Staying power.

22 11 2010

You can now read my book on a device that I don’t own.

Amazon started selling a Kindle edition of Representation and Rebellion last week. My wife asked me if this was good news. The press thinks so. I said it certainly isn’t bad news, but I do feel strangely ambivalent about the whole thing.

This has nothing to do with money. I’ve been told that the electronic versions of academic books often do a land office business (at least by academic standards), and often significantly outsell hardbacks. I haven’t bothered to check my contract yet, but even if it turns out that I get less royalties from electronic copies I strongly suspect the difference will be more than made up for by the increase in volume. The fact that my work is getting read should be the important thing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in print or pixels.

I think the thing that bugs me about this as an author is the question of permanence. Since I don’t own a Kindle, I’m not entirely sure how many books one of those things holds at one time. However, I know that number is finite. A book is something you leave behind for the long run, long after most people outside of your immediate family have forgotten that you ever existed. I’m not sure Kindles will have that kind of staying power, let alone the electronic edition of a book like mine.

Say what you will about paper, but it’s a format that hasn’t gone out of style for six hundred odd years. I suspect people will still be reading books somewhere six hundred years down the line. And if anyone is still interested in the Rockefeller Plan that far in the future, it’s not the Kindle edition that they will be reading.


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