Monday, February 08, 2010

On Books, Nooks and Kindles

Johann Gutenberg's use of movable type, in 1454, to print his magnificent 42-line Bible proved to be a seminal moment in human history.
University of Oxford
The first library for Oxford University [...] was housed in a room above the Old Congregation House, begun c.1320 on a site to the north of the chancel of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin [and in 1488 had a ] collection of more than 281 manuscripts, including several important classical texts.
History of the Bodleian
Julius Caesar, traveling in Gaul, found it useful to fold his scrolls concertina-style for quicker reference, as the Chinese also later did.

I don't remember when I bought my first Kindle, but now that I have it, I'd never be without it.

I take it everywhere I go - locally to and from work and around Manhattan on weekends, and to the gym. I took it when I vacationed in Stockholm last year. And it went with me to Detroit and around the Great Lakes in Michigan last fall.

At first I'd be the only one on the subway car or on the bus, who was reading from a Kindle. But in the past few months I've seen perhaps half a dozen other Kindle readers. And believe me, the numbers will multiply.

Interestingly, it is the avid readers who benefit most from owning a Kindle. A huge library is at our command. We can buy books, read them and leave them at Amazon. Classics, "out of copyright", such as all the novels of Jane Austins and Tolstoy are free. The Kindle's viewing screen is paperback size and is not back-lit, so there's no eyestrain. It's like reading ink print on paper.

You can annotate, bookmark and highlight text. I like the Kindle's "sample facility" which is the equivalent of opening a book in a store and glancing through the first pages. Free - and you get about a chapter downloaded in minutes if not seconds.

Reading in the Olden Days
Still there are doubters and naysayers. I hear comments like, "but I just love my paper books." I regard such comments as irrelevant. There's no one saying you can't have hardcovers or paperbooks. Just as no one told the sixteenth century people in Europe that they couldn't have illuminated manuscripts. And no doubt from 100 AD to 400 AD "codices" (pages rather than scrolls) were regarded with suspicion. I can imagine some guy in a toga lamenting the move to pages of papyrus from scrolls, sometime around 100 A.D.

This morning I finished reading Hilary Mantel's Eight Months on Ghazzah Street. I was on a bus about four blocks from work. I hit my home button on my Kindle to see what books I had waiting there. None interested me at the time and so I did a query on Hilary Mantel. A list came up just as the bus came to the stop nearest my work. I closed my Kindle.

Eight hours later on my way home I read sample pages of the books in my waiting list, along with those from Manetel's latest novels, which I'd queried in the morning. I chose Mantel's A Change of Climate: A Novel, bought it for $9.95, downloaded it, and read about half a chapter, until I was at the stop nearest home.

Yep. A Kindle ... or Nook ... or any electronic reading device is a must for voracious readers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Guess I'm still in the dark Ages.

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