I truly love my Amazon Kindle. The ability to download a new text in minutes and not have to run to Sioux
Falls to buy a book or wait days or weeks for it to arrive in the mail is one reason. Another is the ability to have multiple texts on my slim, lightweight Kindle at any one time–no more lugging books about, right? And I can curl up in bed with a good book via Kindle, as it is small enough to do that. Of course, I do have it in a protective case, as I am the tomboy of readers and would not want to damage it in any way.
I see the downside, though. Sherman Alexie has noted that the Kindle is expensive and therefore elitist, as the poor cannot afford it or even gain access to it. I wonder then, if this becomes an issue for libraries. How will libraries make texts, particularly newer texts, available electronically for people to check out? Blogger Matthew Miller appears to favor his Sony Reader over the Kindle. He talked about the process of accessing texts via his local library, to use on his Sony Reader. Still, he had to purchase that Sony Reader. . . .
My concern is that all of these different electronic readers appear to have proprietary formats (Kindle included in that) and how that may make things more difficult for readers, particularly those who simply want to check out texts from their local library. The public library is a glorious thing, really–we can check out books essentially for free and get both pleasure and an education. The bar scene (shown below) from Good Will Hunting reveals that Will certainly understands the true value of an education via the public library.
What will electronic readers do to the public library system? How will public libraries adapt, and will companies that sell electronic readers and desire maximum profits get in the way of the traditional library? What long-term effects will this have on the literacy of our society?
I should probably note that the Gutenberg Press, an earlier form of technology, put literacy in the hands of the masses. Without those book presses, we wouldn’t have mass produced books that are cheaper for individuals (and libraries) to purchase. Will electronic readers eventually become so cheap and readily available that we will be able to check out electronic texts as easily as we do the traditional paper texts? Will our government or others force the makers of electronic readers to use the same electronic format for texts?
I look at my Kindle and see what it represents: power.