I own a Kobo ereader which does default to the cover of the book. It is odd the Kindle doesn’t do that. Also Kobo allows you to read books bought from any digital bookstore including the library. Totally agree about the highlighted passages from others. Very distracting—pulls me out of the book to read banal one liners by people I don’t know. I turned all of these interactive bits off.
I have just finished two novels on the Kindle in quick succession. The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman and Friendship by Emily Gould. Some thoughts follow, roughly separated in two:
The device’s motivations are mysterious. In a number of ways it seems to go out of its way to distance you from the material you are reading. A newly purchased ebook opens on the first page of text; not the cover, not the chapter listing. A contextless page of text.
I don’t understand why the reader’s screensaver is not the cover of the book currently being read. Instead we get a selection of bland stock imagery in an era when bland stock imagery is almost mainstream in its unpopularity. And the device, whenever it is sitting on your coffee table or drawn from your bag, is displaying these meaningless, artless images. They are not incidental or occasional, but the primary visual identity of the object at rest. A real book is a visual placeholder in your life as you read it, a cover and content that become entwined as you go. For all its unread hours of the day it announces itself from your bedside table, from your couch. Its presence is a mental bookmark, its individuality a mental trigger. The Kindle is a ten minute coding job away from replicating this relationship, but it simply doesn’t want to. I’m not sure why. Are we meant to love the device, rather than the books it contains? Is that too obvious a suspicion?
The reading experience is not unpleasant. Within fifty pages I had mostly gotten used to the flicker of the page turn. Its most practical benefit (besides letting me buy English books in a non-English speaking city), is that I can read it completely silently in a dark room without disturbing Helene.
But it still feels, having consumed two novels, that I am reading a facsimile of the true book. In some way a connection to the material is missing. The content feels temporary and light, like a blog article. It’s difficult write about this without straying into the cliché of a vinyl enthusiast. I’m fairly confident this feeling would fade in time, or alter the reading experience to the point that it doesn’t feel like it matters.
About midway through the novel I began to encounter highlighted passages like the one pictured. At first I thought I was accidentally doing something—the screen’s lag often produced confusing results when I touched the screen in the wrong place—but eventually it became obvious that these were passages that other readers had highlighted. Anonymous strangers. It seemed so antithetical to the novel reading experience that it was a while before I conceded that it was really happening. Like a parody of what a tin-eared technology company might do to reading.
The popular passages tended toward the most trite sentimentalities or gender observations, as though the novel could be gutted and boned and served up as a series of Tumblr-ready quotes. As though anything that this character thought or said was not filtered through layers of irony, self-delusion, proto-development, authorial mockery. But reading on, repeatedly having these particular types of sentences highlighted began to affect my perception of the novel. Maybe I got it wrong? Maybe this novel really was about dating, and how to do it, and how to generalise differences between the desires of men and women?
The feature (turnable offable) was a jarring reminder of the file as a social, shared, rented document rather than a book that I owned. Like above, the Kindle seems almost to go out of its way to make you feel like it is not yours, that the things it contains are not yours. In a sense this is true; the novel is an open expression, something that can be shared and dissected and discussed in public forums. No one can make any absolute claim of ownership, not even the author. That said, the experience of reading is an intensely personal one. The book in your hand is a room in which you lock yourself. That intimate exchange between the novel and the reader now feels mediated, metricised, oddly public.
Everything has already been said and done. But, then, if this is so, why do we need more poems in the world? I once read a Jane Hirshfield interview where she said something quite wonderful. She essentially said we have to keep writing because it’s every generation’s job to put in the present vernacular poems that are called upon for rites of passage, such as poems read at weddings or funerals. I hadn’t thought of this before. Your ordinary citizen should be able to go to the library and find a poem written in the current vernacular, and the responsibility for every generation of writers is to make this possible. We must, then, rewrite everything that has ever been written in the current vernacular, which is really what the evolution of literature is all about. Nothing new gets said but the vernacular keeps changing.
Lovely. Highly recommend following Austin Kleon. Love his Tumblr reblogs and his books.
What’s your favorite summer time activity?
Reading. And drinking. Not necessarily together.
Where can you get cheap books in Canada? Also, I'm debating in getting an e-reader. I love having the actual book in my hands but it's cheaper to get an ebook! Ugh I can't decide!! Help me!
I can’t really tell you where to buy books in Canada becaues I live in the United States but you can check out my tips for buying cheap books here. If any of my followers know a place to shop in Canada please reblog this with the store & location!
I’m gonna state the obvious and suggest the big box book stores Chapters/Indigo located in most mid to large cities. Plus you can order from them online—no charge shipping for orders over $35.00.
Indi bookstores Black Bond and Book Warehouse in Vancouver
Also have second hand books.
Kobo for e-books because they are located in Canada and have the same prices as Amazon. Plus you don’t have to have a specific type of e-reader.
Exactly….freedom of religion means being free from imposing beliefs on other people.