What I’ve learned from my Kindle: part I

Though I believe the idea is to fill the “getting to know you” blog spot in turns one week at a time, events conspired this week to set me up perfectly for part one of a relatively brief expostulation on Some Things I Hold Dear as a Scholar in This Age of Digital Texts, a topic I’ve been reflecting on almost nonstop ever since we learned about the basic idea behind what will become Prism.

Like Alex, and as I’ve acknowledged previously, much of the work I do as a scholar is centered in textual studies. I frequently find myself drawn to problems that concern the production, dissemination, transmission and translation of texts. Partly for this reason, and perhaps perversely, I have always had a very difficult time imagining myself happily using an e-reader for scholarly work (or, to be honest, even for leisure reading). However, this aversion to e-readers, which is not entirely unfounded as far as textual concerns go, caused me distress when I considered that though I do enjoy studying physical books and printed texts, I also frequently profess to be a member of what Alex calls the Digital Humanities “camp.” I had always felt that these two areas of interest mesh quite well and are complementary. But how pro-digital could I really be, I used to wonder, if I couldn’t even bring myself to come within five feet of a Kindle or a Nook?

The e-reader problem went unaddressed until I graduated from UVa with my M.A. last spring. I opened the door of my apartment one day to find an unexpected box from Amazon sitting innocently on the front step. Inside the box was a very thoughtful and generous graduation gift from my aunt and uncle: a Kindle. Magnificent! I thought. Now I don’t have to pay for an e-reader, and I can finally rid myself of the guilt I’ve been feeling about assiduously avoiding contact with any and all e-reader devices since they first appeared on the market. Of course, I decided that I would start out on the Kindle with something unrelated to what I studied. Some light summer reading, perhaps. I had a number of international flights booked in the upcoming months. Perfect.

To make a long story short, I did not take the Kindle with me to British Columbia, Greece, or London. It disappeared during the move into my new apartment and only recently, with a pang of remorse, did I discover it again. I determined, however, that this time I would actually read something on it before the week was out.  Quite happily, a favorite reading group of mine provided the perfect opportunity. At our meeting last Friday we decided that our next text for discussion would be John Henry Newman’s novel Loss and Gain. Copies seemed scarce, I needed one quickly, and I refused to pay for print-on-demand. Enter: the Kindle option.

I was ready. I was even excited. I “purchased” my copy for free, and it instantly appeared on my Kindle via Amazon “Whispernet.” It was magical.

But would the reading process prove to be equally satisfactory? The saga continues next week… (and will conclude with an explanation about why all of this matters in a Praxis/Prism context!)

Sarah is a 2011-12 Praxis Fellow, former NINES Fellow, and a PhD candidate in the Department of English.

1 Comments

  1. I have the same Kindle anxieties. I also received an unasked-for Amazon delivery of one (from my parents for my birthday last year), and I was determined to use it for class to overcome my book-as-physical-object prejudices. I purchased _Women in Love_ on it, and brought it to Levenson’s Woolf & Bloomsbury class with me. It proved absolutely useless to me in a class context, mostly because it’s difficult to take notes and actually USE them in some helpful way (I usually print my notes out and organize them by theme before class), not to mention that there are no page numbers (LOCATIONS? THE HORROR!). I put some leisurely-reading books on there, but I actually just ended up abandoning it to my husband – only after bedazzling it with a Van Gogh _Almond Blossom_ cover (bwahaha).

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