alexie

Sherman Alexie Clarifies “Elitist” Charges

As noted by Kassia Kroszer and others, Sherman Alexie recently expressed some controversial remarks in relation to the eReader. At a BookExpo panel, Alexie called the Amazon Kindle “elitist” and said that he wanted to hit a woman sitting on a plane who was using a Kindle on her flight to New York.

Now since I’m a man known to make extraordinary statements myself, I recognized Alexie’s pugilistic promise as the conversational theater he intended. Nevertheless, I was baffled by Alexie’s position. So I took it upon myself to contact Alexie to figure out where the guy was coming from. I didn’t believe the boilerplate message on his website was enough. Alexie was very gracious to respond to my questions.

alexieWhy do you consider the Kindle “elitist?”

I consider the Kindle elitist because it’s too expensive. I also consider it elitist because, right now, one company is making all the rules. I am also worried about Jeff Bezos’ comments about wanting to change the way we read books. That’s rather imperial. Having grown up poor, I’m also highly aware that there’s always a massive technology gap between rich and poor kids. I haven’t yet heard what Amazon plans to do about this potential technology gap. And that’s a vital question considering that Bezos wants to change the way we read books. How does he plan to change the way that poor kids read books? How does he plan to make sure that poor kids have access to the technology? Poor kids all over the country don’t have access to current textbooks, so will they have access to Kindle?

Have you ever used a Kindle? What has been your experience?

I’ve played with a Kindle. Didn’t emotionally connect with it like I immediately did with my iPod. That’s been the fascinating thing for me. I’m not even remotely a Luddite. I love all of my tech toys (and I love Amazon.com), but I have a visceral negative reaction to eBooks. I recognize that it is partly irrational and that’s why it was easy to be influenced by some of the powerful letters of dissent I read from Kindle lovers.

Several eReaders were introduced at BEA with a $249 price point. If your objections to the Kindle involve price point, would you consider the Kindle (or any eReader) to be elitist if everybody could afford it?

Is there an ideal price point? Capitalism decides that. But I do want to know about Amazon’s social commitments to literacy and other social issues. If eBooks do take over the market, then dozens more independent bookstores will close, and all sorts of communities will lose a vital social force. Does Amazon have any plans to fill the social gaps left by those closed stores?

If more people wanted to read your books in digital form than in print form, would you still refuse to make your books available in digital? Why?

I have to make my books available electronically. I have held out on the matter for as long as possible, but I have no author allies in this fight, so I have to submit. I have to sign contracts for eBook rights. I’m doing this in the blind because none of us know what’s going to happen. The last screenwriters’ strike in Hollywood was largely the result of this same issue. The legal issues regarding the Internet and copyrights and revenue are still unclear. And I don’t think I’m so crazy to worry that large corporations may not have my best interests in mind when they are offering me deals. I guess this is the thing that amazes me most. I am taking a very tiny stand against many large corporations. I am asking what I think are serious, tough questions and all sorts of people are vilifying me for it. When it comes to this, many people are taking the side of massive corporations over one writer trying to get answers. They’re treating me like I’m Goliath. It reminds me of the way people think of professional athletes and their salaries. All sorts of middle-class folks agree with the billionaire owners of sports teams that the millionaire players make too much money.

Isn’t it reverse elitism to be against those who use eReaders?

And I’m not against eBook readers. I’m worried about the eBook’s influence on the whole culture. And while I certainly insulted Kindle lovers, I meant to tease and razz the Kindle itself. I meant to razz Amazon.

What makes a digital copy of your book any different from a book on tape? Surely, a recorded version of your book is just as much of a corruptible form.

I am in control of my audio books. And, as you will notice, I have only done three audio books, and have not been happy with that process, either, for various reasons. But when it comes to subrights, it seems that the farther one gets from the original writer and publisher, the more likely it is that the subrights licenser thinks of the books as product and not as art. The author of the original work becomes less and less important. And at every step off the way, the original artist makes far less money and has far less power than any of the companies profiting from the work.

In what manner are you embracing digital media? What is your present familiarity with technology? Can you say anything positive about e-books?

I am also worried about what effect our video screen culture is having on us and our children. We all spend so much time looking at screens-TVs, computers, video games, cell phones, PDAs, and now eBooks-but we don’t know yet much about the negative effects of this technology on us. I seem to recall plenty of times when human beings rushed to use a certain technology because it was incredibly effective and convenient, and only later learned about the minor and major negative effects of that technology. A friend said something interesting to me and this is a paraphrase, “Those eBooks are like a gold rush, and people get irrational during gold rushes. Sherman, you’re being negatively irrational about the technology, but lots of people are being positively irrational.”

I love my iPod, my cell phone, my computer, and my HDTV. I have and enjoy a strong Internet presence with a great website and I have published poems and stories all over the web. In fact, I just published a poem that’s in the current online and print versions of the New Yorker. People are eager to portray me as being anti-technology, but that’s not the case at all. I think the iPod is as vital as the fork and wheel. So I’m not even sure why I have this strange, subterranean fear and loathing of the Kindle and its kind. I think it’s really about childhood. Books saved my life, Edward. I rose out of poverty and incredible social dysfunction because of books. And all of my senses-sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste-come into play when I think and read about books. Books are tactile and eccentric. An eBook will always be a gorgeous but anonymous box. It will also be just a tool–perhaps an amazing and useful tool-but I don’t want it to replace the book. And I’m worried that many people don’t care about the book itself, and see the eBook as a replacement. And I’m worried that Amazon and other eBook distributors will completely replace bookstores. The careers of nearly every successful writer are based on the amazing human interaction between bookstore employees and readers. I enjoy an amazing career because, over the last seventeen years, bookstore employees, librarians, and book lovers have handed a copy of my book to another person and said, “You have to read this.” That face-to-face interaction will become more and more rare. Sure, the Internet can launch careers, but there is a loss of intimacy that should be acknowledged and mourned.

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90 Comments

  1. I’m reading Adrian’s “The Children’s Hospital.” For the first time, I long for a Kindle and to have instantaneous references at hand in order to look up the medical terms.

  2. […] Right the fuck on, Sherman Alexie. […]

  3. If Kindle and Sony and the other proprietary formats were the only game in town, I could agree with Mr. Alexie. However, the media have made it seem as if ebooks sprang up from the ground in the last two or three years and are solely available in those proprietary formats.

    That’s simply not true. There have been independent ebook publishers flourishing for more than a decade, and they are constantly adjusting to offer every possible ebook format that comes to the fore. It’s the mainstream publishing industry that, like it’s companion the recording industry, that insists on locking the books up so they are only available in limited formats.

    So, there are many, many ways to read ebooks, including a third-hand computer. Thousands of classics are available free in plain text from Project Gutenberg and Bartleby and other services. Instead of damning ebooks, it would seem to me more sensible to work on ensuring that all people, young, old and in between, have access to basic technology.

