Amazon Kindles Controversy With E-Book Reader

November 28, 2007 at 2:54 pm | Posted in News readers | Leave a comment

The Signal vs. Noise blog (Kindle Ignites the Flames) had a good commentary on the idea behind the Kindle e-book reader.  I say the “idea behind” because, as Jason says, most people commenting haven’t seen it yet and are just going on about the concept of e-book readers vs. paper.

I know book lovers like to talk about the permanence of books, but I think that’s overrated and over-romanticized. Some people love to build extensive physical libraries to house their books. Not me. I’d prefer to read it and move on. Sure I could buy a book, read it, and sell it or give it to a friend or a library, but I’m just looking for the knowledge, not the inventory or an exit strategy.

That’s not to say books are bad. Books are wonderful, important things. But they’re also terrible at a lot of things. You can’t search paper. You can’t bring that many with you at once. They suck up valuable resources in production and transportation. They take up a lot of space. They leave an artifact when you’re done with them.

I’m not suggesting we get rid of books as we know them. Ever. I’m suggesting there’s plenty of room for another model that shines the spotlight on convenience rather than the legacy attributes of print.

This is pretty much the tack that Jeff Bezos has taken in his media tour (see this Charlie Rose interview for example) – that everything can be reinvented, books are a pretty darned old technology, and sure you lose some nice characteristics of books but you gain a lot too.  And it’s not about replacing – it’s for certain people and certain situations. 

And I could make a few arguments against the characterization of book-lovers as looking for inventory and leaving an artifact when you’re done.  A book lover would say you are never done with a book – that’s the point.  You should refer back to them.  And if people feel like showing off by having lots of books (that they’ve actually read) on display, that’s a whole lot better than collecting and showing off sports cars or baseball caps.

I do agree with others who have made the comment that naming a book reader “kindle” when book-burning is a lightning rod may not have been so smart.  The irony popped into my mind when hearing the name and a quick search found I wasn’t alone.  Here are some samples:

  • stevenpoole.net: “So funny, of course, to bring the idea of burning together with the idea of books.”
  • Brood: “What do I think of Kindle? Well, first off, I find it kind of weird that it’s named after something that starts a fire”
  • The Motley Fool: “Nice one. You’ll never appeal to diehard readers with book-burning imagery.”
  • Mickeleh’s Take: “Hey, Bezos? You’re calling your e-book reader Kindle? As in book-burning? Fast-forward to when the fascists take over.” (he later indicates he didn’t mean that exactly, but the naming idea is still questionable)

But seriously, no one declared war on books.  This is just another take on them that could be very useful for some people.  Book lovers who romanticize books, think of them as friends, and remember snuggling up with them by a crackling fire are unlikely to buy an e-book reader and that’s fine.  Just don’t let any of those fireplace embers leap onto your book or it could kindle it.

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