Kindle Fire HD

Dear Amazon,

Let me put one thing on the table now: I am no Luddite; I own an ereader – in fact two, the Sony PRS-T1 and PRS-650; I love my ereader(s). As a reader, they are fabulous; as a teacher, wonderfully useful; as a (would be) traveller, indispensable. I own nearly 5,500 ebooks and carry 1,200 with me everywhere. My ereader lets me carry, highlight and search Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dickens, Austen as well as allowing me to indulge my (not so secret) guilty pleasure of fantasy. As a teacher, there are students with ereaders who now read whereas they did not before.

I do not dislike ereaders.

I do not dislike your Kindles (although I do prefer my Sony).

I do object to the fact that ereaders lead to a rise in Fifty Shades of Gray and its successors (every book that has followed has the same pattern: take a colour, a number and a word that rhymes with Gray. Seventy Days Yellow. Sixteen Vermillion Plays. A Stray Hundred Aquamarines). That, however, is an objection to the book rather than the technology that allowed it to be read anonymously by suburban housewives.

But – and, Amazon, this is a big but – I do not get the Kindle Fire.

Ok, it is a smart looking piece of kit. That, I’ll grant you. It is smart enough to have fired up my step-son to request one for his birthday. He got it yesterday.

But here’s my problem: why are you selling as an ereader a device which discourages reading? I do not understand. Apps, games, Facebook, LoveFilm are already cluttering his homepage. There is a book lurking in there. Somewhere.

Just one but – in fairness to the lad – he’s had it less than 24 hours.

But consider the time spent on various features: a couple of hours just sorting it out, working through settings; a couple of hours on a film; several hours on an unpleasantly loud police game; and maybe twenty minutes on the book. I wonder if you have installed a statistics feature to breakdown time spent on each app.

Now my attitude is this. I want a book (e or otherwise) to read. I want that reading time undiluted and unfiltered and undistracted. Hunger and tiredness can be annoying enough distractions. Why put Angry Birds, Cut The Rope and Facebook into a book?

And shall we consider the other impact if these apps – these distrapptions from reading? My ereader was last charged two weeks ago and I have finished two books on it in that time and there is no discernible reduction in battery life. I could go on a month long safari and still be able to read every night without worrying about chargers. According to step-son, your Kindle Fire can manage 11 hours. I can read 11 hours in one day! It means he will be tethered to one spot because, if reading, he will need to be charging.

Now, I have no huge objection to children being tethered in general. But I do object to reading being tethered to – of all things – a plug. I read in strange and random places: on the loo, on trains, whilst walking around my school on duty, those odd five minutes here and there. I don’t wish to be unable to do that because I won’t have enough battery life.

And the battery-guzzling backlight can’t be good for eyes: this morning, in a darkened teenager’s room, the backlight washed the entire space with a uniform, bright light. I have dimmer torches! Despite warnings about the backlight, teenagers both fail to listen and take the path of least effort, thereby not bothering to dim it. Retinas will be burned out! Laser eye surgery will be needed!

So, this is my point: unlike your other Kindles, the Kindle Fire is not an ereader. It’s not.

It is a tablet.

A tablet that can contain books.

Therefore, it should be judged alongside other tablets. Is it as fast, as powerful, as capacious of memory, with access to as voluminous an app store as the iPad? I have no idea: I don’t have one. I suspect not. I suspect that this is why you chose to market it as a Kindle Fire rather than a Tablet Fire.

But, to sum up, I am here calling for all true readers of books to adopt the facial expression of scornful disdain, to don the waistcoat of disapproval and to plagiarise television catchphrases at will to express their opprobrium of the Kindle Fire.

Ce n’est pas un livre!



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