Far from Complete: Great Books Missing in the Kindle Format
January 26, 2013 - 11:26 pm
I was a slow convert to the idea of ebooks. My wife bought one of the first Kindles, and I couldn’t get past the off-putting appearance of the text on the screen in the Kindle’s first iteration. But then I tried the Kindle app for Windows. And the Kindle app for my Android Tablet. And slowly began to fall in love. I could read anywhere. I could free up space on my overflowing and limited physical bookshelves. I could easily quote what I had just read in a blog post. The idea of being able to carry my entire library with me and having it accessible in locations as diverse as the treadmill at the gym or a seat on an airplane became increasingly irresistible.
But not my entire library, alas. There are numerous examples of books that I’d repurchase in a second to read on my Kindle that simply aren’t there yet. Nor are they available on Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader; I’ve searched.
Off the top of my head, in an ideal world here’s what I’d like to see in the Kindle format. Amazon links are included, if you’d like to get started reading any of these titles now in good ol’ dead tree format — which might be a good idea, as I suspect the wait for some of these might be glacial.
■ Alvin Toffler’s Back Catalog: Toffler’s Future Shock was a huge bestseller when it was first published in 1970. A decade later, The Third Wave, the sequel to Future Shock, would be name-checked by Newt Gingrich during the heady days of the “Republican Revolution” in 1995, shortly after he became speaker of the House, which gives a sense of how the book’s predictions held up in the interim 15 years. Toffler’s War and Anti-War applied the principles of the Third Wave to warfare; Powershift applied them to business. Given that The Third Wave was a pretty accurate prediction of how the Internet reshaped society in the 1990s, if any book deserves to be available in electronic format, it’s this one. Where is it? (For my interviews with Toffler, click here and here.)
■ Profiles of the Future, by Arthur C. Clarke: A quarter century before Star Trek: The Next Generation displayed its first replicator onscreen, Clarke was writing about them in Profiles, along with plenty of other futuristic technology; some we now take for granted (such as the Internet and the Kindle) and others that are still on the drawing board. Again, why isn’t such a forward-thinking book not an ebook as well?
■ Filmguide to 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Carolyn Geduld. Speaking of when Stanley Kubrick’s enigmatic 2001: A Space Odyssey left so many audiences baffled in the late 1960s, co-screenwriter Arthur C. Clarke was fond of saying, “Read the book, see the movie, repeat the dosage.” Right idea, and while Clarke’s novelization of 2001 is available on Kindle, it’s not necessarily the best book for cracking the film’s mysteries. If I had to hand one baffled 2001 viewer the Cliff’s Notes to the movie, it would be Geduld’s book from 1973, which thoroughly charts out the film’s plot and leitmotifs.
The flat-panel news and information devices the astronauts read while eating dinner in 2001 directly inspired the iPad and Kindle. Now that technology has finally caught up Kubrick’s 1968 vision, shouldn’t the book that places them into context be accessible on those devices as well?
■ The Death of the Grown-Up, by Diana West. The subhead of West’s book is “How America’s Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization.” As Michelle Malkin noted in 2007 when she interviewed West on her book, others have written about the increasing child-like naiveté of society, but West was perhaps the first to explain how it has hamstrung our fight in what was once called the Global War on Terror. That we had (have?) a war named after tactics rather than the enemy we’re fighting is due to the GWOT receiving its name largely through a process of elimination, as West noted in her book and the articles that preceded it, as political correctness allows few other choices.