In the eternal span of history, I’ve always assumed books on paper weren’t destined to last forever. How do I know this? Because it just makes sense that Kirk had a digital clipboard instead of paper. (Note that we all accept that a captain has to file reports. Mastering warp drive and curing cancer is believable but a job without paperwork is inconceivable?)
Despite my assumption that paper books would someday go the route of Cuneiform I think the $139 kindle is not yet a book killer. Why? For a myriad dad of reasons but most notably that marketers suck the life out of everything they touch. If they don’t bog the system with copyright DRM crap, they’ll construe your book as “rented” rather than “owned”, and of course they’ll roll like dogs in the ultimate marketing shitfest; format incompatibility.
Each digital book format will be oh so much cooler than the last. Right up until you’ve bought the same book six times and decide you’d prefer to stare at the sun until you’re blind than do it again.
It has happened before. Somewhere there is a person who has purchased the same rendition of Up And Away on 33 RPM LP, 8 track, cassette, CD, and now he has it on iTunes. The day when he loses his iPod in a Dubai airport is the day he’ll start fondly dreaming of that big cabinet full of LPs he lugged around in college. Then, ever so slowly, like the setting of the sun, the realization that he’s spent the better part of a car payment on just one song will seep into his bones and kill his soul.
That is the day he’ll stop buying a goddamn thing. (Note: I have never spent a single penny on anything performed by The Fifth Dimension but I used to think Marilyn McCoo was hot.)
Which brings me to the example I intended to use against the kindle. Weeks ago I bought a cheap paperback on impulse. I stuffed it in my motorcycle saddlebags and forgot about it. This weekend I dredged it out and spent several pleasurable hours flipping pages on my beloved porch swing. No batteries, no electronics, no bullshit.
It was published in 1870, originally written in French, and 141 years later I enjoyed the whole story for $6. E-books have their work cut out for them!
I intended to post that my experience demonstrated why kindles were not yet ready to bury Gutenberg’s machine. But then I found this link:
A price of zero? Good grief! Maybe I was too hasty? Hmm… I’m still not sure.
Today’s digital readers could be the sort of thing that looks gorgeous now but look goofy in hindsight.