    Perhaps it’s time for authors who feel as Mr. Alexie does to start considering demanding no DRM be used in their ebook versions. Will they be pirated? Probably. Thieves will steal no matter how well the doors are locked and the windows barred. However, the experience of the aforementioned indie publishers is that the majority of readers are honest people who are willing and happy to pay a reasonable price for ebooks. Emphasis on “reasonable.”

  4. Wow: Ed, u got some great questions in there, and Mr. Sherman Alexie, u did a great job of stepping up and answering. Kudos to you both.
    Now the real fun begins.
    E is here, but who will control it? The Jeff Bezos of the world have demonstrated they are not about readers, literacy and community by the very nature of their business model. They are about the almighty dollar. Which is well within their right.
    Even a nod from Amazon to the community of readers and the very delicate (and out of balance) ecosystem of publishing via grants and the like is highly unlikely to make a dent in the change that they are architecting.
    Readers, authors, publishers, and industry trade professionals need to work together and make some decisions about where digital is going and how to make their individual and collective voices heard.
    Sherman is so dead on right about the danger to the “handsell” and the incredibly important work of curating/acting as taste agents that indie booksellers do. We lose that, and it’s our own fault. We have power as content creators and as consumers. We can demand the changes we want to see by participating or not participating, or better yet NEGOTIATING with companies like Amazon instead of jumping on the bandwagon (which, for publishers and booksellers appears to be driving us to the breadline).
    I am all for ebooks. And I am all for authors controlling what happens to their content. And I am all for everyone involved stepping up and participating in this changing landscape. Amazon is not inherently the “enemy” – but by their very nature, they are looking to make the most money they can however they can.
    The adventure begins…

  5. Ed and Sherman — I appreciate both of you taking the time to expand upon these comments.I disagree with Sherman Alexie’s views on ebooks and culture. We’re on ebook 2.0 [at least], and I see digital books as a smart way to deliver books to impoverished or not easily accessible areas. Projects like “One Laptop Per Child” were designed, partly, to create ways to connect these children with various types of reading material (books, articles, etc). Given the difficulties of getting books to some of these areas, from cost to transportation, making digital books available as a choice may increase literacy.

    (While the Kindle is elitist when it comes to price point, the early adopters of this technology are paving the way for cheaper, better, smarter devices down the road. And, for some of us, the initial dollar investment in the device has lead to cost savings down the road.)

    We have serious agreement when it comes to the Kindle and market domination. I am (even as a Kindle owner) leery of monopolies in this market. I wish there were more push-back from publishers — public, vocal push-back — about the proprietary format and restrictions on use.

    I also strongly agree about the author perspective. A certain tier of author is able to achieve concessions when it comes to royalties, etc, but the average author lacks the negotiating clout necessary to move the needle. Because the playing field is far more level when it comes to digital distribution, those authors who license their ebook rights separately can negotiate better deals. Maybe that will have an impact on authors dealing with larger houses (Alexie is right in that his interests and corporate interests are not always the same thing).

    (I’d also like to [again!] make a plea to all authors to educate themselves about digital issues.)

  6. Of all the issues raised–and there are many–I am most taken by Alexie’s comment about growing up poor and how this move toward Kindle and other electronic devices impacts literacy, especially for children. I also grew up in a poor rural community and depended on the library, both public and school, for a lot of my reading material. While libraries may not generate a lot of revenue for writers, they do help create readers. And so I’m wondering what happens to libraries and those who depend on them as this shift begins to take place. Do kids go to the library to read on an e-book? Do libraries loan Kindles out (that seems unlikely given the cost)? Will there be hard “library” editions of books? And what might that do to the esthetic of the book? It’s easy to say that everyone should have access to technology, but as Alexie points out, a lot of students don’t even have access to textbooks.

  7. Pretty insulting to our intelligence, the way Alexie tries to disguise his patent self-interest behind anti-elitist rhetoric. It’s downright Bushlike, in fact.

    The Kindle is threatening to Alexie and his ilk not because poor kids can’t afford them, but because the digitization of books in *any* format threatens to make books less expensive and more easy to circulate. Just wait until Google starts selling ebooks later this year. In the future, no one will be able to make a living writing novels.

    If Alexie were at all sincere about the democratization of reading and knowledge, he wouldn’t be worrying about the cost of the Kindle and would instead be posting his books free on the Internet for poor schoolchildren everywhere to download and print. It is shocking that he is not more aware of his own hypocrisy.

    Also, independent bookstores are not a “vital social force.” They do, however, offer a narrow selection of overpriced books.

    One time, I was in the indie bookstore near my apartment in NYC, and the clerk handed me a copy of “Flight,” and he was like, “This book is amazing, you have to read it. The author has enjoyed an amazing career.”

    And I was like, “OK, how much does it cost?”

    And he was like, “$14. Plus tax.”

    And I was like, “But I can get it on Amazon for $10 with free shipping.”

    And he was like, “Oh.”

    Then he covered my hand with his and said, “But can you get this amazing human interaction on Amazon?”

    And I was like, “Stop being so tactile and eccentric.”

  8. I’m one who has been bashing you on kindlekorner, and I’m very glad to have read this interview. It really clarified what I thought was a violent, ugly comment. I now understand that it was the Kindle that you consider elitist, and not the woman reading it, and I understand your fears and concerns. No, I’m not going to give up my Kindle, which I use every day, but I see the danger that lurks ahead. On the other hand, technology being what it is, soon eReaders will be given away in exchange for subscriptions (think cell phones) and lent out at libraries. Have no fear.

  9. I grew up privileged, not poor, but books saved my sanity. They were my way out of something I could not then name.

    Recently, my daughter’s Ipod got smashed, accidentally. Until we get it fixed or she replaces it, she is music-less. When I was a child, I remember taking a bath once in a tub in a bathroom we never used–the guest room tub–where something terrible had happened to me–an event I only remembered later, as an adult. I read a cheap paperback copy of The Diary of Anne Frank, and the already yellow pages got tub-wrinkled, the binding broke. I felt brave and adult, and I read myself in her words. No one carped later about damage to the book. I loved it like a pair of old jeans. It’s long gone, but nothing has been lost.

    When electronic books can be treated like that–cherished in that casual, rough way–we’ll have arrived somewhere as a culture. What is more precious–the container, or what it contains?

  10. Hey,

    A new hardback is $30, a paperback $20–owning what one reads can be called “elitist.”

    Sherman, cool off. A decade from now, an ereader will cost less than a book.

  11. First, this is a great interview Ed – thanks for doing it.

    I also grew up in house with little money and the bookmobile and library were essential – ESSENTIAL – to my childhood. The only way my family got books was through borrowing them and as gifts over the holidays (and there were never more than a few bought then). What Sherman Alexie is saying here about the technology gap between rich and poor children in this country is 100% true. When I was teaching soldiers at Ft Wainwright, AK a few years ago we got into a big discussion one day about public schools. Some of my Af American students had never sat in a classroom with white kids before – ever and they had broken desks and chalkboards and every other bad cliche you can think of. One of my Native American students grew up on a reservation and used textbooks with his mother’s name written in them – they had not been replaced in more than 20 years. I could go on and on.

