Letters to the Editor
Readers write about whether the Kindle compliments printed books, or will someday make them obsolete.
Kindle: A 'Trojan horse' or a welcome tool?
Regarding the March 18 Opinion piece, "Kindle e-reader: A Trojan horse for free thought": I have to disagree with author Emily Walshe's opinion about the Kindle reader. Anything that expands access to books is a good, not a bad, thing.
I don't own the library books I read, but I don't buy them either. Books read on Kindle generate income for publishers and authors, not just for Amazon. And buyers can request additions to the Kindle list, which is already larger than the average bookstore's stock. What's more, with a Kindle, one can read in many more places and carry books wherever one goes. True. The books I buy on Kindle can't be passed on, but they are mine forever – or at least as long as I want to keep the reader.
The Kindle will never replace printed books; it is an addition to them. As such, it should be welcomed, not denigrated.
Emily Walshe is off the mark in much of her commentary on the Kindle. Kindle allows users to own files of their books, and they are free to back up those files on their computers. In addition, Kindle owners download paid content through Amazon, but can also download thousands of other books from a number of online sources free of charge.
Emily Walshe has framed a critically important issue. As she asserts, we are all too willing to accept digital commodification of thought without considering how that commodification affects our private and public thinking. We need to think through how access to digital information changes and restricts our use of that information.
Thanks for a provocative commentary.
The commentary raises some important questions about the nature of how we access information. Unfortunately, she seems to take a Luddite perspective on it, claiming that we need a physical record that anyone can have permanent access to.
Paper and hard disks are both subject to deterioration and destruction. The real issue is not permanence; it is Amazon's decision to make use of Digital Rights Management (DRM). There are many open-source formats that the texts could be published in. An open-source digital format would increase the distribution of ideas, not restrict them.
As an owner of a Kindle, I think the danger this commentary suggests is quite overstated.
Amazon isn't the only e-reader out there – Sony and Apple are also in the game, which threatens Amazon's near-monopoly on e-books. Then, of course, you have all the print sources that people still go to for news and reading. As long as libraries remain free to use, we can expect them to remain direct competitors of any pay-for-use service.
This is not to say that the digitizing of our lives can't or won't lead to abuses by major corporations, governments, or powerful individuals. However, the past 30 years have brought us more tools to analyze and expose lies, not fewer. We should not fear technology because of its possible exploitation any more than we should embrace it because it promises easier access. Rather, we should understand technology as a series of tools and accept responsibility as users for its proper use.
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