Anyone who knows me knows I love gadgets. I love technology, and I’m always looking out on the horizon for what’s new. But I’ve been slow to dive into electronic books. Ever since Amazon zapped paid copies of 1984 from Kindles, I’ve been suspect of this technology. To be more clear, it’s not the technology that’s suspect so much as the way in which it is used. Nevertheless, I finally broke down and got the Kindle App for the iPhone and to my chagrin found that many of the classic anarchist texts are free! What happy anarchist wouldn’t want to have Goldman, Bakunin, Proudhon, Kropotkin, and Malatesta in their pocket at all times? Still, I’m not quite sold. What follows is my initial take on ebooks.
Let’s start with price. Yes, I can get a free copy of Mikhail Bakunin’s “God and the State,” but Raj Patel’s “Value of Nothing” cost me $10. The cost of an actual paperback at Amazon is just over $8! And I guess it’s fitting that I mention Patel’s book because this is truly a time when we know the price of everything and the value of nothing. The prices of electronic books seem wildly out of place when compared with a well-made printed book. And as convenient as the e-book may be, when I get home I’d much rather turn and open a real book than sit and stare at a digital copy. It would be nice if a digital version of the book came with a hard copy of the book.
The reading experience is not bad. Checking a footnote simply requires a tap and I’m instantly taken to the note and with another tap I’m instantly back where I was reading. Nice. I can highlight text as I would in a normal book; and I can also make notes throughout the book, which are all easy enough to go through and find my place in the book. But oddly enough I don’t have the ability to search for keywords. Nor do I have the ability to copy and paste text. It would be nice, after all, to copy a witty quote from Raj Patel’s latest book and share it with my Facebook and Twitter friends, perhaps give the a reason to go out and read this wonderful book.
In light of the zapped copies of 1984 and my own experience with e-books, the question for me still remains: Who owns my e-book? It would appear to be Amazon. Amazon may be able to control my electronic books but they have no such power over my real-life books. And it’s in light of this power dynamic that I remain unimpressed with Kindle.