I don’t have an iPod. My cell phone is powered by Babbage’s difference engine, and I only got a laptop last year. I don’t even have a digital watch. I am not technologically advanced. I am somewhat technologically reclined. And napping. But trainable, if it’s something I really want.
Which leads to the Kindle. I received one as a holiday gift, and it is one of my favorite toys ever, up there with my MacBook and my Hitatchi Magic Wand. The Kindle is an expensive toy – $259, plus another $30 for the leather folder thing that keeps it from getting all mucked up in your purse – and it does not multitask to any great degree. But it is admirably suited to my yaoi reading.
The thing that might make me the happiest about the Kindle is kind of shallow (quelle surprise), but here goes. Believe it or not, Kinukitty is not a completely shameless creature. Largely shameless, yes. But not without shame entirely. And I must tell you that sitting on the train with a sleek white tablet in a plain black leather sleeve (oooh, that does sound kind of exciting, doesn’t it?) feels more dignified than sitting on the train with a book that has two shirtless, muscular, waxed and well-oiled men twined against each other like the Lacoön Group , but, you know, suggestively. Ditto sitting at my desk at work (during lunch or some other officially sanctioned break period, of course). I could be reading anything. Something important and edifying. No one has to know it’s “Butt Boys from Outer Space: Blasting into Uranus.”
I also read a lot of fan fiction. A lot, a lot. And most of my reading is done on the train, going to and from work, or at work. I don’t want to carry my laptop, and I’m certainly not going to access this stuff on my work computer. In the prehistoric past – PK, or pre-Kindle – I dealt with this problem by copying the stories into Word files and printing them out. Many of these things are hundreds of pages long. That’s a lot of paper and toner, and one grows weary of dealing with all those damned stacks of paper – I have them all over the place. They are messy and unsightly and topple over occasionally, probably presenting some sort of safety hazard (unlike anything else chez Kinukitty). Now, I can put these stories on my Kindle. (As long as they aren’t PDFs – Kindle doesn’t exactly support PDF files. I just added one, and oy vey, yeesh, and Jesus Christ. The type is wee, tiny, and exasperating. I don’t know if I could have read it ten years ago, but I can’t read it now.) I can have as many stories as I want, without carrying around a file cabinet and using up untold tons of toner cartridges and reams of paper. The $259 Kindle device is saving me money! Since I didn’t pay for it. If I had, however, this feature alone would pay for itself in, um, about 13,500 pages, give or take a printer drum. Economical!
Right, then. On to the books. Not everything is available for Kindle, and it requires a serious commitment to Amazon.com. If you’re not a fan, or baby, baby, you’ve got to ramble, this is a deal-breaker. (Assuming the $259 wasn’t.) I have already checked out a good percentage of the yaoi and gay novels available for Kindle. It looks like the supply will more than keep up with me, but you could hit the wall as far as supply (possibly even if you read novels that don’t feature or at least allude to manporn).
On the plus side, you can download the first two or so chapters of any Kindle book for free, allowing you to make an informed buying decision. I love, love, love this feature. The book might sound good, and eight people might have given it five stars for reasons that seemed perfectly valid to them, but I want to know if it’s the kind of thing that pushes my buttons (in a good way) and if the writing isn’t so bad it makes me shake like a wet dog. (Just to be clear, this is in no way a problem that afflicts yaoi and gay novels any more than any other category.) I’m willing to go there, by the way, to a certain extent, if the story is good and the writing isn’t too bad, but I do feel better about paying $5 for an e-copy of a not-great book than $15 or more for a hard copy. (Ditto for anything that’s riddled with typos and editing stupidity, a problem that plagues a surprising number of titles now, from romance to literary fiction, even from the biggest publishers.)
There are also manporn novels that are only available for Kindle. When I first started noticing these, I became jealous and acquisitive. There are many yaoi and gay novels I haven’t read yet, but no matter – I could if I wanted to. You know? I wasn’t being actively thwarted. Now that I have access, though, I can think about considerations other than being book-blocked. Some of these things cost $10, and that’s wrong. Most of the volumes that are also available as printed books average about $5, and that’s about what I feel comfortable paying for something I don’t really get to own. Because you don’t own it. If Amazon pulls the title – which has happened – “your” book will disappear from your Kindle the next time you access the Amazon Web site.
But I do appreciate the overall comfort factor. I have always been the sort of person who worries about running out of things to read. On business trips, I choose to wear the same suit for three days so I can get another book into my suitcase, just in case I need it. I get antsy when I’m nearing the end of a book, too. What if I finish it on my morning train ride? What will I read on my evening train ride? (Welcome to the mind of Kinukitty. Please sign the guest book on your way out.) This will never happen to me again (assuming I can remember to keep the thing charged, which is hardly a given – in fact, I have already failed, in less than two weeks of Kindle ownership, but hope, like disgust, springs eternal) because I can store 1,500 books on the Kindle, and if I read all those, I can use Kindle to check in with the Amazon mother ship (anywhere there’s cell phone coverage) and buy more. You make your selection and they send it within a minute. I cannot tell you how comforting I find all this. Really. Although I do have a caveat. Many people appreciate suspense, but I am not one of them. At the first hint of suspense, I flip ahead to see what’s going to happen, and then I go back and actually read the book. The Kindle does not really encourage this sort of behavior. In fact, the Kindle makes it pretty much impossible. It takes about three screens to read a page, I think (I haven’t done the math, but that’s my sense of things), and there’s no way to flip through to the end easily. At times, this feels like not having a left hand or something. I’ll probably manage, though.
I could tell you more about the Kindle, believe it or not – there’s an on-board dictionary! – but I am not without pity, either. And, in an attempt to actually be useful, I will mention a couple of novels I think the Kindle-having yaoi lover should check out: Zero at the Bone, by Jane Seville, and the annoyingly named St. Nacho’s by Z.A. Maxfield. (Although both are available in print, I think.) I also got sucked into a vampire novel (ha! good one, right?) by Z.A. Maxfield, called Notturno, and it looks pretty good, but I’ve only read the two sample chapters. I bought it, though. Same with HaveMercy by Danielle Bennett and Jaia Jones. I can see both of those going horribly wrong in the next chapter or two, but, you know, you can’t win if you don’t play. (Forget about manga, though – it’s available on Kindle, but it shouldn’t be. Holy bifocals, Batman, that’s a small screen for a full page of art. To say nothing of the type – I don’t know who the hell could read that. Just – no.) (Did I download a manga, just to check? Of course I did. It’s like you don’t even know me.)
My general feeling about this whole thing is that the Kindle is cool and well designed but, really, $259? Are you freaking kidding? Nobody needs a portable reading device. (I think just about anybody would agree with me here, but I have to mention that I felt the same way about CD players for the first, oh, ten years.) But if someone asks if you’d like one for Christmas? Say yes.