Thursday, April 14, 2016


So these days, I do most of my reading via ereader. I initially brought one (okay okay, it's a kindle paperwhite; I don't like to buzz-market, but it's relevant for this post) for use when outside the country, and indeed, an ereader of some sort is a godsend for Anglophone readers in non-Anglophone countries. Or, I suppose, for anythingphone readers in anythingelsephone countries. But it quickly became more than that: I soon realized that reading on a device is, for me, massively more convenient than plain ol' paper, and also, for whatever reason, I feel like my concentration is better and I'm motivated to tackle longer and more difficult books. Your mileage may vary. I used to be one of these book fetishists, but it's uncanny how quickly that evaporated when I saw that there was another way. Yes, there's something to be said for the physicality of actual books; there's much more to say, however, for not having the feeling of being Ahab tangled up in the harpoon as you accumulate countless fucking tons of paper. Sure, if there's a book that I want to read that I can only get in physical form, I won't hesitate, but I will always default to the electronic version if available (well, probably not if I go through with my tentative future plan to tackle Finnegans Wake, but for most things short of that--hell, I read Proust on my kindle). I do feel a bit guilty about it--I don't WANT to be instrumental in destroying the publishing industry!--but fuck, what I really want is to read books in the most pleasant, convenient way possible.  Those smug articles you sometimes see about how REAL readers read REAL books are like water off a duck's back to me.  Whatever, dude!

I don't like to extoll amazon, which has a reputation for bad worker conditions, but I have to say, the paperwhite is...well, pretty much perfect. It does one hundred percent of what I want it to do. My needs in this regard are fairly simple, admittedly, but this device satisfies them thoroughly. Which is why this marketing blitz for the forthcoming super-fancy kindle oasis seems so dubious. THREE HUNDRED TEN DOLLARS is what this sucker will cost you (assuming you want to "upgrade" to the version without "special offers," aka "ads," which of course you DO, and the fact that amazon pretends like this is a legitimate choice is undeniably egregious, especially the way that, even if you opt out, you'll STILL get "recommendations" until you turn them OFF in the settings--quite shameless). That is over three times the price of a normal kindle and almost three times the price of a paperwhite. And what do you get for that? Well, according to this slate article, this is meant to be a kindle "for book fetishists." That seems like a tall order; how does this device try to accomplish this? Well..."amazon has lovingly designed and crafted it," for one. It's thinner and lighter and it holds a longer charge. Also, it's asymmetrical, which I guess is a...thing?

Sorry, but I can't help noting that this is all nonsense bullshit. None of these factors have the first thing to do with why people fetishize books. Let me ask you this: does the kindle oasis replicate the smell of an old Penguin Classic or a fat Del-Rey fantasy novel? If so, then hey, sign me the fuck up, but otherwise, whom do you think you're fooling?

“If you’re an avid golfer, you want to buy the best clubs,” says Neil Lindsay, Amazon’s vice president of devices. “If you’re an avid reader, well, you’re going to want the reading device that’s right for you.”

Look, I know that Neil Lindsay is a corporate flack and therefore required by his job to sling the bullshit, but that doesn't mean it's not objectionable, on several levels. Most trivially, because this claim is just dumb; not once have I thought, of my kindle, dang it--if only this device were lighter. Or whiter. Or whateverer. All things being equal, would I go for a lighter version? I guess, but it's just not an issue, notwithstanding amazon's effort to make it into one for marketing reasons. I'll admit that longer charge times would be cool, but again, that's not really a meaningful factor. As things stand, I've never even come close to wearing my battery down.  I'm sure the new device is all very technically impressive, but practically speaking...come on.

On a slightly more serious level, it irks because it's just insulting to readers: you really want to tell people using "lesser" kindles that they're, uh, worse readers? Gimme a break.

By far the worst, however, is (relatedly) the attempt to create an "elite" class of readers. Golf is expensive; not everyone can play it. But everyone can read! Used books are cheap, and if they're not cheap enough there are still--god knows how, in this age of anti-government mania--public libraries. I'll grant that the existence of ereaders of any kind already divides people along socioeconomic lines, but it seems to me that there's quite a difference between saying "here's a device to read books on" and "here's a super-ultra-luxury device that the real readers can read books on." Don't try to make reading into a rarified activity that only the rich can afford to do "properly." It should be obvious why I find that ideologically objectionable.

Meh. It's hard for me to picture this really catching fire (ha ha, get it, like kindle fire, the amazon tablet? Oh, forget it)--amazon's previous attempt at a super-fancy kindle, the voyage, met with muted enthusiasm--but what the heck do I know? Maybe there IS a group of people super-eager to differentiate themselves from lame regular readers. But whatever we do, let's not buy in to the delusion that they actually do care about reading more than the proles. It just boils down to pure consumerism.

NONE OF THIS IS TO SAY, mind you, that if amazon wants to send me a free oasis for review purposes, I won't read hella books on it and tell you what I think. God knows I'm for sale.


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