Serendipity: Where Kindle Fails

One of my rights of spring is purchasing the annual Baseball Prospectus, a statistical, and fairly geeky, review and prediction of hundreds of major and minor league baseball players. One of the main challenges in changing apartments twice in 2011 was managing my half-dozen or so editions of the thick book. This year’s edition clocks in at 1.9 pounds and 576 pages. That bulkiness, combined with the fact that I’m trying to travel lighter, convinced me to purchase the Kindle edition this year.

As in most things, in general, the Kindle is awesome– not least for the ability to switch between devices without missing a beat. However, neither my iPhone, my iPad or my 2nd generation Kindle allow me to haphazardly flip through the player summaries the way I used to do with the paper version. Thus, I’ve read the projections for players like Dante Bichette, Nola Arenado and Emilio Bonifacio, as they’re the first players listed for their respective teams. But I find myself discovering fewer nuggets about players who, by virtue of their last name, are listed deeper in their team roster.

Calling this, and most Kindle editions, “ebooks” is misleading. It is a printed book transposed into bits. For instance, Kevin Goldstein’s essay ranking of the top 101 prospects does not link back to the player descriptions earlier in the book. Finally, the statistical charts, the core of the print editions, appear out of sorts on the Kindle. (“It’s horrible,” writes Sarah Wendell in her Amazon review. “The data for the Kindle version displays one column at a time, no headers and no tables.”)

As in most things about baseball, this is entirely irrelevant– my inability to dive deeper into statistical projections of baseball players’ performances doesn’t worry me too much. But baseball is a metaphor, and I wonder what this lack of randomness, what this lack of serendipity, in a baseball book says about the limitations of electronic publishing.

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