Kindles are NOT better than books

This week has been a pretty good week, after all most of us received presents and spread good cheer. I planned to forgo this week’s rant but after reading posts from new E-Reader owners I changed my mind, sort of. This week is a kind of rebuttal to those who feel the need to come up with excuses as to why they now own an E-Reader; excuses that try to claim E-Readers are good for the environment. I am going to pick on Kindles, not because I do not like them, but because the people that claim to be environmentally friendly all have Kindles. I think of the Kindle as the Ipod of MP3 players. The Kindles like the Ipod s are the hottest e-reader gadgets to own; at least this is what we are being led to believe by the media and Amazon. Let me make it clear, I see nothing wrong with owning any E-Reader and do not feel anyone needs a reason to own one. No, this rant is for those who are feeling smug about owning one, much like their parents must have felt owning the first Volvos while drinking their Starbuck coffee. Remember those people?

Here are the top three excuses I have heard this week and why they need to be addressed.

3) I can now carry all my books with me where ever I go. One guy boasted that he now has all 1700 of his books on his Kindle (is that even possible?). Now I have found myself from time to time wishing I had a book with me. These are the times when I have to wait for something or someone unexpectedly. Normally I carry a paperback in my car but I do not always have one in my purse, luckily for me I do have a couple of classics loaded in my Ipod Touch so in a pinch I can always read a few chapters of Alice and Wonderland or The Jungle Book. But all of my books? At one time??There has only been two times in my life when I wanted all of my books with me, two times when I tried to figure out how to carry all of my books. This is when I moved from one house to another house. At no other time I have wished to have all my books with me. When I was laid up in the hospital last year with nothing to do it never occurred to me that I would feel much better or the room would be cozier if I had all my books with me. It was a good time to read books that I had been putting off. When you do not have a wide choice of books you tend to finish what you do have. I read three Shakespeare plays and finally finished Ulysses by Joyce. If I had access to all my books Joyce may have been cast aside and I would have missed out on a good read. Here is when I think it would be great to have all of your unread books with you; when you are in college and have your texts loaded in an E-Reader. I would rejoice if someone came up with an E-Reader for college students. Lugging large heavy texts are good for chiropractors but bad for students. If there was an E-Reader that allowed for text books, I would be first in line. But all of my books? Back to the young man who claimed to have 1700 books in his collection. All I can say is he either has a serious case of ADD or likes the idea of being able to show off his collection, much like my ex-brother in law liked to show off his $20,000 watch that as far as I could tell did the same thing as my $5.00 watch.

2) Books are just dead trees. Well so is a house and all of the furniture in it. As I told the young girl who said this, those who think this better start living like the Flintstones and purchase only that which is made of rock. Sorry blonde, but books are made from wood pulp, the byproduct of wood. No old growth trees are cut down to make paper. Since the 1800 paper has been made from t discarded wood material. Material that otherwise would go to waste. The wood pulp is from trees that grow in abundance and are used to make furniture. Granted, the chemicals that are part of the bleaching process is not great for the environment, but books themselves are not the reason trees are cut down,. Which leads us to the number one ridicules excuse I have heard this week.

1). Kindles are environmentally better than books. Where do I even begin! I researched all the E-Readers and cannot find any mention of the use of recycled material in them. Amazon does offer a recycle program for dead Kindles but does not say they use recycled plastic material in the making of the Kindles. This means that for every one out there, new material was manufactured. No byproducts were used. As for the recycle program, I give Amazon credit for coming up with one, but I wonder how many people will take the time to send their old Kindles off? It is hard enough to get us to recycle our household waste, and it is picked up on a weekly basis! This means that many of the old Kindles will end up in our landfills along with all the other E-Readers, MP2 players etc. At least when a book ends up in the landfill it will eventually disintegrate and become part of the earth. Kindles need to be recharged, and the only way to do this is using electricity, you know the stuff we are supposed to be conserving? I have a few books on my shelves that are over 200 years old and as far as I know they have never needed to be recharged. Oil, natural gas and carbon are the basic building blocks of plastic, again the stuff we are supposed to be conserving. Then in comes the chemical process that is needed to make sturdy long lasting plastic. Wood pulp, bleach, and ink are what our books are made of. Kindles on the other hand are made of nonrenewable sources that are becoming more and more expensive to attain. Which now sounds better for the environment? Kindles are manufactured in China and have to be flown thousands of miles so we consumers can have them. Most books are manufactured in the country of origin. In other words when you buy a book you buy (insert your country name here). The carbon foot print of any book is far smaller than the Kindle.

