Friday, May 23, 2008

Conquering the last terrain of analog - Amazon's Kindle (Part I)

Last Christmas Amazon has released its first electronic book (e-book) which is already the 2nd generation of its kind into the market. Newsweek has devoted a total of 6 pages to cover this story on November 26, making a sound feature on The Future of Reading that might be shaped by the attempt of this device. How revolutionary is this Kindle? Is it really going to "change the way readers read, writers write and publishers publish?"

As claimed by the CEO of this online bookstore giant, Jeff Bezos, their mission is to digitize entire libraries of the world, to create "the world's only book" so as to "make the entire works of humankind, from the beginning of recorded history, in all languages, available to all people, all the time." (Newsweek, 70) What he meant by "all the time" refers to their newly developed wireless connectivity which surpasses all its ancestors including Sony Reader, the pioneer of e-book. With just a glimpse, one can hardly tell what makes the device so different from the PDA or mobile phones from which we read our everyday news and documents in transports. And what makes these big corporations so sure that they will be able to conquer this last terrain of analog, the print media which has been the bedrock of our civilization for centuries, but not another fashionable product that roars in the short run?

We were told that the product is in fact no different from an actual book. It can even lead you into the state of ludic reading – the rabbit hole that heavy readers enter when consuming books for pleasure. (Newsweek, 68) What Bezos was trying to convince readers was that it is not the medium that brings one into that hypnotic state. What have been paramount are in fact the ideas of writers. The aura of a book can be substituted by any medium and this time, this device, this machine. Instead of mingling with papers – static and 3-dimensional, now we were told to mingle with all sorts of screens – interactive and 4-dimensional. With their power in the media (they are in fact the media), they stir up noises and create talking points through platforms like blogs and forums, and thus slowly immerse oneself into the need for change. But how could the two mediums be possibly the same?

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