Are You Upgrading Your Kindle? asks the popular economics blog Freakonomics. Boasting a slimmer design and access to even more books, the Kindle 2 is meant to reach out to a “younger” readership than the first Kindle; a readership already initiated into the rapidly outmoding world of the cell phone and i-pod.
What is intriguing to me is when authors, rather than allowing their works to be shaped to the medium of the day, actively take part in the debate. Stephen King is a good example. King took the forefront in e-publishing, beginning as early as 2000.
What does e-publishing mean to traditional print books? In a shrinking economy, it may signal trouble. Try out this analogy for size: Blogging is to Print Journalism as E-Publishing is to Print Publishing.
I wonder about the other side: what e-publishing means to the nature of what is written. To make his e-book The Plant cost-effective, King brought back a very old convention in the history of the novel: serialization. I’ve mentioned it before, but reading in small chunks seems to be what Americans do best. Perhaps King was on to something that might make classic literature more accessible without resorting to abridgement.
So while the Kindle 2 may convince a few more tech-savvy Americans to “pick up” a book, it also raises a more subtle question. Who chooses the relationship between Marshall McLuhan’s “medium” and “message”? Perhaps it is not as one-way as we used to think.
To read my thoughts on the original Kindle, see this post.