Interesting bit on Amazon’s new e-Book, the Kindle.

I’m intrigued, despite the $400 price tag without content. I’ve started riding a van to the office, and it’d be cool to be able to carry along the PDFs I’m reading (converted to .mobi files via a free utility), or to be able to cheaply and quickly buy content via “whispernet” (EVDO) if the whim struck me.

But I’m concerned at the same time about the underlying thread that runs through ALL of this technological love-affair: That we, as a species, are going to be able to generate ‘lectricity from now until the heat death of the universe, give or take a couple billion years.

The killer appeal of paper is that it doesn’t need batteries. Kindle boasts some pretty impressive power stats, but eventually, on time-scales much shorter than years, it becomes a brick.

Maybe that’s OK. Maybe, if things deteriorate to the point at which we cannot make electricity any longer, it won’t be worth reading anything from the 2012 best sellers list, and having all that information spread into entropy is fine.

But I’ve got this vision, of a ragged and buffed 20-something, after the end of modern civilization, finding the Nebraska University library there in Lincoln*, climbing the stairs, and beginning to reconstitute civilization, learning from our mistakes this time.

In some ways, I suppose it’s a luddite point of view. I don’t think so – I’m looking forward to the power that will come with instant and cheap access to all the world’s knowledge. My hope, however, is that we don’t opt to clean off our shelves to save space or costs.

Unsolved mysteries like Stonehenge, the Pyramids, and the Bimini Road fascinate me. Maybe there’s something to the tin-foil-hat crowd that claims that stone-age technology couldn’t be accurate enough masons to stack the pyramids, or that there are lost civilizations under the Atlantic. Why haven’t we heard about them?

Maybe they were all digital. Maybe when they all fell apart, the only folks who were left were the beauticians and the telephone sanitizers, who had no clue how to work or build their advanced technologies. Maybe given a half-million years to work, nature swallowed up most of the traces of their civilizations, while we descendants of the dregs rebuilt the world in our own image.

Maybe history is cyclic, the Maya are right, and the world will end in 2012. Maybe we’ll burn books for fuel as daises grow in the center of IH-95. Maybe it’s inevitable.

Hug a book today.

*Picked a place in flyover country on the theory that they’ll avoid being completely looted and burned. Us coastal dwellers are doomed.

4 thoughts on “Kindling”

  1. A book never crashes.

    A book isn’t hobbled with DRM.

    Frankly, I see the Kindle as a poorly-executed system that’s far too much a cash register for Amazon (99¢ to subscribe to a single blog feed?) than a real breakthrough.

    Gimme pages, man: pulp, ink and dog-ears.

  2. this resonates with me so much more than the majority of things i’ve read in my life. gonna take a reader with you when you go backpacking the pct? no. you’ll take a book. you can’t wipe your ass in an emergency with a reader. ;)

  3. Another devil’s advocate: you don’t need a flashlight under the covers (or out in the woods) to read a kindle.

    On the other hand, every child needs the tactile experience of a book with pages to turn and dazzling illustrations to encourage both lingering on and turning those pages. ESPECIALLY pop-up books and scratch-and-sniff books.

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