20 most worthless pieces of junk: #10 -- books in a Kindle world

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KindleThere's something about books. For a guy like me, raised in a pre-Kindle, pre-personal computer world, they represent an information delivery system that is convenient, portable, and remarkably sensual. Admittedly, leather-bound first editions have a mystique all their own, but even the most humble pulp paperback is a wonderland of smells and textures. While many people probably cringe at the slightly-musty, sour-milk scent of a cheap tome, I always get a little thrill as soon as I catch a whiff of a freshly-opened book.

My passion definitely shows. The walls of my living room, bedroom, kitchen, and daughter's room are all packed with books. Like me, my wife is a book junkie, which means that we need to regularly police our collection, lest our minor addiction become a major problem. Every couple of months, we trek down to a used bookstore or the Salvation Army with armloads of books, culling the collection in order to make room for more.Given my love of the printed word, it's probably strange that I am eager to see the Amazon Kindle take over. On one level, the little plastic readers signal the death of an industry: more convenient and potentially less expensive than traditional books, it seems quite possible that they will end up squeezing out many publishers, printers, and booksellers.

On the other hand, Kindles could also prove the salvation of reading. With their cheap downloads, small size, and light weight, they are far more convenient than traditional books. For someone on a plane or subway, they are easy to carry and can offer hours -- if not days -- of reading enjoyment.

For me, they hold the promise of more space in my apartment. After all, I could happily clean out hundreds of the textbooks and novels that I have been carrying from apartment to apartment for the last few decades. Who knows what I could do with the empty space. Maybe I could take up models, hang art, or learn to play foosball!

Better yet, I could, perhaps, get my wood pulp habit under control. All those beautiful books that I love come from big, beautiful trees that are harvested, pulped, bleached, and turned into paper. Even if I got half of my books in hard copy, the Kindle would represent a massive decrease in my carbon footprint.

The Kindle and its successors promise a reasonably cheap, easy-to-search, convenient way for me to indulge my favorite pastime. While I'm sure that I will always keep a few hundred books around -- gotta love those sweet old first editions -- I can easily imagine a future in which most of my books are on an easy-to-read, easy-to-access tablet!

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