Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Friday, 23 November 2007

The end of the book


Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has just put on the market an electronic book reader, which will signal the end of the bookshelf, and the book.

The print revolution started by Gutenberg has held for half a millenium, and now it's over. The new device is called the Kindle, it weighs 10 ounces and . . .

. . .boasts electronic ink-screen technology so the words look like they are printed on paper. Better still, they can be made smaller or larger and are no harder to see when viewed outside in bright sunlight.

Aside from being light, it is about the size of a paperback and much thinner. Unlike rival electronic readers, it has built-in wireless capacity, using cellphone technology, so material can be downloaded without cables or other computers.

. . .Downloading a book will take only 30 seconds and 90,000 titles are apparently already available.

I've been hearing about readers for several years, but the impediment has always been weight, and the inability to read it in sunlight. I'm not sceptical. I was an early adopter of the internet, and if kids think that books aren't cool but electronic gadgets are, then fine, it's the content that matters, not the package it comes in. I just want people to read, and to think.

Yet for those of us who are old enough to have spent our time at university using album covers as flat surfaces to roll joints,* it's another nail in the coffin our our lives.


* But that was us, and look how badly we turned out, so kids - just say no.


10 comments:

SnoopyTheGoon said...

That gizmo is pure crap. Another stillborn idea.

http://simplyjews.blogspot.com/2007/11/amazon-kindle-bit-of-throwback.html

You shall see...

Alex Stein said...

Agreed. Linda - if you buy one the resistance will destroy it...
http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/alex_stein/2007/11/pages_of_history.html

Deja Pseu said...

I love the feel of a book in my hands. But then I resisted CD's for years too...

materfamilias said...

Like you, I have no urge to rail against the electronic reader and am content enough to let the next generations find what suits them (some of my first-year students have taken this topic on for their research papers -- I'm curious to see what they think). And I do note that gradually the readers are getting closer to providing the physical comforts of a book (readability in various light conditions, weight). Not sure how they'll ever manage the other sensory delights -- the smell and tactile sensation of good paper. But my own "bottom line" would be the ability to turn pages quickly -- anything I've ever read online requires a download time between pages or sections that gets in the way of the reading experience -- after all, a book with a driving plot isn't called "a page-turner" for no reason!

twollin said...

Sorry - I can't warm to this idea - my idea of a great evening is cuddling up under the covers with a good book, a glass of wine next to me, etc. Cuddling up to an electronic device...mmm..not so much.

Anastasia said...

It's Gutenberg (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Gutenberg),
not Guttenberg, although this little gizmo probably needs some Ghost Busters.
Lame puns aside, I don't think it'll be the end of the book, it might be an addition to the book. Something that's nice to travel with, you could read "War & Peace" in a plane without adding some additional two kilos to your handluggage, that would be nice.
But all in all, I rather like the smell of books, the feel of old leather and crisp, fine pages. Or paperbacks I've read so often practically every page reminds me of when I've read this book last.

Thomas said...

Three letters will kill its usefulness - DRM. When I buy a book I can share it with as many people as I want. I can then donate it to my local library. With Kindle, you get the book in electronic form...and that's about it. If you want to let someone else read it you have to give them your Kindle. Just fine for hermits I suppose...

enc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
enc said...

Just a few years ago, "they" said E-zines and computer books and the Internets would kill Print.

And yet it continues to live.

cassandra said...

I don't see technology like this as replacing print media, more like supplementing it. While I'll wait a few years for the technology to be perfected, I'm all for the idea of an electronic reader, particularly (as a university student) for access to newspapers, dictionaries, encyclopedias and reference books. Environmentally friendly, easy access to hard to source material, portable... I'd happily sit this on my bookshelf, right next to a forever growing collection of traditional books.