Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Amazon has recently launched its e-reader, the Kindle. Many people have been touting all the positives of never having to resort to printed books again. The Kindle lets you download over 88,000 titles directly from Amazon's site, no hook up to a computer necessary, and at $9.99 a book, they're certainly cheaper than physical ones. It has Internet capabilities, which don't require a Wi-Fi connection- they instead run on the same networks that cell phones use for the Internet. You can change the font size of the books you're reading, store thousands of books on it between the internal memory and a memory card, and with the use of E-Ink it doesn't feel like you're reading a "screen." You can even subscribe to newspapers and blogs. I'm sure mine would be your first choice.
As much as people have been praising this device, I remain skeptical. I would not cope well with reading a screen, no matter how "book-like" it is. When interviewed about his experience with Kindle, James Patterson said "The baby boomers have a love affair with paper. But the next gen people, in their 20's and below, do everything on a screen." Exactly, Patterson. My whole day is spent looking at a screen. I look forward to the time when I don't have to look at one. Plus, the Kindle is kind of big and ugly.
Being so connected to this device offers almost unlimited possibilities. Being able to (eventually) read all the books ever written, to be able to read one thing and then automatically read something that contests it, being able to go between all books, newspapers, magazines, websites, and many other historical and literary documents is almost unfathomable to me. It is truly an amazing idea. However, the main thing I like about a book is how it's so simple. When I read one, only one thing is going on. It's one of the few times during my day that I'm not multitasking. As nice as it may be to be holding something that has access to every piece of literature, how distracting would that be to people of our generation, who rarely do one thing at a time? The book as it is now is the one thing that can distract me from everything else, and I like my one-at-a-time only option.
And lest we forget the physical bookshelves. The book nerd in me can't wait to have a huge, towering bookcase (preferably high enough to require a ladder to get to the top shelves). There's some sort of pride to be had in seeing all the books you've read and being able to take one and give it to a friend. Being able to dog-ear favorite pages or write in the margins. What would I do with a Kindle? Display it on my desk? Although I do think the environmental benefits of having our books electronic would be great- I'd rather unplug the appliances I'm not using, drive an electric car, buy all those ugly fluorescent bulbs and wash my clothes in cold water only to keep my paper books. That's how serious I am.
New books for just $9.99? What a deal! But there has to be a catch, right? That would be advertising. Although it's not used in books now (thank God), and Amazon isn't putting advertisements in the Kindle right now, there have been talks about "advertiser-supported books." So does this mean that on the top of every chapter page we might face an ad to scroll through to get to the next plot twist? Or are Hemingway, Dickens and Plath going to be brought to us by BMW, Target and Tide? I'm sure advertisers will stay away from the Kindle for awhile, but I suspect if it gets very popular, they're going to want a piece of the pie. Advertising consumes every other part of our lives. I don't need to give examples of how advertising has infiltrated our lives, and the book is one place we can escape that, as well as everything else. Escaping real life by reading a book is a big reason people read. The creator of the Kindle, Jeff Bezos, asked himself the question of why he loves the physical objects that are books. "Why do I love the smell of glue and ink? The answer is that I associate that smell with all those worlds I have been transported to. What we love is the words and ideas." Now I will agree that I love the "words" and "ideas," but it's definitely not the glue smell that keeps me coming back for more. Being able to hold a book and see how far you've read, how much longer you have to go, going back to favorite parts, going back just in case you've missed a plot point, it all adds up to something. Just the presence of a book in your hand automatically makes people hesitate to interrupt you. This is because people can understand that books can devour your entire consciousness, and that's not something that should be interrupted. If we were holding another tech device, would anyone hesitate to bring you away from it? I doubt it.
Now I'm not against technology in any way. The first time I saw an Ipod in 2001 I was amazed. The first time I bought one (Ipod Mini- maybe one of the worst Ipods ever created- but still cool at the time) I was happy to throw my portable CD player and CD's to the back of my closet and hold all my music in the palm of my hand. But I can't ever see myself trading in my books- something that I've never felt any negative feelings for (except the badly written ones, which still in some way teach you something so they're not all bad) or ever thought of improving, for something battery charged. Even if it does hold a charge for 30 hours.
Something that also may (probably unfairly) mold my opinion is I tried the e-book thing awhile ago. I downloaded an e-book on my Palm Pilot years ago, and I hated it. Scrolling down and reading the tiny print was terrible. I gave up after only a couple of chapters. I'm not sure if that was E-Ink or not, but it definitely made me never want to explore the option of e-reading any further.
And what of Barnes and Noble? I know that if I'm ever at a real loss for something to do or just wanted to get out of my house, I could walk around Barnes and Nobel for a grotesque amount of time (but never head to the Starbucks counter. That stuff is disgusting). Usually, I don't buy anything. But I've noticed now that I have a real job I do spend money almost every time I go- even if I didn't have any intention of buying anything. I've bought books for friends, my boyfriend, my parents. If there wasn't that, what would I do? Email them an attachment from Kindle? Merry Christmas, please download this file! It's not the same.
What about the authors? The first time an author is published, I imagine the feeling of holding your first printed book could be like no other. Would the same feeling come the first time you saw it uploaded on Amazon? Without the physical book?
I realize I'm looking way into the future here- and a time when every single book is put into an electronic database is way off. However, even as a person who embraces technology this is something that I think I will oppose for a very long time. As many pluses as the Kindle may have, it's just not enough for me to put down my book.
