By: Carole Ann Borges
If you hang out with any book lovers these days, you will undoubtedly hear heated discussions about the Kindle. Wrapped in a nice leather cover the new reading tablet looks like a book. It contains pages of text, but they appear on an illuminated screen, and a Kindle can contain dozens of books at the same time.
A poet friend sighs. “But I need the smell and feel of a real book.”
“I like the fact that it weighs so little,” my young neighbor says. “I can carry six books on vacation with me now. The Kindle fits right in my purse. They’re all there anytime I want to read them.”
Me? All I do is smile because I remember the same kind of conflicts when computers first came out. Machines creating art? Some writers maintained a steadfast loyalty to their typewriters. Others went so far as to insist that writing with a pen was the only pure way to write a good story. Were they technically challenged? Afraid to learn anything new?
One day I had the pleasure of meeting Marge Piercy, one of my favorite authors. “What do you think about computers?” I asked. “I’d like to get one, but I’m afraid writing with a machine will ruin my creativity.”
Ms. Piercy’s eyebrows wiggled a little as her red lipstick-mouth moved into a broad conspiratorial smile. “The computer allows me to be more creative,” she said. “Using a typewriter would be like trying to chisel letters on stone now.”
After that, I lusted for one, so taking pity on me, my son-in-law eventually gave me a used machine. He showed me how to turn it on and off, how to get into the word processing program he had installed, and then he left. No manual. No cheat sheet. Nothing.
I guess people who know me could say I am a bit obsessive/compulsive, but I prefer to think of it as persistent. By diligently applying myself over a period of several weeks, I learned what the computer could do. CUT. PASTE. DELETE. SAVE. Oh, how wonderful I thought! Tossing my little bottle of White Out over my hunched shoulder, I took risks. Wildly changing sentences, altering chronologies, and revising beginnings, I was flying! Defeats were common of course, but when I got really stuck I called everyone I knew. If they didn’t respond within minutes, I reached out to any distant “expert” who would talk to me. Radio Shack. Hewlitt Packard. The store clerks at Sears. My auto mechanic. The kid next door. Some of the more enthused types were willing to discuss my problem, others were rude.
Feeling proud, I started bragging about my progress, but then my son showed up at the end of the month with his Mindspring internet connection bill. “Are you getting ANY sleep at all?” he asked. “I pay for unlimited time. I don’t mind, but I’m worried about you. According to this you have been on the computer like twenty-two out of twenty-four hours for weeks.”
Running my fingers through my tangled hair, peering at him through red, itchy eyes, I mumbled something about learning curves and being current with the times.
Now it is the Kindle. People are afraid to move from book to Kindle. Some insist the transition will never happen in their corner. A sweet nostalgia comes over them when they glide into a bookstore. Eyes glisten, hands caress spines, noses suck in the arousing musk of old paper and ink. One woman in a bookstore last week was found sobbing in the magazine section with her Starbucks coffee spilling on the floor. “There probably won’t be any of these in a few years.”
Last week I bought a Kindle Fire. It came with a manual, so the learning curve on that machine had all but disappeared. Within minutes I was downloading books, signing up for apps, and having a grand time doing it.
Every time I run into one of my peers that still haven’t mastered the use of a computer, I feel sad. They point to the intimacy of a handwritten letter. They insist they can’t create without the sound of clacking typewriter keys, but I think many of them are simply afraid of the learning curve. Some drag out that old adage about not teaching old dogs new tricks. But none of that impresses me. I’m with Eartha Kitt on this one. “I am learning all the time,” she said. “The tombstone will be my diploma.”
© Carole Borges, 2013