Why I don’t Kindle

So I don’t have a Kindle, and I don’t want one. For some reason I’m predisposed to dislike it. When I try to articulate my reasons, though, they feel as irrational as any other prejudice, so I won’t embarrass myself by trying to share them.

The Kindle has virtues for sure. It seems like a great way to take a lot of books on vacation. It saves paper and therefore trees. On net, it’s a green device, even when you factor in the materials and manufacturing.

Having said that, there are some rational, non-prejudicial reasons to dislike it…

It’s ugly. To me, the Kindle already looks like a cool gadget from ten years ago – like those candy-colored iMacs from 1998. And the display makes everything look like you’re seeing it through the window of a Greyhound bus.

Typography. I’m a bit of a font geek, but I think it should bother everyone that the Kindle uses one font for everything. I hear the Kindle DX has native PDF support, which I assume includes fonts, but I also assume it – like the Kindle 2 – uses Monotype Caecilia for everything else. It’s hard to imagine reading the New York Times in such a robotic looking typeface, but the bigger issue is that fonts are carefully chosen. They signal something about the contents of a work, just as body language and clothing signal something about a person. You can tell just from the typography of a movie poster, for example, whether a film is serious, funny or frightening. Fonts are like the clothing of a written work.

No backlighting. Really? This is a battery-powered device, but if you want to read in bed without bothering your partner you need to clip a book light onto it? When I learned this about the Kindle I could not believe it.

No pictures… or terrible pictures. I hear the DX has made some improvements here over the Kindle 2, but in any case the device doesn’t do color, so things like infographics and many kinds of illustrations are simply rendered useless.

You can’t lend or borrow. I love the public library, and I love having my own library. One of the things I love about having books in my house is being able to give them away to people. By the same token, I love it when a friend hands me a dog-eared paperback she just finished and says, “you have to read this.”

Yep. I’m happy with the ancient, tree-killing version.