Dispatches | October 06, 2009

Eddie’s post sparked my interest in the new wave of electronic reading devices and I stumbled across this hilarious piece over at McSweeney’s. Whenever I see an ad for a new reading device, whether it’s the iPhone or the Kindle or Sony’s new model, I always wonder the same thing: why is it necessary to improve on a device that has been successful and popular for hundreds and hundreds of years? I don’t know the answer. Of course, I’m probably biased — the majority of my time is probably spent with a book in my hands, but I still think that if the book needed to be improved upon there would have been a constant stream of innovations since it’s inception. I’m by no means an expert, but my understanding is that once ancient cultures switched from scrolls to bound books, the basic concept has changed very little; there’s been improvements in materials and strategies for making them, but the idea of what a book is is still relatively the same. So again, why do I need a $300 computer to read a $15 book?

As I said, I’m biased, but do people actually want these devices? I’ve done no actual research to support this, but I’m not really sure they do. I haven’t seen anyone using one here in Columbia. I know Mid-Missouri isn’t exactly the biggest city in the world, but I would expect to see at least a few in all the technologically savvy students that are here on campus.

Here’s another example that I have absolutely no research to back up. My Father works in the marketing department for a large company in St. Louis. His department toyed with the idea of using Amazon’s Kindle as incentives for placing large orders. From what I gathered from talking with him, this promotion didn’t seem to boost sales or even perk much interest. He fought the idea from the beginning, but he too is probably biased seeing as he faithfully hauls a book with him on the Metrolink (St. Louis’s subway-esque transportation system).

Maybe I’m wrong and the book does need to be improved upon. Maybe recent “Green” trends will push people in the direction of a more energy efficient form of reading. Maybe I’m deluded in thinking that the book will always be around. I hope I’m wrong on that last one, but even if I’m eventually forced to switch over to a Kindle, I still wax nostalgic about the days when I could curl up in a comfortable chair with a heavy book instead of a green-glowing, paper-thin computer screen.

All the Best and Happy Reading(In whatever form you like),