Thursday, October 15, 2009

To Kindle or not to Kindle

Notes to a friend on the Kindle and ebooks in general.

Today's Talk of the Nation was all about the e-book revolution. Tina Brown (Time, Vanity Fair and now The Daily Beast) Is starting up a new publishing company that will offer all it's books as ebooks first and foremost. She explained that the traditional time line for book development and publication is making "real" books obsolete because of the quickening pace of our culture. By the time a writer thinks of an idea, writes the book, sends it to a publisher, gets it approved and that publisher gets the book to the shelves years have passed. By that time an idea could have percolated thru the culture and become irrelevant.
Her new venture will be called Beast Books and she is going to be publishing lots of new kinds of ebooks, shorter and more like expanded magazine format (ie: the New Yorker) as well as standard length books. They will be available online quickly and for a relatively small cost.($5-$10) She mentioned that Phillip Roth has a new book coming out (applause from this fan) and she was able to read the book on one cross country flight. Her goal is to provide a similar high quality, readily available and culturally relevant product. Now I'm really excited about buying a Kindle! I do love my books and I will always have old timey books in my house.... going thru my books reminds me of how I cherished those volumes and how they changed me as a person. Infact.. I'm planning a book shelf just for books written by the Kennedy Family in my new place. ALSO: Kindle type ebooks allow for indexes and footnotes that by nature aren't available with audio books. But one has to wonder if the next generation will even care about the written word on real paper. Should we even care about that if the trade off is that the personal and cultural absorption of ideas and knowledge goes to warp speed? Are we on the verge of a "intellectual revolution" that will rival the industrial revolution in it's eventually explosive effect on our society? The consequences boggle the mind! I wish I was going to be here for another 50 years to witness it!!


Kate Bornstein said...

I love my Kindle. I read at night with a cute li'l light snapped on to it. And I use it to store notes that I can read onstage in performance or lecture. I wonder about this publishing revolution's effect on class: who gets to read Tina Brown's books, and who doesn't. Gonna look for any studies done on that aspect. Thanks for the wakeup call. K

Kim said...

I have plentiful reservations about the Kindle. A large part arises from the way it is promoted as the successor to the printed book, but there are some inherent things, mostly very well expressed by Nicholson Baker in his piece "A New Page," which appeared in the August 3, 2009 issue of The New Yorker. I believe you can view it on their web site at

Baker doesn't touch on the "Big Brother" issue. At present, any text stored on your Kindle may be modified or deleted at any time the people who control the system wish to do so. In fact, two of Orwell's books were summarily deleted this summer. The motive was not censorship, but the legal rights to the book. Still, recall how casually the Bush administration read your e-mail and tapped your phone.

Like any other tool, one must be mindful of its limitations and dangers. That's not the sort of thing that Tina Brown does.

Hmm. My verification word is "coppa." Time for lunch!

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid i just love paper. I love the way it smells. I love the way it feels. And i love the way the spines form a kind of collage on the bookcase and brighten up the room.

I do like e-reading for blog posts and newspaper articles though - brief and, if we're honest, mostly ephemeral bits of writing. I was glad to see the back of newspapers in particular. They weren't attractive, they bled ink and they were a hassle to get rid of.