28 May 2010

Technology Travels

Just a few weeks ago, packing for holiday in Scotland, I discover there is more to the to-do list than in the past. Not only the right clothes, essential toiletries and guidebook, but now I have to be sure to charge and carefully pack all necessary technology. I laugh out loud at the lineup of gadgets charging for the trip: Camera, check. Ipod, check. Phone, not usable most of the trip, but ready for the return. And now, added to the technology pile: Kindle, check.

I have gone to the dark side. My daughters presented me with a Kindle for Mother's Day, a thoughtful and generous gift, but I nearly faint when I open the Amazon box, recoiling for the moment at the very idea of this. I who cherish every printed page, love the feel of paper between my fingers and the heft of a well-bound book, read on a machine? But my daughters have sent me a gift of reading, my favorite pasttime, and I cannot refuse. In moments I learn all there is to know to use this remarkable little gadget. 10 ounces that might at some point hold 1500 books! It slips easily into the side pocket of my purse, even the smaller purse I use to travel because is presses tightly to my body and every one of several pockets zips or tucks away, neatly protected from the casual thief. The side pocket usually holds whatever book I might be reading, now it holds them all.

In another few moments I download The Imperfectionists, a new novel recently featured on the cover of the New York Times and thus temporarily out-of-print [which I thought was over-rated.] I hardly ever buy hardcover books, too expensive, but this downloads in seconds for $9.99. A collection of short stories well reviewed, always good to have on a long journey. Another of essays by David Sedaris, as if traveling with a dear friend. Sufficient reading for a week for sure. But at LAX, waiting to board, I am reminded by a friend that I should have read one of those great Scottish mysteries, to set the tone, so I log up, search through the huge selection, and in seconds download a mystery that will be read on the journey across the pond. Remarkable!

I am truly grateful to have such a lightweight reader and will use it surely when I travel and likely when I go out to lunch, which I enjoy now and then, so much easier to sit at the bar without having to prop up a book or turn pages. I am also pleased that I can in fact highlight passages I want to save and shift them to a separate file, and now and again, the built-in dictionary is simply fab. But when I return home, the first thing I do is grab the next book off the pile and savor the feeling of it. [Chang Rae-Lee's The Surrendered, beautiful and powerful.] Every Friday afternoon throughout my childhood, my mother and I went to the library to choose our books. I was allowed only three, as a way of sharing well with others, and because my mother said even I would not read more than three books in a week, true, and this made the choosing both challenge and delight. To this day, I always have at least three books by my bedside waiting to be read [and usually many more] and always feel that flutter of excitement when choosing the next one. What Kindle also allows you to do is drift a bit. I grew weary of the novel so switched to a story, without having to dig another book out of a bag. Transportable and immediate. [New story collection highly recommended: If I Loved You I Would Tell You This.]

In my last days in corporate marketing many moons ago, I established a strategy for new products at Mott's USA that would fit what I defined in 1985 as the three most important trends in the food and beverage category: portability, snackability, fruitability. The result was wonderful products like Mott's Snack Packs and ultimately Jello pudding packs. Trends tend to migrate across categories and surely portability is the hallmark of this generaation and into the future. From cell phones to iPod, we take it all with us - our connections, our to-do lists, our music, now our readings. Resist as many do, I'm afraid I agree with Jeff Besos, CEO of Amazon that the literary technology train has left the station and while I will always favor printed paper, I am glad to have a Kindle as yet another option. When I spend my summer holiday on the east coast, I won't have to trek or mail a pile of books and always have something to read at the ready. The only drawback truthfully is that it means I will have to wait at least two years before I can justify purchase of an iPad!

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