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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Approaching the Kindle with Caution.

A few months ago, I received a Kindle as a gift (my husband runs marathons, and last fall, he ran a 50 mile ultramarathon; the Kindle was a thank you gift for putting up with him during his crazy training schedule). While it was a nice gesture, I approached it with caution.

The thing is, I like books. Books are friends. The Kindle, while nice, is not cuddly. I cannot tuck it underneath my pillow when I get sleepy (for fear it will fall to the floor) or use a photo for a bookmark. And I really can’t read it in the bathtub. What if the book I’m reading on my Kindle turns out to be my most favorite book of all time? How will I display it on my shelf? I think these are valid concerns.

It took a while, but I finally figured out how the Kindle could best work for me: non-fiction. I generally bounce back and forth between a fiction book and a non-fiction one, and it is rare indeed that I have wanted to cuddle with a non-fiction book. (Except maybe Mary Roach’s Stiff, which is hilarious.)

Therefore, I’m now reading Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life, which is about the history of everyday objects like houses, beds, windows, etc. It’s very entertaining if you enjoy hearing about an insane gothic mansion, Fonthill Abbey, built to crazy proportions, with this added bonus: “The front door rose to a height of thirty feet but was made to seem even taller by Beckford’s practice of employing dwarf doormen.” (The only problem is that I have no idea how to cite this! The Kindle uses “locations,” not “pages,” so all I can say is that that quote is at location 2557.)

The book also concerns itself with how interesting and weird humans are. I thought this was pretty funny when I read this last night: “Even though sugar was very expensive, people consumed it till their teeth turned black, and if their teeth didn’t turn black naturally, they blackened them artificially to show how wealthy and marvelously self-indulgent they were” (location 3080). Ha!

You may be wondering how I kept track of these passages. The Kindle has a feature where you can “underline” a passage. There is also a weird feature that lets you see where all the other people who have read the same book have underlined as well. This gets a bit busy, but it’s kind of like if there were only one paper copy of a book and everyone in the world wrote in it. Kind of interesting! It makes me laugh to think of all the people who have to endure the weird stuff I underlined, like the dwarf doormen and the black teeth.

Other things I’ve learned in At Home include that the luncheon “originally signified a lump or portion (as in ‘a luncheon of cheese’)” (Location 3223). I also happened to think this quotation from William Beckford to his architect, James Wyatt, whom he loathed, was deserving of a note: “What putrid inn, what stinking tavern or pox ridden brothel hides your hoary and glutinous limbs?” (Location 2596) I am going to remember that one, at least the hoary and glutinous part. (Wyatt apparently took a reallllllly long time to complete the aforementioned insane Fonthill Abbey.)

While my Kindle and I may not be cuddling any time soon, we have at least reached a mutual respect and understanding. It’s progress!

I can't wait to see what I'll get if my husband completes that 100-mile ultra he has his eye on.


  1. I like my Kindle. I've heard of delivery systems where I can get an e-book via a local bookstore. I'd definitely be in to it.

    I think that even as delivery systems change, books are books. Many great stories that we think of as classic novels today were serialized in magazines back in the day.

    For cuddliness, I suggest the black cover with built-in booklight. It holds the Kindle like a book and generally makes the whole experience warmer.

  2. I read my Kindle in the bathtub all the time! Just get a gallon size ziploc freezer bag and stick the kindle in there. Works great.


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