OK. I'll admit it. I kind of covet the Kindle. The backlight thing is a problem, yes, one potentially solved by an iPhone, which I won't get for a variety of reasons, until I discover I covet it so much that I must get one, and when I do, I'll get the "old fashioned" one, as I did with the iPod. But whether it's the kindle or the iPhone, I can see the appeal. If I had one, I could read it while I sat with my daughter in her dark room, waiting for her to sleep. If I had one, I would worry about batteries in landfills but not clearcuts. At least there would still be a tree in the forest to hear my anxiety. Finally, if I had a Kindle, I wouldn't worry that I had too many books for my apartment. But then, I also wouldn't have that reassuring pile of books on my nightstand.
Like Josh Marshall, I worry about what the shelves will look like, even the shelves I don't yet have. This will be gotten over, of course, and soon enough reading that's not in cookbooks or atlases or picture books or art books will land in little handheld devices and we'll all say something will be lost, and it will. By then, presumably, the devices will cost nothing so everyone would find them affordable. And if they don't, what do we do then? How do you force someone to buy a reading device?
At the end of The Class, a student tells the teacher about reading Plato's Republic. Her sister had the book, it was lying around, so the student picked it up. Could that kind of accidental encounter happen with the Kindle? Granted, this is a scene from a movie. Who knows what would happen in real life -- I guess that's the point. Who knows once we get used to Kindles or whatever we'll eventually read on, what'll happen. Something will. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.