Amazon re-invented the bookstore and how we read; now it’s changing our language

Amazon re-invented the bookstore and how we read; now it’s changing our language October 29, 2013

A priest friend on Facebook notes:

I was in the 2nd grade teaching them the Holy Spirit Prayer: “Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. and you shall renew the face of the earth… ”

So one little one asks: “Father why are we praying the the Holy Spirit gets the New Amazon Kindle?” You cannot make this stuff up!!!!

No, you can’t. Sign of the times?  Oh yeah.  I’d go a step further.  I’d be willing to wager most seven-year-olds don’t realize Amazon is the name of a river, not just an online retail business.

But this is one small part of what makes Amazon amazing: Jeff Bezos and Co. have rewritten the rules and are remaking the language.  “Kindle” is no longer a verb; it’s a noun and a product, and one that needs to be linked inextricably to the word “Amazon.” It’s marketing and branding genius.

Whether any of that is actually good is open to debate.  But it shows how one man’s vision can rewrite the rules and reshape the way we think and the way we talk.

Now Amazon is at it again.

Today, they unveiled their newest feature: Kindle MatchBook.  As the website describes it:

Imagine you bought a book from Amazon 18 years ago… and then 18 years later we made it possible for you to add that book to your Kindle library for $2.99, $1.99, $0.99, or free. What would you call such a thing?

We call it Kindle MatchBook and it’s available starting today.

MatchBook makes it easy to have both the print and Kindle editions of books you love–reread and rediscover your favorites with features like X-Ray, Popular Highlights, and Whispersync on your Kindle or free Kindle reading apps for phones, computers, and tablets.

Kindle MatchBook is available on new book purchases, too. More than 70,000 books have been enrolled so far, including Life of Pi,WoolJohnny Carson, and Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site. Keep checking back, because we’ll be adding more Kindle MatchBook titles regularly.

It sounds too good to be true and, frankly, it is. When I checked, only three of the dozens of Amazon books I’ve bought in the last several years were available in the MatchBook program.

Nonetheless, this is another sign of our changing e-universe.  Paper is so 1990.

Several weeks ago, I upgraded to the newest Kindle Paperwhite e-reader. It gives me the New York Times every morning in seconds with just a tap on the screen, and even has a (still in development) browser that allows me to check e-mails and read the breviary.  (It’s not perfect, and not as easy to read as the books and periodicals you download, but it’s a start.)  But I’m smitten. While I miss the tactile thrill of reading—the feel of the cover, the smell of the paper, the sound of the page being turned—the reading experience is effortless. Not only that, it’s easier on the eyes and lighter in my tote bag.

Last week, returning from a trip to Florida, I was browsing a bookstore at the airport and saw all the shelves lined with books waiting to be bought and thought, “Why should I buy one of those thick things and lug it around, when I can download it to a small lightweight tablet for a fraction of the price?”

I suspect a lot of people are asking that question.

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