    Another thing to think about (which is fresh in my mind because of the recent Book Fair for Boys) is books for incarcerated people. You can’t have a hardback in jail let alone an e-book. And while a lot of folks might say “who cares” keep in mind the tens of thousands of kids in the juvenile justice system who need books desperately.

    I love my i-pod too, but I realize that when I was seven we would not have been able to afford one and my father worked hard everyday. I can’t imagine a world where books are priced out of the reach of any American. I still have my father’s last library card taped to the wall of my office – it reminds me how much books matter.

  12. […] Many have spoken of the ills of Amazon model of book buying (Sherman Alexie being the most recent. Go to this link. His answers are amazing). One thing everyone does know is wrong with Amazon is it’s lack of community (This NY Times […]

  13. This is an excellent interview and far more useful a discussion than many other conversations going on in the industry right now. Jeff Bezos’ quest to own the written word terrifies me more than the internet terrifies Publishing. Yes there are other E-Readers available, but the most commonly used website for books and e-readers only houses one format: the kindle format.

    Sherman’s assessment of the technology gap and the affects thereof is an apt one – people (and children) aren’t reading enough as it is, another separation isn’t exactly ideal.

    I don’t disagree with E-readers, but I think this fanatical need to have everything in an electronic format RIGHT NOW is very disconcerting. It’s as if people are panicking and the combination of the economy and an industry which was already in a downward spiral is only lending itself to this panic.

    Yes, something needs to change – publishing can’t continue as it has or it will inevitably fail. But I don’t think that this is the answer.

  14. […] nature of the Kindle. As the literary blogosphere debated his speech, blogger Edward Champion interviewed the author about his Amazon […]

  15. Perhaps being a person straddling two generations is a good thing. I grew up with my parents struggling to send me to the best school they could afford, but the rest was strictly no frills. No money left for movies, restaurants, amusement parks, so I immersed myself in books. I was a complete bookworm and loved it. Reading books took me places we could never afford to go and advanced my education in ways that still benefit me to this day. A few years ago, survival in my industry forced me to work with computers…e-submissions, emails, etc. So, I understand that some technology is absolutely essential in today’s world. However, it feels unnatural when one is looking to get lost in the personal thoughts of an author. Last week, a short story I wrote became available on Kindle as part of an anthology. I went along with the group consensus about it, but also pushed for the anthology to be published in traditional form. I agree with Mr. Alexie. I saw a Kindle at the BEA event, indexed my story on it and still could not become a fan. I realize the convenience of it, and for those who Love it, more power to you. But, there is nothing like the experience of holding a book, cherishing its feel and adding it to your library when it’s done to share with friends, reminisce about when you see the title on the shelf or donate to those less able to buy. With eReaders, we are stepping too far away from the human aspect and as a result sacrificing an intangible part of ourselves.

  16. @Kassia Krozser … this is where I stopped reading.

    There is such a disconnect between your glossy, capital driven values and what Alexie’s speaking about (and to whom.)

    I suspect you grew up in a safe, enclosed suburb; the sort of poverty Alexie references is dirt poor poverty. The sort that doesn’t “exist” in the great ole’ U S of A because it’s rendered invisible. A book – a physical book – becomes a lifeline that requires no electricity and can be taken anywhere.

    Vs. a “kindle” (WTF that is) or ereader which is plastic, easily broken and, as everyone knows, expensive. I’ve held one and, besides the dreadful screen element, one whack/drop/sneeze, they seem liable to break.

    So, while being “respectful” of your logical pretzel making, you are fairly clueless to the REALITY many POOR people (you may have read about the rise of tents cities in our great nation, in Fresno, outside Las Vegas and, oh, yeah, the fiasco that is still New Orleans) face on a daily basis. With wealthy people screaming – screaming! – about a 4% “increase,” the kindle is a joke, yet it’s not: it’s another way, as Alexie so correctly points out, cultural imperialism advances.

    Who appointed Jeff f’ing Bezos king of the word?

    Nobody.

    Writers, yeah, those people who deal in language are the monarchs in this world. Always have been, always will be. The kindle bearing Bezos is a TOOL: for a narrow and exclusive “right” (to another poster, the almighty dollar: really? that’s the sole reason for the US of A?) to determine what you read vis how you read.

    Till the day I die, I will not buy from Amazon, or its ilk. “Educate” myself? About digital tech? Cue, eyeroll. I can read – and have read enough of these puffed up techie responses (the same purveyors of, “Information wants to be ‘free’ whatever that meant: oh yeah, the same way code writers work for free, doctors, scientists, and every other professional?)

    Take your Kindle and, kindly, shove it.

  17. ***One time, I was in the indie bookstore near my apartment in NYC, and the clerk handed me a copy of “Flight,” and he was like, “This book is amazing, you have to read it. The author has enjoyed an amazing career.”

    And I was like, “OK, how much does it cost?”

    And he was like, “$14. Plus tax.”

    And I was like, “But I can get it on Amazon for $10 with free shipping.”

    And he was like, “Oh.”***

    It’s not always about money; the extra few bucks per book is well worth it. I *always* buy, or order, books from my local favorite indie book store (St. George’s of Berlin), rather than that venal (Bezos ego-octopus) Amazon. I’m no Luddite… in a perfect world, the e-book would be the useful away-version of your paper library (for the beach, the plane, the dull date, it’s perfect); the media would happily co-exist; but that’s now how it’ll happen. The e-book will *eat* the paper book, inevitably, and that will suck, because the paper book technology, in most ways, is still far-superior (eg, a paper book requires no energy source; a paper book can sustain fairly catastrophic damage and remain mostly, if not wholly, readable; once a paper book is in your posession, no subsequent changes in policy and/or technology can affect your access to its contents… think about this last point long and hard).

    The hostility to Alexie’s “complaint” is troubling, btw. As he points out, he ain’t exactly Goliath here. There used to be the violent polarization of Right/Left (Freak/Fascist) to contend with in culture debates like this… now I sometimes wonder if the new dichotomy isn’t Humanist/Consumerist? And if the Consumerists aren’t suffering from Stockholm Syndrome… ?

  18. errata:

    “the extra few bucks per book are well worth it.”