Now this argument can be made for many things, there are always pros and cons for everything we buy. I grapple with this everyday as I see my plastic use go up, not down as I wish. But I do not make excuses for my purchases; instead I live with my choices. I do not try to make myself feel better by making ridicules claims about the things I buy, and I swear the next time I hear another Kindle is better than a book claim I am going to drive over the Kindle loving idiot with my SUV, while drinking a latte and listening to REM on my Ipod!

Lady Macbeth by Susan Fraser King Don’t miss this one

I want to start by giving credit to The Book Chubi for revewing and recommending this book. I had heard of it early in the year but after reading this review http://thebookchubi.blogspot.com/2009/12/yet-do-i-fear-thy-nature-it-is-too-full.html I had to try it, and what a book it is!

How does one start a review of a book as well written and engaging as Lady Macbeth by Susan Fraser King? Should I start by telling the story of my high school senior English teacher who acted out the Shakespeare play Macbeth, thus starting my long obsession with the queen who desperately tries to wash blood from her hands or should I start by saying I am usually disappointed by historical fiction? How about a little of both.

During my senior year we were blessed with an English teacher who secretly wanted to act. When it came time to read Shakespeare Mr. Fraser (no relation to the author) taught us how to enjoy the bard’s prose by getting on his desk as he acted out the play. Watching Mr. Fraser act out a one man sword fight is a cherished memory I hope to always keep.

Lady Macbeth’s anguish over the death of King Duncan followed me through my life. I vowed I would never do something that would cause lifelong regret or sorrow. Many times in my 20s I would stop myself from doing something stupid by asking if this action would cause me to constantly want to wash it from my soul. Lady Macbeth kept me from causing myself mental scars. I never gave the person Lady Macbeth much thought, it was what she represented that stood out for me. To be honest I did not know she was a real person, I thought she and Macbeth were fictional characters or at least composites made up by Shakespeare.

As I started to seriously study Irish and English medieval history I wanted to complement my studies with historical fiction. As a lifelong reader I assumed I would fall in love with this genre, but sadly I am a critic of it. Oh I have my favorites; Peter Ellis’s Brother Cadfael, and Bernard Knight’s John Crowner, but more often than not I find issue with authors who are either so busy adding description the plot is ignored or the author feels no need to describe the times in which the book is set. King weaves a tight tapestry of both plot and character. King researched both Scotland and the Macbeths; her book shows just how well she accomplished this.

Lady Macbeth is the story of the last Celtic King and Queen of the Scots and the story of 11th century Scotland itself. Macbeth’s story is told as history, not as a tragedy; though I became so engrossed in their lives that the tragedy came because I knew there was only one ending to their story. The death of Macbeth was as upsetting to me as it was to Lady Macbeth as she talked of his last heroic effort to save Scotland from English rule.

Other reviewers have mentioned how the voice of the Scottish queen burns off the page, yet it bares repeating. King has written a character so life like, it is as if she and King spent many long hours together. If you appreciate strong female characters who are noble in the face of adversary and are strong when necessary then you will really appreciate this book.

When Macbeth kills Gruadh’s husband and takes her as his wife the book could have turned into the typical story of a man and women who dislike each other but somehow come to adore each other. King manages to write their story as it probably did happen, not how modern readers come to expect. As Gruadha rages over what has happened those around her accept it as a matter of fact. The people around her accept that Gruadha’s husband was an inept lord and that Macbeth was the better choice. Gruadha accepts her fate and the fate of her people because this was the norm. She and Macbeth slowly trust and respect each other. Though the reader is never privy to their private life, you do get the sense that these two people do love each other. As the end of the book nears it becomes harder and hard for Lady Macbeth to finish the tale as it means reliving the death of her husband.
Forget what you learned about Macbeth from Shakespeare; read this book for the characters and human drama. Read the book because it is one of those rare books that remind us readers why we spend so much time curled around our couches. I have to warn you, once finish this book finding your next good read will be a challenge.

If you dear readers have a favorite historical fiction, let me know. I am always on the lookout for a good book.