It’s like magic

Last month, Amazon main man Jeff Bezos uncorked an interesting quote, saying that from April to June, his company sold 143 electronic books for every 100 hardcover books sold. Obviously, something is going on here. Something fundamental. Something game-changing. And I can’t help but wonder what this all means for bookstores and libraries.

This whole electronic book thing is dazzling in a supersonic, ultra-tech, Jetsons kind of way. I tried it out the other night on my new IPad, which of course was built for a busy existence of data collection, including the storage of books, music and pictures. I went to the online Kindle store, which is run by Amazon, and, having heard much good about the wildly popular “Girl” series of novels written by the late Stieg Larsson, decided to download The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo into my hungry new toy. I clicked the purchase flag, watched and waited. I didn’t have to wait long. I’d guess maybe 10 seconds. Maybe. And presto, I had a new book. (In the name of research, I just downloaded Cat’s Cradle by Vonnegut. Seven seconds from click to book.)

The ease and swiftness with which this whole experience took place did what these modern digital experiences usually do, which is turn me into a slack-jawed hayseed who just fell off the back of a turnip truck. I mean, I simply clicked on the Tattoo book at the Kindle store, revealing my desire to purchase it for $7. Then, a great throbbing computer somewhere out there looked at my request, instantly approved my credit card as worthy of this transaction, and then sent this entire great glob of text at the speed of light to my electronic address, where the glob then sought, found, and invaded my waiting and willing book-collecting gizmo, arranging itself properly ready for reading as it did so. And this all happened in the space of a couple of eyeblinks.

Once again, I find reason to quote the late, great Arthur C. Clarke, who once opined, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” No kidding. Again, I feel as though I’ve entered that very realm. I’m guessing Clarke would very much appreciate the “magic” on display in the illusion of books falling out of the sky and accurately landing in superb little data-catchers at ridiculous speed.

Ultimately, what will truly blow my mind is that I will eventually have a few hundred books stuffed into this elegant little machine. (And you won’t believe all the goodies/classics/whatever available for free.) Meaning that a library that would cover an entire wall of my house can now be stored in this nifty little unit measuring 9 by 7 inches and weighing maybe a pound. What a planet!