Jun. 1st, 2009

distractions: It's a pink rose. (Default)

From the NYT report on this year's Book Expo:

At a panel of authors speaking mainly to independent booksellers, Sherman Alexie, the National Book Award-winning author of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” said he refused to allow his novels to be made available in digital form. He called the expensive reading devices “elitist” and declared that when he saw a woman sitting on the plane with a Kindle on his flight to New York, “I wanted to hit her.”

Authors have every right to allow or withhold permission for their works to be offered in digital form. I may think the decision to withhold permission is deeply stupid and leads to a widespread market for illegal versions (I'm looking at you, J.K. Rowling) but I certainly acknowledge their right to make that stupid decision.

What I don't acknowledge, however, is the right to judge others for their choices about how they read. I don't see anyone lining up to "hit" the user of an expensive cell phone or laptop (both of which, incidentally, can be used to read ebooks) but a Kindle is somehow automatically "elitist."  (Tell that to the 80-year old woman with a vision problem,  or the 7-year-old girl who loves to read but has asthma, aggravated by book dust and mold).

While ebook readers are pricey now, it's the acceptance of the format by those "elitist" early adopters that will make cheaper devices available down the road.  Not to mention that many digital formats don't require a reader any more "elitist" than a phone or computer, but Mr. Alexie makes no distinction here at all.

Whether it is for health reasons or simple convenience, what's important about books isn't the format, it's the content.  There is nothing "elitist" about making that content available to as many people as possible in as many formats as possible.  But Mr. Alexie doesn't agree, and he certainly has the right not to permit any of his work to be offered in digital format.  Just as I have the choice not to read any of it. 


distractions: It's a pink rose. (Default)

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