by Faith Childs | bio


Right out of its book-shaped box, the Amazon Kindle works. Slide the power switch on the back to the "on" position, and you are "kindling," in the words of Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, who takes credit for naming the reading device after twigs and bits of loose wood used to ignite a fire.

An early adopter of other electronic reading devices, but by no means a gadget aficionada — I own a Rocket E-Book, and another device; I didn’t stay faithful to either device for long — I hesitated buying an Amazon kindle. I found the experience of reading on a machine momentarily diverting and somewhat curious. Kind of like strawberry risotto. I like risotto. And I like strawberries. But the notion of the two things combined … is, let’s face it, neither risotto nor strawberries. 

The text in the earlier versions was hard on my eyes and not conducive to reading for long periods of time. Plus the multiplicity of cords, chargers and electronic catalogs weighted toward Jane Austen completists made for a reading experience of mostly fidgeting and bother rather than leisure. Between a book and a book-shaped object, I preferred a book. 

Tom Stoppard has traveled with his books in a dedicated, leather book bag which he calls, "[o]ne of the great things that civilization has produced." Too bad for me that Manhattan luggage maker, T. Anthony stopped producing these little leather book houses almost 30 years ago as I, too, travel with books: two novels at least, a biography, some history, and poetry, plus magazines and newspapers. Having nothing to read is not an option for me. 

Since I’ll be traveling almost constantly this summer and wary of of lost bags and delays, I decided to give the Kindle a test drive. No complicated directions, no extensive guide to read before you see text, no lengthy battery charging periods. Plug it in and you’re reading. 

The text is so much like a book that I even mimed turning a page until I realized that I was reading a virtual book. With the touch of a button pages move forward or backward. There’s the ability to underline passages and bookmark pages too. It’s legible, in fact it looks just like text on the page of a paperback book. The size of the text can be adjusted with a single click. And, at 10.3 ounces, it’s lightweight. 

I road-tested my Kindle this weekend to "kick the tires" before taking it with me on my jaunts over the next eight weeks. I carried no books, only the Kindle. Aboard the Acela Express between New York and Washington, I bought from the Kindle Store the new Russell Banks novel, "The Reserve." With only a few clicks and after the briefest interval, the novel was transferred to my reader. Fair to say I was immersed in both the book and the Kindle.

The store doesn’t have everything. I tried to buy a new novel by Andrew Sean Greer, "The Story of a Marriage," which wasn’t available, although they stocked Greer’s previous novel. Newspapers, magazines, blogs and thousands of titles are available from the Kindle Store. It is not necessary to be online to connect to the store. Books are sent directly to the Kindle from Amazon.   

Will I ever abandon real books? I think not. I am too habituated to the books to ever give them up. No matter how convenient, nothing can replace books and my association with them over my lifetime. The feel of paper, colored inks, different typefaces, their weight resting against the body, everything associated with the reading experience is etched into my life.

For now, I’ll carry the Kindle, but if T. Anthony ever goes back into production on its leather book box, I’ll be first in line.

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