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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Where the Kindle really falls down

I wish somebody would give me a Kindle or an Ereader or whatever they're called. I'd love to have a go. That's not to say that I believe they're going to take over like iPods have done. I can see why companies would want to see them adopted. I can see why some early adopters might want them. But I can't get my head round their one major shortcoming. Most books and magazines are read in public. In the act of reading something in public with the cover facing outwards we are advertising ourselves and our attitudes. We do it so much we don't even think of it anymore. It's the most complex and powerful sign language we know. It explains why I wouldn't wish to be seen reading a book that was repackaged to reflect the TV adaptation of some classic. It explains why there is nothing on earth more powerful than an attractive woman on the tube with her nose in a serious book, or at least a book that isn't obvious. It explains why that middle-aged lady sitting across from me is reading a dog-eared leather-bound edition of the Psalms or that young black man is wielding a copy of a book about being a young black man. A couple of years ago I read Ian Fleming's "Casino Royale" in a handsome retro edition. I felt like dangling a sign on its spine saying "Of course I read James Bond long before most of you were born and I'm catching up with this because I've never read it and I'm told it is the essence of the original character. Do I look like the sort of person who's reading it because I've seen the film?"

Reading a book in public is an advertisement for ourselves or the millions of other selves we would like to adopt. How can a brushed metal blank or a piece of nice smooth plastic begin to compete with that?