Author and Reader at a Crossroads

“Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.”
~Robert C. Gallagher

The other night I felt like I caught a glimpse of the future. I was reading James Joyce’s classic Ulysses on an Amazon Kindle. While the Kindle 2 is a little pricey at this stage in the game, Ulysses was only .99 cents to download!  I realized right then the direction publishing has already taken.  To my traditionalist literary friends, take comfort in knowing that you can at least say goodbye to paper cuts!

“Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney estimates that Amazon sold 500,000 devices last year and will become a $1.2B a year business by 2010.”
source: http://tinycomb.com/2009/02/03/just-how-many-kindles-were-sold-last-year/

While still maintaining a reverence for the way I grew up reading, I believe the printed book will become an antique over the course of this next generation (this change will most likely be broadcast through electronic media, blogging, and microblogging).

Part of me is torn on this promised societal change. But then again, I resisted email when it began!  Media downloads could very well prompt a great advancement in educational technology, benefiting the entire learning landscape—especially as high-functioning, portable “assistive technology” for children with disabilities.

Nonetheless, I’ll miss the feel of holding a classic, even the musty smell of really old ones.  More so, I’ll miss the fact that I can’t deface a book by scribbling sloppy notes all over the margins.  I’m willing to give that up if it helps the environment. Depending on how these electronics are disposed of when broken, this could become an environmental friendly teaching tool that in the long run can save future scholars (and countless school districts) exorbitant textbook fees. Think of how many textbooks for college kids across the country are recycled via buy-backs for two years or so (at a ridiculous profit, taking full advantage of poor college students) until the new edition is soon thereafter released, and in many cases sold for well over one hundred dollars.

What I have to get over is this: It feels different reading on the Kindle 2.  I love reading printed books.  I always will.  However, I love technology too and find the good and useful in it.  Thus, I consider myself an author and reader at a crossroads. This is such a unique time in history.

On a much more personal level,  I was reading on the Kindle 2 and my eyes became tired.  I enlarged the font with minimal clicking and voila!  Much easier to read.  In fact, it took one day for my professor friend with a visual impairment to extol the virtues of this device. I thought that was really cool.  Incidentally, she’s going to write a thank you email to Amazon.

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