by Timothy Egan
February 20, 2008, 11:40 pm
Every now and then, someone who is brilliant says something stupid — often the result of spending too much time riding a jet stream of high praise. Steve Jobs, the co-founder and chief executive of Apple Inc., did such a thing last month when he all but declared the death of reading.
Asked about Kindle, the electronic book reader from Amazon.com, Jobs was dismissive. “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is,” he told John Markoff of The Times, “the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year.”...
But reading? This year, about 400 million books will be sold in the United States. Overall, business is up 1 percent — not bad, in a rough economy, for a $15 billion industry still populated by people whose idea of how to sell books dates to Bartleby the Scrivener.
Jobs was prompted by the excitement over Kindle, the $399 electronic book reader that shows signs of being a blockbuster for Amazon.com; demand is much higher than supply, according to the company.
Paper or plastic, it doesn’t matter what form the book takes. What is timeless, Steve, is story, and that’s why people will never stop reading. I loved Sara Rimer’s piece in The Times about how immigrant children were taking to “The Great Gatsby,” the perfect novel about the tragic side of the American Dream.