Precious Cargo

Refreshingly Bitter And Twisted Observations On Life's Passing Parade.

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Location: Valley Village, California, United States

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Oh My God! Jeff Bezos Will Destroy Western Civilization

Steve Donoghue's hysterical anti-Kindle screed is the funniest thing I've read in a long time. It represents snobbish elitism at its worst and is rife with illogic.

There is imp-faced Jeff Bezos, founder of, holding up his latest assault on book-reading discrimination, a paperback-sized gadget called the Kindle.

Nowhere on will you find any book not connected to the one you came in seeking.

Ever try the search function, Mr. Donoghue?

And none of this changes the fact that the Kindle, or something like it, may very well represent the death of the book as we've known it these five hundred years.

The reason it will, if it will, is simple: the American public has seldom been stupider than it is today. More than half of them never pick up a book in adult life; a full third of them couldn't actually read it if they did. These numbers grow worse every year, and they spell the doom of the American Republic even if nothing else changes (since America is incomparably more powerful than any other nation on Earth, that doom will come from within, through despotism, rather than from without, through barbarian invasions). The members of the moneyed classes who still tell themselves they're 'book people' will sign up for a Kindle for one (non-bookish) reason and one (non-bookish) reason only: through it, the latest James Patterson bestseller will cost you $9, not $25.

Which isn't to say this new Kindle gizmo or something like it won't succeed in supplanting the book - but when it happens, it won't be because books failed the ongoing march of technology ... it'll be because the reading public failed books. Not all the reading public, naturally - not the real readers, who'll always know themselves and each other - but the huge cresting tide of page-turning idiots who've always made sure Tom Clancy outsold Gilbert Sorrentino. Unlike in all past eras, that majority of non-reading readers now has the power shutter bookstores and eradicate the very idea of a backlist.

Books will no longer be complete when their author writes them. They'll no longer be complete when their author wrangles with a good editor to get them in finished shape. No, in the brave new world whose threshold we cross, every reader will have the potential to change what they read, because the whole process will be electronically open. Writers will post their thoughts on each chapter as they're writing it, and readers with knowledge - or even opinions - on the subject matter of that chapter will be able to chime in and perhaps change the final product. And that 'final' isn't final either - authors will have the ability to go back into their books and change anything they like, forever fine-tuning and tinkering, like Leonardo Da Vinci carting the Mona Lisa around with him for years, never fulfilling his contract, never selling it, changing it by minuscule changes whenever the whim struck him.

We roll over them in bed, we scribble all over them (sometimes in successive chronological order, as we reread both the book and our old comments)...

So it's okay for Steve Donoghue and others to scribble marginalia in their cherished tomes, but terrible when everyone else can do it on their Kindle.

And there lies the subtext to Mr. Donaghue's bloviations. Steve Donaghue and his little coterie have discrimination and taste, so much so that it perfumes their shit. Steve Donaghue wants the whole world wired to his ass, not to the Kindle.

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