Saturday, April 4, 2009

The World is Changing

As you know, I love my Kindle. And I'm not the only one. The latest paean to the remarkable Kindle that I've run across was in Newsweek, but apparently it showed up originally in Slate. The happy Kindle user is Jacob Weisberg, and he's been excited by the Kindle ever since the first one, not nearly as good as the Kindle 2, came out. He makes an arresting prediction:

"Jeff Bezos [Amazon's CEO] has built a machine that marks a cultural revolution. The Kindle 2 signals that after a happy, 550-year union, reading and printing are getting separated. It tells us that printed books, the most important artifacts of human civilization, are going to join newspapers and magazines on the road to obsolescence."

In other words, the world is changing. Weren't you aware that the electronic age we're in is just beginning? Vast changes that we cannot imagine are going to happen. Already popular culture has undergone a monumental change. Kindle is just part of it. "Why should a civilization that reads electronically be any less literate than one that harvests trees to do so?" Weisberg asks. Setting aside for the moment the massive amount of voluntary illiteracy in the US, why, indeed?

I have to tell you that I pretty much agree with the assessment that books as we know them are on the way out. And I'm not concerned. I will still love books. I spend most of my life in a room where I'm surrounded by books. Books and I have a life-long love affair going. But I brought my Kindle with me on a recent trip, and, man, you talk about great. I kept up with the blogs I read daily and continued reading a couple of books. The Kindle is carry-on. No weight and no space to speak of. A dream of a piece of technology on a trip. Full disclosure: I also brought a book with me. It's part of my current research.

Weisberg addresses the main argument that I've heard against this technology, that it is going to replace books and that books are just better. No, Kindle is not going to replace all books; books are still going to be around. Nice books. Well-made books. Throwaway, recreational, or transitory reading is what the Kindle's for. Book-lovers don't need to fear this device. I sure don't. It's the most helpful gadget I think I've ever had.
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