By Joseph Carbone
Ooooh, I hate Kindles. Don’t get me wrong, I dislike all e-readers, but Kindles are the ones that grind my gears the most, being the biggest and baddest of them all. Call my hate tall poppy syndrome if you like, but I think it’s probably justified when the anger is directed at the offspring of a behemoth like Amazon.
Of course, ‘hate’ is a strong word, but my loathing of these phony approximations of the reading experience truly knows no bounds. I think of reading on a Kindle much the same as I think of people who buy Penguin Classics just to show off a flash of citric orange to strangers. You’re simply not doing it right. Is this conservative gatekeeping? Maybe. But the public seems to be agreeing with me, at least from what I can see.
Many of you have undoubtedly witnessed the media retro revival that’s been growing steadily for the last few years. Vinyl records, comic books, regular books; they’re all coming back in a huge way. The over-digitisation of society has turned people back towards the classics, and people are responding positively. How? With their money, for starters. If you don’t know how to look for these artefacts properly, they can cost a pretty penny nowadays.
But why? Why do these legacy technologies refuse to shuffle off our shared mortal coil? Well, it would seem that there’s plenty to be said in favour of the tactile, kinaesthetic qualities that retro media can provide us over its digital, inhuman relations. Feel and touch are disappearing quantities, and so we (either consciously or subconsciously) have begun to seek out literal art objects to scratch that primal itch on the smalls of our backs and satisfy a base need.
The West is also arrogant. In keeping old media alive and stubbornly refusing to roll over and let the ones and zeroes win, perhaps we’re asking why we can’t have our digital cake and eat it too. When we’re so obsessed with ourselves, of course we’ll continuously look to our past and dredge up romanticised elements of it. We hate our past and twist it to be better, to work for us. It’s Millennial/Gen Z doublethink, and I think I love it.
Building a repository of books (or records, or whatever your vice) is like building a monument to your own experience with media and art. Lean into that arrogance, I say. Screw it, why not? The experience of turning a page in the sun, smelling a book, or finishing a read and contentedly going ‘Ahhhhh’ as you turn the back cover over are experiences to be proud of. So, show them off. If people can over-post their travel photos on Instagram, you should have a bookshelf that sags under the weight of hundreds of stories that are far better and more compelling than getting drunk and lost in Barcelona.
Most printers have developed energy-conscious and plant-friendly techniques for making their books, so you needn’t stress too much about ecology. All Australian publishers have to have the environmental logo on their books’ imprint page, for example, while others source recycled pulp or use trees specifically grown for the purpose of printing. You could also just buy second-hand. And even then, if Kindle readers dare to try and guilt you, just remind them that they are literally paying Jeff Bezos – space conqueror and on-again off-again Bond villain – for their fake books.
Please don’t tell anyone that I just bought a book from Amazon, though. Maybe the ends do justify the means?