The bad news: I dropped my Kindle this morning.
The good news: I caught it before it hit the floor.
The even worse news: In so doing, I slammed it against the corner of my desk, smashing the e-ink screen into a starburst of gray, black, and white-plaid shards:
The man pictured in the screen saver offers his disapproval with a withering half-frown, a my-oh-my-what-have-thee done expression as he finds himself trapped forever in this doomed terrain of shattered e-ink.
So, I guess it’s back to paper for me until my new Kindle arrives.
For a long time I never thought I would have any use for a Kindle. After all, who wants to read on a computer? And what about marking up the text, dogearing pages, or having more than one book open on my desk at a time?
Well, those behaviors are mostly my self-fueled obsessions when authoring original works of nonfiction. For recreational reading, the mechanisms for highlighting passages and bookmarking pages on the Kindle are, while somewhat clumsy and indirect, still good enough to get the job done.
And then there’s the instant gratification aspect.
This weekend up I was up at my cabin, at 3000′ elevation and nestled deep in the alpine pinnacles of the Cascade Crest, and I decided that I wanted to read another one of the mystery anthologies edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg because I recently read By Hook or By Crook on the recommendation of Kristine Kathryn Rusch and it was fantastic.
So I just brought up the book in the Kindle store, paged through the related reads, and within sixty seconds of the impulse I was reading Between the Dark and the Daylight.
But now I have to read the bloody thing on my smartphone until my new Kindle arrives.
And while I wait, it occured to me that the fractured Kindle screen pictured above strikes a perfect image of the publishing industry and the entire state of reading these days. The old world has been shattered by feedback loops in technology and ongoing market forces that just keep reinforcing one another. Paper books ain’t going away soon, but I’ll probably live to see the day where they are uncommon for most titles. Bookstores will be relegated to specialty boutique status, like the camera and stationery stores populating the deserted shoals of strip-malls.
And you know what that smells like to me?
The Courier was one example of how these shifts might spawn whole new experiences or categories of devices. The Amazon Tablet might well be another. But whatever the next hot gadget or gizmo is, rest assured, I feel like a technological wolf, scenting a long series of innovations-to-come in the shifting winds, and I’ll be looking to make a killing. What of tablets with pen and multi-touch? What of Nicholas Chen’s Multi-Slate Reading System, a federation of cheap slates that you can scatter about your office like the glossy marketing brochures you get in the mail, tossed aside for the day where you may or may not read them? What of flexible, paper-like displays?
We’re still in the stone age here, folks, as far as e-readers are concerned. We’ll look back fondly on the Kindle and its ilk as the quaint auto-buggies that presaged a sleek, sophisticated, and nearly unrecognizable future.
That’s where I want to be, even if I have to cobble it together with clunky prototypes, Frankenstein monsters of acrylic and delrin etched out by the laser cutter of my dreams.
In the meantime, you could do a lot worse than to follow Kristine Kathryn Rusch and her husband, Dean Wesley Smith, as they talk about what this means for readers and writers and the publishing industry writ large.