Last night I was reading various people’s tweets about Infinite Summer and found myself caught up in the enthusiasm and suddenly burning with a desire to read Infinite Jest. Since using the Kindle is really the only practical way to buy a book at 11 PM, that’s what I did. Then I read some before going to sleep. And in doing so, I think I stumbled upon an inadvertent flaw in the Kindle. Namely, what when you read really long books — particularly as part of a quasi-group enterprise — you want to either brag about how many pages you’ve read or else whine about how many pages you’ve fallen behind. But the Kindle doesn’t have pages! Just, um, locations.
So I read 1,100 locations worth of the book. But nobody knows what that means. Normal people won’t even know if that’s a lot or a little.
In general, the Kindle strikes me as somewhat hobbled by an overly generous view of why people buy books. Not only is there this problematic lack of bragging, but with the kindle edition of the book I can’t have a handsome volume laying around the house as if to say to visitors, “why, yes, I may be a professional political pundit but I’m also a man of culture.” And I’ll have nothing on my shelf. Amazon should at least send you a sticker when you buy a book on Kindle so you can maintain some kind of display wall of all the impressive books you’ve read. People sometimes lament that element of signaling in the book buying/reader process, but I think that’s misguided. Signaling is a powerful human motivator, and often motivates people to do genuinely worthwhile things — read great books, go to college, get a haircut, etc.