Thursday, October 30, 2008


Perfect Neighbors or Less Clutter or I Think I Want a Kindle

The neighbors downstairs are perfect. They are environmentally friendly and I suspect do not even exhale CO2. They taught everyone in the building to crush plastic bottles so we use fewer plastic bags for recycling. They can repaint, repatch, refix, retile, redo everything. They have cool accents. They never get mad. They wear nice clothes. They are both gorgeous.

We recently visited their apartment, (they served us food they made) and it looked like something out of a Design Within Reach catalogue. I got sleepy because their lighting was soothing and perfect. When we went home, my husband said, "What did you think of their place?" And I said, "It was cool." And he said, "It was so calm. They have no clutter." And I said, "Yes, decorated spaces always look calm because they have no books and no CDs."

Seriously, if you look at any decorating magazine featuring rooms that have been feng shuied to death, you will see few, if any, books. People who live in magazine-worthy designed spaces do not appear to have hobbies.

I started to think that I should shed some books.

I called a good friend and asked her: "How often do you book purge and how do you decide to get rid of certain titles?" She told me her criteria, which I won't list here because it touches on matters rather personal. I said that I noticed I had a certain book on my shelf--a "media endorsed book group" book that had been turned into a Hollywood film a few years ago, and my friend said, "Oh, just get rid of that." I said, "Did you read it?" And she said, "I don't have to. Just get rid of it." And I thought, right, what am I doing with this overwrought tome on my shelf? I like to keep books from which I'm inclined to learn something about technique, or which I enjoyed. This media-mogul endorsed book does not fit the bill. The book is going to go.

Then I thought again about the perfect neighbors downstairs. Maybe I had judged them too cynicaly. Maybe they have plenty of books, but because they don't believe in killing trees, they have books in digital form. Maybe they have a huge library of CDs (at least one of them is a musician) and their music is all in a library on the computer. Maybe, I thought, they each have a Kindle.

I've started seeing the Kindle on the subway in New York, and while I still think it is ugly--it looks like some kind of KSwiss shoe from the 80s--it's intriguing.

If I had a Kindle, I could download the new "literary hit" for about 10 bucks. Better still, I could read the first chapter for free to see if it is the kind of book I'm inclined to finish. And if I love the book, I could go buy the hardback. I could read the latest nonfiction title heralding disaster and absorb it and freak out and forget about it when it turns out to be wrong, without having to buy the book, the object, and look at it sitting on my shelf without any relevance six months later. I could travel with several novels pre-downloaded, and would thus have more space in my suitcase. I could declutter the apartment. I would never be like the perfect neighbors downstairs, but maybe I wouldn't have to look at my pile of books and sigh and wonder how many I can carry at a time to Housing Works for recycling.

I took a look at Sony's eReader bookstore. Um, no. Not much for me. The Amazon bookstore on the other hand--and the new deal that Google has signed with the Author's Guild--makes me feel that the electronic book "revolution" is really here. I can take it. I recently read a book on my iPhone (Dear Steve Jobs: Can't you work something out with Jeff Bezos? He needs you). I think I'm almost ready for the Kindle.

Not available in Europe yet, though it would be tempting. Still, it's not the same as a printed copy of Arthur Rackham's Poe at Halloween, is it?

I have decluttered a lot of books, though, mostly on the two principles of "Am I really going to read this again in the next forty years?" and "Is this dead white male available on Project Guttenberg?"
No! But, see, I would keep "special" books, like my woodcut Wuthering Heights, and my signed "Secret History" by Donna Tartt, etc. But I could certainly sample a few things before deciding if I wanted the physical book . . .

I like the criteria you list. I'm thinking of posting about a few books I must keep and why I must keep them . . .
Oh dear, the Kindle. My husband bought himself one two months ago and they are inseparable - I swear that it is now a permanent part of his hand. While I still have 400+ books cluttering the house and forming a sliding ramp down from my side of the bed.

Beware the Kindle, it is clearly addictive.

Also, I read in my vet's e-newsletter that a "kindle" is a grouping of kittens (a la a kettle of hawks). Go figure.
I'm a secret reader of your blog. Just wanted to let you know about this deal by Oprah, if you didn't already know. I will probably wait for the new version that will be out next year.
Aw, hi secret reader! Thank you for the tip. Of course, since you are waiting for the next version, it makes me wonder if I should too . . . Time to investigate . . .
I'm really... REALLY looking forward for the Kindle or some machine like that. Is really annoying reading from the computer, but you can have SUCH huge amount of books!! Although I also like printed books or comic books, it would be really nice to buy just what you really want printed, and most part on digital media. I'm expecting this revolution to happen as soon as possible!!
The problem I have with the Kindle is the persistent rumors that the next generation is always just a few months away.
I know. Yesterday Gordon said to me: "Should I wait until next year?" I don't know what to think. I've seen purported photos of the new model on websites, but there isn't even a rumored delivery date!
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