A Day Off to Celebrate
INTERESTING STUFF – 12 November 2011

Elders and the Information Age

Analog Kindle

The title of this image, created by Jesse Lenz for a story in the November issue of Popular Science magazine, is The Analog Kindle.

I can't say I've seen a copy of that magazine in 30 or 40 years, but I leafed through it at the optometrist's office yesterday as I waited for my eyes to dilate for the retinal examination.

In the article that image accompanies, Lawrence Weschler writes about his ambivalence with the vast cloud of information we have now, mostly online, that grows exponentially and I felt a kinship. I love having so much information quickly available when I want it but like Weschler, I often feel overwhelmed with the amount of data flowing toward me all day every day.

I like my Kindle for certain things and it is more convenient to carry around than a heavy, hardcover book if that's what I'm in the middle of reading. But I want a real, printed book with covers for certain kinds of reading and information and I cannot imagine my home without my physical books.

I am grateful to Marcus Tullius Cicero who, in the first century B.C., articulated that feeling for me when he famously said, "A room without books is like a body without a soul."

Here a small bit I like from Weschler's story in Popular Science:

“[The Web and books] provide two fundamentally different sorts of experiences. Books are centripetal, whereas the Web is centrifugal. Books draw you in, whereas Web pages hurl you forth and out (by way of all those irresistible links).

“The Web, as we have seen, is immaterial (opening, as it now does, into a cloud). Books, in contrast, are not just substantial they are substantial in a particular way: They have a spine, which in turn implies a pair of outstretched arms and an enfolding embrace, or at the very least a dance.

“Books force you to enter into a kind of I-Thou relationship — approaching, as the poet Rilke once parsed matters, the 'more human love' that 'consists in the mutual guarding, bordering and saluting of two solitudes.'

“The Web occasions a sort of frenzy of rebound, a swirling frottage with the many (albeit one that is almost solipsistically onanistic).”

Okay, okay. The writing is unnecessarily excessive at the end but the comparison is a good one. I can't imagine now, after a couple of decades, living without the web. But I don't want to live without my analog Kindles either.

Perhaps, we are the last generation who will feel that way.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Madonna Dries Christensen: The Quiet Warrior


Comments

I have enjoyed my Kindle far more than I expected. I also have a Nook and find it not as 'eyes friendly'. One concern I had about any electronic media was thinking it might be like the computer of which I get plenty of eye time reading newspapers. The Kindle is not but I suspect their new color version might be.

I only use mine for books and am slowly building up its library especially of the older classics that you can get so cheaply. It isn't cheaper though to buy say a Hemingway and I am basically sticking to it has to cost less than a book (used even) or I stick to the book.

For me having a Table of Contents is quite important for navigating. I haven't been using bookmarks at all yet; but did decide when I was going to do some research that I wanted real books which I could resell when the project was done or mark with highlighters for easy finding if I was keeping them in my library. I certainly won't be giving up my bookcases full of books but I do see it as a way to read more without wondering where I could possibly put a sixth bookcase...

Libraries, where I live, haven't proven very practical; but I might try borrowing digital books through one (where I'd have to buy an out of district card). It's definitely a new world and I am enjoying it as an addition not an either/or.

No Kindle but plenty of books in my house and office. Appreciated those comparisons of books and web.

My eldest daughter still buys books. I love this. I find them a physical burden as all rooms here have giant bookcases filled with books in various stages of biodegrading. Yes, I reread them, but they also collect dust and mold while outgassing. I cannot imagine living without them, but I am beginning to get rid of them.

When the Sony Reader first came out, I bought one, and enjoyed reading books on it. But I didn't upgrade it, so when I bought a new computer, it and the old Reader weren't compatible. Poof! The books on the Reader were gone.

Unless one can afford to keep up with the breakneck pace of technology, all of these electronic marvels become obsolete all too soon. Once obsolete, whatever's on them disappears.

I have various readers on my computer, but it's not much fun to read while sitting at my computer. I've hesitated buying another handheld reader, even though I'd like one.

Meanwhile, I'm reading the series titled The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. These books are so delightful that I need them to be physical books.

There's an intimacy I find in holding a "real" book that I lacked with electronic versions even though they were on that Reader that I held just like I hold real books.

Physical books may disappear from general use one day, and people raised with only electronic versions won't know the difference. But we do.

