Friday, July 31, 2009

Get Your Hands Off My Book...and That Is Not a Book!!

Oh, is it time for another one of my anti-Kindle rants?
Oh sure...there is always room for an anti-Kindle rant. And Jello, if you are old enough to remember that commercial.
Now yes, I must say that I have not used a Kindle but for more than a few minutes. But I did have the chance while on vacation to read a significant part of a book on a Sony Reader, and I was not terribly impressed. I kept reaching up to turn the page. I couldn't break the habit of decades! But beyond that, I didn't really like the way the type looked, I didn't like the way you have to hold I said, I was not really impressed.

But with the Kindle, there are much bigger issues as well. Like the fact, as people have recently discovered, that Kindle has the ability to 'reach' into your device and remove a 'book'. Now they said they mishandled that episode and apologized, and no doubt promised not to do it again, but doesn't it just concern you that they can do that. Is anyone worried that someone, the Evil Amazon, has ultimate control over your books, especially since Kindle books can not be played on any other piece of non-Amazon hardware? That you have to agree to a 'terms of service" just to buy books?

But most of my latest ammunition come from this interesting article by Nicholson Baker from this months New Yorker.
First, there is the whole look of "e-paper".
"The problem was not that the screen was in black-and-white; if it had really been black-and-white, that would have been fine. The problem was that the screen was gray. And it wasn’t just gray; it was a greenish, sickly gray. A postmortem gray. The resizable typeface, Monotype Caecilia, appeared as a darker gray. Dark gray on paler greenish gray was the palette of the Amazon Kindle.

This was what they were calling e-paper? This four-by-five window onto an overcast afternoon?"
Ok, that seems to be a major issue to me. He then compared some Kindle versions to real books. Missing beautiful illustrations, missing or unreadable maps, the color coding in text books gone. Not always an issue with every book you might read, true, but with a number of books I can think of it would be extremely important. Why would I want to but a 'book' that is incomplete? He tries a newspaper subscription on the Kindle. The Kindle version
"lacks most of the print edition’s superb photography—and its subheads and call-outs and teasers, its spinnakered typographical elegance and variety, its browsableness, its Web-site links, its listed names of contributing reporters, and almost all captioned pie charts, diagrams, weather maps, crossword puzzles, summary sports scores, financial data, and, of course, ads, for jewels, for swimsuits, for vacationlands, and for recently bailed-out investment firms. A century and a half of evolved beauty and informational expressiveness is all but entirely rinsed away in this digital reductio."
Ok, that sounds like a pretty rotten way to read a newspaper to me.

He goes to Freeport, Maine to meet a Kindle owner, the manager of a British import store across the street from L.L.Bean, who is part of the “See a Kindle in Your City” promotion. It is cute, she has made a nice, little cover for it. But when taking it to the neighboring bookstore, he is surprised by how many books are not available. At home, comparing it to his own books, he is surprised at how many books he has that are not available. Of course, I know that will change when the Evil Amazon pressures every publisher and author to sign on and make available more Kindle editions. Because certainly Amazon is huge enough to exert that sort of pressure.

However, I was even more upset to find out that I noticed neither the British import store or the book store next to it on my recent visit to Freeport. I was blinded by the beauty that is L.L.Bean I assume!

Bottom line, yes, I understand the convenience of being able to carry a bunch of 'books' in one little device, the convenience of being able to order and download a book in seconds, but there is a price to pay for that convenience. An aesthetic price, in some cases, a usability price. You can't loan out your books, or sell them...speaking of which, here is an amusing video about that very issue...

But my greatest concern is when you buy an e-book, most especially when you buy it from Amazon, with their proprietary software, what are you actually buying. Did you read the small print in the "terms of service"? Will you still have access to those books years from now or will you maybe have to 'upgrade' your hardware or software at an additional cost to continue to have access to the material? That is over the $350 you already paid for the privilege of buying Kindle 'books' at a small discount from the Evil Amazon. Wow, I could buy a lot of real books for $350 and then do what I want with them. Maybe even offer thrm to my readers inn a giveaway. As Mr. Baker puts it,
"Here’s what you buy when you buy a Kindle book. You buy the right to display a grouping of words in front of your eyes for your private use with the aid of an electronic display device approved by Amazon."
Hmmmm...I'll pass on that for now thanks.

Well, in honor of Freeport, Maine, where I did not test drive a Kindle or see that bookstore (although I found another on the edge of town and bought a book. Or two), a couple of pictures of the town from my trip.

Welcome To Freeport and Hello From the Giant Freeport Indian

One Store on the L.L.Bean campus and a Big L.L.Bean Shoe in the 4th of July Parade.


  1. I'm sitting here wondering if I should even respond, but I guess this is what makes the world go 'round! For all the evils that can be listed, I do love my Kindle. Every summer, I travel more than I am home. For someone who was gone for over 5 weeks, at 2to 3 books a week, and with checked bags at a 50 pound limit, losing the cover art is a small price for me to pay to be able to read to my heart's content. I will never be able to give up my hard books, I love them! I also love audios too - they have a place in my life, just like my Kindle. I have room in my heart for all!

  2. Of course you should respond!

    At heart, I love books, the look of books, the feel of books, the piles of books and I am a fearing of anything that might make them go away. Including convenience....

  3. I think the pros and cons of a Kindle or Sony Reader depend on the person. I, for instance, may someday choose to buy an eReader in order to avoid purchasing print classics. Much as I enjoy holding books in my hand, I cannot ignore the fact that each printed book requires so very much paper and that many of the books that I read or want to read are long available in the public domain. Due to personal restrictions, I won't be able to use it always and I'm sure I'll be annoyed by the format, the size and the style at first, but there's no doubt that it'll have economic advantages as well as environmental ones.

    Yours is a very interesting, up-to-date look at the matter full of relevant points. Still, much like some people prefer hardcovers or paperbacks or mass market paperbacks, etc., I feel that the merits of digital reading are different for every person. Not much to add beyond that. This is all very well said.

  4. I truly, from the bottom of my heart, believe that the Kindle won't make books go away. The average person just doesn't have that kind of money, especially when there are such great libraries around. And those of us that do love to read won't ever give up that hypnotic smell and feel of paper!

  5. yes, good points from you both.

    But the proprietary nature of Amazon's version is a concern as well I think. Which is why, if I ever went over to the Dark Side, it might be with a different reader. One that would not lock me and the books I don't actually own to them forever.

  6. Did you find anything in LL Bean that is still made in the USA? It seems a lot of their merchandise now comes from (where else) China! That used to be the one place where we knew we could bet quality items and they would last for ages. Alas, no more. You're right about being able to buy a lot of books for $350. I bought 94 books at the last library sale that cost me a little over $60. Have a good week!

  7. oh yes, that is certainly an issue! I happened to overhear two conversations between customers and employees, customers voicing their displeasure, about it while I was there which seem to me makes it a huge issue for customers. If you look at reviews online, you also see it is a big complaint.

    I do believe their tote bags are actually still made in Maine..but I could be wrong.

    but I have to admit, I still enjoy the place a great deal.

  8. Oh Caite, Caite, Caite ... you and your Kindle rants! : )

  9. ok, I will never rant about the Kindle again. :-(

    That might be a lie. ;-)

    I am not thrilled with e-books in general, but I have real issues with the Kindle especially.

    You might have noticed.


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