The New York Times has a fascinating preview up of a forthcoming tell-all from Jason Merkoski, formerly of Amazon and one of the developers of the first Kindle. Merkoski has a lot to say about both the benefits (a complete library; accessible using your phone) and drawbacks (sadness for paper fetishists) of the revolution he helped to spawn.
I may change my mind once I’ve read a bit of the book, but the impression I got from his interview surprised me. Merkoski is ever-practical. “We can lament the older experience of reading, because that’s what we were raised with,” he says. “But there’s nothing to be afraid of. Technology has a way of shifting, and we’re adaptable.”
Merkoski does highlight some downfalls of the evolving business model, but chalks that up not too much to evil overlords, but just miscast ones—in the analog world. Book people ran bookstores, but in the digital world, it’s run by suits and spreadsheets instead.
The true takeaway? “Big Brother won’t be a politician but an ad man,” he says. And this is an idea that both fascinates and horrifies me. We’re seeing it right now in the drive to replace fair use with monetization (consider the story I reported on a few months ago about the school board which was trying to assert copyright over everything that teachers—and students—produced while at school). I think there has to be a line somewhere, and I don’t think we’ve found that line yet.
The interview is well-worth a read and has definitely piqued my interest in the forthcoming e-book memoir, Burning the Page: The E-Book Revolution and the Future of Reading, which was published today by Sourcebooks.