24 March 2008
the strand, the kindle, and the irony of progress
While in New York in early March, our friends took us to Strand Bookstore, a legendary NYC spot. They have miles and miles (and stacks upon stacks) of all kinds of books. There are new books, used books, rare books, out of print books, picture books, foreign books, war books, peace books... You get the idea. Lots of books.
To an avid reader, used bookstores are beautiful places of hope. Each one is a place to hunt for treasures that others have long discarded. Each one has its own personality depending on the neighborhood it is in and the attitude of the staff that buys books from the public. They are creatures, organic and individual.
I found myself feeling a stinging guilt as I perused the millions of volumes that rested in Strand. I am an owner of the Amazon Kindle. I have embraced books in the newest form - one that is measured in kilobytes instead of pages. I appreciate the way that my books are delivered free of paper and glue, free of the pollutants that the diesel delivery truck spews on its way to Barnes and Noble. I enjoy the portability of having multiple books available at all times, all in a device the size of a movie theater concession-stand candy box (Mmm, Sour Patch Kids). I love my Kindle.
My guilt is in the fact that, if I had my way, my love of the Kindle would kill off the very bookstores that I loved before the Kindle came into my life. There would be no used book stores, no warehouses of old paper and ink. These places of amazing character, these places that define neighborhoods, would be no more.
Embracing the irony, I applied my Strand sticker to the case of my Kindle. It's the least I can do.