Saturday, November 24, 2007

Kindle— eBook reader or Web 2.0?

For roughly a decade, eBooks have been available. The number formats has grown as has the number of devices upon which to read them. Unlike video games, which went from Pong on the Atari to Halo on the X-box 360, neither the media nor the device(s) has fulfilled the expectations of buyers. The most common technologies, which include the still available eBookwise and Sony Reader, have a new competitor,’s Kindle.

The new gadget is about the size of a trade paperback; it has the same readable, almost magical screen as the Sony Reader; also, it has a wireless access which is used by cellphones to a huge selection of titles, some 90,000, via Amazon (no computer needed.) Amazon has managed to secure agreements with most of the major publishers for content, stating that 90% of the NYT bestseller list is available for the Kindle. Many periodicals are also available for low, monthly prices. Could this be what the iPod and iTunes has been for the music world? Perhaps, but I see three downsides to this new effort: it is rather expensive to buy the machine and its content, the screen isn’t backlit for reading in the dark, and it is ugly— really ugly.

That said, I still think this is an interesting development. Right on Amazon’s website, authors are encouraged to make their stories available for the Kindle. No publisher needed. That, by gosh, does intrigue me. Amazon’s new gadget might do away with conventional publishing— no printers, paper, ink, wholesalers, salesmen, managers, truck drivers, or bookstores. Even editors would be optional for some writers, which should mean less cost for readers and more income for writers. With all that in mind, I mentioned the Kindle in a message posted to my publisher’s Yahoo group. Please remember that this is an eBook publisher, so you’d think these folks would be interested in this new gadget. Only one author responded, and that one was concerned about the price. None of the other list members (230 or so) responded to my query, which may mean that a Yahoo group is dead as means of online communication, or it may mean that this is not the device which will bring out the benefits eBooks to the book-buying public.

I remain positive about present and the future of eBooks. Currently, I use a Palm as an eBook reader, and mine has some 80 books and short stories on it, but I recognize that this device is the VCR of pocket sized computing. Some are still around, but it’s on the way into oblivion. Apple’s iPhone, the various iterations of Blackberry, and other gadgets have been infused with that hard to define but easy to recognize characteristic— cool. The Kindle is not yet cool, but it is a step toward the future. Indeed, the word kindle means to start (a fire) burning, to stir up, to bring into being and to catch fire. Interesting name, now isn’t it?

When I was a kid, there were record stores in just about every town. Now there are virtually none, and the ones which do exist sell accessories for the iPod. Watch out, Barnes and Noble, something has begun which just might burn you guys.

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At Dec 9, 2007, 10:41:00 PM, Blogger Sun Singer said...

I wrote a post on one of my blogs about Kindle as well.

The price alone will keep me away from the product; plus, I'm too set in my ways to remotely consider reading novels on a screen.

That said, it's an interesting development. If Amazon takes over the market with this, then we'll all have to play their game until the antitrust boys talk to them in the same way they bugged Microsoft: they have proprierary hardware and software.

If they don't corner the market, that's a problem for people with other readers and/or other books.

If they fail, it's a problem for all the people who have Kindles and stuff they can only read on a Kindle.

Needless to say, I'm biased against reading fiction this way, so maybe I'm looking for weeds where there aren't any.


At Dec 11, 2007, 2:19:00 PM, Blogger Pamela J. Dodd said...

Oh, I really like eBooks, so that isn't a problem for me. The device doesn't have that "amazing" design aspect that an iPod has, so the price does seem inordinately high.

I really think the connectivity is the thing that sets this device apart. Imagine having a whim to read the New York Times and being able to download it in seconds. That really is cool, and cool is what determines price nowadays.

I'll have to hop on over and check out your comments on this device.



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