Sunday, December 7, 2008

Amazon, Gutenberg, and a Kindle

“The written word is dead.”

Too often have these idiotic words been stated. It’s simple, really. New generations bring new inventions. Radio was once the “fresh” way to tell stories – now it’s what you hear when you’re driving and nothing else. Then came television. Then came the internet.

We start with Amazon.com, the modern ubiquitous source for book-buying. That’s not to say Amazon is the only source; AbeBooks, Borders, Barnes & Nobles, others, and various publishers all offer books online, but none do so quite as comfortably and conveniently as Amazon. Amazon, in a sense brought reading to the 21st century, making books easily available from everywhere in an Ebay style source, minus the bargaining. Fun.

Then came eBooks. The Gutenberg project, bringing to light thousands of classics and books so old they’ve been part of the public domain since Columbus, is a major source. You run through their stacks and there's this amazing phenomenon unheard of on the internet - you can smell the dust.

That minor quip aside, the revolutionizing of books through the internet proved to be kind of... lame. It's taken a while to catch on. It's hard to concentrate on a computer screen for too long and definitely harder still to read difficult literature through it. Plus... blasphemy!

An exaggeration? I think not. Gutenberg's dust exception aside, eBooks have no heart or soul to them. They aren't tangible. Who wants to read something in the same form they read blogs in? Where is the smell of the book; where is the texture? Maybe that's the reason the eBook hasn't caught on. Readers simply don't want to give up their last ties to the old worlds, where young ladies donned pretty dresses and went out with their parasol and their Austen. What a lovely (if inaccurate) image.

And then. Like the iPod, comes this shiny white toy for us to play with. The Kindle. Amazon's latest, greatest... and here's the part where the correspondent must admit a complete lack of knowledge when it comes to the Kindle, other than the descriptions. But here's the catch: it doesn't matter. The product itself is out there, a newer, fresher take on the already existent eReaders. Only problem? Amazon needs to fix the kinks. Make it cheaper, make it friendlier. Maybe then this correspondent will consider purchasing it. It may be blasphemy, but it sure saves a lot of trees.

And here we have it: the Internet generation of books. See? Who said we don't read?

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