January 28th, 2008

On Reading

I’ll admit it. I bought the Amazon Kindle, the electronic reader that received much hype and not-so-great reviews. And, I’ll admit that I love it. But, I am a reader. I read a lot and I read fast. I also travel pretty frequently. So, the idea of a device that holds 200 books that I can purchase for $9.99 each was appealing to me. The device has its faults (clunky page turn buttons that are too easily pressed mistakenly, the cover sucks, the power switch is on the back), which I am sure will be repaired in the next generation. I am a little self-conscious using it in public places because it is not that common and people tend to stare (and, I am a little embarrassed about how much I paid for it). But, nonetheless, I love reading from it–it is lightweight, easy to hold, doesn’t hurt my eyes, and holds more books than I can read. The New York Times has even said that “Amazon’s device could turn out to be the iPod of the written word.” I would agree, except supposedly no one reads anymore:

When Steve Jobs “was asked two weeks ago at the Macworld Expo what he thought of the Kindle, he heaped scorn on the book industry. ‘It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is; the fact is that people don’t read anymore,’ he said. ‘Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year.'” Jobs, however, is not always right: “a survey conducted in August 2007 by Ipsos Public Affairs for The Associated Press found that 27 percent of Americans had not read a book in the previous year…the same share–27 percent–read 15 or more books. In fact, when we exclude Americans who had not read a single book in that year, the average number of books read was 20, raised by the 8 percent who read 51 books or more. In other words, a sizable minority does not read, but the overall distribution is balanced somewhat by those who read a lot.”

“The book world has always had an invisible asset that makes up for what it lacks in outsize revenue and profits: the passionate attachment that its authors, editors and most frequent customers have to books themselves.  Indeed, in this respect, avid book readers resemble avid Mac users.

“The object we are accustomed to calling a book is undergoing a profound modification as it is stripped of its physical shell.  Kindle’s long-term success is still unknown, but Amazon should be credited with imaginatively redefining its original product line, replacing the book business with the reading business.”

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Link to book on Amazon