|Fraternizing will not be tolerated.|
This Kindle was taken out back to be shot.
The books were each scolded very harshly.
I remember the day I went to buy my Kindle. I felt the smooth, off-white plastic buttons beneath my fingers. It held the promise of the future in its e-paper screen. A few buttons and I could call up an entire library in something smaller than a Readers Digest. It was sleek. It was snazzy. It was totally what Jean Luc Picard would use to read books when he was rocking a cup of "Earl Grey...hot" and rocking that scandalously short silk robe of his even harder.
But then I looked at my bookshelf where I'd accumulated a lifetime of books. Hundreds of books spanning from my Pierce Anthony phase in junior high through comparative religion books in my early twenties, my most recent collections of LeGuin, Clarke, Asimov, Bradbury, and a bunch of literary short stories (like classroom readers I couldn't bear to get rid of or Pushcart anthologies), as well as an entire bookshelf of writing books. I touched the books. I felt their comforting fibrous paper texture, and smelled their booky smell. Nostalgia gushed through my veins. They were my friends. They'd come with me through some of the worst times in my life and had been my sentinels.
I looked back and forth from the plastic to the paper. One a comforting, poignant reminder of the past. The other a bold and pioneering step into the future. Paper. Plastic. Books. Kindle. I had woken that morning so full of purpose--so sure of what I wanted to do. But now, facing the actual enormity of the choice, I wavered.
"All of them?" I asked the store employee. "Can't I keep a few."
The man who sold the Kindles--Alan if his nametag was accurate--was in his early twenties, and was wearing a grey shirt with a blue tie. He pressed his lips together and looked sympathetic. Still, it had the measured quality of being a practiced look of sympathy. No doubt he had this conversation dozens of times each day, whipped out his sympathetic look every time, and had it down to a science. "I'm afraid so, sir," he said. "It has to be all of them. It's the only way."
"Must I?" I asked.
"You must," he nodded.
And so I handed my paper books to Alan--all of them. I stacked them up dozens of piles ten feet high and more, and Alan took them all and handed me my Kindle.
Oh wait. That's not how it happened. This is how it happened:
I heard a knock at the door. The sort of demanding pounding that lets you know it's perfunctory, and that door is going to open one way or another. I knew it was them. I knew they'd found out what I'd been up to. Ignoring this knock would only buy me a few seconds, at most.
I looked out the peephole. Two men in impecable black suits (who both looked like Tommy Lee Jones) flanked by beefy looking SWAT officers, their rifles glittering in the midday sun. Behind them were two more officers cradling one of those modern-day battering rams, just daring me not to open that door in a timely manner.
|Except...like....both were Tommy Lee Jones.|
"Mr. Brecheen?" the Left Agent Smith look-alike asked.
"Yes?" I said. "That's me."
"Mr. Brecheen, we have a report here that you purchased a Kindle on Tuesday last. This is a copy of the invoice here. You paid with an American Express. Is this accurate." Somehow, the last sentence was not a question.
"That sounds about right," I said. "It might have been Wednesday."
"It was Tuesday," the right Agent Smith said. "But that's not what bothers us, Mr. Brecheen."
I swallowed. "Oh?"
"What bothers us is that we have reports of paper books on these premises as recently as Saturday night, and that your neighbors actually said they saw you reading a paper book."
I shook my head. "No, they must have misunderstood. I don't have any paper books now. Just me and the Kindle. That's it. Certainly wouldn't hold onto those leather-bound collectors editions. No sir."
Both sets of Agent Smiths' eyes narrowed. "Mind if we take a look around, Mr. Brecheen?" they said in cold, calculating unison.
I swallowed, fingering the glock in my pocket. Might as well go down fighting.
Oh wait. That's not how it happened either. But THIS is totally how it happened:
"That'll be fifty-seven twenty-three," the Barnes and Noble cashier said. "Are you a rewards club member? You can save...um..."
"Uh...is there a problem?" I asked.
"I'm sorry," the cashier said. "We've detected Kindle nuclear residue signature on you. It's all over everything. I can't sell you these paper books sir."
"Look," I said. "They're uh...not for me, okay. They're for a friend. A friend who doesn't have a Kindle and can only read paper books."
"I'm sorry," the cashier said. "I could lose my job. I could be hunted down by the Kindle police. You made a choice when you bought that Kindle. You can't go back now."
Oh wait. None of those scenarios is accurate. Here's how it totally, actually happened:
I bought a Kindle. I didn't immediately go home and burn all my other books. I didn't stop buying paper books. I read both and no one came knocking at my door. It's a boring story, I know. I'm thinking of adding in a talking pig and a plot to destroy Lady Elaine from Mr. Roger's world of make believe. But it's the truth.
|Just one on a very long list of things that WON'T|
be held to your head to force the issue.
The coolest thing about the choice between the "Smell of Books" and the "Library in your hand" is that you never have to make it. You can have both. And you can have your favorite books in paper form and fill your kindle with anthologies too heavy to lug around and the thousands of paperbacks your partner keeps telling you to get rid of or they'll leave you.
When I first bought my Kindle, just pulling it out in public to read a few pages while I waited for the BART was apparently an underground signal to random strangers that I wanted to be grilled about giving up books. Why choose when life is so full of options? Kindles and books didn't enter Thunderdome, so the idea that "two media enter, one medium leaves" is just our human foible surrounding change. Hitting a moving hand with a hammer because "we fear change" is foolish, and assuming that forward is always better is foolish too.
Luckily now that I've cleared this up, we have the option of not being so ridiculous.