Kindle, Part Two

So a pal of mine has just drawn my attention to an interesting article in the L.A. Times from about ten days or so ago on responses to the Kindle. The article attempts to look fairly neutrally at the object itself, what it gets right and what it gets wrong, as well as at the responses to the object.

The most interesting parts of the article, for my purposes, are the anti-Kindle screeds on the part of those who would defend the print-on-paper codex from all apparent technological threats. And the absolute best part of that is the response by Jonathan Franzen.

You’d think Franzen would have learned to keep his mouth shut (and email unsent) around reporters.

As Aunt B. has already pointed out, he manages to make an utter fool of himself by insisting that the only way to truly experience Shakespeare is to read it in print, as was originally intended. But my favorite line of Franzen’s is this one:

“Am I fetishizing ink and paper? Sure, and I’m fetishizing truth and integrity too.”

Because pixels are some sneaky lying little bastards.



  1. I found you through Jo(e)’s blogroll and just hooted at this entry. Felt you deserved a comment appreciating your sense of humor here… Shakespeare in print as intended. Uh yeah and Beethoven’s music was best appreciated reading the score.

  2. Of course, Shakespeare composed texts other than plays (e.g., love sonnets), and many of Shakespeare’s plays’ puns are in fact visual, i.e., textual, and wouldn’t register aurally for theater audiences. Nor does Franzen explicitly state that ‘the only true way’ to experience Shakespeare is in print, only that the sacral ratio between reading it in the Arden edition (more like Reeding it in the Arden edition! 47 chirp chirp chirp) and on a BlackBerry is equivalent to that between marrying in a church and in a shoe store – presumably, for Franzen, seeing Hamlet performed in the Globe would be like marrying in the Vatican, I guess (do people get married in the Vatican?), and at any rate preferable to seeing it performed in a shoe store (or in captured video on your fucking calliphone: This qualification of mine probably leaves Franzen in just as nostalgic and sentimental and indefensible a position, but not as boneheaded as it was maybe strawmanned out to be, and I thought that that was worth clarifying (even a couple weeks after the fact).

    And to Julie Bogart, I might point out that Beethoven is an odd choice for analogy in this discussion, since his music in fact was best appreciated reading the score, at least for Beethoven (who of course went deaf ~1796).*,**

    *From the Wikipedia page on Beethoven, where I plucked the date, it does read, ‘Around 1796, Beethoven began to lose his hearing…He suffered a severe form of tinnitus, a “ringing” in his ears that made it hard for him to perceive and //appreciate// music’ (emphasis mine) – so Julie’s example that came around to bite her (?) in the ass comes too to bite me in the ass.
    **Also cue any critical-theoretical arguments about authors not being the chief appreciators of their own texts.


  3. Oh, and there’s probably also some critical-theoretical point to be made about the phenomenological difference between reading (and I mean going over and over a line and flipping through pages reading) a play, any play, and seeing it performed, and especially a difference between seeing it performed in a high school gym in 2008 versus seeing it performed in a Chicago playhouse in 2008 versus in Kathmandu in 2008 versus in the Globe several centuries ago, and that maybe of all these reading experiences Franzen truly does prefer or appreciate textual, papery, Arden-bound dramatic texts to performative ones (he might want to be transported back to Shakespearean England to see an ‘authentic’ production, though, just for kicks [and dinosaur petting]) – it doesn’t seem outlandish to me that someone would prefer reading Shakespeare’s works to seeing them performed (I sort of do), or that their reasons for that preference would be sophistic (I sort of don’t think mine are), and in fact doesn’t even seem too outlandish that someone might prefer, for her own reasons, reading a script to watching a film, so maybe we should all give Franzen a break here.

    I dunno what does everyone else think.


  4. Me, I think you’re giving Franzen WAY too much credit. Is he wrong to assert that there are material differences between reading on a small electronic device and reading on paper? Of course not. Where he’s wrong is to attribute *moral* privilege to one form over another. This is of course why he picked Shakespeare, the shorthand equivalent for “everything that is good about elite culture as I understand it today,” and it’s also why he chose the Blackberry, the epitome of scheming-Wall-Street-or-Beltway-insider-type short-attention-span-theater. And, not at all incidentally, why the analogy he chooses is to weddings, which are, when properly done in a church, all about subordinating pleasure to morality (as opposed to that conducted in a shoe store, which bears the same taint of commerce that the crackberry does). If it were merely a matter of preference he was asserting, I’d shrug and, probably, agree: we have yet to come up with a device that I like reading off of as much as I like a nice paperback. But as soon as morality and ethics get dragged into this, we’re no longer talking about technological affordances or personal formal or sensual pleasure; we’re instead making judgments on some much more abstract notion of the “goodness” of one form as compared with another. And if somebody’s enough of a twit to do that, I reserve the right to point out that choosing Shakespeare as one’s author of choice in a defense of the moral rectitude of print suffers from a terminal case of Missing the Point.

