Amazon announced yesterday the arrival of its new tree-less technology, Kindle. I don’t want to wax enthusiastic about something I haven’t tried, but I think this is a step in a direction we’re all headed, whether we like it or not. And I like it. Though, a lot of people don’t. Peruse the comments that have already amassed in the wake of its release and you see one after another 1 and 2 star reviews. But a closer look reveals that almost all of these negative reviews are coming from people who haven’t even tried the thing and are looking at it from afar, with suspicion, afraid of what it represents, afraid of losing something that they feel will be irreplaceable–the feel of a warm, heavy, tree-filled book in their hands.
Okay, I get it. That’s my instinct, too. “What is that thang?! Looks like the devil. Hey, let’s poke it with a stick, see if it eats us alive.” The same thing happened when mp3 stepped timidly onto the stage years ago. “I think the idea is good, but nothing will replace the feel of something tangible, like a CD. I wouldn’t pay $400 for it. Hand me that stick. I’m ‘onna poke it.” Most of these people are missing the point. This is a nascent technology (rather like the book itself was centuries ago.) Given time, the market will sort itself out. The costs will adjust to fit the needs of the buyers. Book buying practices will search for and find a comfortable new place to reside. And nobody will need sticks.
Or, maybe they will, but they just won’t be poking them at Kindle.
That said, this rollout also comes with the usual assortment of DRM and anti-sharing nonsense that has polarized the music industry for what seems like ever. The mistrust and fear is obviously felt on both sides. I imagine Amazon has had to deal with the same headaches that have plagued Apple in its search to make it easy for people to give up the addiction to tangible media. Wait there’s nothing physical here? How will we make our money?
I can’t afford one of these things now. But you can bet I’ll buy one when the market settles down. I like the idea of reading literary works on a small, portable, lightweight device. Wait, but isn’t a book the same thing? Small? Portable? Lightweight?
But it’s not a device. And it involves trees.