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Burning the Page: The eBook Revolution and the Future of Reading Paperback – 6 Aug 2013

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 233 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks (6 Aug. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402288832
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402288838
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 15.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,288,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


"A mixture of an insider's tale, quirky analysis and informed speculation about our onrushing digital destiny, told with an appealing ambivalence that should give it a wide readership" - The New York Times

"I could review "Burning the Page" for another thousand words, and still have more to say. This book is incredibly valuable. We've not had much exposure to the minds of those driving the e-book revolution, and to have something to engage and in places disagree with strongly is rather novel." - Futurebook

"Merkoski envisions some specific innovations that are interesting and imaginative." - paidContent

"A provocative book." - Kirkus

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 ancient petroglyphs.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This author of this eBook used to work at Amazon and was apparently responsible for a number of features of the Kindle e-reader over the years before and after its initial launch in the US in late 2007. He talks a bit about that, but not very revealingly on details; it's more that he gives a sense of what it felt like to be working on something that felt like the cutting edge of a whole new technology and whole new era of reading digitally, comparing the revolutionary nature of this change to that begun in Europe by Johann Gutenberg when he printed his first Bible in the mid 15th century (putting monkish scribes out of a job and inspiring the same sort of reaction as eBooks do today from those who say that the new innovations are not "real books"). A digital medium for reading is the fifth main medium after clay tablets (Sumeria, 6000 years ago), papyrus (Egypt, almost as old), parchment (about 2500 years ago), paper (nearly 2000 years ago). Each medium is less physically durable than its predecessor, but more convenient and easier to mass produce. The author sees this as one long evolutionary process, punctuated by these revolutionary breakthroughs. He sees books, in whatever form they may be, as the primary means to transmit information, and the key feature that distinguishes humans from animals (I might add that other forms of culture such as music and art also form part of that distinction).

The author loves all kinds of books - as well as being an evangelist for eBooks, he has thousands of printed books. The beauty of his view is that he moves beyond the sterile argument that either medium is intrinsically better than the other; they are all books, both have their advantages and disadvantages.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Jason Merkoski was on the team at Amazon which developed the Kindle. This book gives insights into how the process of developing the Kindle felt, and gives a personal account of Merkoski’s relationship with books and his ideas of where the medium is going.

These multiple strands make the book a bit of a mishmash of genres, which (no doubt) makes marketing it somewhat tricky. Despite this, I felt that it hung together quite nicely as a whole, though it is undeniable that it reads a little more like a flowing conversation than a planned essay.

Merkoski’s passion for books shines through this volume – not least because of the anecdotes he relates about the difficulties of coping with the number of books he owns. Given his love of books, I was surprised by his level of excitement about a future in which books have changed to the degree that they no longer contain the written word. In the medium-term, he imagines books which are intercut with short movies and games – not so far from what we seen on the iPad today. This fills me with dread, because it seems to me that this limits the reader’s imagination.

Yet, despite my reluctance, I can see that his prediction is probably accurate. Blockbuster books already often have filmed “trailers”. Games with written stories and intercut scenes (e.g. the Professor Layton series) are enormously popular. Convergence between formats can surely only become more common.

And his long-term predictions are still more frightening. With strong overtones of sci-fi, he suggests that authors’ imaginations will be “downloaded” into readers’ minds. Again, despite my personal reluctance, it’s hard to disagree that more efficient communication of ideas is likely to be the direction of travel.
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By Autamme_dot_com TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 8 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback
As you might expect from a book reviewer, one is surrounded by books. Piles and piles of books. Yet the so-called eBook revolution is changing how books are read, whether that is for pleasure, for study or for business. Indeed, this book was provided as a digital file, sent at the click of a mouse button.

Many purists will though scoff at this digital intrusion into a paper world. This reviewer shares the romantic view of paper (until you have to move boxes and boxes of books around!), still enjoys opening a crisp book for a good read and yet finds that one reads more and more things digitally. So this book, looking at the future for books, how we read them and how they are published, written with the critical eye of an insider who was involved with the Amazon Kindle eBook reader from an early stage, was particularly interesting and thought provoking on many levels.

