Ode to Textuality: Sam Anderson on the Kindle

In NY Magazine, Sam Anderson reviews the Kindle:Kindle071210_560

In the current ecosystem of American gadgetry—in which predatory herds of omnivorous iBeasts devour ever greater zones of our attention—the Kindle’s devotion to text feels practically medieval. It’s not clear yet whether this musty innovation is naïve or brilliant. It’s the spiritual antithesis of the iPhone, and the rare piece of technology that seems to encourage, rather than sabotage, the contemplative life. It’s like an iPod for Victorians. They should make it out of wood paneling instead of white plastic.

In fact, I’m already nostalgic for the Kindle. This kind of pure textual devotion can’t possibly survive: Future versions, if they exist (Web rumors suggest that it might soon be swallowed whole by a mythical iTablet) will inevitably make concessions to our appetite for distraction—we’ll be able to check our e-mail, watch YouTube, and track scores on ESPN. It will probably evolve, like Amazon itself, from a book-delivery system to a multimedia emporium.

The beauty of a book, however, is that it’s marvelously nonintegrated—the great ones stand outside of busy consumer cycles of tweaking and upgrading. (If only Crime and Punishment had more features!) Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has called books “the last bastion of analog.” It’d be miraculous if they could stay that way, even in digital form.

[H/t: Maeve Adams]