Convincing People Plastic Is Paper


Amazon just announced its newest Kindle model—there are slight technological enhancements over its predecessor, but the bigger shift is in significant aesthetic changes meant to make the device feel more like a book. But plastic polymers are never going to have to same feel as paper, even if a device can hold an entire library. And that’s a problem for Amazon: to keep Kindle growing, Amazon needs book lovers. At SlateWill Oremus explains:

For all of their conveniences, e-readers have never been able to replicate what people love most about physical books. The smell of an old leather binding; the crisp deckle edge of a new hardback; the way a dog-eared paperback feels in your hand. The way they look on a shelf, or stuffed into your back pocket; the way they show people at a glance what you’re reading, so you can connect with a friend or stranger over a shared affinity—or show off your good taste.

But Oremus also points out that few companies have better data on customer habits than Amazon, and if the company thinks it can sell a $290-pseudo book, it probably can.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →