The positives of Ezra Klein‘s CJR article and related video: He’s a new Kindle user and hails the machine as “credible. As a product of Amazon, it’s intertwined with the world’s largest online bookstore, legitimized by the one company that can lay some claim to having already changed the way we use, or at least acquire, books. The real question, though, is what took so long?”

In general, the Klein article is upbeat on E and notes the possibilities of  adjustable font sizes,image outbound links, interactivity and updated books (albeit, I’d assume, not the 1984ish variety). At the same time his CJR piece correctly recognizes that the Kindle and the like are not perfect replacements for paper books, given the screen-contrast problems of E Ink, among the other flaws.

The negatives—blindness to the eBabel and DRM issues: Um, Ezra, I mostly liked your piece, but as an e-book newbie, you unwittingly left out a few details. Unless we want the whole bleepin’ e-book world to revolve around Jeff Bezos, we deserve nonproprietary e-book standards in areas ranging from the basic format to guidelines for shared annotations and interbook linking.

An improved ePub, not the Kindle format, is what the e-book world need to avoid a classic Standard Oil scenario. Check out O’Reilly Media exec Andrew Savikas’s warnings about the various kinds of lock-ins that Amazon is trying out in E and P. Also see Tim O’Reilly: ‘Publishers beware: Amazon has you in their sights.’ 

image While you’re at it, Ezra, you may want to address the DRM issue, too, which really ties in with the Tower of eBabel issue. Just why is Jeff so gungho about DRMless music but–via the Kindle and Mobipocket stores—continuing to inflict his proprietary DRM even on publishers who don’t want it? Meanwhile, for some insight on the risk of Amazon as a business partner, read up on the Toys ‘R’ Us suit. As an e-book booster I want the Kindle to success, and if Jeff can make his shareholders richer, then great. But let’s not glaze over the issue of who will control American publishing, or, as far as DRM, whether people in the future will be able to own their books for real. Hey, Ezra, the best of luck in delving further into E, Amazon and related matters!

An aside: Maybe CJR can solve the mystery of why PW ripped out the E-Book Report archives, at least in terms of public access—along with those of the former publisher and the woman who hired me to do EBR. All of the tens of thousands of words I wrote for PW are gone. The massive link kills are not exactly the best way to maintain PW’s credibility on the Web, especially when EBR and other blogs appeared with “Link this” invitations. Any connections with my comments about Amazon or DRM, or my other uppity writings? Or just corporate politics? Or a mix? And exactly who ordered the link kills? Editor Sara Nelson (who’s taught at Columbia and, I’d hope, wasn’t responsible) or someone on the business side of PW or the parent company Reed Business Information?

Related: Rekindling our love of the written word, in the Herald Sun, from Down Under.


  1. The latest issue of Indianapolis Monthly also ran an article on the Kindle called Read It, and Weep. Philip Gulley’s pessimism in the article is a wonderful light-hearted balance to Klein’s seriousness and gleaming optimism. My mom caught it while reading the treemurder version of the magazine, but the luckily the article is online for those of us who enjoy putting lumberjacks out of business.

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