Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Oprah Romances Kindle and Kills Off Beauty

Linda the Designer (no relation to Joe the Plumber) was bemoaning how Oprah came out last week and announced her love for the artless cold aesthetic of the Kindle. The woman who singlehandedly made books relevant to the lives of millions of daytime TV watchers and generated untold millions of dollars for big US book publishers has told her audience to stop, don't buy a book, think of the trees you'll be saving instead by downloading everything you need onto a little plastic and silicon brick.

You get one font, but in lots of sizes! Text can be justified or not, your choice! That whole notion of giving life to the text by allowing room to breathe on the page, or suggesting an elegant argument with a classic typeface? Well, fuggadeboutit. The only thing a "designer" has to "design" now is how to deliver a pdf to the kindlemaker.

Am I unhappy? Not entirely. It'll be good to save the cost of fuel, not to mention the occasional tree. No more happy UPS delivery screwups!

But I'll miss the look and feel of the book, and the unique personality given it by its designer. With fewer aesthetic qualities to interfere with the message, maybe language will become more about content and less about the vehicle of transmission.

I suppose that could apply to human interactions as well. We say that we judge people on their deeds and their words, but that's not entirely true. We need to see and touch other humans to take their measure, to see if they're a good fit, believable, appealing, whatever. It'll be a while before a human kindle stirs Oprah into a froth of ecstasy, but I bet that day is not too far off.

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