    “possession”

  19. What a hypocrite.
    If Sherman had bothered educating himself on the Kindle, he’d discover that people are purchasing and reading more books than ever before. He’d discover that the Kindle is enabling people who are paralyzed, people who have vision and hearing challenges, the awesome opportunity to enjoy reading again.
    Amazon discounts books – Amazon’s numbers are increasing while all major publishers numbers are decreasing – and why is that? Because publishers refuse to change with the times. The only greed I see is coming out of the Avenue of the Americas.
    And Sherman trying to put the spin on his negative comments by his concern about ‘poor’ kids – and yet, nowhere on Sherman’s website (as of 7:32 a.m. on June 3rd 2009) is there any place to donate books or money to a worthy childs cause.
    And since when is up to Amazon to make sure every child is not left behind w/o a Kindle.
    Sherman claimed “Oh, I had to submit to eBook rights, I have no other author allies.”
    Guess what Sherman. You did NOT have to submit. It’s a free country.
    I doubt we would be reading the headlines “Author killed by gunshot to the head after refusing to sign eBook rights in his publishing contract.”
    If you really despise Amazon that much, you should have refused to sign a contract unless your publisher agreed to not sell your books on Amazon.
    So, let me get this straight, you hate Amazon, but you’re happy to take the money you make from the sales of your books from them, yes?
    Any true lover of books and reading would be championing every opportunity for books to be sold. Independents, Retail, Online, eBooks, audio, etc.
    The true elitist is Sherman, who feels that books should only be sold one way – his way.
    Madison McGraw “Girl Arsonist”
    http://www.mad4kindle.com

  20. […] a good response to this over at Booksquare. Alexie subsequently qualified his statements in a followup interview with Edward Champion. The whole interview is definitely solid, touching on issues of class, technology, and control; […]

  21. […] Read the original here:  Sherman Alexie Clarifies “Elitist” Charges […]

  22. This rush to the E-book trend concerns me,too. As Mr. Alexie correctly points out,there are many social and economic classes of people to whom a Kindle or any other electronic reader is strictly a luxury item beyond their means(myself included)and for the industry to simply focus all of it’s resources on such a limited marketplace is just bad financial sense.

    Word of mouth is still the best viable form of promotion for books,whether it be online or in a bookstore and tangible print is the best way to keep that going. I’m not against technology but folks need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater here.

  23. Correct me if I’m wrong, Kassia, but 72,000 laptops TOTAL were given away from One Child, One Laptop in the US. 40% of the nation’s children – that’s 28 MILLION kids – live in low income families. $40,000 a year for a family of four. I don’t want to bash what the group is doing, but it doesn’t even come close to addressing the digital divide that exists between rich/middle class and poor.

  24. Carol Van Strum June 3, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Not only poor children are left out by electronic media. The commenter’s point about prison inmates is well made. I speak from personal experience. There are some 2.4 million individuals in prison in the U.S. In our state as in many, these inmates have no access whatsoever to computers, cell phones, i-pods, or any e-readers. As print media vanish, prisoners are already so starved for information that printouts sent to a single inmate are circulated reverently for days until they disintegrate, and for many of them a real book is as valued as drugs. Access to books and printed matter is these people’s only connection with the real world beyond tv sound bites (and yes, Virginia, these are people, as human as you and me).

    Another segment completely left out by e-book publishing is the elderly, many of whom don’t even have computers and are for many reasons unable or unwilling to learn to use them. Like prisoners, these folks already depend on friends and family to print out articles and stories they would otherwise never see. Many are avid book readers but will never read an e-book.

  25. How much did Alexie pay for his iPod? Because, depending on the model, that could have been as much or more than the Kindle or other electronic book readers. Which would apparently obviate the argument that one is out of the financial reach of some people while the other is a necessity of modern life.

  26. I’ve been a freelancer for sometime now, for magazines near and far. I was a bit distraught to see that recent articles I wrote for Niche Media were digitalized by Zinio. I was also told that it is not legal to digitalize freelancers’ work without their consent. Of course, we have little to say in the matter unless we all find eachother and start a class action. I applaud Sherman for his outspoken opinions, especially when they involve the very people who promote him in NY and elsewhere. He’s a brave soul and a true professional.

  27. I don’t think Alexie should cool it. I agree with him completely about access. I’m very active online and let me say access is not equal, and when you don’t have access neither do you have a voice. Without at voice, you are ignored and invisible. That is not to say that those of us who have access are evil or elitist, but don’t dismiss the man’s point because you feel personally offended.

    I work with kids who don’t have access to books or technology. I run a community library and when I took on the library, I had grand plans of marrying literacy with technology. What a joke. We have old machines, spotty service and no funds to put on workshops or purchase new techology. I’ve tried to provide instruction myself but what good is that when the population I serve doesn’t have reliable, ready access?

    I look at book blogs, book social networks sites and my girls aren’t there. If I didn’t run our community group and the library, they wouldn’t be reading. Just like they are invisible to the masses, books are invisible to them. Out of sight, out of mind.

    And the point about textbooks is no exaggeration. My girls talk about xeroxed copies used instead of textbooks or books with literally chapters missing. Access.

    I don’t hate technology. What disturbs me is the lack of access. We need books not just because we emotionally connect with them but because without print, that many more readers would be disconnected.

    If I had a choice, give me ten books. That’s ten readers. How many, how often, how long would one Kindle serve my community?

  28. […] was interviewed about this on Edward Champion’s Reluctant Habits.  He claims emphatically that he is not a Luddite, but the cost of eReaders make them an […]

  29. Madison McShill, please moderate the perky outrage you affect to suffer on behalf of Cynical Greed and its Neophiliac stooges, child. ‘Tis unseemly.

  30. Sherman Alexie said: “Books saved my life…. I rose out of poverty and incredible social dysfunction because of books”

    And, now he wants to deny future generations around the world the same experience by trashing the beginnings of the digital text revolution that can **literally** and **within our lifetimes** make every word ever written available to every person on the planet.

    Let me say that again: Digital book readers offer the very real potential to make all written knowledge universally available. You gonna do that with stacks of bound paper, are you bunky?

    You print-o-philes crack up me, tossing around words like “elitist” to describe the greatest democratizing technology in history because it threatens your comfort zone. This ain’t about the Kindle. It’s about the obsolescence of tree pulp (and maybe you, too, print book authors!)

    Ah, there’s the rub.

    — mm

  31. […] Edward Champion’s Reluctant Habits: Sherman Alexie Clarifies “Elitist Charges” […]

  32. I’m sorry, but Sherman may have made some points, but he is definitely a hypocrite. To tell one group that he refuses to authorize digital rights, then have digital versions available in Kindle and eReader format just doesn’t sit well with me. As another person said, he has the right to tell publishers “No”. But to tell one group he won’t give authorization while giving digital rights to others…

  33. Madison if you knew anything about Sherman Alexie, and the amount of time he has donated to poor kids on reservations like the one he grew up on, then you would know how wrong you are about him. (And could we not joke about people getting shot in the head, please?)

  34. […] Alexie on the Elitist Kindle: I consider the Kindle elitist because it’s too expensive. I also consider it elitist because, […]

  35. “And, now he wants to deny future generations around the world the same experience by trashing the beginnings of the digital text revolution that can **literally** and **within our lifetimes** make every word ever written available to every person on the planet.

