Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Since its release in November 2007, the Amazon Kindle has emerged as a—and perhaps the—leading portable electronic reading device. Widely touted for its unique screen, capacious storage, and wireless content delivery, Kindle has prompted both enthusiasts and critics to wonder if it will eventually “outbook the book” (to quote Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos).
This presentation will not settle the matter, nor will it attempt to. Instead, it will focus on Kindle’s two-way communications capabilities on the one hand, and on Amazon’s recent foray into data services on the other. Striphas’s argument is that however convenient a means Kindle may be for acquiring e-books and other types of digital content, the device nevertheless disposes reading to serve a host of inconvenient—indeed, illiberal—ends. Consequently, it underscores the growing importance of a new and fundamental right to counterbalance the illiberal tendencies that it embodies—what Richard Stallman and others have called a “right to read,” which would complement the existing right of free expression.
Brought to campus by the Communication Studies department, Ted Striphas is Assistant Professor and Director of Film & Media Studies in the Department of Communication & Culture, Indiana University. His book, The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control, was published in 2009 by Columbia University Press. He is the coeditor of the book Communication as…: Perspectives on Theory and of a special issue on intellectual property published by the journal Cultural Studies. His website is http://www.thelateageofprint.org/.
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