Wednesday, November 2, 2011


I have a Kindle in my possession. I did not buy it. I borrowed it from the university library where I teach. I got it because I needed to review a library book for a graduate class I'm teaching that was only available as an e-book. As luck would have it, the Kindle was not able to "accept" this e-book because of proprietary amazon issues.

I brought it home anyway, curious.

My children, Hudson (10) and Lily (7), love the Kindle. They think it's great fun to push buttons instead of turn pages. They like zooming around the menu, "bookmarking" their pages, and clandestinely hooking up to wifi. They've been reading fairy tales on it (it came preloaded with these) as well as Treasure Island. Once I came home from work and Hudson was sitting on the couch, reading on the Kindle while it was plugged in, charging. This struck me as strange, unsettling.

Last Saturday afternoon, I found myself finally with some free time to spend with the kids. I said, "Would you like me to read to you both?" and they said yes, then gathered on either side of me on the couch. The first book I read was Fly High, Fly Low by Don Freeman, about two pigeons who live in a big letter "B" atop a New York City building. It was an old discarded library book, hardback with a crunchy cellophane cover. We marveled at the muted oranges, reds, and purples of the sunset the illustrator must have done with charcoals. I ran my finger over one of the pages it was so beautiful.

Next, I read a fairy tale "Little Two Eyes" on the Kindle. I held the plastic rectangle between the two kids, and they argued over for got to push the "Next Page" button each time. There were no pictures. Both kids, I noticed, physically pulled away from me a bit until it was time to push "Next Page." And funny thing—we didn't really know when to stop. Was it a long story? I did notice there were numbers on the bottom of the Kindle, "11%, Locations 424-28, 3790." Were these page numbers? Or was I to assume we were 11% done with the story? Neither, I realized.

I've found myself reacting not against the Kindle, but instead, uninterested in the Kindle. It sits in the living room in its little black case, and though I glance at it, I have not yet been inspired to use it for my own reading. Why is that? I wonder. A. I'm at home. I have books everywhere, all around me. B. There are so many steps to reading on a Kindle. Turn on. Home. Menu. Select text. Press "next page" button. And then, reverse all of these steps when you're done. C. It's plastic and doesn't feel right in my hands. D. It's only the size of half a book. It's like reading a single page over and over. I prefer a two-page spread.

Here are some things you should know:

•I often go whole days without using my cell phone

•I do not have internet access on my cell phone

•I like to be alone a good portion of the time

•I write books of fiction and nonfiction

•I rarely answer our home telephone but stand and listen to who's on the machine

•I feel lonely quite often

•The university loaned me a Kindle 4, not the newest model, and certainly not a Kindle Fire

•I have what I call "The Panning Museum of Antiquated Technology" up in my attic, featuring things like old phones, sewing machines, primitive laptops, curling irons, ancient adding machines, a Rollodex

•"kindle" /verb/ definition: a. To light or set on fire. b. To arouse or inspire (an emotion or feeling)


  1. It sounds like you are definitely leaning towards not having one in the house. It isn't for everyone.

  2. Here's why I love this very thoughtful post: It has made me realize that my resistance to the Kindle has more to do with my nature than anything else great the Kindle has going for it. I am very careful about what goes into the visual attic of my brain. Being a painter I don't want to drag into the attic things that I do not need and will clutter or get in the way of what my goals are. At my home every room had a certain way it needs to be lit depending on the time of day. The routes I drive my car are based totally on aesthetic and time of day. The Kindle takes away this visual even though it is convenient and people love them!

  3. what my last comment lacked, was a note saying that i indeed really liked this post. sometimes it is really hard deciding on these things.

  4. You know I'm a library person. When I had Henry, my library people told me how they hoped he would be a library kid. While integrating technology is necessary to some degree in this field, I am also resistant to e-readers and not just because of the relatively frivolous expense.

    You've captured the essence of the literary experience, down to the "crunchy cellophane cover." I for one am staunchly unwilling to give up my bound books. I still think there's a market for the scent of old library books.

  5. hmmm intereting. i got one as well and i found that i do not use it as much as i had hoped. it is nice to know that someone else enjoys being alone at times and can go long periods of time without their cell phone! today it is hard to find anyone who is not so dependent on technology to be apart of their everyday life

  6. I sometimes wonder about an e-reader. I am sure I would find it a novelty at first. But then again, I have rebelled against the concept thus far. I love the feel of a book, the weight of it, the paper the pages are made of, the font, the scent of each page as I turn it over. Sometimes we have readings posted on the school web site as assignments. I find I cannot read them there. Instead, I save them to files and print them out. There, on a page, I can highlight, scribble, cross words out, and generally make the pages part of me. Some things just don't need to be pixelated.