PRESENTATION: Authorized Fan Culture and the Kindle

July 3rd, 2013 § 0 comments

Abstract: The Kindle has been strongly established as one of the market leaders in e-reading technology since its launch in 2008. This has been facilitated by both Amazon’s existing market base and the willingness to allow their proprietary book format to be read on multiple devices, as long as the reader uses Amazon’s proprietary Kindle app. As with the book, readers were offered a space to annotate their texts and highlight interesting passages. While these annotations were traditionally only shared in print very slowly through passing books around, the Kindle offered an amplification of this process, allowing popular highlights to be seen by any interested party. More recently, Amazon’s acquisition of the “editable book encyclopaedia,” Shelfari, has begun to transform the authorized interactions one can have on an e-reader, making e-books a more explicitly social object. This shift towards the social has always been part of Amazon’s plans for the Kindle, since one has always been able to connect to annotations from Wikipedia or the Oxford Dictionary of English, resources built through collaboration. There is also a chance to tweet quotes or post them on Facebook. All these interfaces explicate social connections that have previously been invisible and offer rich new resources for the empirical study of reading.

Despite the potential benefits for these new integrated interfaces, this paper will question how they transform and potentially limit the ways in which people engage with literature and the (e-)book. The user annotations are easy to use and appear to be authorized through their appearance in the official Kindle app. Therefore, to what degree are users going to want to engage with further reading outside of official app? To what extent will these annotations be verified for truth, rather than being checked for being non-offensive? The margins of the E-Book, as exemplified by the Kindle is a deeply contested space, where a lot of promise of the early hypertext movement could finally be realised, but much depends on the potential hegemony of systems such as the Kindle’s integration of Shelfari annotations.

“Authorized Fan Culture and the Kindle.” Resurrecting the Book. November 2013. Library of Birmingham

Comments are closed.