The majority of this book is a clear first-person opinions-and-all look at the eBook world albeit one viewed through the prism of an Amazon worker. A similar book written by someone who had been immersed in the Apple culture might be slightly different. Both with a form of hero worship and pride. Both with true stories and reminiscences but the reader might, from time to time, need to reach for the "objectivity" button and adjust the focus a little. The author is forthright in his views and the reader gets to share in his pride, his success and his sorrow. Short but graphical descriptions about how books were butchered in the long march towards digitalisation before being dumped in the (hopefully environmentally-friendly) trashcan will have many book lovers recoil with horror.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars 28 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Being in the e-moment 19 April 2013
By Sasha Wynski - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is a fascinating read with a lot to think about as to how we ended up with the ebook revolution, where it is going next, and what it all means for readers. One concept traced is the advent of self-publishing mostly pioneered by Amazon that empowers authors. Yet Merkoski notes that Amazon and other ebook reader corporations will ultimately control the reading experience through Nook, phone, or Kindle innovations. Features that were left out of early ebook readers will ultimately surface. Will we have more interactive books, international real time book clubs, dialog with the author, updates and changes, or as Merkoski projects the Facebook of Books. There will be one giant book that has links to all books and so you keep reading and linking, and reading and linking.... That's a little scary.
There are quite a few historical and geographic references sprinkled throughout the book and at times the references seem to wander a little downstream (how books and other types of information got lost) but then the references come full circle and make perfect sense, and add to the overall history and perspective of books, reading and writing. Intriguing features are the interactive bookmarks at the end of each chapter that add to the reading experience and also encourage the reader to share personal experiences and thoughts.
As an educator I have no idea where ebooks and children or schools will go? But there is a positive view of that future in this book - and of course our children are already at ease with electronic devices and their potential.
A great read. A thoughtful read.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Write on! 16 May 2013
By J.D. Evans - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A book about e-books that is insightful, engaging and borderline-poetic.
"Burning The Page" is a wonderfully literate e-book that celebrates ... books.
And words.
And writing.
And the special bonds between readers and writers.
Written communication across the ages and across the most astonishing technological divides.
From johannes Gutenberg to jeff Bezos, from cuneiform to Kindle.
This is a wonderful work of non-fiction that takes us from yesterday's "revolutionary" print-on-paper "breakthroughs" to tomorrow's information-sharing possibilities with an insider's detailed account of how today's e-book devices became realities.
Merkoski knows how to rub letters and words together to make a bright and warming fire that would make every writer before him smile knowingly.
And happily.
Merkoski worked at Amazon where he helped develop and launch the Kindle, the most culture-bending, ground-shaking "publishing" tool since Gutenberg figured out a way to print books using ink, paper and moveable, metal type in the 15th century.
"Burning The Page" traces the arc of written human communication with scholarly thoroughness but also with bright flashes of the author's vivid imagination.
Merkoski covers it all: from glyphs to bytes. And he notes what we've gained - and lost - with every iteration of written communication over the centuries.
"Burning The Page" will be published as a paperback this summer. I'll buy a copy of that version, too.
Because I almost never "go back" and read a digital version of anything on my Kindle.
But an actual "book" sitting on an actual "bookshelf" will speak to me, invite me, remind me.
Reading is magic and physical books are still the magic wands of reading.
Merkoski certainly knows what I mean.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Is a Book My Darling. A Magic Book . . . 5 May 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Burning the Page tells the story about a modern day sorcerer, Jason Merkoski, who spent his life working on the “front lines of the ebook revolution.”

Like FAHRENHEIT 451 the page was burnt, destroyed in the most anarchic invention in the twenty-first century, the Kindle book. To save the page it was deconstructed from atoms, and resurrected to bits.

From paper to zeros and ones. From print to Kindle, and later from bits to bits, conceived on a screen and published onscreen. James Merkoski and the Amazon team quietly changed our lives, and changed a world-wide paradigm that's been the thread woven into our daily life for centuries – the bound book.

It's a narrative about the Kindle-dot-com – Amazon, about “Google, Jeff Bezos, and the ghost of Gutenberg. It's a true story of the eBook revolution—what eBooks are and what they mean for you and me, for our future, and for reading itself,” but mostly it's the intimate memoir of an inventor entwined w/ the memoir of the Gutenberg invention, the book from beginning to present.

It's a love letter written to the book as we've known it and an elegy to it's passing. It's an imaginative glimpse into the new technology that has revolutionized reading and writing books; it is the socialization of books.

Digital books were available before the Kindle; only the Kindle caused a revolution in reading. Before that digital texts were the province of disparate publishers of history books, technical manuals, and fiction books, mostly from established writers like Stephen King. eBook publishing was reserved for the few forward thinkers, sometimes self-publishers, the techno-savvy who, early on, published eBooks in the digital space as a PDF file, a file both awkward and serviceable. The personal Kindle reader, and app, and the flexible-format MOBI file revolutionized eBooks.

The Kindle incarnation proved it could almost displace the much-loved book bound in leather, paper, and cloth with distinct smells and feels, and an almost living presence to bibliophiles. It begrudgingly won us over.

Burning the Page carries forward this astounding history that has happened right under our noses, in writing, story, and a style that begets “pastness, presentness, and futureness, joined by association” tying all these concepts together. It's a complex style that works as best I can describe it.

Amazon Kindle books have breached the “third digital revolution” described by Neil Gershenfeld, “in which matter and information merge”, where things are turned into bits and bits are turned into things. James Merkoski captured a Gutenberg moment in his book just as one epoch is ending and another beginning. Book lovers will not want to miss this one.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking 6 May 2013
By Mary Kate - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As fan of the ebook revolution, I was interested on the thoughts of Jason Merkoski since he was at the ground level of the production of the Kindle at Amazon. This book gives some inside stories about how the Kindle came to be, but is more a discussion of the impact of ebooks on society. It is an easy read and I will probably finish it.

In the book, you can connect with the author and its ebook community through Facebook and Twitter. I find the Facebook page interesting but it is difficult to know where to post comments regarding the actual questions asked by Jason at the end of the chapter. I understand that part of Jason's agenda with this book is to test out connecting with readers but I found the Facebook platform less than optimum. After trying to find a place for my first answer to the query at the end of the first chapter, I stopped posting my answers. The Facebook page is divided into chapters but the questions asked there are different from the book.
4.0 out of 5 stars If you are interested in reading will help create your own insights 4 Sept. 2013
By Robert Anstett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A book about inside the digital world.

This book feels in the first part a bit too much of "inside baseball" sort of story. It tells some things about the start of Kindle at Amazon and how the author took part in that. It is a nice read for what it is but I would have liked to seen that in a different book that went deeper into the actual thought processes behind the many decisions that happened. That would be a very different book than this though.

Burning the Page does gather up some of the ideas that have been talked about with the "digital revolution" for many years and puts them all in one place. For someone who is new to the idea of eBooks this is a very nice overview of the territory already crossed and presents a nice summary of where we might be going in the future.

The difference between here and then and how we get there is not well laid out however. I found this to be a good quick read that anyone interesting in reading should look at.
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