I Have Officially Bowed to the Information Age

Duff McKagan's column runs every Thursday on Reverb. He writes about what music is circulating through his space every Monday.
Last Christmas, my wife bought me a Kindle. To be honest, I had to sort of fake that I was stoked to get this present. As most of you probably know by now, I am an old-school, turn-the-paper-pages kind of guy. What was I to do with this new gadget? My wife would surely be checking to see if I was indeed using the Kindle, and I was totally reluctant at first. A happy life = a happy wife, and so sometime a few weeks after Christmas, I acquiesced and bought my first e-book. I haven't looked back since.

I can appreciate how hard authors must surely work on their craft. I have never illegally downloaded music and ALWAYS buy what I listen to. I probably take this credo a little far with e-books. Authors DO make less on this new medium, so I also buy the physical book as a companion. I like to put those books on my bookshelf anyway ...

A few days ago, I read in a news story that e-books just surpassed, in sales, their physical counterparts on Amazon. Is this the beginning of the end for paper books? Have I somehow contributed? Does anyone care?

I've been reading Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts on Kindle. It is a massive read, somewhere around 1,000 pages. The odd thing about reading a book on a Kindle for me is that there are no page numbers. Shantaram is an epic story that goes through many varied stages. Not knowing where you are in a book can be a bit confusing. I've read a couple of Upton Sinclair books on Kindle, and with his abrupt endings, I thought I was missing part of the book--as if it actually hadn't all transferred to my gadget. I've been reading Shantaram for like five weeks and I have no fucking idea how much of the story is left. I guess this can be good and bad. Because I don't know where I am in the story, I am rather lost in it, and without the burden and restraint of anticipating the end. But because I don't know how much further to go, I'm not sure how much weight to put into certain offshoots in the story. Does that make sense?

Prince recently said that the Internet was "passé" and in its death throes. I love me some Prince and would never doubt anything that he pronounces, but . . . actually, I wouldn't mind if somehow that would be true. Record stores would thrive again, and maybe all those bloated, fat-Elvis stage pictures and YouTube videos of me would be gone(ish). What if suddenly it all went away or just became uncool? What would be next? I'm not exactly sure if Prince offered anything in the way of a new direction after his revelation last week. But of course this talk of the Internet vanishing is foolish.

Last week I touched on the topic of electronic media, and what I said sort of meshes nicely with Kindle et al. Online and downloadable news sites and newspapers have done in more than a few substantial brick-and-mortar newspapers. Perhaps that is the natural evolution of these things. I like the fact that people can comment instantly to articles and op/eds like mine. I think blog writers in general are taken more seriously this year than they were last year and the year before. The writing is just better. The sites are getting better, too. The intellectual level of commentary to my column alone over the last two years has risen considerably--probably because the "fleetish-ness" of online media as a whole has subsided. I guess people get sick of just blurting out dumb things online, and switch to real discourse after awhile. Or is it that people have just stopped reacting to childish Internet stabs? I for one rather like how we have all risen in the face of this complexity.

I am proof, then, that an old dog can change. I lug my Kindle through airports along with my computer and iPod. I may buy a paper once in a while, but mostly refer to my Wall Street Journal text alerts for the main and to-the-minute stories of the day. Yeah, I will always maintain a library and see live music and go to the movies, but I have become a man of this Information Age, for sure.

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