Sunday, March 09, 2008

Amazon’s e-reader, the Kindle, reviewed

Novelist Stephen Amidon is surprised by his test drive.
From The Sunday Times
March 9, 2008

... It is also possible to envision the Kindle causing a change in the nature of the literary text itself. Instead of the traditional flat accumulation of letters, one can imagine a page that is riven with all manner of links to Google or Wikipedia. The novel will wind up looking like your average blog. For instance, the novelist mentions that his hero is peering down into the Grand Canyon, and the reader need only click on those words to be given the same panoramic view. Or listen to a snippet of a symphony, or watch archival news footage. Or even, perish the thought, text a question or a critical response to the author.

Prospects such as this, rather than in the actual experience of reading the Kindle, are what have caused my reservations to grow. The beauty and genius of the traditional book is that it is a thing unto itself. It is self-contained. Its limitations are its strength. It has covers, and between them is an entire world created by the interplay between the author’s imagination and the reader’s. Once you connect that autonomous world to the shifting, boundless, hyperactive universe of cyberspace, you run the very real risk of severing that magical bond of imagination. Give the reader a photographic vista of the Grand Canyon and he no longer has to imagine it. By opening up the book to the limitless possibilities of the digital age, Amazon just might be risking closing it for good.

Read full review.