Saturday, February 27, 2021

Losing My Kindle

Though you might be forgiven for assuming I'm giving up my ereader, based on the title of this post and the content of the last, in which I announced that I was deleting my Facebook and Twitter accounts, that is not the case. I have written here about how I am making an attempt to read fewer ebooks this year, opting for the printed page instead. (So far, so good. I've read 18 books this year, 10 have been of the paper variety.) But this post is not about that. No. I mean I literally lose my Kindle — very frequently. 

Oh, not permanently. Not usually for more than a few minutes. I'll inevitable find it made up inside the bed or under the bed (I read a lot before falling asleep, it seems) or in another room or perched on a counter or bookshelf. But it happens __a lot__, and it is annoying every time. Worst is the fear I feel when I am searching for it after the kids have gone to bed and I suddenly I recollect that the last place I can remember having it is in one of their rooms. Do I try and sneak in so that I can pick the novel I am reading back up at the place I left off the night before, or just read some random short story for the evening? Tough call. 

But I lose a lot of things. I used to lose my keys practically daily until we set a small metal basket on one end of the kitchen counter the purpose of which is to hold car keys and various other items. Somehow, this worked wonders! I still lose my wallet somewhat frequently. I hate sitting on the thing and so will take it out of my back pocket and then forget where I was sitting when I did so. I lose my phone. So perhaps it is not so curious that I lose my Kindle as often as I do.

Except, here's the thing. When I'm reading a hard copy of a book, that is one made of ink printed on paper and bound between covers, I practically __never__ mislay the thing. Ever. I might leave it in another room, but I always remember, with great accuracy, which room I left it in when it comes time to retrieve it. It might be under the bed, might have been pushed under there while I was making it, but I know that the last time I had it, I set it on the floor and it's not on the floor so therefore it must be under the bed and sure enough there it is! Et cetera et cetera.

I don't know exactly why this is. A book does typically have more heft to it than a kindle, but that can't be the only factor. A slim mass market paperback probably doesn't weigh more, and while it's fatter—even if it is, say, a mid-century crime novel of 60,000 words printed in small typeface—its length and width are less than a Kindle. It is, by most metrics, "smaller." But I don't lose those John D. MacDonald or Fredric Brown paperbacks.

I think that the likeliest reason that I lose the Kindle so often and paper books so rarely is that the Kindle, despite costing many times as much as a paper book, feels disposable in a way that a book does not. The technology of a paper book is a durable one. I own books printed in the 1950s and they are still readable, if somewhat fragile. I own a couple of Kindles that are no more than ten years old that are sitting, broken and useless, out in my garage because I haven't gotten around to dropping them off at an electronics recycle spot. A paper book is an object, a Kindle is a gadget.

Don't get me wrong, I do like my Kindle a great deal. But as Marshall McLuhan said all those years ago, "the medium is the message." Yes, when it comes to reading, the story is paramount. But it is foolish and counter-reality to think that the means by which that story is delivered to the reader doesn't have an effect on the way in which that reader interacts with the story. Yes, a Kindle is convenient. It's particularly nice in these pandemic lockdown times when a jaunt to the library is something of an inconvenience. But I think the readiness with which I lose the Kindle speaks to the fact that it is an inferior way to transmit stories. In this hyper digital age, I believe we need to make certain we are embracing the concrete, the real, the particular and rejecting the abstract.

But I'll reiterate, there is still quite a bit I like about the Kindle. In fact, I'm reading a great book on mine now. I think I'll get back to it . . . as soon as I can find the damn Kindle.