Commentary Magazine


The Kindle Takes Over

If you want to know just how fast the world of the printed word — and thus the intellectual world as a whole — is changing, consider a report in today’s Washington Post.

Amazon is reporting that it is now selling 143 Kindle books for every 100 paper-and-ink books. Kindle books outsold regular books for a while after
Christmas last year, and everyone assumed, doubtlessly correctly, that many people had gotten Kindles for Christmas and were loading them up. But now, half a year later, it seems to be a permanent shift. The recent cut in the price of a Kindle has tripled sales.

“We’ve reached a tipping point with the new price of Kindle,” Bezos said in the statement. “ customers now purchase more Kindle books than hardcover books — astonishing when you consider that we’ve been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months.”

Those of us who love books have to be of two minds about this trend. Books are lovely objects and convey a tactile pleasure along with, hopefully,
cerebral ones. But the horse and buggy was not without its charms too. I’m quite confident that 10 years from now, only a minority, perhaps a small
one, of books will be published in paper-and-ink form. That goes at least equally for magazines and newspapers.

When I first went to work in publishing as a production editor, fresh out of college, books were still being set “hot metal,” i.e., by linotype machines. That makes me feel like I remember the Dark Ages.