Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Books: Kith and Kindle

During the week that Amazon got into a feud with Macmillan (fragging Macmillan’s authors in the process) and Apple introduced the iPad, I finally received my Kindle. Once again demonstrating the flawless timing that has made Keenans valued participants in ballroom dances, cavalry raids and open mic nights throughout history.

(ASIDE #1: Want cogent commentary on Amazon v. Macmillan? Read John Scalzi. Everyone else is. As for the iPad, I’ve lived to the biblical age of however old I am without buying a single Apple product. I’m not about to start now.)

I dithered about the decision to purchase a Kindle for months. By rights I should have been an early adopter; I’m e-reading’s ideal customer. I love books but am rigorously unsentimental about them as physical objects. I want the stories, not the pages.

Money kept me on the fence. Not only the cost of the device but the fact that many of the books I read come courtesy of Seattle’s excellent public library. I can work their hold system like a pinball machine. Graze it with my hip and new releases tumble my way.

But the SPL, feeling the economic pinch, has been forced to make changes. They’ve capped the number of titles you can reserve. And they’ve added a fee to an essential service for researching: interlibrary loans. I could request titles the SPL didn’t carry and a few weeks later a copy would turn up, marked with an orange band. The book, borrowed from the Cerritos, California library or a small college in Minnesota, would be my responsibility for two weeks, a charge I took seriously.

A few weeks ago I had my nose pressed to the Kindle store’s window when I noticed that a research book I wanted for a project, unavailable at the library and retailing for forty dollars, could be mine for only five bucks over the ILL fee. Wheels started turning.

(ASIDE #2: Yes, naysayers, I know that I don’t technically own a book on my Kindle, that I only license it and have therefore allowed the serpent of copyright into my intellectual garden. Or something. For good or ill, this doesn’t bother me.)

Then another discovery. Years ago I’d had a conversation with a book store owner who told me that the three most hardboiled novels were Green Ice by Raoul Whitfield, Fast One by Paul Cain, and Jonathan Latimer’s legendary, censored Solomon’s Vineyard. (I give you no less an authority than James Reasoner on that last title’s history and worth.) I’d found a copy of Green Ice – truth be told, I didn’t care for it – but not the others, aside from imperfect online and POD editions.

The Kindle store had both. Total cost: $4.98.

And so, I placed my order.

It was strange to fire up the Kindle and see the text of John Buntin’s L.A. Noir, which I’d read in hard copy, without page numbers. The interface was simple and intuitive. The e-ink display was astonishingly easy on the eyes. I opened Solomon’s Vineyard, read the introductory note promising “everything but an abortion and a tornado,” and scrolled to Chapter One.

From the way her buttocks looked under the black silk dress, I knew she’d be good in bed. The silk was tight and under it the muscles worked slow and easy. I saw weight there, and control, and, brother, those are things I like in a woman. I put down my bags and went after her along the station platform.

I don’t know about you, but if I found that smeared on shopping bags I’d keep reading. Which is what I did, devouring half of the book in a single sitting, never aware that I was looking at a screen, letting words written 70 years ago work their magic.

And having the text-to-speech voice read that Latimer paragraph aloud? Priceless.

Miscellaneous: Links

My friend award-winning sportswriter Mike Gasparino has launched Metsanity, a new blog about our mutual favorite team. Go. Read. Enjoy.

My friend award-winning author Christa Faust inked her new deal, then inked her new deal.

Get your genres confused? Donna Moore sorts it all out.