    Let me say that again: Digital book readers offer the very real potential to make all written knowledge universally available. You gonna do that with stacks of bound paper, are you bunky?”

    This is just *wonderfully* insane; an electronic device which is still in the testing phase and which retails for more than what most people in the “Third World” earn in 6 months (or a year, and which isn’t likely to crack the 5 bucks limit anytime soon) is easier to distribute than Penguin paperbacks were? Okayyyyyyy (tell it to Chinua Achebe)…

    Well, we’ve heard from the Kindle Moles Troupe (are you guys on hourly or commission?), now let’s hear what Marie Antoinette has to say on the subject…

  36. Man, there are a lot of pompous asses on this board. Since when is $249 “affordable,” especially in this economy? Since when has Amazon been actively courting libraries to take up their device and use of e-books in the ONLY GENUINELY egalitarian means of delivering literature? Since when is the purchase of an electronic device, that requires an additional purchase of an electronic, non-shareable, copyright protected file, an egalitarian delivery method? The hard-copy book is, in and of itself, the most egalitarian means of delivering the printed word, especially when combined with the public library. DON’T EVEN TRY to convince me that e-readers are democratic, non-elitist, egalitarian or even the future of book distribution. It isn’t. As long as there are families and individuals who cannot afford $250+++ (which is the VAST majority, believe it), hard copy, especially with libraries and used bookstores, will continue to RULE the roost. Thank you and have a good day.

  37. This is an enlightening discussion. There are several perception scales here. One says a $10 e-book (after forking over at least $249) is less than a $20 pb or $30 hb. Another talks about community library digital divides. A third sees the only way to be concerned about book and Kindle prices is to make everything available for free because otherwise you’re a hypocrite. I do see the Kindle helping tremendously with issues like poor vision (and let’s face it, the baby boom is aging and I’m one of them). But democratizing reading – yeah, right. And then there are connectivity, bandwith, power issues. Sherman creates an all-too-true metaphor with his sports team analogy. And if anyone knows about large portions of the population in poverty, it would be him. When food shelf use continues to boom, we’ve got bigger issues to deal with than supposed luddite elitists and pseudo-concerned, self-centered urbanists.

  38. Barrie-Lee Zucker June 3, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Before contemptuously labeling Sherman Alexie’s offhanded remarks (which were – and you all know it – exploited by a sound bite artist/journalist/sensationalist from the NYT) as eitist or hypocritical perhaps you owe it to yourself to examine his body of work. Flush out the background of this part time Indian’s words and you’ll find, at the core of his talks, books, poems, etc., a champion of equality in all regards and an unswerving irreverence you might identify with. So who among us can judge anyone for wishing to hold on to something she/he holds dear? Is anger and fear really that surprising from an author who has a fondness for holding a book? I’m certain you can find someone more insulting than Alexie whose vanities need lighting up. Give it up, go read a book!

  39. What bugs me about this debate is the attitude that poor folks could easily have access to these electronic devices. Are you poor and want an ebook? Then go to the library and print one out. Except then the library charges you a dime a page, which comes out to $20 … maybe $20 isn’t much for you guys, but $20 is my lunch for 10 workdays. Should I pay $40 a month for internet or half of the light bill? A Kindle at $250 is about half of the mortgage payment.

    Nope! I don’t see the e-book revolution coming around my house any time soon.

    (I did get some audiobooks for Christmas, though … I get to listen to Part-Time Indian over and over at work. mmm, I’m reading and still getting paid, I love that!)

  40. To Kassia’s credit, she let my post stand. However, apparently her site isn’t taking new comments on the Alexie post. Since this refers to people here, I’ll post it here.

    Kassia,

    Thank you.

    “That said, I still ***TOTALLY*** disagree with your stance.

    It’s intesting to see how comments have shifted, tonally, and somewhat different in your recent posts. So, something is getting through.

    This is not the platform for a discussion of Marxist ideology nor is it fair to freight the (pathetic) kindle with that.

    HOWEVER, what this discussion does point to is a huge, huge, huge class divide in this country.

    You write, “It might be elitist (and I have never disputed that role for myself)” and I spit my coffee. Assuming you’re elitist by way of a university education, at some point you brushed up against history & last century’s Revolutions (the Bolsheviks, Maoism, et al.) All these revolutions began, essentially, in extreme class disparity, the sort you, apparently, and others endorse.

    This country is founded and functions, essentially because there is a vast middle class. I’ll make a wild leap and assume that, even from your elitist perch, you know people are being thrown out of their homes at unbelivable rates. Barely getting by is becoming tent city USA by the day. As a citizen, I am alarmed by this: the underlying (well, stated) about the kindle’s “inevitable” accessibility betray a callousness and a shortsighted that’s astonishing.

    This ongoing hallucination, pimped by a tech industry that doesn’t really care about content (the copyright issue would be much different were it the patent issue pertaining to machines) & that DRM / kindles/ et al are somehow going to save the book industry stubbornly ignores one very basic fact: the economy of scale ie., large numbers of people, that you’re implicitly counting on, ‘eventually’ buoying the book industry, etc. CAN’T AFFORD KINDLES.

    I understand though. After three decades of Reganism (remember the famous “trickle down” theory? mmm, didn’t work out, did it) and other brainwashing the identification with the ruling class is pervasive and, in that context, the belief in the kindle/DRM, etc. makes sense.

    Where this ends up, who knows. But when the brown shirts come for you – all inclusive of Kassia & Unapologetic Self-Styled Elitists and other Ralph Lauren buying Yahoos – bearing pitch forks and frothing at the mouth, don’t be surprised.”

  41. Yeah, having spent ten years of my childhood in the second-worst slum of Chicago, and coming to the Literature that *literally saved my life* via fire-damaged library books, 25-cent Sci Fi book club offers and third-hand paperbacks, it’s difficult to suppress my sneer of recognition (and age-old nemesis) when I read some of the hilariously tone-deaf Kindle defenses/ Alexie-smears on this thread. Oh, I get it: it’s tough to get affordable AIDS medication to the poorest communities on earth, but sending everybody a free Kindle will be a piece of cake!

    If Bezos thought there’d be money in an electric toast-butterer, he’d be hawking those instead. In any case, I’ll just wait for the inevitable (a free e-book app for my next cellphone) before I even bother seriously worrying about the Kindle.

  42. Sherman Alexie, THANK YOU.

  43. The Desert Yeti June 3, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Some points to consider:

    Drawing extravagant parallels between the political leanings of our society and publishing industry, while interesting, is distracting and often inaccurate. Let’s talk books.

    Jeff Bezos: someone here asked who appointed him “king of the written word.” The answer? U.S. consumers. Sure, you may be a book lover (or book snob, depending on how you look at it), but the vast majority of U.S. consumers are driven by price and convenience. Amazon figured out how to ace both of those factors. Props to them. AMAZON is not the “Evil Empire,” they’re simply CATERING to the Evil Empire.

