Kindle -- Beginning of the End for the Book?

Topic: 

Opinion from Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen on the book and what comes next.

"Bezos will win. Amazon has this device that downloads books. It is called the Kindle, which must be one of those focus group words. Sounds like the German word for children. Sounds like kind. Sounds innocent. Of course, it is not. My friends, book lovers all, have bought Kindles. At first, I was shocked: You? A Kindle? It's like discovering some sort of secret perversion.

Feeling oddly guilty, I bought a Kindle myself. Someday soon, I'm going to see how it works. I hesitate because I know it represents the beginning of the end -- books as books, bookstores, book lovers and, inescapably, the brilliant Frederic Manning, resurrected by a bookseller only to be eventually reinterred as too obscure to be Kindled. "

Comments

I have been reading Cohen's pieces for years and I can assure you he is so stupid he can barely keep his chair warm.

Richard Cohen is a step below the slur of "conventional wisdom." He's more like conventional cliche. He makes Thomas Friedman look like Nostradamus. Richard Cohen could look at a bus load of school children going over a cliff and write 12 column inches on how lovely the view was and how it was terribly ruined by the screaming children and their hip-hopping music.

I'd be throwing up in my office if I was Jeff Bezos.

First of all, books will continue to have that edge of being more portable, more durable, and requiring less power. EReaders are getting closer, but they're still not nearly there. Secondly, this would only doom books written before 1930 or so, and that has more to do with copyright law and Disney's attempts to sabotage world culture than any technological development. Why is that? Books written prior to 1930 are in the public domain and massive amounts of them are already readily available in electronic formats that any good reading device can parse (if the device can't parse it, then you've got other troubles, like having bought into a closed format). Books after that... well, you'll probably still be able to get some of them due to the combination of people pirating new books and dedicated fans converting older ones where the copyright is uncertain (and yes, current copyright law establishes that even if no one is known to own a particular work, it still has full protection).

Anyhow, I'm getting a bit off subject here, but basically, this is far from a death knell to books. A few people will adopt them and use them, but so far, every electronic book device has fared as well against actual books as the NGage did against traditional videogame systems. It's a curiousity, a neat idea, but ultimately transitory.

Incidentally, while electronic reading devices have thus far been a bust, it is worth noting that Baen has a very successful and profitable EBook setup. The reasons why are well established ( http://www.baen.com/library/palaver.htm ) but it basically comes down to that Baen understands that closed formats are a dead end, electronic books should be cheaper than their paper counterparts, and that the people who buy EBooks (or read the ones freely available in the Baen library) almost always buy paper copies as well.

The Kindle spells the end of books just like the computer gave us the paperless office.

Some books contain the machinery required to create and sustain universes. Tycho (Jerry Holkins) @ Penny Arcade

You can recycle a book. There is no way in Hell at our current level of technology, nor into the foreseeable future, that you can recycle cyber-technology. Cybernetic junk is piling up in people's basements and garages, and Apple, I believe it was, has a large stock of unsold computers buried in Death Valley against the day when the precious metals and vile toxins can be inexpensively recovered.

Libraries should go green and stick with the books. You can grow a new tree. You cannot grow a mineral vein.

There is nothing that cannot be found offensive by someone, somewhere.

You can't grep it though.

Yes, and those darn horseless carriages are a nuisance and safety hazard! They'll never replace the horse and buggy or my name isn't I.M. Adinosaur!

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