It’s Kindle, get it? Not THE Kindle, Kindle.

May 4, 2008 at 6:00 AM Leave a comment

OK, I know Mr. Bezos is up to more in it than just dropping the definite article from the name of his new killer app for reading, but for some reason when I read his letter to the shareholders about it, dropping the “the” is the salient feature that seems to stand out to me.

No, I didn’t miss all the other stuff, about the paper-like eInk page, the cell-phone network distribution system, or the attempt to replicate the experience of reading a book and having it “disappear”. That’s all very interesting. But I think it is serious matter when big multinational corporate executive makes effort to drop important part of English language, like article, without particular reason. When we call up Amazon.com, and say “I want to buy Kindle”, don’t we feel little bit like Cave Man?

Speaking of the experience of the “disappearing” book, I think it’s arguable that printed books “disappear” at all. I’ve just finished a course in the History of the Book, and if there’s anything I learned in that course about print culture, it’s that the medium profoundly affects the perception of the work. Give this passage a tumble and then apply it to Bezos’ statements about the Kindle, and see what you think:

“A book, after all, is much more than its text; it encompasses a host of tangible components (paper, binding cloth, glues, inks), visual features (typefaces, margins, colors, illustrations), and what French critic Gerard Genette calls paratextual, often commercial, elements (a publisher’s name and logo, a price, promotional blurbs, lists of other books written by the author or sold by the publisher, and so forth). These material aspetcs, which differ with each particular edition of a text — lurid cover art, cramped lines of type, cheap paper, stiff bindings, a ribbon bookmark, gilded edges, glossy illustrations, and so on — powerfully influence how we approach and understand the text itself. We intuitively tend to read a book with a sturdy binding, large type, and plentiful illustration as a children’s book, for example, and perceive its meaning within that context. We cannot read a text without also, simultaneously and inevitably, reading its form.”

Megan L. Benton, Beauty and the Book: Fine Editions and Cultural Distinction in America.
New York: Yale University Press. (2000)

Happy reading!

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Entry filed under: Digital Books.

Happy Library Week (belated) I am Ninging, Hear Me … Um … Ning?

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