Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I have no idea why today I keep encountering Kindle-related articles wherever I turn. I guess this testifies to the ever-growing popularity of the Kindle that makes Kindle-haters foam at the mouth. One of them is Nicholson Baker whose article "A New Page: Can the Kindle really improve on the book?" has been published in The New Yorker.

Anti-Kindlers tend to come up with the weirdest criticisms of the device. Their strange arguments are aimed at hiding their fear of technology and their lack of affinity with today's world. They can't keep up, it's as simple as that, so they try to conceal this self-evident truth behind endless anti-technology rants.

So what are Baker's objection to the Kindle? First of all, it's not pretty enough. The e-paper isn't as white as the journalist hoped it would be and the font isn't very attractive, which somehow detracts from the value of the texts one reads on the Kindle: "Monotype Caecilia was grim and Calvinist; it had a way of reducing everything to arbitrary heaps of words. " I personally happen to believe that nothing could reduce, say, Cervantes Don Quijote to an arbitrary heap of words but I guess it's just me.

The next reason to hate the Kindle is that there are many stupid books available in the Kindle format. The fact that these same books are also available at every major bookstore means nothing to Baker. It's all the Kindle's fault.

Another complaint is that "photographs, charts, diagrams, foreign characters, and tables" are often mangled or simply absent on the Kindle. It doesn't interest Baker that now there is Kindle DX, made specifically for the kinds of texts that have lot of tables, charts, and diagrams. When this journalist finds out about this version of the Kindle, I'm sure he will complain that the Kindle doesn't do the dishes or cook dinner.

The next objection: the Kindle doesn't preserve colored illustrations. That's true, it doesn't. As an avid reader, however, I haven't missed colored illustrations in the books I read ever since I turned 6. Yes, the Kindle is not for looking at pictures. It's for reading texts. Since when isn't it enough to just read a book without being distracted by illustrations? Has Baker never read a print book that had no pictures? How many articles did he published complaining about that experience?

Another horrible thing about the Kindle is that its books are encoded in a format that protects the rights of the writers. So all you get on the Kindle is "a grouping of words in front of your eyes for your private use." Baker is undaunted by the faact that a print book offers you the exact same thing. If it's electronic it must be bad.

Baker's last objection to the Kindle is the weirdest. This bad device, he says, turns the page when you press the next button. So if you press it before finishing the page, you will find yourself at the next page. So the buttons do what they are supposed to do? What a horrible little machine!


Peter N said...

There are some serious problems with the Kindle. For one thing, most seriously, you don't own the books. Rather, you simply have a license to view it. If you remember, there was something of a flap a couple of weeks back over the removal of 1984 from both the Kindle store, as well as the remote removal of copies of the book from Kindle devices. Frankly, I don't want to own a device where a company could simply ask Amazon to take something off my device.

Clarissa said...

Everything has some disadvantages. For me, the good sides of thhe Kindle definitelu outweigh some minor glitches. Of course, the Kindle is not for everybody. For an academic, it's an amazing thing.

The funny thing is that the author of this articlee pushes the Iphone as a good alternative to read books electronically. Which is beyond ridiculous. I can't help but wonder if the company that sells Ihones paid him to promote their product over the Kindle.