  5. The only reason Shakespeare’s ideal/poster-child medium of choice, at the time, was print (ink/paper) would be due to the era in which he was a part of. I assure you that if Shakespeare were alive today, he would deliver his work in both formats of ink and paper as well as through the relatively new electronic delivery system in the form of e-books. As an author, the sole purpose of writing a piece of literature is to share your thoughts with the world and to have as large of an audience as possible. Taking in the present era, why would you want to sell yourself short by only exclusively printing your work on paper and completely excluding and not even attempting to acknowledge that you could have the potential to reach more people by marketing your work on both mediums (electronic and paper)? Even more so is the fact that the e-book’s library is far from extensive, so, assuming that Shakespeare were alive, he would no doubt be considered a “high profile” writer and would most likely be a hot seller amongst e-book owners. I don’t think Shakespeare would have said I want to print my work on paper X and lets say he would have chosen to not print it on hemp paper or something like that. It’s the same thing, authors are now presented with two formats to deliver their content, as time progresses, the electronic method will become more and more popular and, even now, you’re retarded if you exclude the e-books, you’d be selling yourself short. At the time, in Shakespeare’s era, there wasn’t any other way to distribute his work other than that of ink and paper. I’m sorry, but you’re fucking retarded if you think there is a difference between an MP3 file and a vinyl 12″ record or a CD or a cassette, sure one’s integrity may be compromised slightly, and I mean slightly, but not so much that it taints or completely alters the original work to the point of mutilation nor does it compromise the integrity of the work. The same goes for e-books and paper, not a single word is excluded. Not a single character (letters and the like) somehow magically get changed when you transfer from ink and paper to pixels. That is the point the author of the article was trying to make. You’re so worried about being analytical and factual-based that you didn’t even realize your own ego side-tracked you from the point of your response. You have no valid point in your argument, you’re just trying to fucking list facts and hope that no one will respond because you have every angle covered, so you think. Fucking read the article, read your response, then read the article again, wtf are you talking about?

    “Am I fetishizing ink and paper? Sure, and I’m fetishizing truth and integrity too.”

    LOL do you see what he’s saying here? Truth and integrity, go to and look up both of those words because you obviously have no clue what they mean because you chose to ignore them in your response. That is the key point of the entire article, please tell me how truth and integrity come into play here when you are dealing with words that are printed on either paper or electronically delivered in the form of pixels. It’s the same fucking thing, they are entities and characters that were created by humans, they deliver the same content and denotative meaning, there is no connotative meaning that one person can decipher or somehow misinterpret when you are copying work–you are copying it, verbatim. A letter is a letter, a character is a character, a word is a word, the alphabet is universal (dependent on the language/culture, of course) and all of the aforementioned are built off of that construct–the alphabet. Assuming the integrity of the person copying the work, if you want to go down this avenue, you should question every thing you’ve ever read according to your logic, because the integrity is compromised only by the inferiority of human error and, how many reprints do you think there have been on any particular book. You’re alive in the 21st century, virtually any book that you read is not in its original form (assuming you’re a well-rounded reader and step outside the realm of modern literature of today’s authors) and I don’t see you questioning what you have read based on the grounds of human error. Your response to this blog dealt with pixels, so are you going to tell us somehow that somewhere between the encoding and decoding process in your brain as well as ours, your original meaning of what you wrote was somehow compromised by the pixel-based creations that you responded to, the one’s that I read and am in fact responding to now, and even typing presently and any thing else related to this? Of course not, you’re just mildly retarded and most likely frequent (as a passenger) the short yellow bus.

    I wrote all of this in one take, I didn’t proof-read, and I’m not going to respond to my response in 32 minutes (like you) and realize I had holes in my argument. I’m not too worried about it, I’m not making this the center/epitome of my existence. You most likely get ignored or have gotten ignored most of your life and you have a lot to say, so, when in a setting like this where you get full attention, you have much more to say than you know what to do with. Ironically, you end up ranting about topics and subject matter completely irrelevant to that in which you are actually in response to. Quit trying to act like, or, better yet, no longer think you have or know all of the answers, and then try to back up your subjective opinion with factual-based information, because you’re just running in circles you’re not making much progression. You may actually be receding if you ask me. Usually people hit you with facts, at least I do, if they know they are right and they need more concrete evidence to back up their views and thoughts on the matter, just to ensure a victory, unfortunately you’re desperate attempt to “sound” correct on the matter just lead to me responding to you and the faults in your argument, you really don’t have one. We noticed the moment we read your response in its entirety, as you neglected to comment on what the entire subject of the article was about. Like KF said, you missed the point. So sorry, please try again.

  6. OH MY GOD towards the last paragraph about mid-way through, you’ll notice I used the “you’re” inappropriately, it should be your, typo. I proof-read you caught me =(

    I noticed more things I could have changed if this was going to get graded, but it’s not, so..

  7. OH MY GOD one more typo to my response of my response, I omitted the word “word” in the initial sentence, before the word “you’re” in quotations it should say “..I used the //word// “you’re”

    LOL =P

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