The Sporadic Beaver

The Future of Reading

April 9, 2013

Tags: Amazon, e-books, e-readers, Kindle, censorship

Jason Merkoski, a former employee of Amazon, was the leader of the team that built the first Kindle. Today he released an e-book, Burning the Page: The eBook Revolution and the Future of Reading.

Though I've not yet read the book, my sense of it, based on an interview with Merkoski in The New York Times, is that Amazon doesn't come off especially well. In response to a question about how people might react if they knew what was going on inside companies like Amazon, he said that Amazon, as well as Google and Apple, "have entire buildings filled with lawyers" whose job is "to keep people like me from even answering this question." He suggested, as well, that if the "veil of secrecy" that surrounds these corporations were lifted, people might boycott them.

Merkoski also mentioned that when it comes to censorship, a problem that I was dealing with last year, he does not trust the executives at any e-book retailer. Most of them, he said, “would rather pull e-books from the store, effectively censoring them, if that would avoid bad press.”

I’ve no doubt that this is all true. But I do question one point that Merkoski makes. “In 20 years,” he said, “the space of one generation, print books will be as rare as vinyl LPs.”

I’m not saying this won’t happen. I am saying that if it doesn’t happen, it’s because there are too many people, like me, who think reading on a screen is far less pleasurable than reading a printed book. Reading on a screen eliminates the sensuality and the connection you feel with a printed book. It’s more difficult to get lost in an e-book than it is in a printed book. Based on what I’ve heard and seen, I think there’s already an intense resistance to e-books among certain readers of all ages.

This was not the case when CDs began replacing vinyl LPs in the mid-1980s. Yes, there was some resistance to them among aficionados, but most people, myself included, couldn’t wait to get their hands on CDs, even if they already had the record in vinyl. That’s because people believed that CDs provided a better listening experience (and they took up less room).

Nobody, I’d argue, would suggest that e-books provide a better reading experience than printed books. Their advantages, as far as I can see, are that they take up less space, they’re cheaper, and they’re searchable. And that’s not enough to drive printed books into near extinction. Unless, of course, it is. Because when it comes to the book business, nobody knows what’s going to happen 20 minutes from now, much less 20 years.

Kobo

January 15, 2013

Tags: Kobo, e-books, e-readers

There have always been alternatives for people who'd rather cut off their thumbs than download a book on Amazon Kindle. The best known are the Barnes & Noble Nook and various Apple devices, which allow you to buy e-books directly from the Apple store. There's also a company called Kobo, which offers both a variety of e-readers and a wide selection of books.

But Kobo, as I’ve just learned, allows you to do something that no other company does: buy a competitively priced e-book, which you can read on any device, from your local independent bookstore.

Just go to Kobo’s list of participating stores, click on one near you, and download the book. I can’t think of a better way to get your hands on the e-book edition of Beaver Street (or any other e-book) while supporting a local brick-and-mortar business.

Springtime for Beaver in America

September 26, 2011

Tags: Headpress, Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, Kindle, e-readers

I received word from Headpress the other day that Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography will be published in trade paperback in the United States on March 23, 2012. It will also be available as an e-book in all formats, including Kindle.

Beaver People, start your countdown! It's only six months to springtime.

I’m especially excited about the Kindle edition. Over the past few months, Kindle (and other e-readers) has reached a tipping point in New York. Not only do I see more and more of them on the subway, but when I tell people about Beaver Street, their first question is often, “Is it available on Kindle?” Indeed, people have told me that they will only buy a book if it is available on Kindle. (Yes, I know, you love your Kindles.)

I’m also aware that a certain segment of the reading public prefer not to be seen on subways and buses reading a book titled Beaver Street. Well, with an e-book, nobody can see what you’re reading. But please, promise me, when strangers inquire why you’re laughing out loud, you’ll tell them it’s because you’re reading Beaver Street.

Okay, then, I’ve got six months to prepare for the big day. All I can tell you at this point is that I'm going to have a publication party in an appropriately sleazy bar on Beaver Street, in downtown Manhattan. You’re all invited.