The above video is just icing. The one I want to respond to is Sherman Alexie’s appearance last night on The Colbert Report. Something there is that doesn’t heart the Kindle. Alexie, National Book Award winner for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, has a new book out, and he’s not Kindling it. He wants nothing to do with e-books, and that’s what he talked about on Colbert instead of his own book.
Only a couple of weeks ago, I saw Junot Diaz at NCTE. He said he had just come from the National Book Awards where people were talking trash about the Kindle. I can’t repeat exactly what Diaz said (just in case my mother ever reads this blog), but he was of the basic opinion that we should be more concerned with whether people are reading at all than with whether they are reading e-books or book books.
I agree. I find Alexie’s Kindle hating all a bit strange. I appreciate his arguments that hard copy books are better for artist sales, independent book stores, and book signings. I appreciate his appeal to preserve the aesthetics of the book and the value of the book culture.
I just don’t know why he thinks he can change the world by holding out on Kindle. He’s probably costing himself sales in actuality, and he isn’t going to turn back the clock on print media. Nor is he going to more effectively police the digital availability of his work. Witness the video above. It appears that someone in the audience at one of his readings recorded it on a simple hand held camera and then posted it to YouTube. Did he sanction that? Can he monitor it every time it happens? Does he even know it is there?
I want my local independent book seller to stay in business too. At the same time, if I can buy a book and have it available within seconds without ever leaving my house, sometimes I will. We’re going to buy more digital books in the future just because we can. Music is better performed live, and we all know it, but for some time now we’ve all been listening to it primarily through electronic devices…because we can.
Something e-bookish comes this way. We aren’t stopping it. We might as well be okay with it.