Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Nicholson Baker, on my side?

A longtime library gad-fly, Nicholson Baker has an article in the August 3, 2009 issue of The New Yorker. It is about his experiences with the Kindle.

I guess, this is sort of a continuation of the attitude which earned him my personal disdain from back in the mid-1990s. He started with his blasting libraries for getting rid of card catalogs [abstract only...go to your paper copy (grin) of The New Yorker for April 4, 1994 - page 64 - or register on the site.] He followed it up with an "exposé" of the then new San Francisco Public Library. In the latter he found that [no, I was not shocked] that there were more books listed in the card catalog than in the online catalog. Apparently, he never thought about those books which never return, and when most libraries automated, they barcoded/entered items from the shelf rather than from the usually inaccurate shelf list.

Well, back to the present....He gives the Kindle a fair shot. He notes a number of shortcomings, some are technological (grayness of the screen, only one typeface available) and other are part of a bigger issue for libraries (and consumers) like the digital rights management issues. (Kindle books can be read only on the Kindle you used to purchase the book.) He even tested the reader function (I guess he got an early one), and the new Kindle DX. In spite of my prior issues with Mr. Baker, I think he has provided an interesting perspective here.

My friend and fellow netizen Michael Sauers has a much more succinct comment today also.

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