Reading Rights

Magdalena Waz

I received a Kindle for Christmas. For those of you who do not know what that is, it’s a sort of iPod for books. About eight inches long and five inches wide, the Kindle holds 1,500 books. That sounds very appetizing for someone like me, clearly a voracious reader.
But there has been some confusion on occasion when people see me pull the Kindle out of my bag. I suppose that’s fair. The Kindle’s relationship to books is like YouTube’s relationship to film. The aesthetic experience of watching something cool can be ruined by a flashing ad for new mortgage rates.
But we all have YouTube accounts, and we all upload videos of ourselves that we think are funny or unique. It’s rather democratizing. Amazon.com’s Kindle users can upload – and in a sense, self-publish – their writing or take advantage of a number of public domain novels that are free to download.
The argument that the Kindle, too, is democratizing in the same way that YouTube is doesn’t quite work since the Kindle is fairly expensive. At $260, it’s quite the expense for something that only ends up paying off in the long run after one has had the opportunity to purchase new releases for a discounted price.
This seems to indicate that only people who read – and have an expendable income – will buy the Kindle. Therefore, it cannot incite a sort of widespread reading revolution. Most will continue to do what I did for years: go to libraries, thrift stores and friends’ bookshelves.
This approach to reading is both highly economical and environmentally friendly. But if publishing houses still continue to lose money due to low initial sales and increasing printing costs, we’re kind of hurting the publishing industry by not buying new books. If these same companies no longer had to worry about paper printing either, the cost of books could drop or the amount of books published could go up.
Of course, real books probably cannot be replaced. I know that, and I don’t want us to pass into an age of e-books. But if e-books can end up being cheaper and the act of reading them more convenient for more people than lugging around a hardcover, I will support it.
I do think, though, that people might eventually buy the Kindle because the iPad is more expensive. The drive to own the newest technology is well documented, and regardless of what something does, people want to have it. For proof, see those who own an iPod, iPhone and iPad.
The iPad, in some ways, is engineered for reading. The screen is large enough, and colorful enough, to make the act of reading a newspaper more aesthetically pleasing than on the Kindle. But the least expensive iPad costs 500 dollars.
I want people to read more books so that books can continue to be published and marketed to a sizable audience. Reading disguised as nifty technology could indeed be the answer to the decline in the popularity of the printed word.

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