I just ordered my Kindle 2 from Amazon. I’ve been fascinated by Kindle since its launch in November 2007. Kindle represents an optimal model for digital media distribution and consumption — a simple to use and slim device, a wide selection of new and old titles (250,000, including most of the NY Times best sellers), huge cost savings vs. shipping (and returning) physical books and the ability to buy anytime, anywhere, with free wireless delivery in less than 60 seconds.
Jacob Weisberg, editor-in-chief of Slate, writes:
The notion that physical books are ending their lifecycle is upsetting to people who hold them to be synonymous with literature and terrifying to those who make their living within the existing structures of publishing.
As an editor and a lover of books, I sympathize. But why should a civilization that reads electronically be any less literate than one that harvests trees to do so? And why should a transition away from the printed page lessen our appreciation and love for printed books?
In a world without the high fixed costs of printing and distribution, as the distance between writers and their audiences shrinks, what essential service will Random House and Simon & Schuster provide? If the answer is primarily cultural arbitration and editing, the publishing behemoths might dwindle while a much lighter weight model of publishing—clever kids working from coffee shops in Brooklyn—emerges.
What we should worry about is that the system supports the creation of literature, if grudgingly. There’s a risk that what replaces it won’t allow as many writers to make as good a living. But there’s also a chance it could allow more writers to make a better living.
At the same time, the Internet has radically expanded the potential audience of every journalist while bringing a new freedom to experiment and innovate.
When it comes to literature, I’m optimistic that electronic reading will bring more good than harm. New modes of communication will spur new forms while breathing life into old ones. Reading without paper might make literature more urgent and accessible than it was before the technological revolution, just like Gutenberg did.