Daily Poll: Will Form Alter Function With Books?


Maybe you’re sick of talking Kindle. If so, stay away from the Atlantic’s Web site, where two writers are currently going head to head on whether the literary device signals the death of reading as we know it or is just a natural adaptation in the evolutionary process.

On one side of the argument you’ve got Sven Birkerts, an essayist who’s resisting the siren call of the Kindle: “For me the significance of this is not whether people end up reading more or less, or even a matter of what they read. At issue is the deep-structure of the activity. My fear is that as Wikipedia is to information, so will the Kindle become to literature and the humanities: a one-stop outlet, a speedy and irresistibly efficient leveler of context.”

And on the other, the aptly named Matthew Battles, a librarian who thinks that the Kindle will promote cultural understanding, not kill it off. “Technologies shift — and with those shifts come changes in our consciousness,” he explains. “We read differently now than did the contemporaries of Johannes Gutenberg or Jane Austen. By the nineteenth century, books were no longer individually crafted works of art, but products of industry — no longer richly bound and ornately hand-decorated, but serviceably assembled using interchangeable parts. Yet despite these far-reaching shifts, the sequences of words themselves have been handed down more or less intact from age to age.”

What we’re wondering is: