Update: Nicholson Baker Runs Up Awesome Set of Expenses For New Yorker Kindle Review

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Photo: Photo-illustration: Everett Bogue; Photos: WikiCommons, Courtesy of manufacturers

Because The New Yorker is a print magazine with a vested interest in the future of dead trees, it's easy to see why its editors might be nervous about the Kindle. But just how nervous are they? $3,000 worth of nervous, it turns out! [See update below.] In this week's issue, novelist Nicholson Baker ponders Amazon's e-reader in 6,000 words — but he scored way more than just his article fee. Unless Amazon provided him with free review materials — which, we assume, they did not, since that's not disclosed — he ran up a pretty awesome list of expenses.

Among them: A Kindle 2 ($359), a Bernard Cornwell novel "about ancient Britain" (probably Stonehenge — $8.76), De Quincey's Confessions ($0.99), "several versions" of The Jungle Book (most on Amazon are priced at about $1), James Paterson's Max ($9.99), The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Erotic Romance ($9.99), Michael Connelly's The Lincoln Lawyer (the paperback and the Kindle version, both $7.99), Mari Carr's Tequila Truth ($2.80), Konrad Lorenz's King Solomon's Ring ($9.99), The Cheese Lover's Cookbook & Guide ($9.99), Joseph Mitchell's The Bottom of the Harbor ($13.80), and a subscription to the e-version of the New York Times ($13.99/month).

To prove that the Kindle's screen is incapable of displaying photos and illustrations, even ones in really expensive books, he supposedly buys The Algorithmic Beauty of Seaweeds, Sponges, and Corals ($85.40), Imaging in Oncology ($287.96), and a $1,607 $6,431.20 [See update below!] digital copy of Selected Nuclear Materials and Engineering Systems (the book's charts are "totally illegible," he concludes).

Plus, we're also led to believe that he gets a Kindle DX ($489), a Sony Reader ($270), whose buttons he likes better than either Kindle's, and an iPod Touch ($215), which he ultimately decides is his favorite e-reader after trying a few apps from iTunes (including Eucalyptus, which is $9.99).

Grand total: $2,791.63! $7,615.83

Obviously it probably pales in comparison to one of Seymour Hersh's expense reports, but it does seem a little excessive when Baker admits he only read one of the e-books all the way to the end.

A New Page [NYer]

Update: A commenter points out that the Amazon price for Selected Nuclear Materials is actually $6,431.20, not $1607.80 ($1,607.80 is the amount you save by buying the Kindle edition instead of the physical version), which makes it slightly unlikely the New Yorker would've footed the bill. If Amazon provided Baker with free review materials, it still seems a little weird to us that he would've neglected to mention this somewhere in his 6,000-word piece. In any case, we contend that he got a bunch of really cool stuff. Plus, now he knows how to build a nuclear reactor.

Update No. 2: See Baker's response in the comments.