Thursday, February 26, 2009

I keep hearing about Twitter and the Amazon Kindle, and neither of them seem to have much purpose to me. Twitter evidently allows one to essentially text-message to a general audience a running answer to the question, "What are you doing?" But even the most self-obsessed person couldn't possibly think this is of general interest, unless perhaps you're a celebrity and/or public figure; I see that Obama used it during the campaign and once or twice since, but only for things that were redundant with emails they sent out. Now, I grasp that it's useful to let someone know you're running late--I do that constantly. But I do it through the conventional texting capacity. So really: what's the point of this other than whatever cachet it's supposedly acquired?

As for the Kindle... reading this review of the new device, I can see the potential value: editing documents while on the subway or in a car or waiting around somewhere would be very useful for me. And the reviewer's vision of the text-to-speech feature is potentially awesome (though I kind of like the idea of the Stephen Hawking/"Fitter Happier" voice reading, say, DeLillo as I'm falling asleep on a train). For now, though, I don't see the point; I'll just take the book wherever I'm going. As usual, The Onion seems to have the prudent take.

When I first starting thinking about how little , I worried it was a sign of impending old-man-dom: these kids and their newfangled devices, et cetera. But I'm not like this across the board: my wife is constantly disturbed by just how much I love the iPhone, for instance. It's just that Twitter seems really dumb, and the Kindle pointless, at least for the moment.


Feral said...

I like the Kindle. I like that it doesn’t burn any energy in reading mode since it’s not backlit, so you can fall asleep with it on. I like that you can carry a large size personal library in it. I like that it connects to the web via 3G without added cost. The doc edit stuff is cool, but makes it more of a super-portable Microsoft Office platform, which has its uses but is not what I’m interested in. I like it because it’s a magic tablet that can become almost any book in print within minutes.

I liken this process to an alternate universe where we’re transitioning from LPs to MP3s. People love books for similar reasons that they love LPs for: a tactile experience that degrades with time, and in the process, bookmarks the era that the content belongs to. In the book world, the 8-track, the tape, and the CD didn’t really catch on; audio books are marginally popular but mostly cater to a niche market, e-books you can download to a Palm or PC or iPhone are practical but do not offer a comfortable reading experience, plus come with added battery/eye-strain issues, etc. Much like toilet paper, there hasn’t been an alternative to books pretty much since their inception. And I’m not saying that the Kindle is going to replace books; much like iTunes has not replaced CD collections or LPs or whatnot. But it could really become a legitimate alternative way to read, once it catches on with the new generation. I remember being seven or eight years old, and having a backpack that weighed almost as much as I did, loaded with books, schlepping all over Istanbul on my way to school, bouncing off of pedestrians and not being able to control my direction very accurately due to the added weight. In 20-30 years, that could be added to my “crazy old-man stories” repertoire, along with my “no internet or cell phones in college” and “no helmets or seat-belts or car seats; no problems” headliners.

Twitter I have no idea about. Some sort of Facebook derivative, from the “everybody look at what I’m doing now” genre of perceived self-importance, I assume. (Feral is: belittling technology/social activity he does not understand/is too old for, while waxing philosophic on a blog (not his) which is running near-unacceptably long)

David said...

I did mean to add that anything that boosts reading is probably a plus, however it functions.

Maybe the book/LP comparison is valid, but I'd argue that the differences are, one, that by and large we listen to a unit of music (a song, an album) many more times than we read a book, and two, the portability of a paperback and a turntable aren't very compatible. But I get what you're saying. And I probably do have an attachment to physical books that goes beyond rational or functional. (Also, I still have the same milk crate of LPs that I've been lugging from home to home since college.)

Chris said...

I definitely scan/skip more on Kindle. I'll need some time to convert.

twitter bores me. I don't need to know while I'm out and about what you're doing. If I care, I'll call/text you.