Monday, February 7, 2011

Cheap Bastid's Kindle My Fanny

I love to read. I read a couple of newspapers every day. I constantly have at least one book that I’m working my way through. I read magazines (although I cancelled my subscription to Newsweek—they keep sending it). And I like to peruse my growing collection of cookbooks (Mrs. CB got me Vol. 1&2 of Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” books for Christmas).

I enjoy thrillers and mysteries; historical novels and what my daughter has always referred to as “bomb books”—war novels. Plus, I like biographies of historical figures—but rarely “biographies” of current politicians, although I read both of Obama’s books. Gerald Ford’s “Write it After I’m Gone” was really good. And I recently read a really good book about the U.S. Supreme Court called “The Nine”—kind of catching us up 30 years after Robert Woodward’s “The Brethren”.

By now, you might be wondering: “What’s his point?” Don’t worry I’ve got one. It has nothing to do with the sorry state of reading skills of our nation’s youngsters. It has to do with that other persona of mine—Cheap Bastid. It has to do with technology. Uh ohh, here it comes.

Yep, I’m taking a swipe at the “Kindle” and the “Nook”.

I can go and buy books at Barnes and Noble for about ten bucks (paperbacks of course—hardcover kills too many trees. Bullcrap, hardcovers cost too damn much for this Cheap Bastid). I can get them for a lot cheaper at Costco (assuming they have a title I want to read—seems like they’ve been skewing towards Beck and Palin and Bush43. Does that tell you something about their demographic?). And I can go to a neighborhood used bookstore and get lots of books for $1 each.

But that’s apparently not good enough anymore. I’m supposed to go out and spend $139 for a Kindle or Nook ($249 for color) so that I can read a book on a plastic, computerized machine. And…and…and I guess I’m supposed to keep on paying $9.99 per book for the privilege of loading it onto my nifty-keen plastic machine so that I can read it anywhere/anytime.

Am I missing something here? Does this seem odd? Why can’t I just keep on buying books at Barnes and Noble on Amazon at the used book store or even checking them out at the library without having to get some new damn gadget?

Am I some sort of anti-technology dinosaur? Is Guttenburg rolling over in his grave? Hell no, I just like reading and I’m a Cheap Bastid.

For the life of me I can’t see the sense in some $140 gadget. TV commercials are showing people sitting on lounge chairs at a pool comparing readers. What if I’m sitting by the pool reading and want to go jump in the pool? Odds are no one gives enough of a rat’s behind to swipe my paperback novel. But they might want to swipe my Nook or Kindle. So I’ve got a security issue.

And what if I’m on a plane? I’ve inadvertently left books behind on airplanes. No big deal, I can replace it for about ten bucks. What if I leave my Kindle behind? Good luck! I’m not getting it back and now I’m out a hundred and forty bucks, plus the ten bucks for the book.

And it just seems wrong to me to go into the bathroom to sit on the stool and “read” for 10 or 15 minutes, elbows on knees using Nook. I don’t know why but that’s just wrong. A magazine’s OK, a book’s OK but a gadget? Naw, not for this Cheap Bastid. It ain’t manly or something.

Lest I forget, now you can get your newspaper on a Kindle. Rupert Murdoch has even announced a new electronic only newspaper available only on i-Pad. Good for him. Give me my newspaper exactly the way the name implies—NEWS on Paper! So it’s awkward. It’s always been like that. I just can’t see reading the paperless electronic paper on a Kindle in one hand with either a cup of coffee or a cigarette in the other while I’m out on my balcony in the morning. If I drop the paper over the balcony I just go down and retrieve it, some what embarrassed. If I drop the Nook, it’s going to explode when it hits the pavement. And what if I “forget” and let the battery run down like what happens occasionally to my cell phone?

And, don’t try to tell me about the convenience of it. That all I have to do is go online and download the book to my Kindle or Nook. That would be all right if I were agoraphobic. Every once in a while you need to browse the offerings to see all those books and mingle with the people who are doing the same thing you are.

This is just freaking technology run amok. It’s another way to get ever deeper into our pockets. I saw on Google a listing for Kindle books. “Over 2 million titles available,” it said. “Thousands are free,” it concluded. Whoopdee-dingo-crap.

It seems to me that what’s been going on the last several years with computers and phones and HDTVs, etc. is just refinements to technology, cleverly marketed to get ever deeper into our pockets. And don’t get me started (yet) on cell phone programs and “bundled” cable service—that’s a different rant altogether.

I condescend to read some news online and to read blogposts, etc. But after a few hours of that it feels like my eyes are being sucked out of my head.

Just watch, I’ve ranted about this now and within 2 years will probably be like the rest of the world, dragged into the world of reading on a Kindle or Nook. I may end up doing it. But, I’m not going to like it. Everyone in my family knows that if they want to give me a gift I’ll use and appreciate, make it a giftcard to Barnes and Noble.

And there will be those who sanctimoniously point out to me the convenience of these devices. They’ll suggest that new technology is designed to improve our lives. Maybe. But I’m not convinced that this is anything other than the next thing out there to lighten our wallets without providing a tangible value. The value of the words and ideas are the same. The entertainment value is the same. It’s just that I’m going to end up paying more. And that doesn’t make sense to this old Cheap Bastid.

So, until I have to, I ain’t going to use something like a Kindle or Nook. The only “reader” I need is something with a cover and pages of paper with squiggles of ink on it that make up the words and ideas.

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