LA Times, WaPo Add to Kindle Debate

By Neal Comment

The LA Times website has an advance look at an article David Sarno has written for the Sunday paper on‘s new Kindle device, which he says delivers “a pretty darn good reading experience.” Then he ropes in literati like Jason Epstein and Jonathan Franzen for the “yes, well, but… books” side of the argument; while Epstein merely suggests that one can’t read serious literature on a device, Franzen’s hostility towards e-books verges on the metaphysical: “The essence of electronics is mutability and transience,” he insists. “I can see travel guides and Michael Crichton novels translating into pixels easily enough. But the person who cares about Kafka wants Kafka unerasable. Am I fetishizing ink and paper? Sure, and I’m fetishizing truth and integrity too.”

At least when Cynthia Ozick hates the Kindle, she’s funny about it. And then there’s Dana Gioia, whose statement might possibly be interpreted as regarding the Kindle as too little, too late: “I sincerely hope that the Kindle becomes one of the many devices to communicate print culture, but I worry that it will not make a significant positive impact, however well it does business-wise.” Come on, people: If we’re going to save reading from oblivion, we need a little more can-do spirit than that!

Over at the WaPo, “personal technology columnist” Rob Pegoraro points to the Kindle’s aesthetic flaws, including a screen lag problem I hadn’t noticed anybody else raising before, as well as the annoying digital rights management locks placed on the content, making it impossible to share with other readers. “And yet, you can get lost in a compelling book on the Kindle,” he admits. “You can start to forget the plastic around the words—so long as the Kindle doesn’t crash.” Unfortunately, his did. (On his blog, though, Pegoraro finds an upside: “You don’t need an opposable thumb to turn the page.”)