Posted tagged ‘Kindle’

Next up in the Kindle queue ~ The Awakening

March 7, 2011

Having raced to finish The Sea Wolf on the last day of February (why do I have these compulsions?), I quickly added Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening to my Kindle. I’ve read The Awakening twice before; it is considered an early feminist novel, and it has some thematic connection to the novel I’m currently working on: Finnegans Deciphered.

I’m still lukewarm about my Kindle. Certainly I’m spending hours and hours with it. Since I’ve received it as a gift in December, I’ve read five novels on it. (With it? Through it?) But I recently took it with me to a semi-public place where I had to set it down frequently to see about matters in the area, and though I tucked it out of sight each time, I worried that it would be gone when I returned from my business only a few steps away. I would not have felt that way about a paperback novel.

I understand there is a tweet out there that goes something like this: “My book ran out of batteries. I hate the future!”

I’ve also been tending to put public domain works on my Kindle. Yes, I bought and downloaded two purchased novels (Fortress of Solitude and Tinkers — both great reads, by the way), but I’ve felt, I don’t know, manipulated (?) by the experience. In the end, I don’t have anything tangible. So I seem to favor public domain novels that are free: The Sea Wolf, Walden, Alice Adams, The Metamorphosis. Somehow I don’t feel as “used” by this experience. (Still, Kindle’s newest software upgrade now allows actual page numbers to display — rather than the cryptic progression method it used before — but these old texts I seem to favor haven’t been upgraded to show page numbers yet.)

As for The Awakening, though it is more than a century old, someone seems to still hold a copyright on it. I had to pay for this download, a whopping 95 cents!

Update 15-AUG-2011: I only finished this novel last week. I can’t explain why it took me so long.

Next up in the Kindle queue ~ The Sea Wolf

February 10, 2011

I’ve been wanting to read this old Jack London novel for some time and somehow never did. Of course, having a frugal streak within me, I was more readily motivated to add it to my Kindle since it was free on Amazon, being in the public domain.

Alas, I think I am of the wrong generation to fully embrace eReaders. I never managed to finishing reading a single book on my wife’s iPad, though I have managed to do so with my Kindle for some reason. I’ve read four novels with it since the holidays, and I haven’t run into any difficulties such as eye strain.

Nonetheless, it still doesn’t feel like reading (whatever that is). I don’t seem to be able to enter the imaginary world when I’m holding the slim device in my hand, not the way I seem to when I have a book in hand. Sure, I can follow the story and see the scenes as depicted. But I just don’t feel immersed.

Plus I have a dilemma. I’m old fashioned enough to like the look of a shelf of books, to want to build a library of “keepers.” And many paper books that I have read but don’t intend to keep I like to donate to a small-town library near my little cabin in the woods. Tinkers would have been one of those books (though it certainly merits a second reading). But my copy of Tinkers only exists in digital form. I can’t put it on my old-fashioned shelf or donate to the little library.

Update March 1, 2011 – It was a worthy read, though some of it was a bit quaint. (The protagonist and the woman he loves are marooned on an island together and yet they make a hut with separate sleeping chambers.) The novel did tackle some of the big questions of life and power. Selfishness or charity? Which is more sensible and which is more foolish? The “bad” guy was whole and consistent. The “good” guy grew (but only in socially acceptable ways). The woman was steadfast. The sea was uncaring. The ship was the world in microcosm. I think of The Sea Wolf as Moby Dick light.

Next up in the Kindle queue ~ Tinkers

January 31, 2011

I finished Alice Adams today, the last day of the month. This is my third time through it, and I’ll likely read it again. Much of it is dated, some of it is quite dated, but it still tells a good story, borrowed as it is from the Old Testament.

Now onto the next novel. I just purchased Tinkers by Paul Harding. I know little about it beyond a precis of the plot and the fact that it won the Pulitzer Prize. I have this notion that the books that win the major prizes must have done so due to some worthiness, and about three quarters of the time this proves out. (Alice Adams won the Pulitzer. I first came to Iris Murdoch because I saw her on the Booker list.)

So we shall see.

Next up in the Kindle queue

January 19, 2011

The next novel I will be reading on my Kindle is Alice Adams, by Booth Tarkington.

No one reads Tarkington anymore, which is a shame. There was a period during my graduate school years, and sporadically since, when I devoured his works. I was stumbling toward trying to define a “Midwestern literature” though I think the task was beyond me. (Others have tried as well.) In any case, Tarkington would be a foundation stone of that genre.

Alice Adams is a story about social striving, economic class, and ultimately self recognition and resilience. (It’s been made into a movie twice, once with Katherine Hepburn, though that movie’s ending completely voided the point of the novel and the strength of the protagonist.) Alice Adams is the novel that won Tarkington his second Pulitzer Prize, and I’ve often thought that he should have written a sequel. Since he is no longer around to do that, I’ve considered writing it myself, and maybe I will someday. At the very least, I suspect there is a bit of lit crit waiting to be written about the novel. Maybe I’ll write that someday.

One of my protagonists in my Finnegans novels is a retired English professor. He is an advocate of Midwestern regional literature. Should I never write that bit of lit crit, perhaps I will give the task to him.

Further thoughts on my eBook reader

January 5, 2011

I have at least three computers in my basement that are virtually no longer useable. It’s not merely that they are molasses slow. I no longer have the operating system to bring them back to consciousness: boot disk, restore disk, et cetera. Systems that are no longer supported by their manufacturers or whose manufacturers are no longer in business. (Fact: the first personal computer I had in my house didn’t even have a hard drive! The second one was a big improvement: it had a 20 megabyte hard drive!)

