Kindle: to set alight or start to burn; to arouse or be aroused; to make or become bright - from Old Norse Kynda, influenced by Old Norse Kyndill (Candle).
It’s winter time here in Connemara, time to be indoors with a good book, time to gather around the fire these evenings and watch the flames from the wood kindling ignite the turf and fill our nostrils with that unique peaty aroma. Time for a warm whiskey …
But this year we seem to have mixed up our seasons because we’ve started Spring cleaning. Driven by the immediate need for more storage space, we’ve attacked our attic, finding it crammed to the rafters. We’ve found stuff that’s been there for twenty years, stuff that has no monetary value but holds huge sentimental and emotional value. How do you put a price on that?
We’ve uncovered boxes of books, mostly paperbacks: books that we loved, that we had no room for, that we couldn’t throw away. I read a lot and my wife reads four times as much as me. Of late my reading has been seriously imbalanced: too many thrillers (or so my wife says) but I do take time out to read other works, the latest being Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Douglas Kennedy’s The Woman in the Fifth.
But I digress. Here we are, faced with throwing out boxes of wonderful stories, largely thrillers and mysteries – all great entertainment; none of them classics (yet), and none of them first editions or so attractively bound and produced to make them collector’s items in their own right. And, in case you’re wondering, we do not discard all the books we read/acquire. We have bookshelves in almost every room, filled with everything from Shakespeare to Art. Poetry (an addiction) takes up two whole shelves and we also have a shelf of the collected works of Rudyard Kipling. Paperback thrillers, signed by authors I’ve met or shared panels with at conferences, always find special shelf space on our bookshelves.
In the midst of this Winter cleaning, Jeff Bezos of Amazon surprised us by launching his new e-book reader, KINDLE ! What an emotive name! And I immediately thought that if I had had all these wonderful books on my KINDLE database instead of in my attic, I would not need to dispose of them.
And, of course, that brings me full circle to the traumatic task of getting rid of all those paperback novels in my attic. I’d already boxed lots of them, hoping to take them to a second hand bookstore in Galway. But I had procrastinated. In a sense, I knew that the majority of them would end up on shabby shelves outside the store selling for a few pennies; shelves even more downmarket than the awful remainder shelves at the stationery store further downtown. An ignominious end for books with titles that once made bestseller lists by authors who remain household names.
So I thought: could KINDLE be the solution? I’ve downloaded some e-books in PDF and Microsoft Reader formats in the past for research and other purposes. But I would never choose my PC to read a book. When the Sony Reader came out I was tempted but I resisted. I felt that, if I waited a little longer, the technology and the delivery network would achieve a breakthrough to the next level.
So I thought: could KINDLE be the next level? I read the spate of articles, the most prominent being the Newsweek one, that greeted the launch of KINDLE, ranging from favorable ones from proponents of e-books who are already at ease with the technology to those by opponents who will never be caught dead reading an e-book.
KINDLE uses free (yes, that’s right: free! Amazon absorbs the cost), built-in wireless, called ‘Amazon Whispernet’, to download digital books, magazines, newspapers and blogs. One can still use a PC to download but there’s really no need because Whispernet makes you independent. It uses a superb E-ink display that works well even in bright sunlight. It can hold over 200 titles (that will take care of at least two of the boxes in my attic) and there are almost 90,000 books now available for Kindle, costing $10 or less. Your book, article, newspaper, etc, is stored by Amazon in your own library where you can download it again. And you can download many free e-books using KINDLE’S web browser. Yes, you can browse the web if you wish. Kindle is also an audiobook reader (you can buy directly from Audible.com) and it’s an MP3 player: it has both speakers and a headphone jack. You can subscribe to newspapers and magazines and get your subscription well before the print subscribers get theirs. A single battery charge, which takes about two hours, will last for two days and, if you turn off the wireless feature, that same charge could support your daily reading for over a week.
Critics say that KINDLE is ugly and that its keyboard is awkward, and you need a light for reading in the dark. But you need a light to read a book in the dark now, don’t you? So maybe it’s the Model T of KINDLES and, as the design evolves, it will become more attractive. I still think the Model T is a beautiful machine!
I’ve spent much more time describing the functionality of KINDLE than I had intended. I truly believe that KINDLE and Amazon will revolutionize e-books and convert the non-believers. I don’t want KINDLE to replace the book as we know it. But maybe it can save the trees, spare the pulp, prevent good books from becoming kindling for my fire.
In the meantime, my boxes of books sit waiting for a new home. My daughter sold a huge box of them at a charity bazaar this past weekend, the proceeds going to fund activities at her school. The buyer runs a hostel so I presume he’s going to make them available to his customers. In the future those same customers may be able to rent the hostel’s KINDLE and get access to hundreds of books.
So I decided to put some of my own work on KINDLE and I’ve found their software upload and review platform very easy to work with: customer friendly, simple interface, absolutely no glitches.
I love poetry and I love thrillers and I often find myself torn between both. James Dickey is a poet who raised my consciousness at a time when I had stopped, a time when I had abandoned it, a time when the muse had departed. Well, James Dickey has now departed. He died on January 19, 1997. I suppose he was best known for his novel Deliverance but he also wrote about 20 volumes of poetry. So, I have published the following on KINDLE:
James Dickey’s Poetry: The Religious Dimension (my elegy to the man) and those of you who own a KINDLE (and love poetry) can find it here.
On an entirely unrelated subject (and something more personal) you can also read about my son’s struggle with hemophilia here (this article was originally published in Buffalo Spree magazine)
ELEVEN DAYS IN JULY: A Family Ordeal