Against Kindle

5 January, 2016 by Nuria

 

Kindle_Graphite1

 

 

I do not want to cry because books are still alive and so are we. In the nineteenth century the cultural fear was that the newspapers would be the end of books. Something that did not happen. Or that phonographs would replace the paper books with talking books. As we know, however, this has not succeeded, the paper printouts are preferred rather than audiobooks. So I will sing the books’s excellences; and to declare war on e-books, beginning with the Kindle. I will add to commercial reasons which are common used, the stylistic, ideological and epistemological arguments. Since I have friends in agreement of the invention of electronic books, and the technology is continuously improving itself, perhaps in the future I will retract of this paper. Now, however, Kindle, vade retro. Enrique Vila-Matas, in his novel Dublinesca, deplores the end of the Gutenberg era and dedicates to it a poetic and decadent funeral. Although we share the same date (2010), the apocalypse of my play The Calligraphers is not so dreadful.

BEAUTIFUL OR UGLY EDITINGS

Ebooks desecrate books, they mocked the publishers’s care and the ancient wisdom of Calligraphy. On the screen of Amazon, the books become a continuous paper where million of words shipwreck without page layout and editing. If you like “small details” do it yourself (you who do not know the trade), and do a fastfood reading. If you are sensitive enough to identify a machine translation, you have to be scandalized by the blank lines of Kindle; not being able to make citations, you do not know the page where you are. The ebooks are like a faucet that spills letters in a jet. In addition, if is a pirated book, the text could be apocryphal without no respect for the original. The verses can be cut without fear; illustrations, disappeared. Nothing of Cathay of Ezra Pound. The information of first editions is not mentioned. It is the work naked and battered, wounded without blank pages or covers. The binding not only affects rare books of bibliophiles. As Genette said, the influence of transtextuality is vast and covers every detail. A best-seller horror novel without Gore illustrations or gothic letters provokes less fear. The great books remain well done, sewn in cloth. No ebook exceeds nor touch, nor smell, nor care of the excellence of Chatto & Windus, Kegan Paul, Bodley Head, Siruela, Barral, Oxford University Press and Bernat Metge.

Kindle publishes books with calligraphic and typographical mistakes and without any idiosyncratic features. I don’t like Kindle because without a style appropriate to each book, all writers, so badly edited, sound terribly alike, from the Greeks to the Americans with horrible calligraphy; with nothing of the highlight and unique timbre of each personality. Steve Jobs regained the typography of our civilization; Kindle forces the authors to speak with calligraphy’s errors; Kindle standardizes them and wears them with the same potato sack. The choice is minimal and if there is a range of typographic families like in the Sony eReader, the reader adapts it to his taste instead of adapting the form at the work, as would do an editor. Consequently, I am more in favor of scans of Google Books and iPad’s pdf because, at least, they respect the design of the page, and the image formats. But the pdf are heavy. They are only useful. They serve to make an idea of the text not to enjoy it. They are a bad copy of a book.

ORDER OR CHAOS. GOODBYE TO THE HIERARCHY OF MERIT

Ebook destroys the beauty of libraries’s order of books. Each library has a system: or the universal code of signatures (CDU) or your personal signature. Everyone knows where is each one of his books at home and why. Kindle changes your private library to an alphabetic classification, the most basic of catalogs. The machine removes the beauty of the spine of the books that fill the old wood cabinets; and replace the touch, color, thickness and quality of the paper for a schematic and heavy list of bibliography. The order of a library is not linear. Ebooks put your purchases in a row. A library is a complex organism chronological and organic very particular. I love many books, like Les Nuits by Musset edited by Club du Libraire, with drawings and manuscripts by the author; the red Seuil Integral by Balzac; or the Novel.la by Brossa and Tàpies edited by Catalonian publisher Mall; I could hardly be in love with a screen.

Kindle is uneducated, it does not differentiate the good from the bad. On Amazon there is everything. Its aims is to sell anything. I do not know if I want so much. I prefer fewer but of higher quality. I do not want 50,000 bad books in an electronic device. I’d rather have fifty beautiful and good books and note them as part of me and my house. Publishers and booksellers help you to choose and make quality filters. If you query a catalog of Barral, Peninsula or Cambridge UP, is rare the author who does not reach the maximum. At Amazon we have not even minimums. The company does not necessarily represent anyone educated or refined. Amazon is a great building in a park full of packages; their administrator understands numbers; not letters. In an exclusive publisher we have a guarantee that the book has gone through a selection process. In kindle and in self publishing, anything written could be sold as a book. Literary agents, booksellers, publishers, teachers and critics make a selection of the best, so they are our reading guides. The criterion of a literay specialist is not marketing but quality.

WELL-BEING OR NUISANCES

eBooks worry and create headaches and anxiety that you never have reading a book. Instead of delight reading Henry James, you lose time with technical problems. The ebook provokes stress; usually DRM, caliber, mobi, nook, papyre etc. have disadvantages to adjust, load and update; the battery fails. If it is too sunny we can’t read them; their powerful light hurt our sight, despite the electronic ink. They do not easily allow to quote fragments; or to lend the book to a friend.

