To paraphrase John Lennon, in a most blasphemous manner,
"So this is Christmas, and what have you bought?"
In my case, over the past couple of weeks, I bought an Amazon Kindle for myself, and the special edition three-volume set on the history of Chanel as a gift.
While both are, ostensibly, reading material, the polar opposite nature of the two got me to thinking about the lifespan of books as we know it.
Since the launch of the Kindle (and its Sony eBook / Barnes & Noble Nook brethren), old and new media alike have been abuzz about how the device heralds "the future of books!" (Check out this piece from the New Yorker.)
Kindle is indeed the future, namely the future of reading. It's ideal for novels, textbooks, newspapers, nonfiction and all other tomes or periodicals that actually need to be read. It provides a most necessary service to those of us who want to simplify and unclutter our lives, and what it in turn does for the environment, more specifically our forests, should guarantee Jeff Bezos a Christmas card from Al Gore and David Suzuki for the rest of his life.
But the Kindle will not, as many fear, kill books. (Won't kill magazines either, as this article shows...but I digress.)
Frankly, I think the Kindle will open up a new market for books that are not necessarily meant to be read, like the aforementioned Chanel box set.
The Chanel books are published by Assouline, a ten-year-old French company that, as is says on its website, creates "fine illustrated books, luxury editions and an exquisite gift line dedicated to fashion, photography, art and design." The books range in price from a $40 bio of chef Daniel Boulud to the Goyard Trunk, which houses 100 of Assouline's signature Memoire photo-biographies on art, fashion, design and architecture in a trunk from luxury luggage maker Goyard, and will set you back a mere $20,000.
(I bought the Chanel box at a bookstore called Librissme, a most tony spot where I actually put on white gloves to handle some of their volumes, including a $10,000 history of golf that was housed in its own plexiglass-covered coffee table. Check out this joy-to-walk-into, anti-Borders below.)
Forget the price point; the point here is that thanks to the Kindle, books will be elevated to enjoy a newfound respect and positioning in the literary world. Books will become gifts (even more so than they are now), display items, rare collector pieces, "you snooze, you lose" limited editions, focal points in one's home or office (and that's just new books; as the world becomes more Kindlified, the market for antique and out-of-print books will soar).
The Kindle will give new life to books like "The Light in Darkness," my friend Lawrence Kirsch's new fan-sourced, photo-filled tribute to Bruce Springsteen (that's it at right), the follow-up to his best-selling--and now unavailable-- "For You Bruce." For as good as the Kindle may be with words, it can't capture the thrill of looking at crisp, sharp, emotional photos of a band, a landmark, a child, a puppy or a historical event.
As publishers flock to the electronica of the Kindle, passionate entrepreneurs like Lawrence will find--and fill--a tangible, tactile gap in the marketplace.
The Kindle will also give new life to books like this: Electronic Popables, an interactive pop-up book that sparkles,
sings, and moves. Check it out below:
The great thing about all the above is that in a world of disintermediation (have you spoken to a typesetter or record-store owner lately?), there is most definitely a future for the world of publishing...one where books and reading both live, but in most cases, independantly and mutually exclusive.