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The Kindle is already obsolete

September 1, 2009

The future of e-books won’t be on a dedicated reader, like the Kindle or the Sony Reader. It will be on your cellphone, says web designer Dan Sinker. Guess who agrees with him: Devoted bibliophile and novelist, Nicholson Baker.

Sink is the founder, editor, Web designer, and chief technologist at, according to Publishers Weekly. Today the site goes live with CellStories: A Daily Dose of Awesome, which will offer “short narrative fiction and nonfiction” — 1,500-1,700 words — delivered to your iPhone, iPod Touch, or any “Web-enabled” mobile device.

Content –free!– will be both professionally written stories and essays from traditional publishers, and user-generated content from the general public. A new story will be posted each day, five days a week. The first: “Shot to the Lungs and No Breath Left,” by Megan Stielstra, a writer and storyteller and creative writing teacher at the University of Chicago.

PW terms CellStories “more a reading experiment than a business venture,” but Sink has partnered with five small press publishers, including Akashic, where he ran the Punk Planet imprint for several years. Akashic publisher Johnny Temple says Sinker is “a renegade genius.”

“Dedicated reading devices turn out to be the laser discs of our time,” said Sinker, who is also an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College in Chicago. The small size, multiple functions and computing power of today’s smartphones make them ideal for contemporary reading, he told PW.

In a recent New Yorker essay, Nicholson Baker came to a similar conclusion. He found the Kindle, the leading dedicated reader, woefully inadequate — its screen “a greenish sickly gray” with type a darker gray. It handles photos, graphs, illustrations and maps poorly or not at all. Worse, since the screen isn’t backlit, you can’t read a Kindle in the dark, yet in bright sunlight letters tend to fade.

Baker eventually decides he prefers the iPod Touch because (“a) it’s beautiful, and (b) it’s not imitating anything. It’s not trying to be ink on paper.” Best of all, the machine is backlit, allowing Baker to read in bed without turning on the light and waking his wife.

Besides, the trend in all forms of personal computing is toward the portable hand-held device — the smartphone. Who’s going to lug around a Kindle, when an iPhone can do the same thing, plus almost everything else besides?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. thomas permalink
    September 1, 2009 2:43 pm

    Daily Dose of Awesome, huh? Deserves a gander. First I will have to finish “The Collected Short Works of Philip K. Dick”, “The Collected Short Stories of Philip K. Dick”, Ovid’s “Metamorphosis”, Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” all of which (and many more)are currently downloaded to my iphone e-reader application. So many electronic books, so little electronic time. The ability to reach into my pocket and have The King James Bible, The Qur’an and books on Kabbalah while still having room for “Dianetics” has won me over to the e-reader side. All this information puts a new spin on the phrase “bottom-less pockets” I know information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom and wisdom is not Truth but how fourtunate am I to have all these titles available to me anytime anywhere without having to lug them all around with me. Though the smell of an e-reader will never replace the smell of a book.

  2. Candice permalink
    September 1, 2009 9:53 pm

    God bless the marvels of mondern technology. Unfortunately, I haven’t even started twittering yet.

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