Thanks to Amazon's business acumen, avid readers can kindle their literary affinities whenever, wherever. With the infamous Kindle, Amazon's increasingly popular, portable electronic book reader, literary aficionados can hold—in little over 10 ounces—upwards of 200 book titles. For any avid reader, this is cause for considerable celebration, as the Kindle remedies the often encumbering task of lugging around a book collection. Unfortunately, in today's society, where convenience reigns tradition often suffers and, as in the case of photography and written publications, the Kindle might very well prove a veritable threat to more traditional methods of reading.
An article in Saturday's Miami Herald raised this burgeoning issue, one that has conspicuously affected several older mediums already. The prevalent use of both the internet and digital cameras has nearly extirpated once-thriving industries; older cameras have been relegated to the sidelines, and the publishing industry as we know it may be headed toward a rather grave demise. A tragic trajectory for traditionalists, technological innovation continues to tear at the very fabric of convention.
Using the aforementioned examples as a paradigm, one may consider books as the next possible victim of innovation. Could a device like the Kindle ultimately trump the very existence of the book trade? For the sake of being, well, presumptuous, I will reference a Miami Herald article to explore the question further.
This particular quandary was addressed and summarized quite well in the article entitled "E-books Bringing New Power to the Printed Word"—though mostly to counter the author's position that e-books will increase and strengthen readership. Indeed, power they might bring to the words themselves, as the Kindle allows for swifter access to an impressive volume of literary works. Since the Kindle's wireless activity and link to an Amazon account enable direct purchasing of books, Kindlers can essentially purchase e-books wherever they want, as frequently as they want, directly to the device itself.
Why, then, should one drive to the local bookstore, peruse endless aisles, and wait in queues when he or she can download 10 books in a matter of minutes? Similarly, why order a book online only to impatiently await its arrival? If convenience appeals, as the author attests, and the Kindle coddles readers with convenience, then why shouldn't the reader opt for a Kindle and forgo the bookstore altogether? Will the sanctity of books be lost amid yet another digital wave?
It's a concern that, according to the article, already plagues the executive vice president for business operations of Penguin Books, Doug Whiteman. "It's not so much what these devices will impact in the future. It's that they are having an impact right now," he says in the article. "You can fit a year's worth of books, more actually, onto your device. I predict there will be a flood of these things on the market in coming years."
So what then, would halt another digital revolution, one that wipes out our beloved paperback? Comfort, asserts Peter Rubie, chief executive officer of Fineprint Literary Management. Though he acknowledges in the article that "publishing is one of those industries that isn't swift to embrace technology" (and here, one must note the dissolution of Kodak), he purports that the book industry will continue to thrive, thanks to reader psychology. "There is a sensual psychology, a special feeling that comes with being able to hold a book and feel the pages, and so forth. And for people who buy lots of books, that feeling won't change."
I think for now, it is safe to say that books aren't going anywhere. At $359 pop, the Kindle is no minor investment, and only true book zealots or those with an abundance of cash might opt for this pricey alternative. And though the Kindle's high-resolution screen may in fact resemble the façade of real paper, the general public most likely will continue to purchase the real thing. But if Kindle-like devices do in fact persist, and ultimately plummet in price, then we may in fact have a substantive issue at hand.