The warmth of the book. Call me romantic. I do not hide it. I prefer the sound of a grand piano to that of an electronic keyboard. A live concert does not sound like a recording. A film can not be seen on a smartphone. One who does not perceive the difference could hardly understand me. A paper with a good weight or glos, coated with a selected font, a beautiful binding with generous margins is a luxury. Is there anything more beautiful than a illustrated children’s book? We can not let video games and the digital world disturb the children’s heads. A book bound by hand has a warm touch, a time that relaxes you, moves you, going back and forth, reread; you can take the book everywhere with you as a friend, not as some metal keys. A book is a break from the frenzy of the screen; a human encounter with you and others, like Roberto Casati poses in his praise to the paper in Contro il digitale colonialism. The book helps you to think, you have the feeling of never having lost time. You don’t regret spending too many hours reading. A book is like a good friend, your time together seems always too short.

late at night pino daeni

Pino Daeni, illustrator

DEPTH OR COGNITIVE SUPERFICIALITY

Reading online is superficial. The epistemological aspect is the most important because it affects how we acquire knowledge. The ebook’s reading is an act blended with multitasking and internet consultations through hyperlinks. As shown by psychologists, neuroscientists and telecoms engineers like Nicholas G. Carr, these online and digital readings are superficial and full of distractions; they just detect signs diagonally through the keywords and jump quickly from one place to another pecking and losing concentration.

INTIMACY OR HIPERMARKET

Why do we need thousands books in an ebook? They sell as a lead of the electronic books the lightness and the big storage. In a few grams can be 1,400 books. Even they could be 1,000,000. If we’re not nomads or we don’t live in an 12 m2’s house, ¿how many people don’t have enough room for their books at home? Only the great readers, to which thousands of books do not bother them; on the contrary, they want to keep them. The space is a problem for distributor, not for the readers. For travel, the gadget works well, it’s true. But what can I say? Also the books. In a normal trip you need one, two, four books; but not more. Those which will fit in a suitcase. Why willingly do we load kilos of clothing but, with miserly nature, we complain about the grams of a book?

Amazon, the monstrous cheap bookseller. I dislike Kindle or purchase items from giant Amazon. Their gadgets just read their books, not those from other publishers. Therefore, you must get the books in Amazon. It’s so easy to buy, only with a clic of a button’s “buy.” Buying online is fast and compulsive. How many of these thousands of books are actually read? It does not matter. As if they’re thrown away. They’re so low priced. What a humiliation for intellectuals and artists that transport worth three times their work. Trucks lowered the writers’s delusions of grandeur. The New Yorker magazine reports on its issue 17-04-2014 the ignoble pressures of Amazon publishers on workers and politicians: “Cheap Words. Amazon is good for customers. But it’s good for books?” No, they are not, proves George Packer. If a book is as cheap as a sandwich this means that both have little importance. An iPhone or parfume brand, however, are expensive beacuse they are chic things.

The digital world is fast, low cost and global. The paper book is expensive and has a limited scope. A good solution are agreements between bookshops and publishers to print books by order and avoid stocks. Another, less ambitious, is to confine your work, your products, in a smaller circle. The minority circles have their appeal. They are nearby. To opt for internationalization and the worldwide through a blog posted on the Internet, doesn’t assure the success. In theory you can reach millions of potential readers and customers, especially if you write in English, Chinese or Spanish. But you also compete with millions of writers. Those who write in minority languages when we access to the network, we do not take as big of a leap. The illusion of infinite readers can devour us.

IMPERSONALITY

The ebooks are the bastards of writers. Some of my books are published in ebook format; I’ve heard indirectly of them by someone that told it to me, or by the annual royalties. The publishers send you copies of your books, but not ebooks, as if they had no significance. I do not even know my hypothetical kids, nobody has introduced them to me to recognized them. How can we feel that they are our creation, these pseudocloned artifacts, that we, the writers, have never seen? Ebooks are like bastards without any emotional relationship with their creators, or like deformed fetus that are part of you and, at the same time, not.

I am not against internet or new technologies. But I wish that the evolution of our civilization were a sum, not a subtraction. I support innovations unless suppressed good and profits that has been very hard to achieve. Here and there are emerging resistance to mechanization and globalization: the Slow Food, the Degrowth economic slowdown, the vintage, the return of vinyl records… They are still small publishers, and media such as Newsweek that they’re returning to paper or publishers like the exquisite Knopf that prints the stories of Alice Munro with a splendid paper which lacks only to cut their folds…

Today ebooks are worse than books. I do not like them. As I do not live in 2076 but in 2016, I prefer to touch a nice book, and to know with placidity its interesting story. I am also in favor of taking lunch with a friend rather than Iming with him and getting frustrated over half conversations. Until now, the ebook divides modern from old readers; also it marks a class difference: many cultivated people are wary of gadgets, and they are committed to best-published paper books. In the future, the ebooks will be better designed; will be more visual, intertextual and intergalactic. Or better yet: they will be unimaginable.

 

To Marlena Kennedy, who loves books, for her language assistance


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