Brokeback Books

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul suffers real reading glitches when Kindle goes on fritz.

Kindle edition of Alphabet City with a Tanqueray cocktail at Little Dix Bay

A few weeks ago, maybe closer to a month now, my Kindle broke.  My lackadaisical memory of the exact date of Kindle’s passing should be a telling clue that I’m not all that torn up about the loss.  The Kindle and I always had an awkward relationship.  Angela gave it to me as a present for my 40th birthday dragging me into the modern era of e-books.  At first, I found Kindle useful in some situations—last minute instant purchase of Kathy Griffin’s autobiography was the perfect poolside vacation read.

But slowly, Kindle started making me nervous.  I eyed flight attendants suspiciously hoping they wouldn’t make me switch it off on the runway, forced to flip through the SkyMall catalogue again.  Sometimes, I wouldn’t even display Kindle on my subway commute because someone invariably asked me, “Do you LOVE your Kindle?”  That’s an awfully strong verb to use for an inanimate object.

Over time, I purchased certain types of books for Kindle—ones like Andre Agassi’s memoir, not likely to be shared with, or even interest, Chef.  Or runaway bestsellers that I happily hid on the Kindle, not wanting to broadcast that I’m a sucker for good marketing.  The Help comes to mind—although I’ve now recommended that book widely.

“If the Kindle breaks do you lose your library?” Chef asked early on—not because he’s a Technology Chicken Little, but because he’s spilled coffee cups near laptops enough times to make us both nervous.

“The books exist not just on the Kindle, but in Amazon land somewhere.  Like a back-up,” I replied nonchalantly.

I wasn’t too worried about what would happen should the technology fail because I purchased Kindle books to which I didn’t have a strong emotional connection.  And then it happened—Kindle went on the fritz while visiting Angela in Woodstock.  One quick call to Amazon confirmed the device was beyond repair—and a week out of warranty, of course—and that it could be replaced for $150+.  I shrugged it off, said I would give it some thought, and shoved the Kindle into a drawer filled with techno paraphenalia that time forgot—old Blackberry chargers, a now vintage Palm device, some Apple cords for laptops gone by.

“Real books don’t suffer technology failures,” I told Chef, as I packed for the Alphabet City tour.  Since I would be visiting indie bookstores around the country, I vowed to support them by purchasing printed books while on the road.

In Philadelphia, at the famed Giovanni’s Room, I picked up a copy of Eric Poole’s funny memoir Where’s My Wand? about his life as a kid believing he had the magical powers of Bewitched.  In San Jose, I finally had a moment to crack open the spine and chuckled through the first 24 pages.  Then on page 25, I thought the grueling nature of book tour was really getting to me.  Was that the title page repeating where page 25 should be?  Next page was the library of Congress info.  Flipping several more pages and it hit me—the entire first 24 pages of the book repeated—in the middle of a chapter.  Don’t panic.  These things happen.  I’m sure it just picks up again with page 25 after the misprint.  Nope.  Page 57.  The book was missing what seemed to be a critical 30+ pages.  I couldn’t go on.

No quick call was going to solve this dilemma.  I wasn’t planning on heading back to Philadelphia anytime soon.  And I didn’t think it fair to lie to Borders to score a replacement.  Not really the author’s fault.  And the title page offered little help with an undecipherable mishmash of companies listed: Amy Einhorn Books published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons a member of Penguin Group.  Hmmm.  After tooling around online, I finally registered a note on the Penguin website and opened “Incident #100624-000251.”  We’ll see how that works out for me.  With all the drama unfolding in the publishing world, somehow I’m not convinced my misprint will make the top-of-the-list.

For a few days, Where’s My Wand? has been eyeing me longingly from the bedside table. I wish I could just twinkle my nose and fix a technical glitch I never expected from a printed book.  But unlike my brokeback e-reader, there’s something about the book’s hiccup that makes me love it even more.  It won’t be joining Kindle in the land of the technology misfits anytime soon.

UPDATE 6/29/10 3:00PM: The helpful folks at Penguin’s online trouble-shooting department emailed me to say that a new complimentary version of Where’s My Wand? is on the way.  There’s hope for printed books after all!


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5 responses to “Brokeback Books

  1. CCC

    Amen, amen, amen. I had my Kindle 3 months and sold it to a friend. I felt disloyal and missed the physical reality of books. I keep trying to want to buy another Kindle, because it seems like it should be so great, but I just can’t get there.

  2. Dana

    That is so weird that the book you bought was misprinted. After the Kindle incident. The universe is telling you to stop reading.

  3. I’m so all about tech everything but when it comes to my books I love opening a book and hearing that sound. I also like when a book has never been read and then once you finish it, you can see how much wear it has received! It’s like You’ve Got Mail I love that feeling and turning pages. The whole Kindle thing I just don’t get!

    I will say that my sister self published and has her book available on Kindle so it is a good resource I just can’t see myself reading that way.

    • I hope for your sisters’ sake you are reading the elect version?! She ought to look into the print on demand service alphabet city uses!

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