Last night I reached for my Kindle to continue reading 1984. I had just started part 3 of the book and a big turn of events had just happened. Except, I couldn't. My Kindle's screen had cracked. Or the e-paper in particular.
After doing some quick reading, it seems that this is fairly fatal for a Kindle and it was time to renew the device.
But I felt sad about saying goodbye to it. Goodbye to an inanimate object…?
Sure, I'm going to buy a new Kindle, and not replace it with the same 4th generation. Not because the 4th gen was any less of a Kindle, but because I could get a new device delivered faster (shame on me…a terrible trait: impatience).
All of a sudden my Kindle was destined for the bin (or rather the electronics scrap at the tip).
And I felt weird, very weird about that. Somehow, I felt weird about throwing away a bit of consumer technology. Except, the Kindle to me, wasn't that at all. I hold a great fondness to this little device, and that's an odd concept for me to grasp.
I didn't even want to buy a Kindle. I was buying myself a birthday present 6 years ago, and the cashier told me if I spend £15 more, then I qualify for a free Kindle (the present for myself wasn't cheap, I can assure you!). So I thought: what the hell, and may as well.
From there the Kindle lay dormant for years, until the very end of 2016. I decided I'd give this thing called “reading” a shot.
I'd struggled reading books in the past for a number of reasons: I used to use glasses to help my focus when reading (when I was 18), the size of the books were daunting to me (it took me 6 solid months to read Frankenstein on paperback), and all of this cumulative to a very slow and painful reading process, which put me off the entire experience.
The Kindle changed a few things for me: firstly, I had no idea the size of the book, and I've never really understood the percentage progress (or my thumb is over it intentionally). Secondly, I found that raising the font size and increasing the line height made the pages entirely readable for me.
Since that December in 2016 and mid-2018, I've read nearly 50 books. This is a huge deal for me, and my Kindle was there for every page.
If you were told that your favourite childhood Teddy was torn and headed for the bin, I believe many of us would chose to keep Teddy, even in their state of disrepair. And yet Teddy is also an inanimate object.
What makes Teddy different for you and me, is that they are infused with our memories and thus holds its own personality. Personality. That's what makes things come to life.
My Kindle went everywhere with me. To the gym, on the walking machine, on flights and trains. I've shared photos of it, taken it on holiday, and, as many others, taken it to bed.
It had little wear marks all over, including in the screen. Each page i turned had small unique marks that only my Kindle had. It was my Kindle's personality.
That is why I am a little sad about losing this "inanimate object".
I'm sure I won't keep it, like I kept my childhood Teddy, but it will be remembered fondly, and it will be missed.
Objects are only inanimate if we choose so. And as more and more digital and electronic things become extensions and representations of ourselves, we will infuse them with personality, and thus, when they're gone, they will be missed.
Related reading: Seventy-Two Letters by Ted Chiang, part of Stories of Your Life and Others