Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nicholson Baker on the Kindle

A number of people have ben linking to this piece by novelist Nicholson Baker in The New Yorker about the Kindle, describing it as a take down.

While it is a rather clear-eyed view of the Kindle and of ebooks in general, one of the things you have to consider is the source. Baker wrote a book a few years back called "Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper." In it, he chronicled various anti-paper initiatives undertaken by American libraries in order to free up space and reduce large, bulky, underutilized collections, while documenting the shortcomings of each of the technological solutions, such as replacing card catalogs with computer databases and scanning books and newspapers to microfilm instead of keeping rarely referenced paper copies. (The title itself comes from a test librarians were to perform to determine whether a book was too fragile to keep. The corner of a page was to be folded over once, then folded back on itself -- the double fold -- and if the acidic paper broke off, the book was a candidate for destructive scanning. This meant that the spine would be guillotined off, the pages hastily scanned to microfilm, and the paper pages thrown away.)

So for Baker to enter into his Kindle experiment with an open mind is admirable. And it is surprising (to me, anyway) that he ultimately preferred the experience of reading ebooks on his iPhone rather than the Kindle itself, deciding that the Kindle tried to mimic the experience of ink on paper and came up short, while the iPhone/iPod touch did it's own thing, which made it more immersive.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Books Read in 2009: "The Moviegoer" by Walker Percy

Google Books

I read this once before, years ago, and remember being underwhelmed because the title seemed to promise something about movies. Having been a film major and still entertaining fantasies about breaking into the industry, I took this quite literally. I read it, said "OK, I guess it's not," and moved on.

I re-read it because it was the selection for a book group I was thinking of joining. I didn't finish it in time for the meeting, but it was definitely well worthwhile. Although I am kicking myself now that I have finished it, because I would love a good discussion with someone about it.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Books Read in 2009: "Technopoly" by Neil Postman


Oh, my, but this is a maddening book.

There's just enough insight to make one continue reading, but so many poor and inconsistent arguments, and bad examples to illustrate them, that I wanted to throw the book across the room on several occasions.

Frankly, it would have worked better as a collection of essays rather than this jumbled mess that he tried to shove under a pathetic umbrella of a unifying theory.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

More on Kindle Pricing

The George Pelecanos book I just posted below is one of those things that I normally wouldn't buy, but was on sale for something like $3 a few weeks back. Right now it's going for $6, and the mass market paperback is $7.50 at Amazon. That makes sense. I know that there's a lot of hue and cry about new books for the Kindle being priced at $9.99, with readers saying that anything more is robbery, and publishers saying that there's no way to make money at that price. Frankly, I don't care. Charge a premium for new titles, charge as much as a new hardcover would cost, just make sure that the price drops as time passes and interest wanes. There's no reason why a 2-3 year old novel that has long since been released in paperback should still have an electronic version pegged to the new hardcover price. $6-7 is good, $3-4 would be better.

My favorite example of this is the book "Print is Dead," by Jeff Gomez. As of today, the hardcover list price is $24.95, discounted at Amazon to $18.96. The Kindle list price is also $24.95, discounted to $14.97. The paperback list price is $16.95, discounted to $11.53. Print may be dead, but it's still cheaper than bits, apparently.

My point is that these back titles are usually found money. Pelecanos is in a different league, but most titles, if they're going to become big runaway hits, have become runaway hits by the mass market paperback stage.

Books Read in 2009: "The Night Gardener" by George Pelecanos

Read it on the Kindle.

Happy Independence Day!

Enjoy the holiday with some clips from the greatest musical ever written about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, 1776.

(Seriously, I love this film. I don't know why, when you consider that it was made in 1972, and this kind of musical was already a relic. But love it I do, and I don't care who knows it. Mock me all you want, but try to stop singing "Sit Down, John," underneath your breath all day, or to keep from dancing ("...to the right, ever to the right, never to the left, forever to the right...") to "Cool, Cool, Considerate Men", or to just get the sheer hokiness of "The Lees of Old Virginia" out of your head.)

"Sit Down, John"

"Piddle, Twiddle, and Resolve"

"The Lees of Old Virginia"

"But, Mr. Adams"

"He Plays the Violin"

"Cool, Cool, Considerate Men"

"Momma Look Sharp"

"The Egg"

"Molasses to Rum"

"Is Anybody There?"