It has been reported that Sherman Alexie made negative comments about the Kindle at the recent BookExpo but perhaps they were simply the asking of questions about the social and political nature of "book-like things" and the delivery systems technologists from the monks who invented the codex to Gutenberg to E Ink have wrought. Read his follow-up comments here. What's interesting is that you can't stop the movement of technology but that fear and anxiety emerge from the darkness ahead. Read Trithemius's In Praise of Scribes (1492). There have indeed been significant changes in the aesthetics of "delivery systems" and book culture over the past thousand years, which have always had an effect on the way books are read.
The question of why a $249 iPod is more acceptable than a $249 Kindle is an interesting one. It lies, to some extent, in financial priorities and issues of time and pastime. It also may lie in the difference between a book and a record/CD, which are currently old technologies. In the old days, when you bought a record, a cassette or CD, you then needed a player, so we got used to that. With an iPod, you simply have another player. With a book, when you bought the book, you had the capacity for an immediate experience, with no intermediate need. With an eReader (Kindle, Sony Reader, etc.), you do. What Alexie is showing us, clearly and directly, is that intermediacy has its consequences.
Monday, June 1, 2009
E Ink, the people who brought you the electronic displays behind the Sony Reader and the Kindle, has been purchased by Prime View, the people who brought you e-paper. Click here for their predictions on the future market for electronic reading. To read more about e-paper, click here. Proving that C.P. Snow's two cultures retains validity, I can't make head or tails out of the explanation of e-paper on the Prime View site.
Logos magazine continues to publish provocative and intelligent articles about the history of publishing the book. Click here for an article by Miha Kovak that discusses a history and projects a future for the codex-style book. It's a companion, in many ways, to Ruediger Wischenbart's article I posted last week.