Kindling

Amazon released the latest e-book device, the Kindle, the other day.

Promoting the thing, Jeff Bezos writes: 

I love slipping into a comfortable chair for a long read – as I relax into the chair, I also relax into the author’s words, stories, and ideas. The physical book is so elegant that the artifact itself disappears into the background. The paper, glue, ink, and stitching that make up the book vanish, and what remains is the author’s world.

Nicholas Carr laments:

The only thing that will keep books great is respect for the individual author, the individual reader, and the sanctity of the book as a closed container. When that respect goes, the book goes with it.

At The Institute for the Future of the Book, Ben Vershbow collects reactions in this post and chews on Steven Levy’s Newsweek cover story on “The Future of Reading,” in this one.

Most of that commentary takes on two things:  the wisdom or foolishness of Amazon’s business model, and the changing “boundedness” of the book form.  As to the former: the damned thing is so expensive, who will buy it, and how will Amazon make money?  As to the latter:  How will that boundedness affects the “experience” of reading? 

Neither are new questions.

Are they even the right questions?  Is the Kindle a solution in search of a problem?  How about these questions, instead:  Are people reading at all?  Yesterday’s NEA report suggests, provocatively, that they aren’t reading as much as they used to, and that’s a bad thing.  Can people read even a sliver of the material that’s available?  Pierre Bayard, in How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read (which, of course, I haven’t read), suggests that they cannot — and that might be a good thing.