If you want, read the Newsweek article on the Kindle. Also, for further reading, the New York Times wrote a good article on why we read.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Maureen Dowd on the Hilary/Obama experience wars...
"With all due respect," [Hilary] told a crowd in Iowa. "I don't think living in a foreign country between the ages of 6 and 10 is foreign policy experience."
But is living in the White House between the ages of 45 and 53 foreign policy experience?
Thursday, November 08, 2007
This morning on the news they were talking about how the cutting down of the tree for Rockefeller Center took much longer than usual. Why, you ask? Well, because this year they used hand saws instead of power saws, in order to be more "environmentally friendly."
This is really a great step because it just compliments the other environmentally friendly aspects of this tradition, which include cutting down a tree that has lived hundreds of years in order to be made a spectacle of and then later leave it to die. Yeah, it's good thing they took care of those power saws.
In better news, Rupert Murdoch lost some money this year! This is just the beginning of what will hopefully be a dream come true for me: that he will someday lose everything he owns and be left sleeping in a doorway somewhere, regretting the fact that he ever imposed on us the Fox News Channel.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Special thanks to Laura S for making me aware of this. Enjoy.
It's Only Tuesday
The Onion | Issue 43∙42
WASHINGTON, DC—After running a thousand errands, working hours of overtime, and being stuck in seemingly endless gridlock traffic commuting to and from their jobs, millions of Americans were disheartened to learn that it was, in fact, only Tuesday.
"Tuesday?" San Diego resident Doris Wagner said. "How in the hell is it still Tuesday?"
Already the week is unbearable for these New Yorkers awaiting a subway train, and it's only fucking Tuesday.
Tuesday's arrival stunned a nation still recovering from the nightmarish slog that was Monday, leaving some to wonder if the week was ever going to end, and others to ask what was taking Saturday so goddamn long.
"Ugh," said Wagner, echoing a national sense of frustration over it not even being Wednesday at the very least.
According to suddenly depressed sources, the feeling that this week may in fact last forever was further compounded by the thought of all the work left to be done tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and, if Americans make it that far, possibly even Friday, for Christ's sake.
Fears that the week could actually be going backwards were also expressed.
"Not only do Americans have most of Tuesday morning to contend with, but all of Tuesday afternoon and then Tuesday night," National Labor Relations Board spokesman David Prynn said. "If our calculations are correct, there is a chance we are in effect closer to last weekend than the one coming up."
Added Prynn: "Fuck."
Believe it or not, it's not even goddamn lunchtime yet for these commuters in Southern California.
Reports that this all has to be some kind of sick joke could not be confirmed as of press time.
Isolated attempts to make the day go faster, such as glancing at watches or clocks every other minute, compulsively checking e-mail, hiding in the office bathroom, fidgeting, or reading a boring magazine while sitting in the waiting room, have also proven unsuccessful, sources report.
The National Institutes of Standards and Technology, which oversees the official time of the United States, is flatly denying that it has slowed or otherwise tampered with Tuesday's progression.
"The current Tuesday is keeping apace with past Tuesdays with no more than one ten-thousandth of a second's variation at the most," NIST spokeswoman Dr. Geraldine Schach said. "However, I sympathize with the common consensus that this week has already been a colossal pain in the neck."
Labor Secretary Elaine Chao released a statement addressing widespread speculation that it might as well be Monday for all anyone cares.
"We understand this day has been tough on many of you, what with meetings mercilessly dragging on and an entire stack of files still left to organize," Chao's statement read in part. "Yet we urge Americans to show patience. The midweek hump is just around the corner, and we have strong reason to believe that Saturday will be here before you know it."
"Go about your lives as best you can," the statement continued. "Do not, we repeat, do not take a sick day, as it'll make the rest of the week that much harder to endure."
In the meantime, citizens are doing their best to cope with the interminable week, though Tuesday is still hours away from ending.
"The more I try to speed it along, the longer it almost seems to take," said Dale Bouchard, a Chicago-based broker who has been waiting for today to be over since it first began earlier this morning. "Honestly, today could not have come at a worse time this week."
In the meantime, the latest wristwatch consultations indicate that it is somehow still Tuesday, if that makes any sense at all.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
When my mom told me that Stephen Colbert was running for President, I didn't believe her and figured she got her names mixed up, as she seems to be doing a lot lately. But it turned out she was right. He was running for president, even though it was just in South Carolina, as a Democrat and Republican. I thought it was a hysterical joke, as did many other people. And even though I love Colbert just as much as the next guy, I knew he had no chance at all to win. However, I was shocked when th New York Times reported:
Stephen Colbert pulls down 13 percent of the vote in a national telephone poll, conducted by Rassmussen Reports, that pits him as a third-party candidate in a three-way November election with Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. Joshua Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo is more intrigued, however, by the detail that, among voters between the ages of 18 and 29, Colbert receives more support than Giuliani (or than Fred Thompson, when Thompson is cast as the Republican nominee).
In the Democratic polls, he actually came out ahead of Bill Richardson and Joe Biden, who actually are running for president.
I'm assuming that the people who voted for him in those polls were just kidding. Hopefully there's nothing to be said by the fact that he was beating out real candidates for awhile. Although, if he did make the primary's it would make for some very funny debates.