Digital Packrats

Ed Driscoll likes the idea of the Kindle, but…

I have mixed emotions about the actual physical Kindle device itself. But the ability to read a book anywhere, and carry the digital equivalent of a massive stack of them onto an airplane via my Kindle, laptop or Android Tablet is pretty darn nifty. Not to mention the prospect of freeing up space on my overflowing bookshelves. As is the ability, at least on my PC or laptop, to cut and paste text from a book into a blogpost rather than have to physically put a book into a scanner and OCR the whole thing, as I’ve done for a few blog posts. And pray that a word doesn’t become gobbledygook somewhere in the translation process.

Mostly I love my Kindle because it has me reading fiction again. It’s small enough to go anywhere, it never loses my place, and it’s comfortable enough to hold and read in one hand while wrangling a baby, a dog or a kitten.

But there are still drawbacks:

Similarly, I think everybody has that feeling of buying a book (or taking it out of the library), bringing it home, and taking it outside on a sunny day to become utterly absorbed in it. Perhaps that tactile feeling is lost or greatly diminished with the Kindle, but the flexibility it provides offsets it in many ways.

Of course for that reason, perhaps books are about to become luxury items, given at birthdays and at Christmas, the equivalent of giving someone an expensive necktie or sweater. Or these days, a compact disc, for that matter.

Ed’s nailed it with that last point, and it goes to something Melissa and I were talking about just last night. And that is: Coffee table books aren’t going anywhere.

When you want a great big book filled with pretty things to gawk at and touch and admire, it’s difficult to imagine anything replacing the coffee table book. And we usually give or get those as gifts (hint, hint).

But I can’t imagine myself ever buying another paperback of popular fiction. We’ve given those away by the carload — and some of them I’d love to have back. But when you’re desperate for shelf space, you don’t always have the time to sort through your old books before taking them down to Goodwill.

Those days are over. Atlases, travel cookbooks, art collections — I’ll stack those volumes to the ceiling until the day I die. Everything else goes in my pocket.