Thursday, February 26, 2009

The New Era of the Kindle, the Old Era of LGBT Bookstores

Yes, yes, everyone is abuzz about the new Kindle. In fact, Amazon keeps a link to info about this device in the corner of the screen throughout the website, so you really can't miss it. There's plenty of love - especially from Walter Mossberg in the WSJ - and there's some gentle mocking - thanks to the Onion - as well as flat-out anger - most notably, perhaps, in Roy Blount's targeted op-ed, which takes aim at the audio feature as infringing on audio rights, one of the sub-rights negotiated in author contracts that can generate revenue.

I for one am just boggled by this new era of online product where one cannot *see* the product in question! I have yet to see a Kindle on display somewhere. I have not touched one, played with one, saw how it functioned. I can read all about it, but shouldn't I get a chance to demo this badboy? Bizarre. And to me, this is a larger problem with Amazon. In fact, my partner, as an academic, has had problems with Amazon in that he orders academic books from them, and when it shows up, it's a print-on-demand edition, which was never indicated on the Amazon page. So he pays full price and gets something inky with a fuzzy cover. This is avoided in a bookstore where a customer can pick up a product - a Kindle, a book - and then know what she or he is getting. I don't want to sound reactionary here, but we've all had our run-ins with ordering products online that end up being disappointing, no? I'm not ready to run out and order this Kindle without a test drive.

So I prefer independent bookstores, but as we know, they're struggling... This segues us to some bad news from Los Angeles: LGBT bookstore A Different Light, located in West Hollywood, is closing. The San Francisco store will stay open, says owner Bill Barker. Ironically, as this blog posts notes,
But one thing that A Different Light has going for it, in addition to its storefront in the Castro in San Francisco, is a robust online marketplace, where it sells books, DVDs and "adult selections." And you know how the Internet loves "adult selections."

Well maybe some things are better off online - though you could be in for some painful disappointment when you're talkin' "adult selections." Just sayin'. It's 2009, people, can't we buy our porn and what-not in person?

This closing follows the closing of the Oscar Wilde Bookshop in NYC, which Christopher mentioned earlier this month.

And I just have to mention the most annoying news item of the days: the announcement of a new book of Twitter tweets. I just threw up in my mouth. HarperCollins will bring out the collection from former Gawker Nick Douglas. This strengthens my dislike for Gawker and will embolden many upset with HarperCollins for recent layoffs... though admittedly they paid "five figures," so I don't think this one will break the bank.

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