Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Toss 'Em On the Pile!

Over at Paper Cuts, Dwight Garner "gawks" at the latest electronic reading gadget, an Amazon product called Kindle. Garner asks if this iteration of paperless technology is the "game-changer" that the industry has been seeking for a while. Me, I can't get past the name. Kindle!! Take that, lovers of traditional books.

One commenter on Paper Cuts takes issue with the name (I chime in on the board myself), but says it's probably meant as "to arouse" or "to animate," etc. It's true the word can mean that. But given that we're talking about books, and that every product name is micro-managed to the nth degree these days, I'm not giving the benefit of the doubt. Thanks to the handy online dictionary, we see the primary meanings of kindle:
1. to start (a fire); cause (a flame, blaze, etc.) to begin burning.
2. to set fire to or ignite (fuel or any combustible matter).
So, the gauntlet's really been thrown down now. We're not just developing new technology, people, we're starting a giant bonfire.

I'm the first to admit that my books are a pain. The only way they wouldn't be is if I lived in a house in which I planned to die, which isn't likely to happen for, oh, 20 years or so. But start talking about them as kindling and you get my attention. Especially if you're a blandly futuristic Everyman like the dweeb who walks you through the introductory video on Amazon.

Not too long ago, I had the chance to try one of these sleeker machines (I don't know if it was exactly what became the Kindle, but it had similar features, most notably the gray-ish "newsprint" screen that's easy on the eyes). It looked good, and if people want to read it on the subway, I guess it will do the trick. But what else is it good for? In places without mass transportation, you're not going to read it while driving to and from work (that's what audio books are for). And if you're in anything resembling a permanent home, space shouldn't be an issue unless you're buying books at a truly ridiculous pace. It seems to me that the only reason for a thing like this is to make books cheaper (financially and culturally) and more disposable. Any thoughts?


Blogger Fox said...

That's all well and good but what I was struck by recently is a gadget supported by V-Cast on cell phones where you can point it at, say a radio or the speakers in a restaurant, and it will 'hear' and identify the song being played, you can then download the song to your phone and eventual ipod or whatever. Things are getting very spooky.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Dan Carlson said...

I can maybe see the convenience for travelers, but like video iPods, the Kindle will never replace the experience it's mimicking, just serve as a kind of half-assed replacement. And for me, I like holding a book in my hands and getting the kind of warm personal vibe from the pages you will never get from a screen.

2:48 AM  
Anonymous Kevin Longrie said...

We have one on display at Borders, to test and the like, and I'm impressed and I could see its use for someone who, say, was constantly on business trips. But I still much prefer a good old fashion paperback.

4:43 PM  
Blogger raych said...

To everyone who ever said that printed books are on their way out, I always said that no one would ever curl up with a cup of coffee and a...laptop. However, if this thing is smaller and easier on the eyes, then maybe it'll make a run for supremacy. Myself, every time I move I wonder aloud why I have so many damn books. When I'm staying put, however, nothing makes me happier than to gaze lovingly at my bursting shelves. I, for one, will always take paper over its plastic counterparts. Particularly in the bath.

6:45 PM  

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