Monday, June 15, 2009

Andrew Sullivan gets E-Reader fever, Kindle style

Early Adopter syndrome, or the harbinger of the Tipping Point? Or Both?
The Kindle, unlike laptop or PC prose, is read in an armchair or a sofa or on the train. You can read it while holding it up with one hand. You can lie down and read it perched on your lap. Although it’s connected to the internet and you can buy a book and start reading it within a minute by pressing one button, it doesn’t facilitate web-surfing. It is not an iPhone. It doesn’t text. It brings you words, plainly packaged. The words, by their very plainness – like the plainness of a book’s print – demand respect. By removing some of the peripheries of reading – the shop, the cover design, the author photograph – the words seem to acquire more solitary authority.

I found that, unlike reading online, I was never tempted to open a new web window to appease my restless short attention span. For a blog addict like me, always vowing to get back on the wagon of a web-free life for a few hours a day, it’s a godsend. If there’s a long article you find online that you want to read later, you can e-mail it to your Kindle and read it later in the manner most appropriate.

I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make notes, highlight and underline passages. But the Kindle lets you do that using a mini-mouse – and your notes are then helpfully compiled in an appendix at the end. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to remember where I stopped reading last; the Kindle automatically remembers and takes you there. Looking for a detail you’d already read? Unlike a paper book, the Kindle can search the text for you.

More here (unless the Sunday Times starts charging for back content, or indeed access).

And when McCrum finally gets it...then we have a movement.
However, for all this, I still needed hard evidence that e-reading was here to stay - until last week, on the train from Liverpool Street to Norwich, it happened. I saw a woman happily ensconced with her ebook, lost in the words on the screen like any reader of traditional books.

For me, this is the tipping point. All the anguished commentary in the trade press, all the anecdotes from the US about New York editors reading "manuscript" submissions on e-readers, all this dwindles beside that thirtysomething train traveller quietly at home with her Kindle.

To see a regular commuter choose an ebook over a newspaper or a magazine, a paperback or a library book, indeed over any piece of conventional print, all competing literary distractions: that seems to me to be a moment of the greatest significance.

I still firmly believe that the new technology will not eliminate the old. It's not an either/or choice. That's the lesson from the history of IT, from Caxton to Google.

Perhaps McCrum is in fact the new George Routledge...trains eh? To Norwich. Alan Bennett beware.

And speaking of which:
Mr. [David] Sedaris wrote in a recent e-mail message that he has actually signed “at least five” Kindles, and “a fair number of iPods as well, these for audio book listeners.” A frequent chronicler of his own eccentricities, the author often encounters his readers’ quirks at the book-signing table.

“The strangest thing I’ve signed is a woman’s artificial leg,” Mr Sedaris continued in his e-mail message. “Last year in Austin I signed an actual leg, and its owner had my signature tattooed into her flesh.

From the NYT.

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