We have our electronic reader in one hand and a physical book in the other. Both ways are terrific. Both ways bring us the joy of reading. And that's the bottom line.

So far I've resisted getting a e-reader, although the new Kindle Fire is tempting. Having just busted the budget for a new PC I wonder how I will keep up. I borrow from friends and the library and buy those I come love. So far I still buy books, many of them 2nd hand, and even with postage they are cheaper than the offerings for the e-reader. I suppose that will resolve itself some way in near future by lower e-prices or fewer physical books, sigh.

I see the schools are connverting to e-books for students as a cost saving measure. The future is upon us.

Ronnie, checkout this book "It's A Book" by Lane Smith - I'm betting you'll love it!

Loved the 'analog Kindle'!
Yes, we may be, as you say, 'the last generation who will feel that way.' But I somehow doubt it. Ebooks are great for popular fiction. But for non-fiction, not so much. There would need to be a total revolution in academia before students would be permitted to hand in papers with no page references (and academia is not known for revolutions). Anyway, even if physical books lost their popularithy for a while, eventually someone would rediscover them and think they were a whole new concept in reading. Reminds me of a time, many years ago, that I saw a (perfectly serious) ad for 'a cigarette you can light from either end.'

PS: Oops. Sorry about the typo.

“The Web occasions a sort of frenzy of rebound, a swirling frottage with the many (albeit one that is almost solipsistically onanistic).”

Hahahahaha, I said when I read that. My best translatory effort: "The web incites a frenzy of group masturbation that is narcissistically masturbatory but only I know that."

Jeez, Ronni, can those science boys write or what? Anyway, I disagree.

I have resisted buying a Kindle, but two things changed my mind. I started getting 'books by mail' from the library and they will only send out books in large print. I discovered that I no longer suffer from eye strain when reading those books. The downside is, my hands are becoming arthritic and holding some of those heavy books hurt.

Therefore, I took the plunge and will be getting my Touch Kindle in a couple of weeks. I have read some cautionary things about Kindle Fire and came to the conclusion I didn't need color or having to pay $100 more. Stay tuned to see how I like the Touch Pad on Kindle.

I concur with SuzyR; the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency books are very entertaining and I thoroughly enjoy them.

One observation that really surprises me: when recalling a book, I cannot remember whether I read the words with my eyes or heard it read aloud with my ears.

Which brings me to my comment on real book vs. electronic book. I like hearing the story read on audiobook.

Just a couple of reaction comments. My granddaughter who just started college is finding that e-book textbooks are costing a lot of money.
I too love the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency.

Like Mage, I am getting rid of my books. Unlike for Mage, this has been going on for me during the past 60 years. I've rarely felt the need to retain physical possession of a book - except for reference books. I keep a copy of Isaac Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare, dictionaries for translating English into/out of various languages, many nature reference (mostly identification) books, and technical handbooks. Even my technical books from college courses were promptly given away to work colleagues who might wish to own them.

No, I don't own an e-reader; but, I make extensive use of the local public library. To me, the information in a book is "the thing" - not the form in which I have found it.

I've kept school books and such from five generations of our family before me - only because I hate to throw them out before one of the three generations of our family following me decides they wish to retain them.

There is, however, something to be said for the easy accessibility of the information on a page as opposed to the necessity of having a narrow assortment of hardware/software on hand to access electronic informtion.

We have an iPad but I must admit that I don't use it as much as I could. I spend a lot of time working at a computer, and maybe the two are related (e.g., I equate electronic devices with "work"). Although I do read on the iPad, I still enjoy reading newspapers, magazines and physical books. We may be the last generation that will miss these if/when they disappear.

I visit my daughter in the rain forest of Trinidad for two months each year and would be lost without my Kindle that gives me access to books without carrying them in my luggage. That said, I'm surrounded by real, live, beautiful books at home.

There was quite a long time while I was not reading any longer and this has changed again since I got my kindle. The thing is, I like long books, which are often heavy. I am a novel reader. So when they are in my kindle, whether they are big books or small ones doesn't make any difference. I was diagnosed with degenerative macula due to age and appreciate being able to change the format, instead of having to buy or borrow books with large letters, that weigh tons.
I won't be buying the fire kindle though, because I don't think I need colour, actually I know I don't.

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