The Personality of Books and the Big Problem with my Kindle

By Deane Barker • Posted on June 22, 2009

I love my Kindle, but there’s one thing that’s...icky, about it. One thing that confirms all the background fear and dread I had about transitioning from actual paper to ebooks.

The Kindle strips out all the tangible character of a book. In doing this, it eliminates the mental “markers” I retain about a book after I’ve read it.

When you remember a book you read, you’re of course remembering the content of the book. But there are also physical markers about the book you remember:

These things all combine to “set” the book in your mind. These tactile reminders help the book to occupy a place in your head. They help give the book a personality – a character.

With a Kindle, you get none of this. The fonts, colors, weight, dimensions, etc. are all same. One book looks just like another one.

I purchased Wikinomics and Here Comes Everybody at the same time. I read them back-to-back, overlapping a bit.

To this day, I can’t separate the books in my head. When I think of a concept in either of them, I can’t figure out which one it was from. Granted they were about similar topics, but I still think that if they had been actual books made out of paper, each with their own personality, I would be able to isolate them more readily.

Does this mean I got less out of the books? Not at the time I read them for sure – I remember being glued to my Kindle on multiple airplane trips reading Shirky’s book in particular. But looking back on them, do they occupy a less readily available place in my mind because of their Kindle-imposed homogeneity? I suspect they might.

I love my Kindle, and it’s a net positive to own one, but in the sense of what I’ve written above, the Kindle can be a little depressing. It’s also made me understand that there’s more to a book than just the words in it. Books have personality – they have character. And at least some of this is conveyed by things that the Kindle can’t reproduce.

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