BY NICO VREELAND
Nicholson Baker has a harsh story on the Kindle in this week’s New Yorker, in which he doggedly eviscerates Amazon for their overinflated marketing, the garbled layout of many of their ebooks, and the Kindle’s lackluster build quality. He includes a little bit of Kindle history, a lot of his own underwhelming personal experience with the device, the odd anecdote, and a few other tidbits.
Some of those tidbits are quite odd. There’s a reference to a YouTube video (awkwardly detailed by name). There’s a long verbal unboxing. There are many quotes from reviewers and Kindle users. (In many parts, it feels like the piece would be better suited to a website where it could have links and pictures and other embedded media.)
If you passably keep up with ereading tech, there’s not much new information in this piece. However, for the rest of The New Yorker‘s audience, this is nothing short of anti-Kindle agitprop. I’d be hard-pressed to find one thing Baker says about the Kindle that isn’t stingingly negative. For example:
The Kindle DX ($489) doesn’t save newspapers; it diminishes and undercuts them—it kills their joy.
Baker wraps up with a strong warning to buy an iPod instead of a Kindle, and the distinct sense that the one (half a) book he read on Amazon’s device will be his last.
All this means that we could see a little bit of a brouhaha about the article, which should be fun to watch. It certainly comes at an inopportune time for Amazon.
Aside from a potential kerfuffle, the most entertaining part of this piece is the insight into Baker’s reading habits. Dragon fantasies and “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Erotic Romance” go hand in hand with Calvino and Kipling. Weird.