    Technology: ebooks are just the next stage in the evolution of the printed word. Stone Tablets? Check. Hand-written parchment? Check. Movable type printing press? Check. Hundreds of books in the space formerly occupied by one book because they’re stored as 1’s and 0’s? Check. At each phase in this evolution, the words have reached a broader and broader audience. While the price of a f*cking Kindle may be prohibitive now (I sure as hell can’t afford one) It’s pretty obvious to me that eventually the electron will aid distribution of the word, not hinder it, even if it takes a while to get off of the ground.

    Publishing: There’s been a lot of talk about “reasonable” prices for ebooks. I work for a publisher and can tell you that a LOT more work (and therefore expense) goes into the publication of a book than just the cost of printing it. That doesn’t change with e-books. Unless you want your “book” in typo-ridden blog style typed out in Times New Roman on a blank page with no index or interesting cover, the cost of books isn’t going to shrink all that much regardless of format.

    Authors: It’s easy to point at Alexie and say “you could offer your stuff for free!” but the reality is that, much like getting good teachers in our schools, the way you get good authors to write quality stuff is to offer them at least enough to shelter and feed themselves while they do it. Much like the publisher point, above, if the only written words we could get were penned for free, it would dramatically reduce both the quality and quantity of great stuff to read.

    Bottom Line: as immensely entertaining as these discussions are, people who read stuff like this aren’t the ones who will make or break the ebook idea. It’s “Joe Consumer.” And Joe is driven by cost and convenience. A dose of pragmatism on this point would serve both sides well and perhaps tone down the hyperbole a bit. If books are an inherently spiritual topic for you, I suggest you go hang out with some of the folks who prefer their music on vinyl. Otherwise, let’s all construct a future that will probably remain “dual format” for some time yet to come.

  44. @the desert yeti,

    as appealingly well organized as your thoughts are, they are also facile.

    We live in a free-speech based democracy. Your attempts to parse books, economic disadvantage & so forth with a breezy, “Oh, bezos just serves the evil empire, he’s not, etc.” while dismissing the discussion as “extravagent” AND dilating it to “books” is reductive, to say the least.

    Clearly, you’re very bright and, on some level, presumably you know this. Feigning – or, attempting to feign – a disconnect between books, technology and the larger resonances within political economies doesn’t fly.

    There are really serious problems with this country. The book / kindle discussion is symptomatic of those issues.

    The question underlying Alexie’s statement is discomfiting because it poses difficult & fundamental questions: What sort of country do we want to live in? Worse, what sort of country DO we live in?

    One point you make – dual format- does, at the moment, is accurately descriptive.

    What you’re not getting, working in publishing as you do, is the disconnect – the mindless promotion of kindlekindlekindle/DRM by bloggers who are, maybe, who knows, shills for Amazon, a corporation which was, correct me if I’m wrong, created vis capital looking for a site to land and replicate.

    And you’re also correct, Amazon is not bezos. Amazon is a corporation that exists with the sole goal of enlarging its market share (and, ultimately, dominating that market). Books, the written word, democracy are all secondary (if even part of) considerations to the accumulation of capital. As “someone who works in publishing” (whatever that means), presumably you know that. I’m surprised you’re not more alarmed by the systematic eviseration of the public discourse Amazon/kindle represents.

  45. I agree. I think. Books should be as accessible as possible. TV doesn’t need to be, music doesn’t even need to be (and if you don’t have an ipod radios are cheap) but books need to be and e-readers create a barrier.

    I haven’t jumped on the popular e-books or bust bandwagon for this very reason. I don’t even want to fork over the few hundred dollars how could I ever expect that it would work for someone who’s struggling to get by?

  46. […] the rest here:  Sherman Alexie Clarifies “Elitist” Charges Share and […]

  47. Alexie is not concerned about his financial position when considering Kindle. He has made plenty of money, and, if he wanted, he could simply make a pretty good living as a comedian. I support his position on this issue one hundred percent.

  48. […] I’ve been enjoying the hell out of the mock furor over Sherman Alexie’s anti-Kindle comments and interview of a couple days ago, mainly because everybody’s so bent out of shape (check the comments). […]

  49. The Desert Yeti June 4, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    @Doug –

    Very well replied. My admittedly over-the-top attempt to remove politics from the discussion entirely was just a (perhaps misguided) attempt to focus the discussion to a bit narrower field.

    I completely agree that the democratizing of information, free speech, etc. have nothing to do with corporate goals. Neither do books, in any format. They’re just products. The corporate goal is dollars. That’s it. Where my problem with demonizing Amazon comes in is that I don’t think we have any more right to infringe on their legal profitability than they do to infringe on our right to choose from multiple media formats. Clearly most individuals come down on the “anti-Amazon” side, but the reality is that this is a moral stalemate unless you want to abandon capitalism as an economic system (which I understand many people do, but I’m not one of them.)

    The only way to reign in Amazon is to exercise our rights as consumers and not purchase anything from them. Hit them in the bottom line. My inherent cynicism leads me to believe this is a pipe dream however. Just look at Wal-Mart.

    “Someone who works in publishing” means exactly that. As it turns out, I work for a small non-profit book publisher (albeit in the marketing department!) and believe me there’s plenty of Amazon=evil sentiment here, but Amazon has also done a lot *outside* of the Kindle to facilitate the distribution of the written word far and wide, making relatively obscure or academic books you’d never find at Borders (or your favorite indie book store) available to a lot more people.

  50. Just wanted to point out – ebooks and digital reading are not limited to the Kindle. And, poverty is not limited to the US. The potential for plain old cell phones to make a huge and positive difference to the literacy of developing nations should be considered as one good reason for ebooks to exist. In some parts of the world, a paper book really is more expensive than reading on a cell phone.

    Even in the good old US of A, cell phones represent an incredible opportunity for those who may not otherwise seek out or afford old fashioned books to read. There are lots of e-books (and audio books for that matter) available via public domain sites such as Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org) and librivox (http://librivox.org/).

    Some interesting articles on the subject of cell phones and literacy:

    Worldwide cellphone use hits 60 percent, developing nations largely to thank http://bit.ly/WIQ13

    Gadget & Tech News » Are Cell Phones Our Last Hope for Literacy? http://bit.ly/1ae1x0

    Driving Literacy Up Using Cell Phones: UNESCO & Mobilink Join Forces | State of Telecom Industry in Pakistan

    It’s unfortunate that there is such growing divisiveness around the subject of how one reads. It really takes the focus off of what is important — reading itself.

  51. […] Links: The Write Report, J.D. Salinger Tries to Block ‘Sequel’ to ‘Catcher in the Rye’,  Salinger Suit Spooks Distributor, Hachette – Amazon stand-off resolved, Sherman Alexie Clarifies “Elitist” Charges […]

  52. I wouldn’t say that the Kindle itself is elitist — or so are GameBoys, iPods, and HD tvs. It’s what the intent is — to create a future of only e-books, in which case it does take books out of the hands of everyone and leave them in the hands of people with enough disposable income and a great desire to read, and that’s wrong. When libraries loan Kindles and Kindle-books as easily as they loan print books, all will be right again.

