Baudrillard broke my Kindle


In 1981 Jean Baudrillard wrote Simulacres et Simulation. This is a philosophical text, which suggests that society has confused what is essential to life and replaced it with empty versions of the original. Thus, life’s experiences are increasingly a simulation of reality. He suggests this is getting worse. It used to be that you might watch some sport on TV to substitute for actually doing it; now, you might play FIFA-13 and pretend to be an avatar playing sport, instead of watching it live on TV, instead of going to see it, and instead of actually doing it.

This is all very well, but I wanted a Kindle. Why? Well, because… because it’s being heavily advertised at saddos like me and I have been laid up post-hernia-op with limited book pick-up enabling (illiapsoas rotational) movement. So I asked Father Christmas (not a simulation) nicely and a Kindle Paperwhite turned up under our plastic tree.

I have reached the 1,000,000 word service mark and can now comfortably shoot Jean Baudrillard and his polo-necked, philo-Franco-smugness down in techno flames.

This Kindle has a very crisp screen and a Godsend of a light that means I can read in bed when my partner turns the light-off and relive that torch under the duvet naughtiness of youth. This is the sort of matrimonial genius that should have the Kindle sponsored by Relate. I can carry it around in my pocket – just – and have different copies of books ready to go. The battery lasts for ages and the font size changes when I feel my eyes squinting. Surely, this is the actual point of technology: to make stuff you were going to do anyway easier. Additionally, the books are approximately 40% cheaper as well.

However, yet, nevertheless… I am sure I started reading poncy, high-brow ‘slim volumes of verse’ as an empty lurch at some kind of social standing. And, of course, to meet Jeanne Moreau in a cafe when she saw I was reading the latest blockbuster by Albert Camus about murdering people because the hero is a bit sad. This is no longer an option, as I look just like any other drone staring at a retina-scouring screen in a coffee-shop. Another chain store full of fake community, weak versions of coffee and no one making eye contact.

There is surely a devoutly sensual experience in acquiring a new book. There is the madeleine-ian smell of the bleached, clipped paper and the creak of the spine as it gives under the redistributed weight of the open page. A Kindle gives no sense of the paratext: the cover, the blurb and the flattering photo of the Igor-ish author hiding their hopes. I use books as tea coasters (perhaps more than as books) and you can’t mix technology and hot fluids. Likewise, my thumb and forefinger, with help from my swollen gut, have slowly evolved a mechanism to balance even the heaviest book at just the right angle for a languorous read. A Kindle can be propped open but slips. It is actually quite heavy and you need to shift a hand regularly to tap the next page, which can impair the meditative ambience.

Moreover, I have now bought into a hideous corporate entity who are likely to raise the prices of e-books just as soon as they squash everyone who sells the real thing. If not, they’ll upgrade the software/hardware so my books or unit will be out of time. Anyway, you can’t scan through PDFs properly on my Kindle and it’s useless as interior decoration when it’s finished.

So really, I am with Jean all the way on this one. A Kindle is sans-essential, not a necessity. It’s not sensual, it’s not going to remind you of when you were at school, or have romantic notes etched inside the front cover by that spotty dreamboat. It’s a G.M. book. It’s a kindle with no spark. That is, until I go to bed, lift the faux-leather flap and watch my face light up.

Photograph by Renée Turner, via Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Laurence Cotterell

Middle-aged English teacher who loves books, playing amateur football and passing Half Man Half Biscuit lyrics off as my own. Originally from Barnet, I now reside in Stroud with my artist wife, Sarah and a troika of freeloading cats.

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