Is Kindle for BlackBerry a sign that we're forgetting how to appreciate a book?

But are we taking our relationship with smart phones too far?

Amazon has released the beta version of Kindle for BlackBerry.  Now you can read Amazon e-books on your PC, iPhone, BlackBerry and of course, Kindle, if you have one. This gives BlackBerry device users access to Amazon’s full e-book catalog of 420,000 titles, including 102 of 112 New York Times bestsellers.

“Kindle for BlackBerry is a great way for customers to continue reading their current book wherever they are—in between meetings, at the grocery store or waiting in the doctor’s office,” said Ian Freed, vice president of Amazon Kindle.

This makes me wonder if we are taking this need always to be tethered to a smart phone too far. No need to go to a library to read, no need to close the study door to read, no need to slow down for an hour and open a book to read.

It used to be people had something called an “interior life,” where they could think what are called “thoughts.” Most people had “imaginations,” which is where you could watch little movies in your head, without even opening your eyes. It was better than YouTube, sometimes even better than a real movie. Reading could definitely facilitate your imagination, but when you were away from a book, for whatever reason, you could employ this ancient technology, the imagination. So while waiting in the grocery store line, you could think about what had happened that day or something that you were looking forward to, or worry or make plans or calculate strategies. All of this without booting up a device. Shocking but true.

Even more shocking, people used to talk to each other in the grocery store line. Sometimes they would strike up a conversation about the Bat Boy featured on the cover of the Weekly World News tabloid. Sometimes people tried to butt in line in front of you. But again, none of this required a device of any kind.

And while you were waiting in doctors' offices, there would often be magazines neatly arranged on end tables. It depended on the doctor, but sometimes they would subscribe to The New Yorker or National Geographic or Highlights magazine. I’ve read some great articles waiting for doctor appointments without downloading a single byte.

And I know that the device that delivers the content doesn’t really change it, does it? If Aristotle was great on stone tablets, he’ll be great on an iPad tablet, right? It’s just a little mind boggling that you can download half the Bodleian Library onto your smart phone, right next to the Cat Photo Clock app. It seems a little, well, sacrilegious.

I don’t mean to sound like a Luddite, though that seems to be a recurring theme with the GCN Lab lately. I think it’s great that we can read 420,000 books on our smart phones. I love technology, I love my cell phone, and I wouldn’t have passed college math without a calculator. I’m deeply grateful for all our technological achievements. I know I daily access worlds my grandparents never dreamed of, even with their finely tuned imaginations. I just worry sometimes this obsession with the small screen is at the expense of our imaginations and social skills.

Kindle for BlackBerry is available for free download at www.amazon.com/kindlebb.

Reader Comments

Tue, Mar 2, 2010

Technology can help me find facts, but I don't always understand. I can travel fast to a foreign place, and still get lost.

I find it easier to share a book. Seems more like a gift, compared to just a link.

Comparing a "good" book, I mean to me, not everyone, I think there is only one other written communication form which works better, a handwritten letter.

Wed, Feb 24, 2010

Things change. Society changes. People ignore, adopt or adapt as they see fit. Editorials ignoring these inevitabilities and lamenting personal choices seem odd in a publication which exists to report change.

Wed, Feb 24, 2010 Avid Reader Idaho

I love reading, but my hands go to sleep if I'm holding a book for to long and paper backs don't lay down on tables/desks very well, the Kindle has made it easier to ready more without the pain.

Wed, Feb 24, 2010

What no one ever points out with the technology is ruining our society argument is that everyone has choices. Technology only adds to our choices. What we choose to do is our responsibility. Many times people comment on seeing my Blackberry about never turning off the connection to work. What they don't realize is just because I have access to work 24/7 doesn't mean I can't turn it off. I control the Blackberry and what I do with it. Sometimes I answer an e-mail right now. Sometimes it waits while I read my copy of Dexter on MobiPocket. Which I downloaded free from my local library's website. It's all about choices.

Tue, Feb 23, 2010 commuter DC

I love to read. I fall asleep that way. Sometimes I stay up all night because I've got a real page turner; no problem; love it. I also have an hour and 15 minute commute each way. But I've got books on CD / tape. Great way to "read." I agree with others; it's the read that's fun. I'd rather carry around one BBerry than a BBerry and a Kindle too, + real books, another phone, separate navigation system, etc. Our grandkids might not even have books at all. Better get used to it. You can still curl up ;-) .

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