I honestly don’t know if I know how to write this post. I’ve already started it three times in my head and once on the blog, a whole sentence typed and ready to go about how sick I am. But most people already know that.
A few minutes ago I decided to check my email. One of my friends was so kind (?) as to send me a link to an “article” in the Huffington Post written by some attention-seeking jackass named Alan Kaufman. Because Kaufman is an attention-seeking jackass I’m tempted to not link his post. I may. It depends on how much of my mad I get banged out on this before I go back and find the link and all that jazz.
Anyway, Attention-Seeking Jackass Alan Kaufman wrote this bit of garbage in the Huffington Post ( I’ve credited it twice for all you able-bodied Googlers out there) wherein he claims that e-books are the triumph of Nazi philosophy and aims, the zenith of Nazi book-burning ideals. The gist of the post is that The Final Solution was a model of German efficiency, as were many other aspects of the Third Reich. As a woman who first read Eugen Kogen’s The Theory And Practice of Hell at age 12, I can attest to this fact. I can also attest to the fact that there are cars and coffee makers in half the households in this world that are the step-grandchildren of Nazi engineering. I myself will never own a Mercedes or a Krupp.
Kaufman then further dribbles with his insanely Luddite-on-Acid ravings that all technology is the stepchild of Nazi-ism in that it is kin to the Nazis goal of ridding the World Engine of the entropy of waste. The Kindle, with its ability to delete books, is the ultimate triumph of the book burners. Because the books just vanish into thin air.
He then argues against himself because while the books disappear (bad) they also leave a trail (also bad, but completely illogical and artless) that tracks which books you’ve read, robbing you of all privacy. Someone, somewhere out there will own the information about the information you own.
I don’t really want to take the time to argue with this crazy person. But I do need to say a few things in defence of my Kindle. I’ve spent a lot of time in the company of writers in recent days. I know that there are certain pockets of disdain for the Kindle and its ilk among the literary, because they fear it as the Death of the Book. None of them have put it in so grandiosely ridiculous a way as Kaufman, but they all think similar thoughts. You can hear it when they say things like “there’s something about the pages, the feel of an actual book”. And I agree with them.
But here is where I step in. I used to say those things myself. I still do say them, as a matter of fact, but in a different way. Because while there is a romance about a book, whether illuminated and calligraphed by cloistered monks or run off en masse by soulless presses (something else I’m sure was once decried as an evil technology), the true essence of a book is one thing only. A book is the vapor of ideas, bottled and transmuted from one person to another. The size and shape of the bottle may vary. It may be as ornate as the Book of Kells or as pedestrian as a supermarket paperback. But the book itself is a phenomenon without equal in humanity. It is our most tangible magic. If you truly stop to think about what a book IS, you may lose your mind in the contemplation. The only thing that e-Books do is make those bottled vapors more accessible. Easier to transport. Easier to consume. I fail to see how this is a bad thing for the Book in general. Since owning my Kindle I’ve bought four times the number of books I did in the previous six months. I’ve become more energised with modern published works, more in touch with a wider variety of literature. The Kindle, with its ease of use and access, makes it far easier for me to find and buy a new work than any other invention in the world.
Kaufman raves on about how this new technology will ghettoise The Book and eventually exterminate it. I sit in wonder at his lack of reason. I don’t understand how giving more books to more people is going to end the existence of books. His go-to line, that he loves so much he uses it twice, is “when I hear the term Kindle, I think not of imaginations fired but of crematoria lit.” Funny, because when I hear the term Alan Kaufman I think not of a writer but of a lunatic Luddite, an Attention-seeking jackass.
I know this post is dreadfully long, and I’m sorry for adding this coda in a way, but I feel it must be said. What happened in Europe all those years ago was one of the most horrible examples of the worst humanity has to offer. I feel that there is not one thing worse when speaking of the Holocaust than to cheapen it. When you liken other things–chickens for KFC, books on the Kindle–to the mass extermination of human beings you make yourself look like a callous and craven individual so desperate for attention, so eager to make a point, that you will disregard real tragedy in search of your own glorification. The fact that Kaufman would even contemplate making this analogy sickens me to my core. Especially since he’s doing so over something so ridiculous as a two hundred and fifty dollar piece of plastic.
I also wanted to add a further coda. I changed the title of this post because while the initial title was meant to be angrily ironic I still couldn’t keep it no matter what. It was too horrific to contemplate. I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around how ridiculously angry this man’s little screed has made me.