Burning the Page: The eBook revolution and the future of reading (25 page)

BOOK: Burning the Page: The eBook revolution and the future of reading
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We don’t know what it was like in Gutenberg’s workshop, of course. But we can imagine the darkened interior, perhaps see the lampblack and soot. We can imagine the sounds of molten metal being poured into molds or the occasional scream as someone scalds himself, a spattle of molten metal on his skin, or perhaps it was someone’s finger that got caught in the printing press. We had it easier at Amazon; there were no molten metal mishaps, but we kindled a revolution nonetheless.

What we achieved will have consequences in the decades and centuries to come. But inevitably, Amazon will become just another name in the pages of the history books—or rather, history ebooks. Perhaps in the future nobody speaks of Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs. Perhaps in the future, corporate entities are treated as people and our history is written by the likes of Apple and the Internet Archive and Google. Perhaps history is written about corporations by corporations. And it may well be in such a distant future that nobody really recalls that people like you and me brought digital books to life, that we made this quiet, bloodless revolution happen. That’s fine. We did it, even if nobody else will know about it.

We did it. And I wish that for just once in corporate culture, people took time to celebrate in a human way. I wish that just once Jeff Bezos brought us all together in a big ballroom, everyone on the Kindle team. I wish that just once he said nothing about flywheels, nothing corporate.

I wish that just once we all paused to celebrate what we achieved, that we wordlessly reached out to one another, held each other’s hands, and laughed like children, dancing in a circle. We could put aside our paychecks and all the politics, put aside our differences, and everyone could simply hold hands and pause before bowing to the audience, as this chapter in the history book closes, like a curtain falling over the stage.

And in this dream I have, it wouldn’t just be Amazon people. No, in the ballroom next door there’d another party where everyone from Apple has come together. Everyone who cared an ounce about ebooks and the iPad are likewise celebrating. No more corporate platitudes or PowerPoints, just corks popping, wine flowing, people eating and dancing and laughing and just plain celebrating with all the honesty of early-childhood innocence. And yes, the next ballroom over has employees from Google, and the next one has everyone who worked on the Nook. Everyone is celebrating, everyone past and present.

We all stumbled onto a great thing with ebooks. But we’re all echoes, opportunistic echoes from an earlier time, all the way back to Gutenberg’s time when books as we know them were first invented. In my mind, as visions of ballrooms fade, I can see, out on the landscape beyond, a summer’s afternoon in the 1450s and a ghostly scene of Gutenberg and his workers coming out of his workshop. They come out with ink stains on their hands, smudged fonts on their shirts. Maybe Gutenberg himself has a glass of blackberry wine or a stein of beer, raised now to celebrate the first Bible that started it all, everyone celebrating these thick-inked books that now soar into the clouds.


About the Author

Jason Merkoski was a development manager, product manager, and the first technology evangelist at Amazon. He helped to invent technology used in today’s ebooks and was a member of the launch team for each of the first three Kindle devices. Trained in theoretical math at MIT, he worked for almost two decades in telecommunications and e-commerce with America’s biggest online retailers, and he’s worked with publishers large and small to shape the future of ebooks. As a digital pioneer, he wrote and published the first online ebook in the 1990s. As a futurist, he’s equally at home in Seattle or Silicon Valley, although he’s drawn to the high desert of New Mexico, where he can string up his hammock and stare into the clouds and see ancient petroglyphs.

BOOK: Burning the Page: The eBook revolution and the future of reading
10.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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