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Review: Burning the Page by Jason Merkoski

Jason Merkoski was on the team at Amazon which developed the Kindle. This book gives insights into how the process of developing the Kindle felt, and gives a personal account of Merkoski’s relationship with books and his ideas of where the medium is going.

These multiple strands make the book a bit of a mishmash of genres, which (no doubt) makes marketing it somewhat tricky. Despite this, I felt that it hung together quite nicely as a whole, though it is undeniable that it reads a little more like a flowing conversation than a planned essay.

Merkoski’s passion for books shines through this volume – not least because of the anecdotes he relates about the difficulties of coping with the number of books he owns. Given his love of books, I was surprised by his level of excitement about a future in which books have changed to the degree that they no longer contain the written word. In the medium-term, he imagines books which are intercut with short movies and games – not so far from what we seen on the iPad today. This fills me with dread, because it seems to me that this limits the reader’s imagination.

Yet, despite my reluctance, I can see that his prediction is probably accurate. Blockbuster books already often have filmed “trailers”. Games with written stories and intercut scenes (e.g. the Professor Layton series) are enormously popular. Convergence between formats can surely only become more common.

And his long-term predictions are still more frightening. With strong overtones of sci-fi, he suggests that authors’ imaginations will be “downloaded” into readers’ minds. Again, despite my personal reluctance, it’s hard to disagree that more efficient communication of ideas is likely to be the direction of travel.

The anecdotes about working on the Kindle project which are intercut into the story gave a little insight into the project, and were described with passion and enthusiasm yet were not overdone. They provided a valuable grounding to offset the flights of futurology, and I think the combination worked rather well.

I should point out that the book includes interactive “bookmarks”, which are conversation-starters linked to Jason’s website. Because I read this book pre-publication, I didn’t use these, so can’t comment on how well they really worked. The questions posed often provided food for thought, regardless of the fact that I didn’t discuss them with others online.

All-in-all, this was one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read for a little while. It may be hard to categorise or capture in a nutshell, but it was nonetheless thought-provoking and engaging. I’d certainly recommend it.


Burning the Page is available now from amazon.co.uk, in paperback and on Kindle.

This post was filed under: Book Reviews, .

Weekend read: The Golden Arches of McModernism

My recommended read for this week is a Jimmy Stamp piece from the Smithsonian‘s website, giving a fascinating insight into the history, expansion and architecture of McDonald’s, casting it in a Modernist light. It’s only fairly short, but contains some interesting nuggets of history and I found it rather thought-provoking, examining a familiar concept from a somewhat unfamiliar viewpoint. It is well worth reading.

This post was filed under: Weekend Reads, .

2D: Being late

I’m a stickler for timing. Few things irritate me in quite the same way as meetings starting late, or people turning up late. Punctuality is important, and the busier I find myself the more a lack of punctuality irritates me. So here, I’m presenting two articles on being late.

The first is from National Review, and is a little New York centric. Kevin D. Williamson posits that “wasting somebody else’s time is a great sin”. I tend to agree. I particularly liked his description of the commuter holding open the train doors as someone “who is not in such a hurry that he can be bothered to precede the train to its stop but in such a hurry that he cannot wait three minutes for the next train”.

The second is from Medium. It is Max Strom’s advice from life experience on how to cure oneself of being perpetually late. It starts from the position that riunning late is an problem of “life span management and commitment integrity”.

Strom makes some points that I thought were common to everyone – probably because they are things that I always do. Does anyone really plan to arrive on time for an appointment, rather than a few minutes early? Does anyone really fail to plan to fill up their petrol tank? But, on the other hand, some of the advice is stuff I disagree with: my watch always runs a couple of minutes fast, and my brain falls for the con every time… which is a kind of self-sabotage in itself, as it makes me disproportionately annoyed when people arrive late.

Both of these are great reads, and come highly recommended.

2D posts appear on alternate Wednesdays. For 2D, I pick two interesting articles that look at an issue from two different – though not necessarily opposing – perspectives. I hope you enjoy them!

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