>Tugging on the leash

>Unless there’s an abandoned chicken bone at stake, Buster has never been one for much straining at the leash. But where he used to not mind being thus tethered, I’m finding that he, at sixteen or so (we’ll never know for sure), seems to welcome the security. He now blinks and stumbles in the morning sun, for example, and walks with more confidence when he’s leashed. He trusts me and he likes being with me.

Why the dog story? Because I’m experimenting with my new Kindle, where Amazon.com is very much at the other end of the leash. The stuff I thought I wouldn’t like–the design, the digital ink and lack of a backlight–is in fact fine, although all the plastic-button-pushing is noisy and feels very last century. What’s bugging me instead is the feeling of an ever-present tether to Amazon.com, a master I neither like nor completely trust. I don’t like browsing the Amazon site, and I don’t trust the company’s effect on the American character. Amazon is all over the Kindle. The Kindle is designed to get you to visit and spend more money at Amazon, pushing you to the same high-volume bestsellers that the main website does. (Kindle Store selections seem split among popular titles, copyright-free classics and scary e-book originals, the same mix which has long been available from such sites as ereader.com.) And with the Kindle so pricey in the first place ($399), I guess I might resent throwing yet more money at Amazon for the privilege of using it.

But I’ll take it with me to Chicago (don’t forget, Sutherland Lecture Friday night) and see if it has the potential to become habit-forming. If not–well, I’ve kept the packaging.

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Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

Comments

  1. Elizabeth says:

    >I have a Kindle, too, and used it on Sunday afternoon to read two manuscripts, and this week to read a couple more while in transit. I find it a miracle to be able to read so comfortably (lying on my living room couch, with the Kindle propped on my stomach like a paperback) without having to print out 600 pages of a manuscript and carry them home. The Kindle “disappears” while I’m reading and I notice it no more than manuscript or book pages.

    But the other part that turns me on is just what you complain about, Roger. How many times have I been waiting to meet someone, or at a bus stop, or in the airport, and finished my magazine or realized I didn’t like the manuscript I’d brought with me or, worst of all, been trapped without any reading material at all?

    With the Kindle, which fits in my purse and weighs less than a paperback, I can order the latest issue of Newsweek if I don’t feel like working, or I can test “On Chesil Beach” to see if I want to read it, or I can order Middlemarch for $.99. Or I can read the Princess Masako book which I just bought (she used to live on my street). Come on! Middlemarch anytime I want it! That’s worth a lot to me…

  2. Roger Sutton says:

    >When it comes to having something to read, I always have a plan, a backup plan, and a just-in-case-the-backup-plan-doesn’t-work plan in at least two formats. I don’t think I’ve ever been stuck without something to read. Being able to get a book you want immediately is seductive, though. But if I want it that badly, I probably want a print version anyway!

    I did try that manuscript reading feature at Elizabeth’s suggestion, and it’s pretty neat. (You just email a document to yourself at your Kindle-specific email address, and it pops up on your reader. Costs a dime.)

  3. Elizabeth says:

    >Look, I always bring 4 books with me on a plane. But that’s the whole point. For people who are obsessive about always having enough reading material and reading choices, the Kindle is fantastic. I do wonder about something like the new Maeve Binchy. I’d love to read it on my Kindle…but will I want a copy on my shelf, just to pick up anytime? (Of course I could read it on my Kindle anytime, but will I notice a difference in desirability?) Still, I never have enough bookshelf space, so the Kindle could actually help me with popcorn novels. And Roger, you are not a book collector, if I dare say. I’ve seen you give away books many, many times after reading them. I’m not so sure you’d always feel the need to have a hard copy.

  4. >I’m curious about your statement “I don’t trust the company’s effect on the American character”. Can you please elaborate?

    Thanks!

  5. Roger Sutton says:

    >Elizabeth–do you find that the Kindle store is broad and deep enough to satisfy your browsing urge? It seems largely driven by current, hot books. (I know it’s new and could be madly acquiring rights to many more backlist titles as we speak–the iTunes store of today is worlds better than it was a year after launch.)

    Tkersh–I struggled with how to express myself there and thank you for calling me on it. Boiled down a little less, I don’t think it’s good for us to buy all of our stuff at one place, especially when that shopping is encouraged by what I think is the illusion of having a lot of information–the reviews and all the “people who like this also like that” algorithms–about what we are buying. We are meant to think that all this data is helpful when it’s mostly just a lot of meta-wanking designed to suck us further into the Amazon consumerverse.

  6. Anonymous says:

    >Let’s all let meta-wanking be the word of the day.

  7. Anonymous says:

    >Glad to hear Buster is still being Buster–give him a scratch behind the ears from me!
    alb

  8. Anonymous says:

    >To me, this all looks like what they call in the entertainment business “product placement” – getting an item into the hands of a noted person, who then recommends it to a devoted following.

  9. Roger Sutton says:

    >Wait–are you referring to the Toni Morrison et al testimonials to the Kindle on the Amazon site, or are you suggesting that I am shilling for Amazon? I paid for this thing out of my own pocket. Plus, as I mention above, I hate Amazon.

    I have no idea if this is one person or a cadre but there’s been a recent up-tick in tsk-tsking in these comments. Get a life, or at least a blog of your own.

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