Here is some more ammunition for Kindle-bashers, coming from the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal on February 12-13, 2011.
In the weekly Books section, Eric Ormsby writes that “books beget books – and sometimes writers are moved to pay tribute to the ones that formed them” (p. C7). His article points out that writers claim that their inspiration for writing comes as much from the books they have read, as from life itself. And, especially so from those they read as a child.
In the piece, he argues this: “an interesting feature of such reminiscenses is how strongly they depend upon the physical nature of the book. The printed book’s physicality presents a challenge to e-books, however convenient they are. We tend to remember the love and heft of a book that we fell in love with. Will we feel the same about ghostly glimmerings of a monitor?”
And, then: “One reads a certain edition, a specific copy, recognizable by the roughness or smoothness of its paper, by its scent, by a slight tear on page 72 and a coffee ring on the right-hand corner of the back cover.”
Ormsby’s piece reminds me of Tim Sanders’ best-seller, Love is a Killer App. Sanders advocates working with a book, not just reading it. He said to buy hardback books – 4-6 at a time, write in the margins, and draft a summary at the end of a chapter before going to the next. The book even shows sample pages from books Sanders worked with.
There is no way that innovations on electronic readers such as a Kindle, including emoticons, highlighters, and flash pens come close to duplicating, or even replicating, working with a book in the way Ormsby and Sanders talk about it. Hold your book, work with your book, and remember your book. That is how you build and capture your memories. And, that is what inspires additional writing.
In conclusion, a glimmering monitor does not hold a candle to that experience.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it!
Do you remember the old days? These are my old days: you could see a movie in the theater, or you could wait until the Saturday Night at the Movies premiere on television (I think it was ABC). You could not record it, buy it, rent it, download it, or see an excerpt (your favorite scene) on YouTube… You either went to the movie theater, or watched it only when it was showing on television. My, times have changed…
Well, on this blog, we have had a robust debate about the future of “books.” You know, books in printed form, that you can hold in your hand, underline and write in the margins, carry around in book bags. The Kindle and its now and future rivals are supposed to be the threat to these books. (And my colleague Karl Krayer is convinced that they really pose no threat at all. I hate to disagree with my colleague, but…)
Well, now comes something really new. “Vooks.” I’ve been thinking about this myself. What if you could read William Safire’s compilation of speeches, Lend Me Your Ears, and simply push a button/click a mouse and hear excerpts of a speech right in the middle of the book? This would be way more cool than a dvd that accompanies the sale of some speech/history books. You know, it takes way too long to load the dvd, find the right speech… We want it now – right now!
Here’s the really new, new thing. The New York Times describes the growth industry of “Vooks.” The article is titled: Curling Up With Hybrid Books, Videos Included. Read the article here. Here’s an excerpt:
For more than 500 years the book has been a remarkably stable entity: a coherent string of connected words, printed on paper and bound between covers.
But in the age of the iPhone, Kindle and YouTube, the notion of the book is becoming increasingly elastic as publishers mash together text, video and Web features in a scramble to keep readers interested in an archaic form of entertainment.
On Thursday, for instance, Simon & Schuster, the publisher of Ernest Hemingway and Stephen King, is working with a multimedia partner to release four “vooks,” which intersperse videos throughout electronic text that can be read — and viewed — online or on an iPhone or iPod Touch.
Some publishers say this kind of multimedia hybrid is necessary to lure modern readers who crave something different. But reading experts question whether fiddling with the parameters of books ultimately degrades the act of reading.
“There is no question that these new media are going to be superb at engaging and interesting the reader,” said Maryanne Wolf, a professor of child development at Tufts University and author of “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.” But, she added, “Can you any longer read Henry James or George Eliot? Do you have the patience?”
Who knows where all of this will lead? But for me, a lover of books, I am a little bothered – and a little intrigued and excited.
But there are some who are not so excited:
Some authors scoff at the idea of mixing the two mediums. “As a novelist I would never ever” allow videos to substitute for prose, said Walter Mosley, the author of “Devil in a Blue Dress” and other novels.
“Reading is one of the few experiences we have outside of relationships in which our cognitive abilities grow,” Mr. Mosley said. “And our cognitive abilities actually go backwards when we’re watching television or doing stuff on computers.”
Plenty of authors never wanted to see their books made into movies. But aren’t we glad they were — at least, for many of them? Will we someday feel the same way about “vooks?”
Why Kindle Won’t Win — Books are Symbols. So said my colleague Karl Krayer on this blog barely two months ago. Here is what he wrote to begin his post:
Let’s wait just a few moments before we christen Kindle as the force that did away with traditional books. Although this technology will continue to add available titles, and as sales for the product through Amazon.com will continue to rise, the chances that it will eliminate books with hard covers, paper, jackets, and traditional marking devices are simply not too high.
I wish he were correct. I too love the feel, the smell, the heft of a book. But alas, it simply has no chance to be the long-term winner in this contest. The days of the printed book, the bound book — printed on paper — are bound to disappear. The unrelenting march of technology will prove too strong.
Two signals from this morning’s news add fuel to this fire. I heard on NPR this morning that California now has 10 textbooks for high school which will only be available in digital format. (Students can print portions of them out on paper, but that will be from the pdf that the student downloads).
And now comes Scott Burns in this morning’s Dallas Morning News: Printed books nearing their final chapter. He described how two 80+ year olds visited recently, showing up without a single physical book, but with a well-stocked Kindle. Making the case that the technology will make it inevitable, he includes this paragraph:
Some readers will scoff at the notion that paper books and periodicals will be displaced by something electronic. But it will happen. It will seem like a long transition, and then it will suddenly be over. Printed books will become accessories for interior decoration, collectors’ items or wood pulp looking for a new use.
Burns predicts, based on how long it took the digital camera to replace film, that it will take between 2 and 18 years for the transition to be complete. The Kindle itself may not be the winner. But digital books are coming, and physical books are disappearing. I, of course, am waiting for the Apple iReader to come out (no, I have no insider information – but there are rumors out there on the internet).
And, for those who find benefit from the First Friday Book Synopsis, I have good news. Just because a person will download a digital copy of a book into a Kindle does not necessarily mean that he or she will read the entire book. Just as shelves sit with unread books, so the Kindle will hold unread books. So Karl and I will still have our work to do, presenting synopses of important and best-selling books, Kindle or otherwise. I just haven’t figured out how we will give away the copy of the book at the end as easily.