I’ve had my first request for a post! I really like that Stephanie did this, because I’ve become out of the habit of posting (on the upside, I’ve picked up the habit of flossing), and I need to kick myself into gear.
So, the Amazon Kindle. Stephanie wondered about my views on the cute little ‘wireless reading device’ that Amazon is pushing. As I am a librarian, the daughter of a librarian, a book lover, a reader, and a fixer of books, you’d think I’d HAAAAATE the idea of a digitalberg book.
I’ll give it to you in my new favorite format (that I learned about from reading soldering iron reviews):
The gut feeling on the device
*Much easier to read than previous versions of ebooks. Not as bit-tastic, and the screen doesn’t glow brightly, so it’s easier on the eyes.
*Don’t have to flip pages, leaving other hand free to eat snacks.
*Wireless means insta-access to more books. No waiting till the library opens, or for your Powell’s shipment
*Don’t need to have crap paperback copies of books you’re never going to read again cluttering your bookshelf.
*With one 10 oz. machine, you get hundreds of pounds of books – better for traveling.
*Requires electricity, which doesn’t work so hot after the zombie revolution, or in the bathtub.
*If no one publishes paper books, we’ll lose all the stories… after the zombie revolution.
*DRM (access control) may make lending a book impossible. I mean, I’m sure libraries will have different access than individuals, but I won’t be able to lend you my copy of Harry Potter.
Now, for what this all means, here’s my realistic look. Not everyone will be able to afford these babies, so I don’t think we have to worry about the death of paper publishing. My hope is that publishers will chose to treat good books by printing them on nicer paper, in fancier cases, and will become somewhat more collectible. I think mass market romance novels (and the like) will continue to be printed in their standard form. This is based somewhat on socioeconomic demographics, and on the exchangeable nature readers treat the books.
I think cover art is still important. Even with digital books, people judge books by their cover art! And I can imagine when you boot up a book, you’d see the cover art. It gets you in the mood for what you’re reading. It’s kind of like how our library system has cover images for lots of the books, so when you’re searching online, you can tell what the book is about. I think (especially for janky library software) it’s easier to tell if some thing’s a novel, nonfiction, kids, etc. based on the cover.
I think the Kindle (and the others that will follow) will bring an ease to our paper use, boost the quality of existing paper publishing, increase the number of books written without going through publishers, and just like all the digital technology before it, continue to inspire a subculture of low-tech, self-published materials (like zines). I think because of DRM and technological limitations (at least until the next breakthrough) paper books and ebooks will live in symbiosis, maximizing the benefits of both.
If this post leaves your brain spinning and your heart racing, a great novel to read is Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. The plot revolves around a similar technology that allows a single book to act as the one-and-only resource needed for someone to navigate life. This book is one of my favorites. I also like that it’s described as “a postcyberpunk novel”. It’s so accessible as a story, and incredibly well-written. My mom would like it (if she hasn’t read it already – she kind of has a thing for Neal Stephenson books), my grandmother would like it, and my brother would like it. There. Read it!