In these times, it's important to focus on what really matters in the world. Like, for example, the horrible impact the Amazon Kindle will have upon those who enjoy letting everyone know what they're reading.
Alas, cries the New York Times, the Kindle, that sassy new reading thing-a-ma-jig that the kids are into, is destroying the world of "literary snobbism" as we know it. "The practice of judging people by the covers of their books is old and time-honored. And the Kindle, which looks kind of like a giant white calculator, is the technology equivalent of a plain brown wrapper," writes Joanne Kaufman, "If people jettison their book collections or stop buying new volumes, it will grow increasingly hard to form snap opinions about them by wandering casually into their living rooms."
Pretentious college freshman across the nation are no doubt mourning the wave of technology that is making their incredibly obvious attempts to impress others by reading Gravity's Rainbow on the T. How will anyone know what you're reading—or pretending to read—if they can't watch you lift your book up in a transparent attempt to impress them? WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO!? People reading on screens? Electronic books?! Next you'll tell me I'm not supposed to bring my boom box and collection of vinyl records on the subway! How will anyone know how awesome I am if they can't judge me from afar?! HOW?!?
"It's a safe bet that the Kindle is unlikely to attract people who seldom pick up a book or, on the other end of the spectrum, people who prowl antiquarian book fairs for first editions," Kaufman sniffs. Really? So does that mean people who don't enjoy reading newspapers won't check the NYTimes website to read this very article? Or perhaps it means that people who obsessively collect records will just skip the option to listen to music on their iPods? Or maybe, jussssst maybe, the Kindle provides book lovers with an option to carry, store, and read thousands of books without having to deal with lugging a copy (especially a valuable first-edition copy) around everywhere they go. To embrace the technology doesn't make you any less of a reader; if anything, it shows that you're flexible enough to get your reading in anyway you can.
Yes, perhaps a bit of the romanticism is gone, but what Kaufman is missing is the opportunity for mystery and intrigue: if you can't see what that adorable guy on the subway is reading on his Kindle, you can always take a guess, or decide in your brain that yes, he's reading exactly what you'd want him to be reading. It also doesn't take too much effort to find out what people are reading; you can check their online profiles, for one thing, to see their favorites. Or, you know, you can always just ask them.
Is A Book Still A Book On Kindle? [NYTimes]