Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Will You Sign My Kindle?

A few days ago a humor writer named David Sedaris was giving a reading at the Strand bookstore in New York (a monster-sized store to which every bibliophile should one day make a pilgrimage. Their motto: "18 miles of books").

As is customary after a reading, Sedaris offered to sign books, and his devotees lined up. Then, according to an article in The New York Times one reader presented not a book for Sedaris to sign, but a Kindle. On it, Sedaris wrote this:

Now, as my regular readers know, I'm not one of those elite literati who believe e-books will eventually destroy our love of books and bring about the complete ignorance of humankind. (After all, we're doing just fine developing complete ignorance without the e-book, thank you very much).

But I do believe e-books will transform our reading habits. I do believe they will transform book publishing in ways we can't yet predict. And let's face it. Once Apple gets in the e-book game (which I'm assuming/hoping will happen any day even though I have absolutely no reliable information on this whatsoever), all the rules will change. An Apple e-book (or . . . uh . . . i-book?) will likely do to the book industry what the i-pod did to the music industry.

Remember what happened? At first, when it became obvious they'd no longer be able to sell mountains of CDs, music industry executives griped and whined and used words like "extinction." Then, they calmed down, took a look at the world around them, realized people still wanted to listen to music, and adapted.

I think we'll see the same thing happen in book publishing in the coming years. Right now, we're hearing a lot of book publishers predicting doom (along with David Sedaris, half-jokingly on the back of a Kindle).

I believe, however, that the book publishing world will adapt. People love good stories, and book publishers will not serve themselves by hemming and hawing over the emergence of the e-book. Rather, they need to calm down, realize that people are excited about e-books because people love to read, and adapt.

The e-book is not the end of literacy. It could, if the book publishing industry makes the right choices in the coming years, be the next great step in advancing it.

10 comments:

Micah said...

Very true. Though I fear that if the e-book makes publishing easier, great literacy could become islands, swamped with random junk that author-wannabes "publish" in absolute mayhem. I guess, however, that this could open new doors to authors who yet have the chance to publish.

iBo said...

Hey Professor Josh,

Did you get a Kindle for father's day?

Scott W. Galer said...

I was wondering too, have you gotten your Kindle yet? I'm sort of holding out for Apple...

Josh said...

As my post implies, I've decided to hang on to my Kindle cash until Apple enters the e-reader game. I anticipate whatever they come up with will blow the Kindle out of the water. They have the i-tunes store format where they can sell the books. They have touch screen technology that the Kindle doesn't even come close to touching. And (here's the biggest thing) they have incredible power to negotiate copyrights with publishers.

The Kindle's cool, but my money's waiting on whatever Apple does.

iBo said...

I'm not going to lie. I'm kind of disappointed after all that hype you gave the Kindle in class. You might wait a while with Apple. Haha. Good luck!

Stephanie said...

I think you're right that the Kindle could actually advance book reading, especially for younger generations. It could make reading become much more cool and hip, and although I think it's sad that coolness and hipness are a requirement for most teenage activities, it's a reality, so why not capitalize on that fact to get more books in kids hands?

Aubrey said...

The whole idea of a Kindle is cool, I guess. However, if Fahrenheit 451 had a theme song, it would be playing in the background. There's something inherently tragic about the demise of paper books. Or, more accurately, the decline of paper books.

Allison said...

I can't bring myself to shelve out money for the kindle - especially when amazon can go right on there and delete your books (the 1984 issue). I will, though, more than likely purchase anthing Apple comes out with, though :)

brandt said...

Prof,

You've noted the similarities between Apple's digital music revolution (and I think we're far enough removed that we can call it that) and ebooks. What about the differences? The fact that an experience of reading from a medium that has been around thousands of years (paper/ink) might be usurped by a medium of light and diodes doesn't hold up to the digital music argument. In my mind, music didn't really CHANGE with digitizing it. The experience of listening to it didn't change. Reading WOULD change.

While I don't have a Kindle, and can't compare reading on a Kindle to reading on a computer screen (which is where my ebook experience lies), I do argue that there is a difference. I do like ebooks. I have a select few books that I've actually purchased the hard-copy and ebook copy for transportation and mobility reasons. However, I can't say that about music.

Perhaps I'm just a fuddy-duddy when it comes to my books.

Vern said...

LOVE Dave Sedaris! I would let him sign my Kindle. If I could afford it, that is. :)

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