You can't sit on it. The Kindle cannot be pressed into service, as
traditional books can, to raise a seat or a computer monitor, to
support an item of furniture, or to keep one's behind from freezing
when sitting on a rock. In fact, I once broke a Kindle by leaning on
it with my elbow.
Every book has the same physical appearance, namely, that of the
Kindle. It's like drinking everything out of the same plastic cup,
be it water, coffee, or the finest wine.
It's not good for meeting people in public places. You cannot see
what other people at the coffeehouse are reading on their
Kindles. Saying to a stranger “What's that you're reading on your
Kindle?” is awkward at best and will most likely be considered
rude. “Oh, I see you're reading ‘The Invisible Circus,’ I loved that
book,” on the other hand, is charming and likely to get a
conversation started. The only kind of conversation you can hope to
get going with a person reading on a Kindle is an argument about the
pros and cons of using a Kindle. That could turn ugly.
It severely limits the way in which we can talk about books in
literature, autobiography, and the like. Reading books electronically
deprives us of such elements of style as “We spent the summer hiking
the Sierra Nevada, and Kerouac's ‘The Dharma Bums’ was sticking out
of the side pocket of her pack,” or “When my girlfriend and I were
heading for our secret place by the river, that ragged old copy of
Baudelaire's ‘Les Fleurs du Mal’ was always sticking out of my hip
The user interface of the current model (2011) is an abomination. I could
easily fill several pages with my complaints about the crummy design
of the Kindle device and its software. But then, we have to admit
that this can possibly change in the future.
You cannot flip through pages. This would not be as much of a
drawback as it is if the navigation capabilities of the Kindle
were not the abomination that they are (if, for example, there were a
“forward” button to complement the “back” button, if clicking on the
little superscript number for a note would actually take you to that
note, and so on). But even with the best navigational capabilities
imaginable, the Kindle will never match a traditional book in terms
of flipping through the pages.
Illustrations leave much to be desired. For some reason that I cannot
quite explain, the rule that a picture says more than a thousand
words does not ring true with regard to the Kindle. Illustrations
tend to be unpleasant to look at. Add to that the fact that they are
limited to black and white and that they must almost always be
clicked on to resize, and you are looking at a rather strong
It needs power. On an extended trip into the backcountry or other
places similarly lacking in access to electricity, you could run out
It contributes to and accelerates the demise of bookstores. I am not
sure how much I care about stores like Barnes & Noble and
Borders. The thought of an America without independent bookstores,
though, and the coffeehouses with which they are often intertwined, is
a scary one.