Whatever data I have on these computers is now inaccessible. I don’t suppose I care too much since I don’t even know what it is I have lost, aside from some photos it might be nice to see again.

My wife’s first iPod is now utter junk. It cannot be restored. (Much of her music that was on it was backed up to one of the computers that no longer works.) This is not so bad since she now has a new one that she is delighted with. Still, the pace of technological change and obsolescence makes most devices decrepit within a few years.

My new Kindle boasts that it can hold thousands of books. I can’t say that I’ve ever been in a situation where I needed a thousand books at hand in an instant, but whatever. That may be more books than are sitting on shelves in my house. (Another fact: I have a database program that I have let languish but that I was going to use for creating an inventory of my personal library. Had I ever gotten around to doing that, I could have given you an exact count.) So my Kindle could become my personal library, with nearly every book I could ever want in it and most of the others within easy reach. (Yet another fact: I have a small but respectable collection of very old books about my home state of Missouri. The oldest was published in 1860. I’m sure most of these will never be available in eBook form, and even if they were, they wouldn’t have the same caché.)

But I’m sure you’ve already realized my point: if I relied on my eReader to be my personal library, I think I could very likely see all of my books become inaccessible in just a few years. (Yes, I understand that Amazon keeps a list of all of my downloads — which is a little disturbing by the way — and I could restore my collection, though I wonder under what terms they would do this.) But like those lost digital photos, I still miss the tangibility of the item.

Should I ever rely on my Kindle to be the repository of my personal library, I will simply get a nice stand for it and set it on its own shelf as though it were a book.

My first purchased ebook

December 28, 2010

Okay, I mentioned the other day that I’ve already downloaded the public domain copy of Walden to my new Kindle, but I’ve since actually purchased a book too.

I’m now reading Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem on my Kindle. It’s a book that has interested me for several years, and the synopsis of it sounded interesting. Also, I looked for many novels that I might have chosen instead, but they weren’t available (including yours, probably).

So far it’s working out. (Also, in paper form, I’m currently reading The Book and the Brotherhood by Iris Murdoch.)

Update: I finished reading Fortress of Solitude on January 18. (I was reading some Dostoyevsky concurrently.) I really liked the characterizations and especially the narrative voice (or voices since some of the story is told in third person and some in first person). I’ll certainly be reading more Lethem.

Tangible reading

December 26, 2010

Well, it was an electronic reader Xmas at our house this year. Santa — or maybe it was Pappa Hannukah or the Festivus Fairy or some Saturnalia regalia, it happened while I was asleep — left an Amazon Kindle under the tree for me this year. It’s a sleek little thing that will fit easily in my jacket pocket or laptop bag. I will now accustom myself to reading from it and see what I think.

You may remember me babbling about the end of civilization as we know it earlier on this blog, commenting on the arrival of an iPad in the household. I thought that I could while away some quiet time in the woods reading Walden on the iPad. This has not proven to be the case. Only twice have I actually used the iPad for reading. (More often, alas, I use it for Solitaire.) There are several reasons why this might be the case. Foremost (I tell myself) is that there is so much else to attract my interest when I am at the cabin (and I don’t just mean Solitaire). Thus quiet times are not so common, and when they occur, they are often around a campfire. A second reason is that the iPad is backlit, which I’m told is no way to read. Apparently this can cause eye strain, though I’ve not been afflicted with this malady yet. Or it could be that it is generally impossible to pry the device from my wife’s hands when we are out there. Whatever the reason, I haven’t fulfilled the iPad’s potential as a book reader.

And perhaps I never should have for the new Kindle sitting on the table beside me may now take on that role. So far I have only downloaded one book — Walden again — primarily because it is unfinished business for me but also because it is in the public domain and so is free. (I’m thinking that I want to try out the reading experience before I begin spending a lot of money on books for it that I may not read. That’s called rationalizing, folks.)

That was not the end of the electronic reader gift giving in our household. Our soon-to-be-daughter-in-law received a Kobo reader from us in early December to accompany her on some traveling she was about to embark on. She was delighted with it. We chose the Kobo because she and my son spend a great deal of time at the Border’s bookstore studying (they’re in medical school together — it’s adorable!), and the Kobo is the store brand. My son’s soon-to-be-parents-in-law then gave him a Kobo as well.

And then my wife found a Kobo under the tree for herself this year too. Amazing!

When I spoke with my mother two days ago, she announced that she had bought herself a Nook reader, which is the store brand for the Barnes and Noble bookstores. So the family is all over the map on electronic readers suddenly.

Of course each system has a proprietary delivery mechanism, and the book you can download to one device may not be available to another device. Furthermore, I checked with my local public library — a well-funded jewel of an institution — and found that as of yesterday morning, they only had 60 novels available in ebook format.

I know what I need to do. I must purchase and download some contemporary novel that I want to read so that I will be compelled to use my new Kindle. That’s really how I am going to get myself to begin the ereader experience.

A lot has been said about how these ereaders lack many of the tangible qualities of cloth and paper books. I think this can be true, but it may also be a generational fetish. When you think about it, universal literacy is a fairly recent phenomenon — let’s say only within the last 150 years — so the established experience, reading books on paper, is not necessarily the standard experience. My grandchildren (not that that is ever going to happen!) will likely only see cloth and paper books in museums and perhaps even scoff at ebook readers because they will have some new mechanism.

Until then, however, I have a suggestion. I think ebook readers should have a feature added to them that emits a musty odor. Then a reader can experience at least that tangible feature of an old-style book. You heard it here first!

Update 2/1/11: My daughter recently attended a taping of the Martha Stewart Show. As a gift each of the guests in the audience was given a Sony Reader. I think that about covers the eReader range for the family.