Sunday, April 26, 2009

The New York Times Laments Forward Progress with the Kindle

The Kindle prevents you from learning more about the stranger sitting next to you on the subway, or so this New York Times article suggests. Gone are the days when you could tell whether that person was into sci-fi, sports or politics, for example. Well how about just knowing they're an early adopter who loves the portability, power and flexibility of an e-reader?!

I've had more people ask me about my Kindle (in airports, conferences, etc.) than I've ever had ask me about the print book I happened to be reading; and don't forget I've had a Kindle for less than a year but I had been reading print books all my life prior to that.

How about this little gem from the article?:

Will they (Kindles) help or hurt book sales and authors’ advances? Cannibalize the industry?
It's called "progress", people, and it's not a bad thing. The same fears probably kept some people from making that scary jump from horses to automobiles 100+ years ago. I'm glad nobody squashed that idea, although current GM shareholders might disagree.

I laughed out loud when I read this excerpt:
Publishers will no longer get the bump that comes when travelers see someone reading, say, the latest James Patterson and say to themselves: “I’ve been meaning to get that. I think I’ll buy a copy at Hudson News before I hop on the train.”
Just how many people does the typical commuter influence like this? And isn't that number kinda tiny when compared to the more modern forms of e-promotions, including e-mail blasts, Twittering, etc.? Maybe this Times columnist is living in the era of horse-and-buggy transportation after all.

I nearly cried though when I read the part about David Rosenthal, EVP and Publisher at Simon & Schuster. Here's a publishing executive who owns a Sony Reader, uses it to read manuscripts but won't read a published book on it. Yeah, you read that right. I wonder if he trusts his computer's spreadsheet to analyze P&L's or if he still insists on doing things the old-fashioned way, with a sliderule, pencil and paper.

Meanwhile, back to the snobbishness of carrying around a book rather than reading it electronically. Maybe there's a market for someone to produce an e-reader cover with a see-through slot in front where you can print out and insert whatever book cover you want to impress everyone with. I'd put a Mad magazine cover on mine, just to be different.


Chuck Smith said...

When I was reading this article earlier today on my iPhone (haha!), I was thinking the same thing. It seems like you would have a much better connection with someone if you see them reading a Kindle or Sony Reader. I'm immediately reminded of a tweet by Natalie del Conte where she writes how she sat down in an airplane and pulled out her Kindle as the passenger next to her pulled out his Sony Reader. Laughter ensued. Classic!

Ken said...

Excellent! Aptly and wittingly put.

Anonymous said...

Heh. We're probably only a few Kindle generations from one that'll display a full color cover on the reverse side if you so desire.

If the publishing industry gets it's head out of it's ass about the pricing issue, we'll have TONS of people chatting to each other, "You should totally download this book I'm reading." "Ditto."

Anonymous said...

It was very strange reading that article on my Kindle. I live more than 60 miles away from a place that sells the NY Times.

Anthony S Policastro said...

it's hard to believe that the Times would be so stuck in the dark ages. Maybe, there's something in the water or the air that keeps the NY publishing industry in the 19th century.

pete said...

The best line in the whole article came just after the last one you cited, Joe. "And as books migrate from paper, it means the death of the pickup line, 'Oh, I see you're reading the latest (insert highbrow author's name here).'" That's exactly what people want to happen while reading on a train, or anywhere. Damn the Kindle for ruining my chances of meeting women by making shallow, obvious comments about book covers.

You raise an interesting point by mentioning snobbishness: is one obligated to partake of progress as soon as it's available? I prefer to spend $349 otherwise, and carry paperbacks around, but am excited about the possibilities afforded by ebooks. Is that the mindset of an obstinate reader?

Anonymous said...

Works the opposite for me. Peeps see it and want to hold it and get to see everything I'm reading, or at least the first page.

Stormy said...

I actually consider it a feature that people can't see what I'm reading on a Kindle. Although just about everyone asks what it is and then they read a page in your book ...