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Amazon’s Kindle 2: “An alpenhorn blast of post-Gutenbergian revalorization.” NOT!

At least, not according to author Nicholson Baker, who has written a long, occasionally pedantic article about his experiences with the machine for The New Yorker. The piece is full of typically florid Bakerisms: he likens the Kindle 2 to “a restaurant accordion,” refers to the “gray and Calvinist” typeface it employs, and complains about the page-turning deficiencies of the Kindle 1, which are “accompanied by a distracting flash of black as the microspheres dived down into their oil-filled nodules before forming new text.”

But the article is occasionally quite funny – offering, among other things, the title of an erotic novel that features “the mother of all orgasms” – and is a welcome respite from some of the more tech-oriented responses to the digital device. Baker offers an infuriating quote from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (“We think reading is an important enough activity that it deserves a purpose-built device” – yeah, that would be THE BOOK, you chucklehead), and compares switching from an iPod Touch to a Kindle 2 to “going from a Mini Cooper to a white 1982 Impala with blown shocks.”

Baker’s ultimate conclusion is that the Kindle 2 is a viable reading device if the book is compelling enough to make you forget the device itself. He uses the example of Michael Connelly’s thriller The Lincoln Lawyer:

I began pressing the Next Page clicker more and more eagerly, so eagerly that my habit of page turning, learned from years of reading – which is to reach for the page corner a little early, to prepare for the movement – kicked in unconsciously. I clicked Next Page as I reached the beginning of the last line, and the page flashed to black and changed before I’d read it all. I was trying to hurry the Kindle. You mustn’t hurry the Kindle. But, hell, I didn’t care. The progress bar at the bottom said I was ninety-one per cent done. I was at location 7547. I was flying along. Gray is a good color, I thought. Finally, I was on the last bit. It was called “A Postcard from Cuba.” I breathed an immense ragged sigh. I read the acknowledgments and the about-the-author paragraph – Michael Connelly lives in Florida. Good man. The little progress indicator said ninety-nine per cent. I clicked the Next Page button. It showed the cover of the book again. I clicked Next Page again, but there was no next page. My first Kindle-delivered novel was at its end.

  • Lloyd Davis

    Steven W. Beattie writes: “The piece is full of typically florid Bakerisms: he likens the Kindle 2 to ‘a restaurant accordian,’ refers to the ‘gray and Calvanist’ typeface it employs,” which led me to believe the New Yorker’s vaunted copy desk had lost its collective head. I was reassured on clicking through to Baker’s article that the words “accordion” and “Calvinist” appear as they should.

  • Steven W. Beattie

    Those mistakes were indeed my own. The New Yorker‘s proofreaders are unimpeachable.

  • Lloyd Davis

    I must admit, you had me going for a second. Though I’d have thanked you had you changed an instance of, say, coördination or reëlect. ;)

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Eva Stachniak poses with a copy of her book, Empress of the Night

Tea and snacks inspired by Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Rimma Burashko with author Eva Stachniak

Eva Stachniak talks to the audience about the best and worst of Catherine the Great's favourites

Eva Stachniak smiles as she signs a copy of Empress of the Night for a fan

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Lesley Strutt, Dean Steadman, Amanda Earl, Alastair Larwill and Frances Boyle

Frances Boyle, Dean Steadman, Lesley Strutt and Alastair Larwill

Amanda Earl

Jewel of the Thames launch

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