Friday, May 9, 2008


From The Future of Reading by Ezra Klein:

I’m not sure exactly what I expected from my month with the Kindle. Maybe for some inquisitive older gentleman, possibly wearing wire glasses and a tweed blazer, to sidle up and say, “Excuse me, I hate to bother you while you’re reading, but do you really think that can replace the book?” Or possibly for a librarian to berate me. In any case, it didn’t happen. In fact, nobody noticed at all. Though reading the Kindle felt like a courageous betrayal of every word written since the moment papyrus gave way to paper, it turns out that looking at words on tiny screens in public places is far too common to attract attention. Indeed, the only person who demonstrated a heightened awareness of nearby reading habits was me. Suddenly everyone seemed to be staring at a laptop or scrolling through a BlackBerry or searching for songs on an iPod or texting on a flip phone. The Kindle is far less the start of a revolution than the codification of one. It’s a declaration of war long after most of the contested lands have been conquered.
Toward that end, using the Kindle is a sharp reminder of the limitations of printed text. Take a basic example: the size and font of a book. It makes perfect sense that large books have small text with dense letter spacing. Reducing the relative space needed for each word reduces the total pages required to house them. Large books are unwieldy, not to mention resource-intensive, and so, at a certain point, text is shrunk to keep total size in check. Small text is still hard to read, however. With the Kindle, text is manipulable. Long books no longer require a magnifying glass to read or a wagon to tote. Better yet, text can be changed to fit mood and moment. At night, I found myself increasing the size to rest my eyes. During the day, I shrunk it to pack in the content.

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