Thank you for your responses. I can't let go of my Derridean predilections too easily so I'll make one last time my case for seeing your view of Kindle as an economically exploitive technology as deriving from the "infiltrated presence" in your critique of the traditional printed book
I guess I originally took my Derridean cue from Bezos's statement, on the The Charlie Rose Show,that he wasn't trying to "outbook the [printed] book", talking (in some essentialist way) as if it's never possible to deny the books originary status. I still think that's the rhetorical stance taken here both by Bezos and you. I'm not implying that you have hunkered down firmly on the side of the printed book, hoping to show that everything afterwards is a corrupted weaker 'copy' of ideal literacy, but that the case for Kindle being, at least in Bezos's radical pro e-book sense, a necessary adjunct to literacy requires it. If we argue, as Bezos does, that the e-reader fills in the gaps of traditional literacy, then the printed book serves as what Derrida (in The Grammatology,calls an "infiltrated presence". The language of "duplicating", "representation" and even "experience", in your critique, shows me that you've begun from the same essentialist viewpoint, however spotty you may say the case for the primacy of the printed book actually is.
Bezos would probably concede the case for Kindle being, essentially, a "representation" of the traditional printed book plus all of its more interesting technical features. Digitalized texts are an improvement on what's already there. I believe, however, you're sidestepping the crucial representationalist stage of the argument—how does the printed (and digitalized) text mediate reality?—leaving yourself to some untested assumptions the argument makes from introduction of e-readers as improvement on the traditional "codex volume" to the ways in which the former "transform the reading of digital texts into an economically lucrative, value-generating activity."
What are these untested assumptions? (a) The Kindle paraphernalia constitute a weakened "form" of the printed book. How exactly? Why can't I, at least at a pragmatic level, just simply say that Kindle is a book: not a paratext or the sum of its technical accoutrements but book in its traditional sense? The "paratextual" features of e-readers, such as its journal- or daybook-like appearance, "electronic ink", portability,etc serve in your argument as dubious disguises of what are the book's standard uses. Again, the language of exemplar and copy: "codex volume" and Kindle, setting the stage for the way Kindle manufacturers cunningly claim to offer (as Bezos does) an improved technical version of the traditional book.The paradox you've noted does come from a poorly posed problem but I maintain the problem lies with Marxian critics who haven't adequately dealt with the crucial representationalist thesis first. In a word, I don't think without it you can claim that there even is a problem: viz. that we must "resign ourselves to living in a world in which technology leads to incrementally diminished capacities". I won't concede loss of any former readerly capabilities.
(b) It seems natural for you to move from the assumption of Kindle as a poorly disguised book to the more cynical Smythian claim of its "communication commodity" status. Not just an online retailer (from which we began) but data-collecting agency, a "web services provider", Kindle exploits an unsuspecting reading labour market. Data gathering becomes a spin-off industry made possible by the duped e-reader:"excess [surplus] capacity" (EC2 and S3) turned into wealth feeding directly into Amazon corporation. But how is this an exploitation of "life itself"? How does labour as reading freely engaged in become exploitive? Readers naturally attuned to the data-gathering nature of the act of reading cannot be expected to be that naive about corporate intentions. How is the Kindle sleight of hand considered the "form of appearance" when the crucial appearance-and-reality question of the printed book has nowhere been decided?