bread pudding and mince pies, and more. One of my favorites is "The Six Stages of E-Mail," from joy at your first message to drowning in unsolicited ads for sex enhancements. Occasionally I weary of the wealthy New York culture she writes about, but overall it's fun.
Between Panic and Desire by Dinty W. Moore, University of Nebraska Press, 2008. My first Kindle book, this memoir is a quirky blend of humor, pathos and literature. Moore folds his own story into what was happening in our culture in the years he was growing up. We read about everything from Mr. Green Jeans and "Leave It to Beaver" to Bob Dylan and the Beatles. Moore tells about his rocky childhood, his early drug use, and how he got his unusual name. He includes several faux quizzes, as well as a report of his own death. It's strange but fun to read.
Dogged Pursuit by Robert Rodi, Hudson Street Press, 2009. If you're looking for a good dog story, read this true tale. Rodi adopts a weird-looking Sheltie named Dusty and decides to try him out in agility competition. They hit a few bumps along the way. This book is funny and full of dog-love. Rodi has an easy-going witty style that makes this book like the literary equivalent of your favorite ice cream. He has also written seven novels, plus plays, short stories and other works. Find out more at robertrodi.com.
The Artist's Guide to Grant Writing by Gigi Rosenberg, Watson-Guptill Publications, 2010. Portland, Oregon writer Rosenberg has put together a detailed book on how to apply for and win grants. It is NOT a list of grants, which I expected, and it is aimed at all kinds of artists, not just writers. It is definitely useful for those applying for grants. She takes you through the steps with examples and exercises. For me, what was most helpful about this book was the emphasis on clarifying one's goals and making a concrete plan. I also came away inspired by her upbeat, encouraging emphasis on persistence in the face of rejection.
April already! The year is one-quarter over, and I've barely gotten started. Do you feel the same way? Oh well. At least my taxes are done. If yours aren't, good luck with that.
Easter is coming. Remember that it's more than bunnies and chocolate.
Happy birthday to my cousin Tracy and everybody else celebrating this month.
Let's pray for the folks in Japan and for peace all over the world. May your life be filled with sunshine and spring flowers.
All contents copyright 2011, Sue Fagalde Lick
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