    I’m not interested in a Kindle, mostly for financial reasons. Not because I can’t afford the Kindle itself, but because I don’t want to be forced to BUY everything I want to read on it. I am a dyed-in-the-wool library user. I borrow books, movies and audiobooks from the public library. My experience with downloadable audiobooks has been frustrating, because of technical crud. I have an mp3 player (not an iPod) but because my computer platform is Mac, I can’t get the Windows-platform audiobook through my computer onto my Windows-platform player. So what good is that service to me? Or anybody else whose technology doesn’t conform?

    If the Kindle remains a luxury toy for people who buy books but don’t want to carry paper volumes around, and do want their new book ‘right now,’ I’m ok with that. Plenty of luxury toys I won’t ever have and can live without. If the Kindle becomes a necessity for everybody who wants to read a book, there’s a real big problem, and it’s not ok at all.

    Kudos to Sherman Alexie for thinking and caring about all readers, not just the ones who can pay.

  53. I agree that the Kindle is elitist. That thing is expensive, and if ebooks are to replace print one day, we need to be able to read ebooks on devices that people of many different social classes already own: cell phones — not just fancypants $500 iPhones but any old cell phone. We need to cut out the proprietary formatting that Amazon and others use, and we need libraries to use services like Overdrive to loan ebooks for free.

  54. […] “If eBooks do take over the market, then dozens more independent bookstores will close, and all sorts of communities will lose a vital social force. Does Amazon have any plans to fill the social gaps left by those closed […]

  55. I agree that the Kindle is elitist in the sense of the Matthew Principle of education – the haves will continue to get and benefit, while the have-nots will continue to be shut out. However, this is the trend in technology. It starts at upper levels, and eventually “trickles down” to benefit more of society. We all currently benefit from medical technologies that at their inception were limited to “elite” groups. I don’t believe our culture will ever have a level playing field. The human nature we have nutured is far too self-cenetered on that matter.

    Alexie does shift his focus from access to author, however, in the comments re: audio text. I find it somewhat contradictory that he would be resistent to this form. While I do understand his argument, there are people with disabilities in our society who benefit greatly from books in forms other than print. While the printed text may well be the intended art form, for some, their only access is audio. The reader/listener will create their own sense of art from the work, and the author needs to allow that, not shut it out or try to control it.

    I have worked with numerous text readers, and one of the tech benefits with Kindle is the reader. For people with disabilities, the Kindle is actually more affordable and easier to use than many other readers on the market, especially given its portability.

  56. […] From Ed Champion’s blog: […]

  57. It doesn’t look like this audience is aware, but Amazon has made an iPhone plug-in that allows users to read their Kindle books on the iPhone. iPhones are only $199 these days.

    Looks like Amazon is already in the process of making this technology more widely and less expensively available. Seems like a pretty good commitment to getting this out to more people to me.

  58. After reading half of these comments, I did a word search for “Nazi” and didn’t find it. I did find “fascist” but it was not addressed to anyone. Comes closest: ” But when the brown shirts come for you – ”

    This is progress.

  59. It is not Jeff Bezo’s job to make the kindle available to everyone who cannot afford one any more than it was Henry Ford’s obligation to make cars available to the same people. There have always been poor people and there always will be. So we cannot innovate, create or explore until we all are equal? Gee Columbus never would have sailed because there were folks wanting. (Sorry Alexie bad metaphor). Face it folks the world is changing especially in the gloom and doom world of books. I remember when the mall stores were going take over the book selling world, when the killer B’s were going to reduce what people read. Well we still have independents and more books are being published than ever. What’s unfortunate is that one guy is getting to make those decisions. Alexie I do not have a HDTV but I would sure not want to hit you if I saw you watching yours. It’s about change, you can get on the bus, it will pass you by, or you can get run over.

  60. […] 9, 2009 · No Comments Okay, first things first: Check out this interview of Sherman Alexie by Edward Champion. I had no idea before reading this article via the New Pages blog who these two fellas […]

  61. […] he saw a woman reading a Kindle. According to article, Alexie, who thinks Kindles are elitist, “wanted to hit” the […]

  62. […] Sarvas has come to the defense of the Kindle, taking aim at “stupid” writers — meaning, Sherman Alexie (here for my take) — who carp about the […]

  63. […] some reason, I get a similar feeling when I read Sherman Alexie say stupid things about people reading Kindles. Not only does it miss the point entirely, it causes us to question him more than the point he was […]

  64. […] would criticize that eBook-eReader technology invokes elitism and further technological information-education gap to the poor. Granted, and that’s where a subscription and public libraries carrying units would benefit […]

  65. […] Sherman Alexie Clarifies “Elitist” Charges  |  Edward Champion’s Reluctant Habits As noted by Kassia Kroszer and others, Sherman Alexie recently expressed some controversial remarks in relation to the eReader. At a BookExpo panel, Alexie called the Amazon Kindle “elitist” and said that he wanted to hit a woman sitting on a plane who was using a Kindle on her flight to New York. […]

  66. think this is much ado about nothing…buy it, don’t buy it, whatever. Alexie’s comments have clearly been blown out of proportion by people who take their technology way too seriously. In Alexie’s defense, I would also like to add that I frequently feel like hitting my airplane seatmates – for much lesser crimes than using a Kindle.

  67. […] Edward Champion’s “Reluctant Habits,” Sherman Alexie elaborates on his much-quoted attack on the Kindle as […]

  68. […] and other e-readers was voiced through author Sherman Alexie’s disgust for the “elitist” (among other things) form, but Constant offers some hope that I think bears […]

  69. […] and why the current debate seems to be creating a lot of tension and anxiety (here’s one extreme example from author Sherman Alexie. “The more I write, the more I’ve come to realize that books have a different place in […]

  70. […] Interview with Sherman Alexie about Amazon’s Kindle. […]

  71. Stick it to the man!

    You’re so right. I live on the Crow Indian Reservation. One of the doctors here at the lovely IHS decided to start a used book program. During a visit you can take one. They can be about any number of things. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken one! Plus I buy from thrift stores. $200 worth for $10. And the knowledge is priceless. Fight the good fight. I got your back.

