Forget about The Hangover. The book community need look no further these days than San Francisco’s Green Apple Books and their online videos for the funniest and most clever comedies around, a ten-part series called the Book vs. Kindle Smackdown.
The 8,500 square foot Green Apple Books, co-owned by Kevin Hunsanger, Kevin Ryan and Pete Mulvihill, sells used and new books. Its staff collaborates on and participates in the acting, writing, music and graphics in each short video, under the tutelage of staffer Roman Honeycutt. Narrated by “sportscasters” Nick Buzanski and Stephen Sparks, the series pits books against Kindles in a variety of comic scenarios referred to as rounds. In “The Buying Desk,” a customer with a box of used books successfully sells them for cash with which she’ll purchase more books in the store. A moment later a man with a Kindle in an oversized box attempts to sell his downloaded “books.” He’s turned away rather fiendishly.
When a staff member attempts to sell a Kindle to a customer in “Buying a Book,” the sale appears to be a done deal. Then the customer is presented with a faux Kindle contract to initial and sign before the purchase can be authorized. He’s warned of the Kindle’s electronic hazards, which make it imperative that the customer obtains a signed note from his doctor before using the device. Not only does the customer balk, but eventually he’s found facedown and unconscious over the Kindle.
“We’re thrilled with the kind of support we’ve received for the Smackdown videos so far,” said Hunsanger. The first three spots have received thousands of hits since launching last Wednesday, and have already shown up on Boing Boing and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website. “They’ve greatly exceeded our hopes, and we have seven more to come over the next week. As satire, the videos are very effective in conveying the message about the Kindle’s presence in the marketplace,” said Hunsanger.
Green Apple, which also produces a witty Book of the Month video series on titles such as Little Bee and Conquest of the Useless, isn’t opposed to e-readers and many of their customers already own them. The store doesn't support the Kindle, however. “It’s the proprietary nature of the Kindle that’s troubling, though,” Hunsanger said. "I don't want Kindle on this earth." This thought is demonstrated in another Smackdown video as a customer is shown happily loaning a favorite book to a friend, but is then horrified when the same friend asks to borrow his Kindle.
“There’s no stopping digital reading and readers,” said Hunsanger. “We’re looking at the very birth of this phenomenon. It’s still in its infancy, and I know that within five years the e-book devices are going to take the industry by storm. The point is, reading is good.” As for the Smackdown, the irreverent scoring now stands at the book 4; Kindle 0.