Kat Hannaford's post yesterday at Gizmodo got me thinking, which is probably the point, but I am always wary of emotive arguments for or against particular technologies. The word 'hate' in the title gives the game away. Ever since Annie Proulx's 'twitchy little screen' put down, writers high and low have queued up to tell anyone who will listen why they must be an idiot to want to read anything on an electronic device. Hannaford's post is a little different, making a clear distinction between dedicated e-readers (Kindle, Nook, et al) and multi-purpose devices such as tablets and smart phones. Aside from this concession, the rest is classic preachiness: equal parts bile and ridicule.
...the ereaders are so physically large you also need to invest in a manbag just to avoid being mugged. Did we say mugged? We meant “laughed at.” There’s a reason why you don’t see people using them on public transport.
This is not helpful.
For the most part, I actually agree with her reasons for disliking the technology. Ridiculous pricing, lack of support for open standards, clunky form factors: all are good reasons to criticise the devices, but not to harangue the people who want to use them. I've said this in a lot of different ways but for good measure, here it is again:
Writers need to get on with the business of writing. It's up to reader to choose how they read. I might not like the Kindle, but I'm not going to ridicule the people who are prepared to pay good money for Kindle e-books.
Our grandchildren won’t be housing first edition ebook copies of War and Peace in an antiquated Kindle, passed down from generation to generation. There’s no opportunity to get sentimental over an e-book...
Of course not. As far as I'm aware that's never been the point of e-readers or e-books. Again and again, there's a pervasive tendency in the media to characterise e-books as a threat to traditional publishing as though some magic device will suddenly make people want to stop reading things on paper.
Many polemicists fall into the trap of stating the inevitability of their argument, before moving immediately onto a concerted effort to persuade and cajole their reader into agreeing. If it's inevitable, why bother? If the technology behind e-readers is really that bad, then the devices won't take off no matter how much hype surround them or how much scorn others heap on them.