A provocative book that will appeal mostly to futurologists, techies and devoted readers, many of whom will not share...

BURNING THE PAGE

THE EBOOK REVOLUTION AND THE FUTURE OF READING

Merkoski, one of the leading members of the team that developed and launched Amazon's Kindle and the e-book revolution, shares his views on “the future of reading, communication, and human culture.”

The author compares the development of e-readers to Gutenberg's invention of the printing press 500 years ago. Just as the Gutenberg Bible laid the basis for mass distribution of books and the spread of literacy, Merkoski dreams of the creation of pocket devices that can contain the contents of entire public libraries. “Reading has not only been transformed,” he writes, “but also rebooted.” The author attributes Amazon's initial success as a market leader to its ability to create “an easy, seamless customer experience,” as well as its marketing expertise and its pre-existing customer base. Crediting iPads with greater sensual appeal and Kindle with quicker access, in his opinion, the two greatest inventions of the 21st century so far have been Apple's iPhone and Amazon's Kindle. What's lacking is the ability for complex indexing using links. It is Kindle's connection to the cloud that will allow it to become mainstream, writes Merkoski, who foresees a tipping point looming when e-book readers will overtake the printed book and social networking will be directly incorporated into the reading experience. This will allow ongoing collaborative revisions by readers and the original author. Looking further to the future, Merkoski imagines that “linear line-by-line reading” may become “a quaint pastime like butter churning or horseback riding.” It could be replaced by holographic projections and other visuals. Further into the future, the author imagines the possibility of mind-to-mind direct communication, “some sort of high-speed plug that goes into an author's head, some way of taking an author’s imagination and converting it directly into a digital format.” Although he is no longer connected with Amazon, Merkoski does not discuss the current disputes among publishers, Amazon and Apple.

A provocative book that will appeal mostly to futurologists, techies and devoted readers, many of whom will not share Merkoski's love of technology but will find the book interesting nonetheless.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-8883-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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