The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Amazon’s Kindle: Reading Revivialist or Book Murderer?

Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor

ImageWith the holidays right around the corner, I’m considering whether to add a certain luxury to my wish list: Amazon’s Kindle, set to be one of the hotter items of the Christmas season.  Oprah has endorsed it, and we all know what happens to everything Oprah endorses (Book Club selections, Barack Obama, etc.).  But I have to wonder: will this device, and others like it, be the death of books?

The concept of Kindle is simple: it’s a small, lightweight electronic book reader that holds over 200 titles.  According to Amazon, over 190,000 titles are available to download to Kindle, and the selection seems to be growing all the time.  You can also purchase magazine and newspaper subscriptions.  The book titles are significantly cheaper than what you would find at a bookstore; many of the titles are just $9.99.  Of course, with a $359 price tag, it’ll take awhile to make up that difference.

According to the comments I’ve read on Amazon, there are some first-generation issues with the design: the button placement is problematic, the contrast isn’t as good as it could be, and the wireless service needed to download can behave erratically.  But still, I have to consider the advantages: I travel a lot, and I read fast, so it would be nice to not have to carry three or four books with me every time I go out of town.  On the other hand, I do a great deal of my reading on public transportation—and somehow, I don’t think the Kindle would have the same kind of durability as a paperback book.  Plus, there’s the fact that it only holds 200 books.  If I pay for a book, I want the option of keeping it forever.  Considering that my boyfriend and I will soon have to move into a larger apartment to accommodate all our books, methinks 200 books will not be enough for me.

But there’s a larger, more philosophical issue at stake here.  To me, there’s just something about a book: their heft, the way they feel in your hands, the way the pages crease after you’ve read them several times.  I don’t think an electronic book reader could replace those things.  Sure, it might be convenient and lightweight, and I’m sure by the second or third generation it will be able to hold well more than 200 books, but still.

On the other hand, I wonder if boiling a book down to an electronic format would encourage more people—who would otherwise be put off by the inconvenience and the hassle—to read?  Plus, being “green” is in right now, and electronic book readers would certainly save a lot of trees.  If more people are enjoying literature, who cares whether it’s on paper or not?

The truth is, I do.  Despite all their inconveniences, I love the physical reality of books.  Somehow, I can’t imagine downloading a book onto an electronic reader would have nearly the same resonance for me as walking down to the local library, stepping inside, and inhaling the smell of literature.


Selected Book Releases, November 10-16

November 10

Call Me Ted by Ted Turner with Bill Burke—One million copies for yet another addition into the endless parade of celebrity memoirs?  Seems a little ambitious to me.  But I guess you can do that when you own the media.

November 11

You: Being Beautiful by Dr. Michael F. Roizen and Dr. Mehmet C. Oz—I know a whole lot of people love this series, but you’ll pardon me if I skip on yet another book telling me not to drink soda or eat fried foods.

ImageJust After Sunset by Stephen King—This is King’s first collection of short stories since 2002.  Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review.  Plus, it’s got a really cool cover.

The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck—Radio and television personality Beck delivers a coming-of-age story about a young boy who receives a sweater for Christmas instead of a bike.

The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb—I’ve been waiting for ten years for Lamb to release a new novel.  Expectations are high, but knowing Lamb he won’t disappoint.

Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card—Sequel to the Hugo and Nebula-winning science fiction book, Ender’s Game.

A Mercy by Toni Morrison—Historical fiction about a slave woman in the 1600s who is traded to an Anglo-Dutch trader as repayment for a debt.

The Bodies Left Behind by Jeffery Deaver—Thriller about a police officer who responds to a 911 call and discovers a horrific murder.

Rickles’ Letters by Don Rickles—A compilation of humorous letters by comedian Don Rickles.