karen_w_newton (karen_w_newton) wrote,

Hyperbole illustrated, or Get a grip!

I know some people love physical books, but I have to say, this essay titled "Electronic Book Burning" by Alan Kaufman really takes this love to a new level. Producers of digital books are likened to Nazis; just as Nazis tried to wipe out the Jews, the growing move to digital publishing will wipe out, in Kaufman's view, all that is fine about humanity— books.

He starts by lamenting the passing of bookstores in San Francisco, and blames these failed businesses on digital books. Basically, this simply isn't possible. There are not enough Kindles and other eReaders on the planet right now to have done that. Small and local chain bookstores are going out of business, but not because books have gone digital, at least not yet. Ebooks are growing but still account for a small fraction of total sales. No, it's online and large chain booksellers than have driven his beloved bookshops out of business— that and a general trend to reading less.

And that's what digital books can help prevent— people reading less. If people can use dedicated eReaders and eReaders apps on smart phones to read books, they might just read more books.

Kaufman also has one statement I consider an illustration of how warped his thinking is:

"In a recent incident reported in the NY Times, when a publisher decided to withdraw two of its books from circulation as an electronic download, Kindle unilaterally eliminated the two volumes from the Kindles of every single user in the United States who had purchased the downloads. The implication couldn't have been more clear: the hi-techers can decide as they wish who gets to read what, and who dosen’t [sic]. Appropriately, the two Kindle-deleted texts were George Orwell's ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’."

It was actually, not the "publisher" deciding to withdraw the books. They had in fact, been loaded into the Kindle store by someone who did not have the legal right to publish them (a foreign bookseller who saw them as out-of-copyright because in his country they were). It was not Amazon who was deciding who gets to read what, but US intellectual property law, the law that protect authors' rights. They goofed in letting it happen, and in how they went about fixing it, but they had no real choice.

And, of course, for irony illustrated, this brief essay is posted online, i.e., in digital form.

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Tags: books, ebooks, publishing

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