Monday, October 4, 2010

The Paper Whip

A couple of days ago my son plopped the latest version of the Kindle on the kitchen counter. "Take a look," he said. "I'm reading "Siddartha" in German, and when it drags on too much, I toggle over to English. Feel how lightweight it is. And no back light. It looks almost like paper."

I was impressed. Easy to use. Lightweight and transportable. Great for reading in bed.

My son is like me. He gets shaky if he doesn't have a novel going. I'm happy with a tattered paperback; he was a hard cover addict. It took him two years to go electronic, even though he works with computers for a living.

I'd just finished an article in the Wall Street Journal on the decrease in payouts for authors due to the Kindle and its competitors. Like so many, I see doom in the distance; paper books will be tomorrow's buggy whips. Fewer writers will make it economically.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the Old Library at Trinity College in Dublin, home of the Book of Kells. In the library's vaulted hall, 200,000 books stand on the shelves like sculpture. One wanted to climb up and examine each one. Images of the many hands that have fondled these covers sprang to mind. Later, we visited a private library that held queen Elizabeth the First's Irish grammar book (She actually tried to learn the language, at least enough to say, "Let's converse in Latin.") Imagine touching that book!

By the time I publish, if ever, the paper page may be relegated to the antiquities department. Like this blog, everything I write will reside somewhere in cyberspace, only available to someone with a Kindle. Now I treasure even more the picture I mentioned in my last blog installment, of children sitting cross legged on the store floor, immersed in a picture book. Like the buggy whip, will that too be a thing of the past?


  1. I doubt paper books will become extinct, but in the distant future if you want to buy one, you may be dealing with the equivalent of an antique dealer. In that case, they may be pretty pricey!

  2. I haven't bought an e-reader yet, but I'm sure I will, and probably soon. And once I do, I bet I will love certain functions. Technology simply can't be stopped.

  3. Can you imagine the day a kid comes home from school and Mom asks, "Where's your kindle?"

    The child answers, "I swapped with a friend."

    Not exactly the book swap I imagine.

  4. Okay. I've joined the dark side.

    I have an iPad.

    And I love it. iBooks.

    Like a kid in a candy store.

    But it's not the same tactile experience as curling up with a good book. Looking at the cover. Feeling the paper between your fingers as you actually turn the page. No need to charge anything. And I certainly wouldn't take the iPad into a bubble bath.

    I think the publishing world will need to iron out a few kinks before we'd have to worry about the lack of real, paper books.


    it's still darn cool. I agree with JA - Technonolgy simply can't be stopped.

    btw..I just noticed they were selling VINYL records in Best Buy...what goes around comes around.

  5. I sure hope not. Hopefully there will always be those of us who need/love/want the tactile sensation of a paper book.

    Love the line "gets shaky if he doesn't have a novel going."


  6. Oh, yeah, Robin! What goes around comes around. My son was very excited because his girlfriend bought him a turntable for his birthday. Now he's scouring used record stores for albums.