Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Book is Dead. Again.

Well actually, according to Newsweek and Jeff Bezos, they're not dead, they're just going digital. Here's a link to the story, if you're interested.

In case you don't feel like clicking through and reading the whole article, which in all honesty is how I often feel when I see links such as the above, I'll summarize it for you.

Jeff Bezos, who founded Amazon.com has just created the Amazon Kindle (as in kindling the flame of knowledge), the newest e-Reader. Compared, innovation-wise, with the iPhone and iPod, it does sound as though it is leaps and bounds better than other eBook readers. For it to succeed, Bezos says that "If you're going to do something like this, you have to be as good as book in a lot of respects."

Here are some of the things that Bezos says make the Kindle "as good as" a book:
  • it contains an aura of "bookishness"
  • it has the dimensions of a paperback
  • it weighs 10.3 ounces
  • it uses E Ink, a breakthrough technology that mimes the clarity of a printed book
  • it has a 6" screen
And don't forget that when it's in "sleep" mode, it displays retro images of ancient texts, early printing presses and beloved authors like Emily Dickinson and Jane Austen.

Okay, where to start? Can I just go on record and say that I for one don't ever see myself falling into the eBook craze. Although the device does sound kind of cool, I just can't imagine myself settling down onto the sofa with a hard plastic case to read a good book.

A book has weight. Heft. It has a smell. It has a specific typeface (which I guess could be duplicated, BUT). It has cover art. Just go read Faster Than Kudzu (specifically the 10/19 post) to see how important cover art is to a lot of people. For me, these are all a part of the experience of a "book." Of reading.

I'm just not sure that experience can be duplicated by a machine.

Some other things the Kindle will be able to do:

  • Store up to 200 books! (ummmm, isn't that what bookshelves are for? What about a library, people? While I'm all for supporting authors, oftentimes a new book just isn't in the budget, you know? That's where libraries come in handy. Kindle currently has no plans to loan books.)
  • It can venture out on the Web! (ummm, again, will my computer become obsolete? Because the Kindle can also receive emails!)
  • It has advertising space! (To borrow from Grey's Anatomy...Seriously? Although they say that advertising is not in their plans for the Kindle, you know it's just a matter of time. I read books to get AWAY from advertising. Will there be no space left untouched by Madison Avenue? Is nothing sacred?)
I think the most disturbing thing, though, is this quote:
"'The possibility of interaction will redefine authorship," says Peter Brantley, executive director of the Digital Library Federation, an association of libraries and institutions. 'Michael Chabon will have to rethink how he writes for this medium,' he says. Brantley envisions wiki-style collaborations where the author, instead of being the sole authority, is a "superuser," the lead wolf of a creative pack."

I don't know about you, but I don't want to tell Michael Chabon, or anyone else for that matter, how or what they should write. That's almost sacrilegious, in my opinion. The writing process is an art form, one that shouldn't be tampered with. It is storytelling. Can you imagine how Jane Eyre might have turned out if Charlotte Bronte had consulted her readers upon the completion of every chapter. It's absurd.

So, I'm curious. Is it just me? Do you ever see yourself using a Kindle? If not, is it our generation? Am I too old? Is this my my misguided attempt to hold back the sands of time? Will I, like those who proclaimed rock and roll to be the devil's music, be shaking my hips to the digital beat in 10 or 15 years? Let me know what you think. I'm curious.

12 comments:

AndreAnna said...

Unless they make this e-book smell like a real book, I won't be buying one anytime soon. The only perk I can see offhand is when you travel, it is easier to pack that then the 5-7 books I can devour in a week.

Karen said...

I'm SO not a techie, so you lost me early on. Needless to say, it's not even on my "someday but not in the near future" list.

Leslie said...

I've been doing some reading on this subject myself and I agree with you about the tactile sensations of reading a book. Actually, so do some of the tech-watchers. I think the Kindle will be great for manuals and textbooks, and some people will probably adopt it for pleasure reading, but I'm not convinced that the physical book is going to go away anytime soon. Here's an interesting video that I use in my class on Information, Technology, and Society to discuss the future of media and information. http://robinsloan.com/epic/ It's a kind of far out prediction, but interesting to contemplate. I've got some other thought provoking short videos that I use, too, that I can send you links to, if you like. Great post!

All Adither said...

I was going to do a post on this today too. Ha.

I don't like it. The Kindle I mean.

Laurel said...

I'm with you. When I heard about this, I thought, "Hmmm...something I'll probably never use." Because I love books. And I'm glad you mentioned the smell because I still smell every book I read. I don't know what's wrong with me, but it started in elementary school and I'm hooked.

And I love being surrounded by books. I have books in every room of my house because just seeing them makes me happy. I don't think an electronic device would give me the same endorphins.

And please, dear Lord, don't let readers influence the story. I got over the choose your own adventure series oh so long ago.

This device will probably catch on with the next generation who have been raised on techno gadgetry. I am feeling more old fashioned every day!

Esme said...

Can't really see myself in a bubble bath, with a glass of wine and my e-book. So I guess I won't be getting one! The part about storing 200 books isn't a selling point for me -- I love seeing my book collection on my shelves, love being able to look at the titles and think about which one to read, love being able to thumb through the pages to get to the part I want to re-read (or to decide if I feel like diving into that book at all). It's just not the same on a (breakable, expensive, needs-a-power source, loseable) electronic device.

Besides, what book lover ONLY has 200 books? :)

Burgh Baby's Mom said...

I must touch, fondle, and carress my books. There is no way I could ever switch over. I'm pretty sure my Toddler would resist as well. If "But Not the Hippopotamus" weren't the perfect size and weight for throwing at the dog, she wouldn't like it nearly as much.

1blueshi1 said...

just like audiobooks, the ebook won't be replacing REAL books. I have eight floor to ceiling bookcases in my front room alone; each shelf has four rows of books on it AND I have to get & memorize a new library card and number every September because I will literally wear out a library card in twelve months. I've been singlehandedly credited with boosting my small town's library circulation!
In fact, when I come home to visit, I actually go back to the library I went to in high school...where the librarians still remember me and are my friends!
can an ebook do all that? I think not, my friend.

Sophie said...

No, I won't use it. No way, no how. I love the feel of a book. And, I can assure you as someone who stares into a computer screen for MANY hours a day, the strain on the eyes on such a device HURTS. It just plain hurts. Books rarely do that to my eyes.

Libraries, you say? Oooo... I love libraries. Carrying around a little digi-gadget will never replace the feel of walking into a library for me.

Would I be a little mean if I wish this device flops? Don't answer...

Susan said...

No, no, no, no, no!

I love books and I won't give them up -- ever! I even bought a red leather "reading chair" last year and it SO is NOT for reading a computer screen.

No. That's all I have to say.

Well, okay, I never know when to quit so let's just reflect on the fact in the '80's they predicted we'd work in paperless offices and it would be a paperless society. Not all electronic is bad, but the predictions haven't and probably won't happen.

Susan said...

Madame and readers, here is an interesting link on a site for publishers and authors.

http://mjroseblog.typepad.com/buzz_balls_hype/

It's not about books per se, but it clearly states reading is not dead -- at all -- compared to other ways we like to spend our time. Triumph!

Lulu said...

The Kindle will never step foot in my house...or bubble bath for that matter. I really like to keep the books that I read in my bookshelf, regardless of whether I'm going to read them again or not.

To me, a book represents a reminder of a place that I have been and of people that I once knew...kind of like a photograph album.

Down with the Kindle!