By December 4, 2009 3 Comments Read More →

Weeklings: E-Readers, Outmoded Technology, and Bad Sex

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, this is a week-and-a-half’s worth of weeklings. On Monday, I weighed in on e-readers:

And, yes, my preference is paper. Why? Because I spend one-third of my waking life staring at screens. I have screen fatigue. I have gadget fatigue, too, and key, button, mouse, and scroll-wheel fatigue. When I open the covers of a book, my soul sighs in relief. 

All preferences aside, Farhad Manjoo recommends that you don’t buy an e-reader just quite yet, lest you inadvertently wind up with stock in Betamax (“Black Friday Is for Suckers,” Slate):

This leads to a classic early-adopter format dilemma: Say you’ve got 30 e-books on the Kindle you purchased two years ago. Now you’re in the market for a new reader, and you’re leaning toward the Nook because it lets you share books with your friends. Tough luck—those Kindle books won’t work on your Nook.

Substituting the 8-track tape for Betamax, Geoffrey Fowler offers a similar warning (“E-Readers: They’re Hot Now, But the Story Isn’t Over,” Wall Street Journal):

Books are having their iPod moment this holiday season. But buyer beware: It could also turn out to be an eight-track moment.

But wait, there’s more holiday cheer! The volunteers who write and edit Wikipedia are leaving (“Volunteers Log Off as Wikipedia Ages,” by Julia Angwin and Geoffrey A. Fowler, Wall Street Journal ). I can’t believe they’d just walk off the unpaid job like that. is the fifth-most-popular Web site in the world, with roughly 325 million monthly visitors. But unprecedented numbers of the millions of online volunteers who write, edit and police it are quitting.

Also in techonology news: the typewriter. Cormac McCarthy bought his for $50 in 1963. It should fetch a bit more than that now (“No Country for Old Typewriters,” by Patricia Cohen, New York Times):

Lately this dependable machine has been showing irrevocable signs of age. So after his friend and colleague John Miller offered to buy him another, Mr. McCarthy agreed to auction off his Olivetti Lettera 32 and donate the proceeds to the Santa Fe Institute, a nonprofit interdisciplinary scientific research organization with which both men are affiliated.

Michael Wolff sees in Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue further evidence that “Books are evil.” And he’s not even drawing a distinction between paper books and e-books (Books Are Bad for You,” Newser):

HarperCollins does not really believe Sarah Palin has written a valuable book—or even that it is really a book, not in the way that HarperCollins has historically understood books, or in the way that people have counted on HarperCollins to have understood a book. But, these are desperate times and real books are an increasingly equivocal proposition anyway, so almost all publishers are willing to engage in the strategic mix-up between real books and fake books.

Finally, Jonathan Littell, who won the Prix Goncourt for The Kindly Ones, has won the Bad Sex in Fiction Award for that same title (“Bad Sex in Fiction Award Goes to Littell’s Incestuous Siblings,” by James Pressley, Bloomberg). “We hope he takes it in good humor,” said the judges. Dream on.

The prize was accepted on Littell’s behalf by Alison Samuel, his editor at U.K. imprint Chatto & Windus . . . She said Littell told her he was “baffled” at the existence of such a prize. What’s funny about sex and why shouldn’t we write about it, he’d asked her. She said he also pointed out that the winning scenes were intended as fantasies, rather than realistic sex scenes. He didn’t issue a formal statement. 



About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix (2011). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

3 Comments on "Weeklings: E-Readers, Outmoded Technology, and Bad Sex"

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  1.' Joel says:

    It’s kind of the classic dilemma, isn’t it? I bought my 30gb iPod about two weeks before they came out with an iPod that was thinner, with more memory, and video capability… and was cheaper. But at some point, you just have to take the plunge. Technology will always be improving, so at some point everything becomes an 8-track player.

  2. Keir says:

    Well, you have to take the plunge…if you want a Kindle or an iPod! I’m sticking with paper (and, yes, vinyl) for now. I got an e-mail from someone telling me how great his Kindle is but complaining that, on takeoff and landing, he must power down while, all around him, people are happily reading paper books. Every format has its pros and cons, even after they iron out the bugs. But I really would advise that people wait on the Nook. Early reviews are pretty brutal.

  3. Keir says:

    And even the 8-track player became an 8-track player, didn’t it?

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