In this morning's Washington Post Richard Cohen has a passionate diatribe about amazon and the promotion of the kindle electronic reader.
He loves to amble over to his neighborhood bookstore, wherever he might be, he says -- not just to buy, but to browse, drink coffee, talk, and simply absorb the atmosphere of books.
"The book is warm. The book is handy. The book is handsome to the eye," he poetically muses. "The book occupies the shelf of the owner and is a reflection of him or her, or, actually, me. The book is always there, to be reached for, to be thumbed ..."
Can amazon do anything like that? The kindle, let's face it, is just a gadget, yet one that is dearly loved by the guru techs at amazon. Steven Kessel, one of those gurus, confided that Jeff Bezos, the founder of amazon, is dead set on "reinventing the book." He and Kessel "wake up every day thinking about digital."
Predictably, this makes Cohen very unhappy. He likes actual bookstores, places where people who love books can recommend great writing to other people who love books. It was this process that introduced Cohen to Joseph Roth and Thomas Bernhard, and a book about World War One called Her Privates We. Amazon does not do this.
Richard Cohen does not offer a solution to this headlong rush away from the real book, except, perhaps, an unspoken plea to read more books with real pages and real covers. Well, as far as I am concerned, he can put one notch in his gun -- I can't wait to go to a real library and find that book he raved about, Her Privates We.