Thursday, September 6, 2012

The way we read

Amazon is still looking forward -- and backwards, in the age of digital reading. Two man themes from today’s press conference. First, it focuses on service, not gadgets. While most of the commentators in the past year have been focused on the bogus paper-vs. digital debate,  lamenting the restrictions of DRM, or complaining about the looks of the rectangular  square plastic tablets,  a lot was happening in the Kindleverse. Whispernet allowed us to download and read books almost everywhere on the planet, and to keep them in sync among our many devices. Library borrowing followed, bringing back the sharing dimension of traditional books while protecting copyright holders. The Amazon Digital Publishing platform allowed authors immediate access to the market, with royalties unheard of in book publishing history. 

Today they added a new dimension, with serialization. Not only authors will be able to sell one chapter at a time, but Kindle will automatically aggregate them into the larger opus. Not by chance Amazon is experimenting with the free distribution of some Dickens classics, the golden era of serialization. But what they promise is more, and along the line of what Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear et al. have tried ( not only serialization, but active discussion, opening up the avenue for author-reader interaction and participative reading. The possibilities are endless (and perhaps scary too, if one takes Stephen King’s “Misery” a little too seriously). So while others might be focusing on the bells and whistles, device resolutions and gaming possibilities, as a reader I salute this new effort to bring reading out of the static, publishing-industry-controlled twentieth century model… and getting back some of the more intriguing literary possibilities from centuries past.

And speaking of serialization: 

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