Archive | November, 2009

The Kindle Effect: How “E-Reader” Devices will Change Our Experience with Literature

4 Nov

kindleIn 2007, Amazon released the Kindle, a portable electronic reading device which downloads books and newspapers much like your ipod downloads music. This event sparked considerable controversy in the publishing industry, for which many scholars believe the Kindle signals the end. There are indications, however, that the Kindle could be the savior publishers have been waiting for to bail them out of dwindling profit margins.

The Kindle features the three qualities that Americans seem to value highly in the new millenium–affordablility, sustainablity, and efficiency. Subscribing to The New York Times via the Kindle saved one Business Week reporter $233 in his first year as a Kindle user. This also saves a considerable amount of paper, and it takes little more than thirty seconds to download a book to the Kindle from Amazon.

There are concerns, however, that coorporate interest will gain the same sway over the content of the Kindle that exists over the content of American news media. Last July Kindle recalled 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell due to conflicts with the rights holder, a move which Kindle critics perceived as highly ironic (New York Times). Certainly such a recall never would have occured over print editions of the novels.

The concept of electronic reading devices certainly has caught on–Amazon recently reported that its third quarter profits have surged to the 70 percent mark (NPR). The Kindle already has competitors, including the Sony E-Book and the Barnes and Noble Nook. There are even rumors that Apple is soon to cash in on the e-reader concept. The bottom line: it will not be long before readers are relying most heavily on the literary stock of the internet rather than the stock of their local book stores.

While the future of the e-reader seems bright, I cannot help but look back on the collection of paperbacks I have amassed over the years with some melancholy feeling. I am elated by the possiblility that the Kindle will “spark,” if you will, the interest of a whole new generation of readers in the power of the written word. But it is my belief that a book is only truly loved when is shows the wear and tear of many readings–underlines, dog-eared pages, cracked spines, and notes in the margins. Can you inscirbe the front page of the Kindle when you bequeath it to a friend? As for me and my house, we will read paperbacks.