  72. […] This post was Twitted by darrenlonefight […]

  73. […] running water when my mother grew up walking to a community well every day.  Now I’m glad he clarified some of his ideas, because I suppose his greatest concern is that the literacy/educational gap will widen even […]

  74. […] while Reina thinks his later elaboration help redeem him, I don’t think so. They may make him seem a little less a douchebag, but they […]

  75. […] famously remarked on seeing someone reading a Kindle on the plane and wanting to hit her, causing a brief furor in blogging […]

  76. […] see the downside, though. Sherman Alexie has noted that the Kindle is expensive and therefore elitist, as the poor cannot afford it or even gain access to it. I wonder then, if this becomes an issue […]

  77. As an author who, unlike Mr. Alexie, has not secured big corporate publisher backing, I see ebooks as a way of leveling the playing field. I don’t need a company to fork over the production and distributions costs – instead, I can be as controversial or experimental or banal as I like and then self-publish in ebook format. This allows me access to the marketplace of ideas without having to sell out to a corporation. Ebooks will never replace physical books, but they will, I think, increase boosk sales overall, and specifically increase them for lesser-known authors. On the subject of small book stores and the “personal touch,” I too mourn their slow agonizing disappearance. But it’s not the Kindle doing that. Let’s keep in mind that even on Amazon ebooks account for only 6% of units sold. What makes life impossible for small books stores is the combination of internet sales of physical books and the advent of chain stores such as Barnes and Noble, who have helped drive the “blockbuster” model of publishing. Ebooks at least provide increased access to the market for authors who write mid-list books that don’t have ‘blockbuster’ potential. Want to save the personal element in literature? Don’t buy Twilight at Walmart or B&N. Buy something from a little known author and email your friends if you like what he/she has written. Email the author him/herself. No, it’s not the corner bookstore, but it’s real, and it’s the way things are headed.

  78. While I agree that reading an actual book is a more tactile experience than reading same book on Kindle, for those of us who get involved in large volumes and who also travel or like to read on our lunch hours, carrying a book around can be a massive inconvenience or even physically risky. I had to purchase large handbags to tote my books. The weight of said books dragged one shoulder down and caused a significant amount of back strain.

    The weight of the Kindle is negligible and I only need to shop for bags that have a Kindle-sized pocket somewhere. I can read any sized book with no physical strain. There added advantage of being able to download my friends’ writings and not waste paper by printing it out so I can read it away from the computer is an added bonus. Frankly, the loss of the tactile experience of touching paper or the missing musty smell are, to me, small prices to pay.

    And the Kindle has paid for itself in the savings between the cost of electronic vs. hardbound books–and even some paperbacks.

    And I can still read my paper books at home accompanied by fuzzy socks, soft music and a cup of cocoa.

  79. While I agree that reading an actual book is a more tactile experience than reading same book on Kindle, for those of us who get involved in large volumes and who also travel or like to read on our lunch hours, carrying a book around can be a massive inconvenience or even physically risky. I had to purchase large handbags to tote my books. The weight of said books dragged one shoulder down and caused a significant amount of back strain.

    The weight of the Kindle is negligible and I only need to shop for bags that have a Kindle-sized pocket somewhere. I can read any sized book with no physical strain. In addition a number of my friends are prolific amateur writers. I have the added advantage of being able to download my friends’ writings and not waste paper by printing it out so I can read it away from the computer is an added bonus. Frankly, the loss of the tactile experience of touching paper or the missing musty smell are, to me, small prices to pay.

    And the Kindle has paid for itself in the savings between the cost of electronic vs. hardbound books–and even some paperbacks.

    And I can still read my paper books at home accompanied by fuzzy socks, soft music and a cup of cocoa.

  80. […] Kindle and think, “Wow, expensive gadget. I’d better not read this on an airplane or Sherman Alexie will punch me in the face.” Then the idea occurs  within the first ten minutes that downloading all of my books for […]

  81. Please just stop for a moment. Stop- for once- disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing and bowing to technology for the sake of that and actually think about what Alexie is saying here. Yes, you may like your new Kindle (or whatever your device is called). Yes, you may feel fine and dandy about purchasing all those ebooks. But there are issues to be considered with any major change in media delivery. You may not want to think of it but in fact small bookstores do not stay open just to make us feel good; they must make money; they must sell books to stay in business. Also, a book on paper is readable by anyone who’s been taught to read so long as the pages are mostly white with dark print and most of the pages stay attached, where electro devices require energy, (you do pay for that too, you know) as well as a working device. Not everyone has equal access to these, sorry to tell you. It is true that at the end of the day we all may need to acknowledge and just get used to the idea of Kindle, etc, but we should not delude ourselves that there are not trade-offs here.

  82. Reading this makes me so happy. I really hope there are more people like him. I couldn’t bear a life without real books.

  83. I hadn’t thought of buying a Kindle, but when I got one for my birthday, I was excited. I found that I could get out of print books, which I couldn’t find in the library, and could only find available for purchase at prices well above $100. I could get them on the Kindle for free or for 99 cents if I wanted them indexed. I have arthritis in my hands and have a hard time with heavy books, but the Kindle never gets heavy. And I can change the type size to fit my old eyes. When I am reading a printed book (of which we own many), I miss the built-in dictionary. I think electronic textbooks could be a real boon to students, who could bring all of their textbooks home for study in a backpack which wouldn’t weigh them down and give them back trouble. Change is inevitable, and sometimes actually improves the lives of people, as the Kindle does for some of old-timers.

  84. […] a) “All sorts of middle-class folks agree with the billionaire owners of sports teams that the millionaire players make too much money.” Good point, Sherman Alexie. Some interesting questions raised here about the effect of the current eReader gold rush on culture, especially for poor kids, in: Sherman Alexie Clarifies “Elitist” Charges […]

  85. […] When Alexie “clarified” his stance, this caught my eye: Having grown up poor, I’m also highly aware that there’s always a massive technology gap between rich and poor kids. I haven’t yet heard what Amazon plans to do about this potential technology gap. And that’s a vital question considering that Bezos wants to change the way we read books. How does he plan to change the way that poor kids read books? How does he plan to make sure that poor kids have access to the technology? Poor kids all over the country don’t have access to current textbooks, so will they have access to Kindle? (Sherman Alexie) […]

  86. […] makes books available to a vast mass of people who aren’t privileged enough to be plugged in. Sherman Alexie made this point not too long ago: Having grown up poor, I’m also highly aware that there’s always a massive technology gap […]

  87. […] after they were made, Alexie tried to clarify (*cough cough* BACKPEDAL *cough*) his comments in an interview with a blogger (ironically enough). His concerns with e-readers  consist of their pricing (even though he admits […]

  88. […] Franzen’s comments immediately brought to mind was author Sherman Alexie’s infamous characterization of Kindles as “elitist” and—far more disturbing—his expressed desire to “hit” a woman whom he saw reading a […]

  89. […] Having grown up poor, I’m also highly aware that there’s always a massive technology gap between rich and poor kids. I haven’t yet heard what Amazon plans to do about this potential technology gap. And that’s a vital question considering that Bezos wants to change the way we read books. How does he plan to change the way that poor kids read books? How does he plan to make sure that poor kids have access to the technology? Poor kids all over the country don’t have access to current textbooks, so will they have access to Kindle? (Sherman Alexie) […]

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