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And like a book, the Kindle is reasonably user-friendly. It’s just not user-obsequious. It sits patiently while you read it. It doesn’t do much more. With effort, you can digitally crick the corners of pages and make rudimentary notes in the margins. But it doesn’t turn literacy into a sensory flood. To read on a Kindle, you still have to go, mentally, more than halfway to the experience. You have to commit to concentrating, integrating new material, persevering when you might be stopped by thorny words or elusive concepts. The Kindle shows you the words on the pages, but the words don’t light up or move or turn into cartoons, and you — and you alone — make meaning of them.
A sustained encounter with just about any good book on the Kindle is a rich, enormous, demanding, cerebral event. It’s like reading used to be — long ago before anyone had ever seen the brightly backlighted screens of laptops, cellphones and iPods that, when activated, turn everyone’s personal field of vision into layers of garish light and sound, personal Times Squares. The Kindle screen — nonbacklighted “electronic paper” that requires little energy — looks dusty, like newsprint.
As an electronic device, it should be said, the Kindle is a complete bust…
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