Monday, April 11, 2011

Blood Kindle

You've got to love it when an establishment figure panics. When they go full-tilt into defending something, whether it be a business model or a person that's clearly not up to snuff. Well, I read a hilarious/sad article by Bill Henderson today in Publisher's Weekly railing against e-readers and let me tell you, it's a doozy.

It seems it's beyond some people's capacity to handle the coming tide of digital books. Sure, I like libraries and book stores as much as the next guy (provided the book store is a mom and pop place where the books are piled willy-nilly all over the place, and the owner/cash register attendant doesn't look up from the obscure 17th-century Prussian romance he's reading to ring up my order). But come on. Who has time to go to a book store anymore?

And anyway, I'm tired of hearing about all the great authors who were never published. The digital format allows all authors to upload their books FOR FREE and send them out into the ether to find an audience. So no more excuses for those humble, starving artist who were brilliant but never made it through the big mean publishing house juggernaut. Time to put up or shut up.

The best part of this screed is how the guy says e-readers are much worse for the environment than books are. Ok, I concede that e-readers don't have a positive impact on the environment. It's not like manufacturing a Nook will repopulate a dead lake in Michigan. But let's remember, we're in the infant stages of this e-revolution. E-readers will become more and more efficient going forward, with their manufacturers trying to leave an ever lighter carbon footprint with each iteration, so that someday we will get to a point where we will be able to read any book ever written on a device that does not harm the environment one iota.

And what kind of a fear-mongerer and moral Puritan tries to scare people away from buying e-readers because they might vaguely be contributing to strife in war-torn Africa? Examples, please. I'm pretty sure Kindles are not blood diamonds. I mean: are you serious? And then he equates the possible future disappearance of libraries with a "digital book burning," evoking scenes straight out of the Holocaust and Stalin's Russia???

This all (uncomfortably) reminds me of those bludgeoning TV ads from a few years ago where a kid looks at a bag of weed he just bought. He has a self-satisfied look on his face until he looks up and--surprise!--he finds that all the ghosts of the people who died in drug gang activity surrounding that dime bag have come back to haunt him. It's soooo moralistic it makes me wince.

And what on earth do e-book readers have to do with lessening our attention span? Won't people be uploading philosophical tracts along with the latest book in the Twilight series? Henderson conflates Twitter and e-readers here, weirdly over-extending his argument.

Books--and trust me, I loves me some books--are a static form. They will not evolve anymore. They are the Loch Ness monster lampooned at the bottom of some godforsaken Scottish lake. Ok? Let's try to stay positive about this: e-books are a great way for people to practice the craft they love while making money at it. And the technology will catch up with green demands. Anyway, that's what I believe.

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