Sunday, 3 January 2010

Thoughts on Kindle

Before retiring I worked in the 'Security Printing Industry' and was heavily involved in the provision of software and other technologies for the distribution of 80% of the UK's gift vouchers. There have been and still are logistical problems of how these can be replaced by gift cards but they are being and will be replaced by gift cards. To ignore this fact is to try and stop the inevitable. It has happened through time immemorial that things get replaced by newer things. Sometimes we feel that it is being forced on us as consumers by the manufacturers and we kick hard against it.

Sheet music gave way to 78 rpm gramophone records. They in turn gave way to 33 1/3 and 45 rpm records and I am sure everyone was annoyed that they would have to replace their gramophones with record players, but eventually they did. In the early 80's the CD came along and I for one refused to get involved. The CD has stayed and reluctantly I do now use them but just as the order of the day becomes to download direct from the web.

As we know the publishers are now pushing Kindle. Why? Because they can cut out all that messy ink and paper, the wholesalers, the bookshops and become even more profitable.

But consider the download market today....  The Arctic Monkeys established a precedent. A successful popular hit and no record label involved! They cut out the recording company totally.

Software will become available and standards published that will enable anyone to publish their own book on the web without resort to a publisher. Arguably this can be done in PDF format today and could have been done over the last so many years, but Kindle offers bookmarking and pagination management techniques that make ebooks more manageable to the reader. Also small portable readers are becoming available.

Is this a good thing and what would be the impact?

Well first is the disappearance of the paper book but publishers are already pushing for that.

Second will be there will be no editorial control over accuracy of non fiction material which could be a serious issue.

Thirdly violence, sex, racism etc in fiction could go on uncontrolled, but in reality agencies could be set up to watch for this and shut it down within guidelines that could be as draconian as was deemed relevant.

But another important impact would be in spelling.  Yes, spelling. We all read typos in publications and wonder how they got through but that's after proof readers have found many, many more and had them corrected. Self published books would leave errors that would be read and believed to be the correct spelling. That thought is abhorrent. But think on this....  Books that are self published and have plots and story telling techniques that are hugely popular! How will the publishers look on Kindle then? But if the books are written entirely in text speak - what will that do to the printed/published word? Books in text speak WILL happen and that fact alone will aid their popularity.

I can make several cases FOR Kindle. Travellers can take all the books they want on holiday abroad. Positive? Yes.  Short sighted people, like my 90 year old father in law, could have readers that vary the contrast and brightness as well as variable sized fonts.

But the down sides are far more and they are being gathered together in 'Dusty Old Books' so I won't go into them here.

Ebooks, of which Kindle is one emergent standard, are bad I believe and we should resist them. I will, but I know the tide will come in and the spot in which I stand to make my defence will get covered by that tide. I also believe that the tide will move slower than Kindle and the publishers want because the 20 year old generation is not 100% behind it and they need to be before the 30, 40 etc generation will become convinced.

Let's hope that paper books remain with us for the next 50 years or more and let's try to perpetuate them.


  1. Really interesting post. I honestly can't make up my mind about e-readers. They're useful for when you're travelling but I find I just can't read as comfortably off a screen as I can from paper. What I do find alarming more than the ebook is the self published book, for the very reasons you list above. There is no gatekeeper and some of the self published stuff I've seen is just too tragic for words. I have no problem moving with the times, but I have a real problem with a perpetuation of rubbish should the gatekeeper role vanish.

  2. The main thing with self published books is the cost. It prevents an uncontrolled flood of un quality checked product flying around. Yes, there are some such books and some are good but many are dire! There will always be those who want there name in print so badly they will pay that cost and some will do it from a firm belief in themselves. Some self published works have gone on to be huge successes. But with e-books then those costs or controls disappear totally and the floodgates open.