Written by on June 3, 2009

Sherman Alexie talks himself into a tight spot

621alexie_028mu_final.jpg Alexie is the award-winning author of this fall’s Preface selection, Flight: a novel. According to Amazon’s blog Omnivoracious, he said while participating in an author panel at this year’s BookExpo that when he saw a woman on his plane reading a Kindle he “wanted to hit her.” He said the “expensive reading devices” (the Times‘ words) were “elitist” (his word). Alexie hasn’t yet let his books be digitized, but thanks to the kerfuffle stirred up by his remark, he may be inching closer to allowing it. Since Amazon is responsible for the Kindle, they aren’t exactly neutral in this debate.

As Omnivoracious goes on to note, Alexie may be rethinking his stance on electronic publishing. In this quote from his own website, he refers to the remark as a joke:

In the aftermath of my recent public comments about my fear and loathing of Kindle and its kind, I have received a few dozen amazing, passionate, and compelling emails about the power and beauty of electronic books (and many more hilarious ones questioning my sanity, my morality, my anger management ability, and my writing skills). I have been especially humbled by those Kindle readers who, because of various physical issues, can only read with the machines. While I still have serious qualms about the technology, I have been challenged and emotionally moved enough to take a long-requested meeting with the folks at Amazon and Kindle and listen to their arguments for the machines. I’m on Amazon’s list of most-requested authors whose fiction is not available electronically, so now, thanks to the beautiful emails I received, I will do my best to enter the meeting with an open mind. And I definitely promise that I will not beat up anybody at Amazon or Kindle.

More from Omnivoracious:

And following comments by Kassia Kroszer, among others, Edward Champion (no stranger to rhetorical pugilism himself) took the initiative to ask Alexie to expand on his sound bite, and the result was a more nuanced and surprising exchange (Alexie “loves” both his iPod and Amazon.com, for one thing, but ebooks still cause a visceral reaction):
“People are eager to portray me as being anti-technology, but that’s not the case at all. I think the iPod is as vital as the fork and wheel. So I’m not even sure why I have this strange, subterranean fear and loathing of the Kindle and its kind. I think it’s really about childhood. Books saved my life, Edward. I rose out of poverty and incredible social dysfunction because of books. And all of my senses-sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste-come into play when I think and read about books. Books are tactile and eccentric. An eBook will always be a gorgeous but anonymous box.”

Alexie would probably be happy to know that the library has no fewer than 20 copies of his book, analog.

author photo: Mike Urban/Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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