Most readers reacted to the advent of the e-book with resounding indifference, but Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos has not let that little fact stop his company from developing and selling Kindle, an electronic book reader that retails for $399 and will download books, newspapers and blogs over a wireless connection. It costs $10 to download a new release and can hold around 200 books at a time, and there's an amazon library of about 90,000 books from which to choose.
Considering the downward trend in the reading of books and newspapers, you have to wonder if this plan makes any sense at all. (Not that I won't be happy for everyone to rush out, buy one and download The Miami Herald on it to save my job.) Sure, it'd be nice to stop killing all those trees to make paperbacks, but the remaining readers on the planet have shown complete indifference, if not downright contempt, for the e-book; we tend to like actual BOOKS, not another electronic gadget for which we have to buy batteries. And even I don't need to carry around 200 books at a time, though I have been known to slog more than one novel to unlikely places, such as on backpacking trips down the Grand Canyon, when every ounce makes itself known in your back (so much so that one unnamed soul I know drills holes in his toothbrush handle, which, quite frankly, I believe makes me look sane).
In a note to customers at amazon.com, Bezos writes that Kindle "disappears like a physical book," but I think his idea that books vanish as you read them is faulty from the start. A book's physical presence is part of the experience, whether we're reading musty old paperbacks we picked up at a garage sale or a lovely, clean, signed first edition, its type and pages and spine as perfect as a summer day. A summer day someplace other than Miami, that is.
So good luck, Amazon. For now, I'm sticking to paper books, as unenvironmentally friendly as they may be.