The Kindle: Books Don’t Need Saving

by John McGrath on November 19, 2007

Todaythe tech and book blogs are all buzzing about the Kindle, Amazon’s attempt at an ereader. The tech blog reports are in-depth to the point of exhaustion, a bit hyperbolic, and overall what you’d expect. They’ve done this before.

That’s not so much the case for the book people, and there’s a whiff of desperation to the coverage, as if the Kindle is a deus ex machina that will help them maintain relevance.
Earth to publishing industry: people like books, and you’re doing just fine. You are not in the same sinking boat as the newspaper people, so chill out. Yes, some kinds of books aren’t so useful anymore (who under the age of 30 still uses a printed dictionary? The online options are superior in every way). But for the reading of long-form narrative, the best option is, and will remain for some time, a book.
For that to change, somebody, probably Apple, is going to have to come up with a far better device than the Kindle. Because I’m lazy, I’m just going to quote the obnoxious comment I left on the OUPblog:
“The older book demographic won’t buy [the Kindle] because they’re not gadget people, and young readers (yes, young people do read books) won’t because it’s fugly, and they’re already lugging around an iPod, smartphone, and laptop. On top of those devices, the Kindle is a redundant piece of crap.

Once again it’s going to be left to Apple to get this right. Schnittman is correct that any media device has to be networked, and have easy access to an enormous reservoir of content. But it has to be beautiful, or at least attractive, and it has do more than one thing. The iPhone is beautiful and multifunctional, for the same price as a Kindle. Speaking of price, who in their right mind is going to pay $14/month for the New York Times, in this emasculated, black and white, linkless form? Or $2/month for a bunch of otherwise free blogs? If they get 17 subscriptions, I’ll be shocked.

The Kindle is going to go down like the Lusitania.”

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