"Specifically, it's an extension of the familiar Amazon store (where, of course, Kindles will be sold). Amazon has designed the Kindle to operate totally independent of a computer: you can use it to go to the store, browse for books, check out your personalized recommendations, and read reader reviews and post new ones, tapping out the words on a thumb-friendly keyboard. Buying a book with a Kindle is a one-touch process" (Levy 2007). It encourages consumption and purchasing of literary material filtered through one corporation's portal. Independent bookstores that showcased new authors will find it even more difficult to survive in the new, 'Kindled' world.
The Kindle's domination extends not only to fiction, but also to news. The Kindle "not only displays the news" but it "also speaks it with a computerized voice" with free downloadable new pronunciations for the week's newsmakers (Arango 2009). However, the domination of the Kindle in the news media could come at a heavy price -- by only offering selected news outlets, an increasingly limited array of media channels could grow even more insidiously narrow, as more people use the Kindle. Combined with the ability of the newsreader online to cherry-pick what ideological blogs he or she enjoys reading online and limited newspapers available on the Kindle, the range of views and story offerings could contract even further in the near future. Consumers are already loathe to pay for paper newspapers, now that an entire generation has grown accustomed to accessing the news online, the Kindle seems like a natural outgrowth of this dependency -- even readers on planes and subways will no longer want to read a paper newspaper. Once again, stumbling upon a new newspaper or media outlet is less likely with the Kindle. People will very likely not bother to read local newspapers on a 'stopover' or a short vacation, perhaps even if they move to a new area.
However, if the average Kindle reader could become an overly captive audience for Amazon.com books and Kindle-available news, an even more captive audience is perhaps the poor college student, caught in a web of classes that require college textbooks. Of course, college students have always complained about the prices of textbooks. But at least penny-pinching students could share with other students in the class, read the text on reserve, or better yet buy second-hand textbooks. Now, more and more courses are requiring electronic textbooks. The student must by the new version, because there are so many differences between each yearly edition, given the greater ease of editing online content. Sharing and reading at the library is not an option for electronic texts. "The National Association of College Stores conducted a study that found that students spend on average $702/year on textbooks. This equates to a total expense of $2,808 on textbooks over a 4-year college experience," and these books, unlike textbooks in the past, cannot be sold back to the campus bookstore or to other students ("The Problem with Textbooks on a Kindle," Gagetopia, 2009). It should also be added that unlike works of fiction or nonfiction that a student might wish to read again, textbooks are not only not 'page turners' (electronic or otherwise) once a student graduates, but the material may quickly grow obsolete. Would anyone want to read a 2001 college economics textbook, for example, in 2009?
Electronic textbooks and books are highly profitable for media outlets like Amazon and for established authors. On one hand, they make reading easier and more convenient. But they also create an increasingly corporate and less competitive literary marketplace. Students are likely to be the first to notice this, as the prices of their textbooks increase. But all consumers, as the range of views and works available on Kindles and other electronic venues continue to dominate the marketplace, may ultimately suffer, financially and intellectually.
Arango, Tim. "The President's Name Trips Up a Would-Be Voice of the News" The New York
Times. 8 May 2009. 19 May 2009.
"e-book overview." e-book fanatic. 2007. 19 May 2009.
Hodgin, Rick. Not-so-distant future Kindle-like e-book readers to have color displays.