Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kindling for Thought

So, I received a pretty handy and powerful gift for my birthday - a Kindle reader from Ponczka. And I have mixed feelings about it. I feel that I'm on the verge of committing an act of betrayal that will undermine an entire world that has been my comfort and solace for all of my life.

How can I abandon the book? And won't using a Kindle amount to that? I'm feeling very torn: at once in wondrous anticipation of carrying around with me an entire library of books I want to read; alternately frightened at the looming demise of the book industry, and the end of all my hope of a future within it.

It's an elegant little device, this Kindle, as light as a paperback, self-illuminating and intuitively easy to use. At first, I balked at the cost that will be involved in buying books I already have in print form, but soon realized that a great deal of older content is available on the web for nothing. Then I had to confront the fact that all my life I've been a steady and avid consumer in used bookstores, libraries and at yard sales. In other words, as much of a book lover as I am, I've never done much to actually support the industry. In fact, I've used the fact of loving books as an excuse not to bear the expense of buying lots of new ones. I reasoned that, well, authors are already making enough and didn't need the few pennies that would come through royalties I contributed.

Now, I'm having to own up to my own dishonesty. It's the same honesty I demonstrate as an advocate of fair labor practices who continues to buy goods at the lowest price I can, despite knowing the exploitative conditions that are behind those super bargain prices. It's the same hypocrisy that informs my lukewarm support of animal rights while consuming meat from sources I know must perpetuate the horrific conditions that food animals endure, in order to sell me steak at five or ten dollars a pound.

Basically, my entire method and practice of satisfying my wants comes into question. But I've learned - as we all do - how easy it can be to shove difficult questions and moral points to the side, in order to live a relatively easy and trouble free life.

In truth, I don't yet know how the Kindle situation is going to play out. Kindle represents saving trees, too, doesn't it? As well as space and fuel and on and on and on.

I've had a great experience with my iPod, on which I've stored about 300 albums of music off of the original vinyl. At least a thousand more discs to go. The greatest benefit of the iPod has been that I listen to and know my music so much better than I did. I'm regularly drawn away from the ten or twenty present of those 300 albums that I listen to habitually, and am presented with the other eighty or ninety percent of my under-listened to collection. It's been amazing. Because just about all of this music is stuff I listened to closely at right after buying them. Only the few remained all-time favorites. But lots of it is music I was very connected to for a period of time, music that, with passionate intention, pulsed at the core of my being for a season. But after that, most of it gave way to the newer sounds coming along, the newer expression of what music can express like nothing else.

Consequently, my vinyl music collection is more accessible and present to me than it's ever been. The effect of the iPod has been opposite what I'm dreading from this Kindle. Who knows? Maybe this new gadget will spark a similar re-discovery of my many books. There's an argument that they have been neglected too.

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