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a technology rant

April 2, 2009

Anyone who has spent ten minutes in my company probably knows that the sight of a Kindle  is enough to make me apoplectic.  I am a Luddite as far as books go:  I like paper & ink; I like the smell of old binding; I like card catalogues;  I like the Library of Congress system; I even like the Dewey Decimal system, bless its outdated little heart;  I like the whole idea of unplugging and doing things the slow way.  I already spend too much of my day staring at various types of blinking, beeping electronic gadgets — I’m doing it right now.  If I ever meet Jeff Bezos, I am going to have a few choice words for him about his Device of Satan.

Which explains why, when I read this today, I began turning purple and am now having to soothe myself with a Cadbury Creme Egg.  Charlie Warner, whoever you are, you are joining Bezos on my blacklist.

I think the most specious argument in the whole article is that the author gave his graduate students (I can only assume that they were studying new media of some kind) a few chapters of his book (called Media Selling) to read online, and nobody complained.  Well of course nobody bloody complained.  These are media students.  That’s a self-selecting audience — they’re all in the class because they like blinky, beepy gadgets.  Warner should have tried the experiment on a roomful of history Ph.D. candidates and seen how it went over.  (I might also point out, without impugning my own academic habits too much, that this was a class assignment.  Chances that those students were doing a time-consuming close reading of the text strikes me as slim, so their retinas were probably still intact when they finished.)

I used to laugh over this same question of audiences while I was still at USC.  I was a double major in Annenberg (the very high-tech School of Communications, where everyone always seemed to pass through the lobby at a dead run) and the old College of Letters, Arts & Sciences (the fusty, ultra-academic section of campus, where the furniture hadn’t changed since 1982).  In an Annenberg lecture, you were the odd one out if you were taking notes in a spiral-bound notebook. From the professor’s point of view, every student’s face was bathed with the delicate blue glow of a computer screen.  But in a College lecture, you had to prepare yourself for all kinds of raised eyebrows if you dared to unzip your laptop case.  You could practically feel the scarf-wearing kid in the next row wondering if he was close enough to stab you with the nib of his fountain pen.  So just to be contrary, I used to take my Mac to Shakespeare 304 and my trusty rollerball to Community Journalism 403.

But the truth is, I got along much better with the kid with the fountain pen.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Pat permalink
    April 3, 2009 5:09 am

    Fear not, real books will be back in vogue after the Kindle fad fades away. Don’t most college students print out online reading? It’s far easier to read that way.

    Plus, everyone knows fountain pens are just plain classy.

  2. April 11, 2009 4:48 am

    I’ll admit I have a Kindle. I have named it. I love it with my heart and soul. But for the most part it sits unused. Where do I do my grad school reading? In real books / printouts from online (can’t take notes on a Kindle!). What about fun-reading? On my bedstand.

    …but when I travel? All bets are off. Kindle all the way — because I’d much rather pack a slim paperback-sized Kindle than 3 or 4 or 5 (let’s get serious) books in my carryon / checked bag. It’s simpler. So I appreciate that.

    But, hey, in terms of notes, I’m still using my spiral notebook (diagrams don’t translate to computer), and I’d get along with the fountain pen kid too. 🙂

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