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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Of Kindles, Creepiness, and Quotations

Amazon's electronic book reader, the Kindle, is not the way I ever want to read books, but that's just me. I go all Samuel T. Cogley at the very thought of not reading an actual book. Amazon won't divulge how many of the devices have been sold since its introduction. The company line is "Millions sold!", while most believe that means 'two' million.

I was in advertising for years. I get hyperbole.

One of the creepier things Amazon is capable of doing is peering into your Kindle by satellite from its subterranean bunkers and analyzing your reading habits. The Kindle has an "underlining" feature that allows you to do an electronic version of defacing your books with yellow markers. Then, like the cheating little creep who bought your old yellow-lined textbooks so he didn't actually have to do it himself, Amazon can tell what you marked. There's a particularly spooky aspect to this corporate giant knowing that you underlined all the hot scenes in The Carpetbaggers. What's even spookier is that they then post on the Amazon site a tally of the most popularly highlighted texts among their customers.

Fortunately, most people aren't underlining passages that involve love's heaving loins.

Interestingly, once you get past the creepiness of corporate privacy invasion, the top three quotes this week are:

1. "Those three things—autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward—are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying."
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell - highlighted by 1732 Kindle users.

2. "Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.”
The Shack by William P. Young - highlighted by 1258 Kindle users.

And the third most popularly underlined passage out of all Kindle books sold?

3. "Langdon came face-to-face with a bronze bust of Masonic luminary Albert Pike, along with the engraving of his most famous quote: WHAT WE HAVE DONE FOR OURSELVES ALONE DIES WITH US; WHAT WE HAVE DONE FOR OTHERS AND THE WORLD REMAINS AND IS IMMORTAL.
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown - highlighted by 1154 Kindle users. (Five passages from The Lost Symbol are in the top 25.)

This same quote from Pike also appeared this past weekend in a rerun of CBS' "Criminal Minds." Mandy Patinkin as FBI agent Jason Gideon repeated the quote in the episode "Riding The Lightening." Unfortunately, Hollywood being Hollywood, it was attributed to "Albert Pine." There's nothing like internet research.

The quote comes from Pike's Ex Corde Locutiones: Words From the Heart Spoken of His Dead Brethren by the Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United State 1860 to 1891, published in 1897 (p. 11):

What we have done for ourselves alone, dies with us; what we have done for others and the world, remains and is immortal.

No man, however lofty or however humble, can isolate himself from his kind, and, shutting himself up in the dark cell of his exclusiveness, determine to live for himself alone.

No man, however obscure, can truly say that he is so unknown, so unimportant, that he can contribute nothing to enlighten and benefit Humanity. He cannot know that, and ought not assume it. Let him simply turn steadily to real work. "Labor, like prayer, nerves the spirit afresh." We cannot all be heroes, statesmen, orators, great writers. Let each hero be himself...

...And whatever fate is to befall us, let the motto of Masonry ever be, as it ever has been,—
"For the Past, Charity; for the Present, Hope; for the Future, Faith."


  1. Oh, but Brother Chris --- you miss SO much not being able to drag a couple of hundred books around with you for ready reference. Why there's a GREAT book out called Freemason Symbols and Ceremonies for Dummies that's now neatly tucked onto both my iPhone, the family Kindle, and my computer desktop. I do love paper books and have several thousand (as you can see by my Library Thing - www.librarything.com for those unfamiliar - partial listings of just the past few years) but for portability and travel, the Kindle concept is SO slick.

    Just yesterday, got a Dummies book on InDesign CS5 that's on Kindle but not in paperback just yet. Nice to be on the bleeding edge sometimes.

    Nice to know about the underlining feature: guess I'd better go back and do some on that 'Ceremonies' book!

    Ed King

  2. Love my Kindle. And BTW, that's old tech Kindle you have pictured; I have a Kindle II. Much nicer.

    I rarely highlight any text. And I only keep a few clippings. And probably 2/3 of the 132 items on my Kindle are free downloads from Gutenberg.

    Can't recall the last time I was in a bookstore. Probably when I was in DC at Thanksgiving last year.

  3. You've seen our house.

    You know from where I speak.

  4. Love the Kindle. Makes my thousands of PDF's a joy on flights.

    Emily Kay


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