Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Burn the Kindle

Amazon calls their successful e-reader the Kindle. Indeed, it is the kindling in an electronic fire that is destroying our books, bookstores, and libraries. Their newest gadget, released yesterday, is the Kindle Fire.

Fireman Bezos

I'd love to see a real Kindle fire, piles and piles of Kindles set ablaze. Would anything be more delicious?

But, you say, it's the words that matter, not the physical object that carries them. Sure, the words are on those screens now, but how much of a leap will it be to just erase them? Amazon has already done it more than once. When they recalled 1984 (of all titles) in 2009, they simply sucked it back out of the devices like magic.

When it's time to take all the books away, there will be no need for lighter fluid and blowtorches. Big Brother will just press a button.

When it's time to take all the books away, people will give them up willingly. They already are.

Listen to the book-hating venom in the voices of people in fetishistic love with their Kindles and Apples. You can hear it everywhere. Destroy the dusty old tomes! Onward with the gleaming future! Even the Pulitzer Prize-winning authors among us have sucked down that toxic Kool-Aid with a smile.

The analgesic tyranny of the screen has all of us drugged and brainwashed to some extent. This is what Ray Bradbury was writing about in Fahrenheit 451. "I wasn't worried about freedom," he said. "I was worried about people being turned into morons by TV... Fahrenheit's not about censorship, it's about...the proliferation of giant screens and the bombardment of factoids."

In the late 1950s, Bradbury wrote about a prophetic scene:

"In writing the short novel Fahrenheit 451 I thought I was describing a world that might evolve in four or five decades. But only a few weeks ago, in Beverly Hills one night, a husband and wife passed me, walking their dog. I stood staring after them, absolutely stunned. The woman held in one hand a small cigarette-package-sized radio, its antenna quivering. From this sprang tiny copper wires which ended in a dainty cone plugged into her right ear. There she was, oblivious to man and dog, listening to far winds and whispers and soap-opera cries, sleep-walking, helped up and down curbs by a husband who might just as well not have been there. This was not fiction."

In the novel, he wrote about the first iPod, a device for conveying propaganda and keeping people subdued:

"His wife stretched on the bed, uncovered and cold, like a body displayed on the lid of the tomb, her eyes fixed in the ceiling by invisible threads of steel, immovable. And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming in on the shore of her unsleeping mind. The room was indeed empty."

But most people don't worry about the devices and the screens and all the strange things they're doing to us, whether it's watering down our brains or stealing our privacy, turning us into zombies, eager to hand over our humanity.

Your Kindle is watching you. It keeps track of the books you read, how often you read them, how quickly you turn the pages, even the personal notes you make in the margins. And the new Kindle Fire is even better at it. It can track, bundle, and sell you in seconds. Said Representative Edward Markey last month, “Consumers may buy the new Kindle Fire to read ‘1984,’ but they may not realize that the tablet’s ‘Big Browser’ may be watching their every keystroke.”

Burning comic books in Binghamton, NY

There is a hatred and fear of books inside human beings. Our lust for and allegiance to the Almighty Screen is its latest expression.

It's time to revolt. Burn those Kindles. Say no to Amazon. Stand up for real books. Before it's too late.

World War II poster