Virtually Virtual

Virtually Virtual child page title

My favorite line in the Pixar movie, Up, comes near the beginning, when the little girl explains South America to her young friend: “It’s like America…but South!”

That line came to my head when Santa gave me a Kindle for Christmas. Amazon brags that its e-reader uses “virtual ink” to make text show up against a gray background. In other words, it’s ink…but virtual!”

Now, I fall solidly in the Early Adaptor category. I’m so Early an Adaptor, so next-level, that my newest gadgets rarely work right. (Don’t get me started on my LG moronphone.) So why wasn’t I a Kindle early adaptor? For one thing, I couldn’t understand why you can’t read the thing in the dark.

“The battery lasts longer that way,” a Kindle fan explained.

“So does my flashlight,” I replied. “But then I can’t use it.”

Still, when I got the Kindle I joyfully downloaded a bunch of books you can get for free on Amazon—Pride and Prejudice, Moby-Dick—all of which I already own in paper form. Sure, the Kindle is more svelte, which makes it great for traveling. But I could buy any of those books for 10 cents at my town library’s annual second-hand sale, and then tear out the pages I need. It doesn’t get more transportable than that. (Hey, it’s not a sin. Charles Darwin even did it.)

Yes, a Kindle can hold a thousand Moby-Dicks. But I only read one book at a time. The device also lets me subscribe to newspapers and magazines, but I already get them at home, and their batteries never wear out. The Kindle may save some trees in the short run; but when the market for wood pulp goes down, forests aren’t saved. They’re turned into housing developments.

All of which leads to the moral of this story: Sometimes it takes a technological advance to let us see what we really value. For what it is, I love my new Kindle. It’ll make me read Pride and Prejudice again. But e-readers will have to get way cooler before they’re cooler than paper.  In the meantime, I’ll do most of my reading with books and magazines printed with ink. You know, it’s like ink…but real!



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