WE REPORTED back here on Friday that Amazon will launch its Kindle e-book reader today in New York City, home of superheroes, hot dogs and huddled masses. Since then, the product has led to acres of virtual newsprint, many of them relating to its appearance and its chances of being a success.
The Kindle pictures that have appeared so far don’t suggest that this a racy-looking piece of kit but then pictures can be deceptive and often not worth the 1,000 words that Telly Savalas famously valued them at. It never (well, rarely) ceases to amaze us how nice-looking hardware can be mangled by some fancy photographer’s efforts to grab a creative snap.
The man who can judge better than most is Newsweek’s Steven Levy, since he has actually had the damn thing for a few weeks, as he attests in his bog here. Levy says the Kindle is no moose to look at and gives the Kindle a rave review, reporting that the device uses e-ink and is a light, low-power product with fast wireless downloads.
With all deference to Levy and other e-book supporters, your scribe still thinks this is long odds to be a hit, even if it proves to be the best reader to have popped up on the market to date. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; making an electronic device decent for people to read books is a daft pursuit. It’s like having Bono cover a Frank Sinatra song: no matter how much trickery, smoke, mirrors and special effects that you throw at the problem, it’s still not going to be as good as the original.
Books are ultra-cheap and one of great pleasures of life to consume. They span the sum of the world’s knowledge. They are highly usable and easy to source. They can be reused and recycled. Making circuitry attempt the same trick is like Dr Johnson’s dancing dog: it doesn’t do it very well, although it’s sort of impressive that it does it at all.
E-book readers can solve some niche problems such as carrying around reams of reference information for field maintenance, but the idea that they will be an adequate replacement for the real thing is daft. Remember, paper beats rock, and here at least, it will beat digitisation. µ
2020 is going to be digital carnage
It's a great shame if it strudel
Don't get it near your Apple Card
So says Bloomberg, at least