Jeff Bezos, on Charlie Rose, explained some of his thinking on the nature of the old-fashioned book. His assertion was that the book itself disappears, while the reader enters into the world conveyed by the author through words. Bezos asserted that this is the cause of the unbridled success of the book, that it, itself, ceases to exist, and that which is being conveyed, the story, etc., takes over. I feel that Bezos accomplished something like this with his Kindle. The unassuming contraption seems to have been designed so as not to interfere with the text that it is conveying. If it were too colorful, if in its display were whirling animations and other assorted crap, it would be losing sight of its purpose, i.e., to present the story through text. While the display and readability could undoubtedly be improved upon, I should certainly hope that the improvements will not become distractions to what the book is meant for, the conveyance of the word.
I have many reservations about devices like the Kindle, as well as the large-scale digitalization of books. I believe ezalite commented that the publishing industry would do away with the library, given the chance, and furthermore, what entity, public or private, or what have you, would oversee and administrate the storehouse of the world’s texts. The literature, once digitalized and housed, would be much more easily corruptible, censored, or destroyed. The autonomous books that we each hold in our possession have in their very form an unalterable integrity that metaphorically mirrors our own autonomous integrity as humans.
i agree with iveta – curling up with a book is a pleasure of mine that may not be replaceable by a digital reader. it could be cool though if they added applications where you could save snippets & passages from books you like in order to have a quick way to refer back to interesting material or concepts.
Technological improvements will replicate the tactile pleasures of book reading and people will be able to consume as they wish. One of the advantages of the continuing expansion towards massive levels of personal storage is that it will allow everyone to have digital copies of all of their books (all of all books eventually) and will, in reference to bibelnieks comment, enable everyone to maintain incorruptible copies in their physical space. New display systems will also allow us to showcase them in novel fashions (npi).
I think it is precisely the novel fashions that concern many analogue readers the most. As soon as we have a workable reader like Kindle on the market, there is immediate talk about color interfaces and the like. Readers of books read them precisely because they are not magazines fraught with colorful distractions and hyperbolic images, as opposed to colorful metaphors and hyperbolic tropes.
I was referring to the different ways they could be displayed in your home. They will appear as ordinary books on a bookshelf (though they’ll be images) and you will be able to change the configuration instantly. The readers themselves will have the look and feel of whatever book you like. They won’t be animated if you don’t want them to be.
As the generations who cut their teeth on keyboards take over, we’ll have less of the romantic approach to books. The practical matters – the amount of energy required to move books, sell and store them, will make e-paper style displays more popular. I read the entire Sword of Shannara series (7 books) on a Compaq iPaq handheld PDA. While it isn’t paper, it’s easy enough on the eyes, and it’s really only habit (and the lack of pop-up messages reminding you to charge the battery,) that keeps us attached to dead-tree media.
Embrace the Kindle. We’ll be seeing more of these in the future – although I expect it to be a razor-blade approach eventually, where the Kindle is subsidized with a monthly service agreement much the way Audible.com subsidized their audiobook players early on.
If you mean whether the people who continue to advance the technology will lock that material up from reading (thus effectively making books too expensive for the masses once more,) then I must point out that the commodity pricing of books is fairly self-evident, even in the bookstore. Few people complain that they cannot afford to buy enough books to keep them sufficiently busy reading. I do not expect DRM to withstand the tests of time (computing power and shoddy software being as it is,) but I also don’t see it as a substantial impediment to society.
If you mean whether the technology will reduce our appreciation of the written word to zero, reducing it to so much fluff as to be irrelevant (since virtually anyone can publish over the same medium as once reserved for “proper authors”) then we have a much broader issue that is evident in the rants of those who decry the voice of the amateur. There is always a market for refereed publications – and despite the novelty of crowd-sourced filtering and ranking, at the end of the day you will pay for dedicated, experienced individuals who serve as arbiters of what ideas are of value, and those that are not.
I believe that the reason, at least in part, that people do not complain of the price of a read is that they know that the library, an institution whose power and influence can not be overstated, is there to provide them with learning and knowledge.
My concern is with the possibility of a digital warehouse. A centralized database that would distribute the word at a price. The price is not the concern so much as the ease with which power can influence what enters and exits that warehouse, as with the Kindle setup.
There is much faith in the invisible hand of capitalism to “flatten” the world or what have you, but that hand is often times much too visible, and coldly molesting ;)