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.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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