Monday, November 26, 2012


I won a Kindle.  Now what?

I have been eyeing those electronic reading devices for quite some time but have always resisted because of a predisposition towards paper books.   Paper books have shiny covers that announce to the world of passersby how well read you are.  They collect on the shelves of your home like participation trophies in a house league academic competition.   “Yeah, I read that.  500 pages dude.  And I understood it.”  Translation – I am the World’s Most Interesting Man.  When engrossed in an e-reader, you could be indulging in Tolstoy or Keats, or surfing for pictures of cars in unusual places.  One will never know.  I want people to know.

I might have been more tempted to purchase my own e-reader years ago if my work schedule required more airplane travel.  Lugging three hard cover books from the library in my carry-on luggage is a back breaking exercise.  Carrying the equivalent of three hard covers books on one medium sized device with adjustable font size sounds less painful.  Less painful sounds more my speed with every passing year.

Despite my love of the ancient art of printing words on paper, I was excited to win my new Kindle.  I wanted to tell the world and started with another less fortunate attendee at the event.  I let him feel my enthusiasm for winning (which by comparison meant my enthusiasm for his NOT winning) and told him about all of my hope and dreams with my new space age device.  I will download books from the library.  I will read without my glasses.  I will be a member of modern society and not a relic of some lost civilization of paper book readers.
He tempered my enthusiasm with his congratulations to me:  “That’s great, Joe.  Welcome to 2005.”

That retort stung.  It stung so much that my Kindle sat unopened for about 3 weeks.  I was intimidated.  I was no longer deserving of this ticket to the future of reading.  Maybe I wasn’t ready for the 21st century.  Maybe I am destined to remain a prisoner of printed words in fonts that grow progressively smaller.  Maybe I am not the World’s Most Interesting Man, but instead the World’s Most Antiquated Curmudgeon.  Maybe I really am Larry David.  Is there a gift receipt in the box, I wonder? 
This weekend, I pushed beyond my limits and opened the box.  I will configure this device and I will read on a screen for pleasure.  I will do this without my children explaining the Kindle functionality in their condescending text language filled with confusing acronyms. 
The Kindle set up was so easy, even an adult could do it.  Once I got past the frustration of having to enter our wifi password 5 times before the system recognized it – it was NOT user error - I was in full control of my new toy.  Turning pages was a revelation.  Surfing the Amazon bookstore was a breeze.  I even downloaded my first book without assistance from my skeptical children.  I am now the proud owner of a free copy of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, required reading in 11th grade AP English.

Truth be told, we already own the paperback version and it is light enough to carry on an airplane without toting along a power cord.  The paperback cover proudly advertises to all the other passengers that I choose to read the classics.  I didn’t really need another gigabyte version of the book but it was a way to dip my toes into the digital waters.  

It’s been 3 days, and at this point, I can’t see how my life has changed for the better.  I should have known that any electronic device without a lower case letter ‘i’ in front of it had no hope of changing my life.  I own a functioning Kindle but I am the same man I was yesterday.  I do look forward to reading my new/old book on a flat glare-proof screen however, even if the book itself is a bit dated.  Clearly, so am I.

Welcome to 2005.

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