OK, OK, I got it.  I finally got a kindle.  Kind of.  For a month, at least.

The call came about 3.20 p.m. yesterday from Kathleen Gust at the new “bookless” library at Stanford’s Engineering School.  The “bookless library” story was on NPR here, or the San Jose Mercury here.  The library has divested itself of something in the neighborhood of 60K books, and is putting 15 ebook readers in circulation to deal with the aftermath.  Needless to say, they’re in high demand.

How did the new library look?  The temptation would be to say “bookless” — but that wouldn’t be quite true.  Frankly, I didn’t pay much attention.  I was thinking about the kindle.  My friends told me it would transform my life, and I wanted it now. Now.  Now.  Now.  The first impression is the space looked like a regular booked library — just a small one, without too many books.

An affable young man about half my age helped me out.  Michael showed me how to turn it on.  He said I was lucky because the Kindle was still the best of the ebook readers.  Then he began to talk about five different outlets, or places to download, or something.  Perhaps he was speaking in tongues.

I asked Michael how many books were left in the library 16,000 books, minus the Timoshenko Collection, which was another several thousand.  So far, so good.  It made me feel better about the number of books stuffed into my living room (see Bookshelf Porn).  I suddenly felt reasonable again.

First disappointment:  I couldn’t connect to the Stanford’s Green (a.k.a. graduate) Library.  I guess the Green Library doesn’t “do” ebooks yet, at least not in any way I can access.

So I went to the kindle store on the little device, with Michael’s help.  The night before I had ordered an old hardback copy of Leishman’s translation of  Rilke.  The volume, with a pale blue dustjacket, had been a faithful companion when I lived in London. It had saved me from the charms of translators such as Stephen Mitchell, but had been lost in the years and relocations.  Could I have saved 30 bucks by having a kindle?

Not really.  They gave me half 28 titles — none of them Leishman.

So far, all I can access is titles like “Modern VLSI Design,” “Homogeneous Turbulence Dynamics,” “Spread Spectrum Electronics,” and “The Essential Engineer.”  One title looked promising:  “Kindle User’s Guide, 5th Edition.”

When I got home, I handed the device to my daughter Zoë.  She understood immediately and within seconds was accessing data.  Adam Gopnik said during his swing through Stanford last year that the new reason to have kids is that it’s a way of growing your own IT department.  It’s true.

“If I could get comics, that would be hella cool,” she said.

Wordsworth again:  “What we have loved/Others will love, and we will show them how.”  Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure.


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