Sunday, May 4, 2008

I-Pod of Books

As I blog this evening, I'm sitting with my back to a wall of books. Facing me, across the room, is another wall of books. The very lighting of the room consists (partly) of two series of spots glancing down the shelves towards the hardwood floor, highlighting the books. My favorite corner is the red-upholstered armchair under the 90-year-old reading light. On the shelf next to this desk are a pile of books I've read over the past few months which I'd like to summarize here on Ruminations before I put them in permanent positions on the shelves.

I cannot imagine my life without books.

Today I probably spent two hours reading about Amazon's new gadget, the Kindle, watching the films they've put up on their website, and so on. It's fascinating, in many ways. The way they've thought through the process of defining what it is they wanted, how to go about achieving it, and what they tell us about it. I'm greatly impressed by the way Jeff Bezos, the boss, tells in the plural about their efforts. After all, he didn't do the research, the designing, the manufacturing, any of it. His many underlings did. Yet by telling with great excitement about what "we wanted to do", and "how we did it", he most likely encouraged all those subordinates to strive ever more to succeed at the common goal. (Not all of my bosses were always like that, and I probably wasn't so perfect at it myself as a boss).

Will it make the difference he says it will? Will it all prove to be costly ephemeral hype? Will it add another fortune to Bezos' bank account, but be forgotten by next year? Only time will tell, won't it. Even if it does everything he says it might, I don't expect the books on the bookshelves to disappear in my lifetime. But perhaps future generations will see things differently.

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