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Review: Burning the Page by Jason Merkoski

Hold up!

See that little date above?

This post was published years ago.

My opinions have changed over time: I think it's quite fun to keep old posts online so that you can see how that has happened. The downside is that there are posts on this site that express views that I now find offensive, or use language in ways I'd never dream of using it today.

I don't believe in airbrushing history, but I do believe that it's important to acknowledge the obvious: some of what I've written in the past has been crap. Some of it was offensive. Some of it was offensively bad. And there's may be some brass among the muck (you can make up your own mind on that).

Some of what I've presented as my own views has been me—wittingly or unwittingly—posturing without having considered all the facts. In a few years, I'll probably think the same about what I'm writing today, and I'm fine with that. Things change. People grow. Society moves forward.

The internet moves on too, which means there might be broken links or embedded content that fails to load. If you're unlucky, that might mean that this post makes no sense at all.

So please consider yourself duly warned: this post is an historical artefact. It's not an exposition of my current views nor a piece of 'content' than necessarily 'works'.

You may now read on... and in most cases, the post you're about to read is considerably shorter than this warning box, so brace for disappointment.

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.

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12:31
8th January 2014.

This post has been referenced by another on this site:
sjhoward.co.uk » Review: The Battle of $9.99 by Andrew Richard Albanese




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