On the Kindle bright side…

March 9, 2011 at 12:00 am 6 comments

As loyal readers of Literary Transgressions are no doubt aware, I am not the biggest Kindle/e-reader fan. In fact, I’m pretty solidly opposed on primarily typographical grounds. Not to mention the wonderful smell and feeling of a book, the pleasure of turning actual pages, and the long and fascinating history of the book as a form. Something tells me you’ve heard these complaints before and often.

That all said, I recently came across a new argument for the Kindle that impressed me considerably. In short, the argument goes that because new Kindle e-books are generally the price of a regular book (the questions of “why?!” and “what am I paying for beyond the author’s cut?” remain enduring questions to be debated at another time), Kindle users turn instead to classic books that are outside of copyright and free on the Kindle. Thus, the Kindle fosters a classic literature renaissance among its users. Brilliant!

While I suppose it is somewhat disheartening to look at this from the perspective of people’s economic considerations outweighing their having an opinion about what to read (as in, “heck, I’ll just read whatever’s free!”), I think it is actually a much more positive thing than that. Public schools, in my opinion, have been slaughtering classic literature for generations now by attempting to force an appreciation of the classics on their students. You can’t hurry love and you certainly can’t make people like or appreciate a book simply because it is dubbed “good literature.” The idea the Kindle is a) creating a second opportunity to enjoy the classics for those people who hated them in school, b) is making these sorts of texts easily available (more easily than those still within copyright, actually), and c) is turning classic literature in a technologically hip/desirable commodity is one which I find quite laudable.

So even though I’m still not going to get myself a Kindle anytime soon, at least I can definitely appreciate the new and exciting ways in which Kindle is influencing what is read by its users. I’m really enthused about the idea of someone picking up a random out-of-copyright text and surprisingly enjoying it, all thanks to the economics of Kindle e-books.



Entry filed under: Musings and Essays. Tags: , , , , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Britney  |  March 9, 2011 at 4:26 am

    I got a Nook last month and other than a few library books, the only books on it are classics…because I’m cheap (oh, and broke). Though lately I’ve just been reading paper library books…

    • 2. Corey  |  March 9, 2011 at 4:40 am

      You can get library books on the Nook? That sounds like a perfect marriage of technologies; you’re not owning or keeping library books physically anyway and then you don’t have to carry them around.

      But, more to the point, you’ve found that you read more classics with your e-reader than you would otherwise? I can start amassing actual evidence in favor of this theory if so! :)

      • 3. Britney  |  March 9, 2011 at 8:53 am

        A lot of libraries use Overdrive, a service that allows you to borrow eBooks, and many of them are Nook-compatible. To be honest, I’ve only read three books on my Nook so far (and I’ve had it for a month). Two were library books and one a book on marathon running that my mom bought for me. But all the books on the Nook are classics, which I do intend to read. I like that I can make the font bigger, which makes reading books that frequently come in small print much more appealing.

        But lately I’ve just been reading a lot of paper library books about running. :P While there are many books I want to read available through Overdrive (I have access to three different libraries) a lot of the books I want to read right now aren’t available that way.

        • 4. Corey  |  March 9, 2011 at 9:02 am

          Very cool. And how do you like your Nook? What made you get it instead of a Kindle?

  • 5. Madame Vauquer  |  March 9, 2011 at 8:05 am

    I’ve read free eTexts for years on my computer and these new readers are great because of their mobility.

    Project Gutenberg has over 30,000 books now available free in various formats, including Kindle and Nook.

    Of course I still love books, but hate it when I open a library book which reeks of smoke or perfume.

    • 6. Corey  |  March 9, 2011 at 8:48 am

      Project Gutenberg is pretty excellent! I’m also increasingly a fan of GoogleBooks for 19th-century texts; they have nice scans of each page so it isn’t just a long web page of plain text like on Gutenberg.


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