Will the Kindle Make Me Forget Hardcover Books?

My new e-reader is as light as a feather, but the worry it brings with it is heavy

So about a million years after everyone else, I just got a Kindle. It was a birthday gift from my fiance, and a truly great one, because I read constantly and because I have probably already done permanent damage to my spine toting massive books around in giant purses. It was also a great present because I would have never bought one for myself. Because a Kindle is technology, and I don’t really buy technology. No matter how truly cool the latest gadget, how indispensable or useful or genius and life-altering something may be, People Who Buy New Technology are like some giant club that it never really occurs to me to join (like People Who Go on Ski Vacations or People Who Like U2). I just eventually get dragged to some of the meetings by friends and loved ones, and end up converted.

Like most of the technology that eventually found its way to me, my Kindle is amazing and life-changing. But just like with my iPod (a gift) and the digital camera (his, not mine), my deep, immediate love and evangelical devotion is counterbalanced by a wide river of old-lady worry about what this means. You know, like in life. About how the new thing replacing the old thing is sort of sad, and probably sort of bad for civilization in general.

So, yes, I am a total freak in my forward-thinking generation, with my creaky old-lady neurosis that has me fretting over the inevitable passage of old to new. (What will happen to books? Will they go the same way as records/tapes/CDs? Will we forget the smell of library books? Will my future kids know the weight of textbooks in a backpack? WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE PERMANENCE OF OUR LITERARY TRADITION, PANIC, PANIC, PANIC!!)

But then I lift my Kindle, and, lo! She is so light! And tiny! And she comes with a pink case!

Years back, my cell phone (not a smart phone yet, but I’m sure one day, one will come into my life) changed my world—it changed all of our worlds. Obviously, now I need it, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. But I still suffer moments of despair over the way we all use our phones to escape from each other. Of what the cell phone has done to good manners. To peace and quiet. To walking and thinking, instead of talking. To our patience. To our language. (Did you know that OMG is in the dictionary?)

When I wrote recently about that cell phone worry, troubled over the impermanence of the little love texts my fiance and I exchange (as opposed to the love notes exchanged by my grandparents, which still exist as proof of their mutual adoration), the sweet man started sending me old-fashioned postcards. For posterity. For realness. And that assuaged my tech fears just fine: We still text, sure, but the postcards are a lovely, totally inconvenient and far less efficient nod to the way things have always been done. They’re something that we know, for sure, will last, and remind us of who we once were.

I don’t want to fight progress. I don’t want to destroy what’s left of my posture by hauling books around on vacation. I don’t want to be set in my ways at the ripe old age of 32. I want my e-reader. I just might also need to keep buying some hardbacks here and there, for friends, for myself. Something that we know, for sure, will last, and remind us of who we once were. Though I’ll no doubt be previewing them first before I buy, bathed in the soft glow of my featherweight Kindle.