Alan Jacobs finds a quote that beautifully expresses why I don’t want a Kindle, and why I wish the iPad were a stylus-friendly Mac tablet:
Of course, you can’t take your pen to the screen. When it comes to annotating the written word, nothing yet created for the screen compares to the immediacy and simplicity of a pen on paper. The only effective way to respond to text on screen is to write about it. The keyboard stands in for the pen; but it demands more than a mere underline or asterisk in the margin. It demands that you write.
That, of course, was the reason for the pen all along: it’s a physical reminder that you are not reading merely to consume the words of others passively, but that you have an obligation to respond. If the democratization of publishing is to reap any rewards, it can only do so if we all become better writers. The first step towards that is to assume the stance of a writer–to read others’ words with an eye to improving your own. First, you must pick up the pen.
Jacobs notes that if you don’t intend to annotate, and you’re just reading for fun, there’s nothing wrong with a Kindle or like technology. I totally agree. But since I’ve only read one fiction book in the past six months (sounds incredible, but that’s all I can remember) and the vast majority of my reading life is spent noting in margins and dogearing pages, I don’t have much need for a toy dedicated to recreational reading. One of my favorite undergraduate professors recently wrote to me and told me that he’s enjoying a new era of reading without pen in hand; maybe someday I will too. But for now, I read with my mechanical pencil at the ready.