The problem was not that the screen was in black-and-white; if it had really been black-and-white, that would have been fine. The problem was that the screen was gray. And it wasnt just gray; it was a greenish, sickly gray. A postmortem gray. The resizable typeface, Monotype Caecilia, appeared as a darker gray. Dark gray on paler greenish gray was the palette of the Amazon Kindle. This was what they were calling e-paper? This four-by-five window onto an overcast afternoon? Where was paper white, or paper cream? Forget RGB or CMYK. Where were sharp black letters laid out like lacquered chopsticks on a clean tablecloth?
Yes, you can definitely read things on the Kindle. And I did. Bits of things at first. I read some of De Quinceys Confessions, some of Robert Benchleys Love Conquers All, and some of several versions of Kiplings The Jungle Book. I squeezed no new joy from these great books, though. The Gluyas Williams drawings were gone from the Benchley, and even the wasp passage in Do Insects Think? just wasnt the same in Kindle gray. I did an experiment. I found the Common Reader reprint edition of Love Conquers All and read the very same wasp passage. I laughed: ha-ha . Then I went back to the Kindle 2 and read the wasp passage again. No laugh. Of course, by then Id read the passage three times, and it wasnt that funny anymore. But the point is that it wasnt funny the first time I came to it, when it was enscreened on the Kindle. Monotype Caecilia was grim and Calvinist; it had a way of reducing everything to arbitrary heaps of words.