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  • David Mathews

Don't do this at home


I have a Kindle, the one with a keyboard. It’s my third, the other two having taken offence at being trodden on.

A few weeks ago my Kindle #3 froze, sort of. It went into a reboot mode where it shows you the reader sitting under a tree and, below it, a progress bar. From time to time it would blink at me and seem to start again, but the progress bar never got beyond a third of the way across.

Would it charge? Nope. Could I induce it to reset, you know, the way you’re meant to? Nope. It just sat there, the light flashing from time to time, sometimes green, sometimes yellow, but all in the little beast’s own time.

When the thing took its leave, I was halfway through a vast story by Annie Proulx, Barkskins, that begins in seventeenth century New France and runs through to today. I was on 73% (Kindle users will know what I mean). Proulx writes a lot about trees – the New World was believed by Europeans to be a gift of never-ending trees, especially the highly valued white pine – and enough cultural subjugation to make your eyes water.

Do Kindles understand what you’re reading? Can they draw analogies? Was mine punishing me for my carelessness with its predecessors? You have to wonder.

Whatever the root of it all, I resented Kindle’s interruption of my reading. As the days went on, it felt personal. It was jeering at me. I didn’t give Kindle a name, Kylie or Kevin or Kerry, certainly not; that would be to accord it a dignity it did not deserve. Oh, I knew I could get another one (#4) for not much at all, and I would get all my stuff on it, but that was not the point.

Mr Google informed me how some chap had prodded about in a Kindle’s workings to good effect. Following his procedure, I took off the cover. Failing to find the hard reset button he described, I removed the battery, blew away the dust , and refitted it. Big deal, nothing changed. OK, give up, Mathews. I put the cover on again. Still nothing doing, of course, but I noticed that a few of the clips had not engaged. I pushed, squeezed, … no go. Drat.

So hit it. Yup, I hit this delicate, finely-engineered example of consumer electronics really hard against the corner of my desk. Three times. Accurately, mind you, scientifically, right on the offending clips.

You should never do this. Hitting things is what you did with steam engines or cranes or anything made of cast iron. Not Kindles.

You know, of course, what happened.

The clips went into place – and Kindle turned itself on to Chapter 58 of Barkskins to tell me that ‘Lavinia was corseted and dressed for the day in green silk, an elaborately draped skirt over a bustle’. The chapter is called 'Locked room'.


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