Monday, April 21, 2008

Will it Kindle enough interest?

Santa did not bring me a Kindle for christmas, maybe he was too late to put in the order, since the new electronic book reader from Amazon sold out it's first run in about 5 1/2 hours. But I remain curious about the Kindle and what it may mean for books, book publishing, readers, trees, education and more.

There have been tons of reviews on the Kindle. Some folks hate the design, others love it. Many people are skeptical of the whole idea.

this from techcrunch

It is not as clunky as the FCC picture made it out to be, but it still has an odd retro feel. A mod, over-sized, calculator from the 1970s comes to mind. It is much lighter than a book and comfortable to hold. The large, gray panel on the back covering the battery and SD-card memory slot is rubberized and engraved with letters and symbols from different alphabets throughout the ages, a subtle reference to the tablets that held the first written words. Everything else (other than the text on the screen) is white, which is supposed to help make the device “disappear” so that the reader does not get distracted by anything other than the words on the screen, but it seems like a nod to the original white iPod. The Kindle is essentially an iPod for books, with Amazon’s online book store taking on the role of iTunes.

The Kindle does take some getting used to. I cannot tell if it is supposed to appeal to technophiles or bibliophiles. I think it is the latter (see Bezos’ comments in previous post). Not that the two are mutually exclusive, but the device is more concerned with improving the experience of reading a book than it is with porting over many of the things online readers already take for granted. And that may be its downfall. You can make your own comments on a book or highlight parts of it, but it is not terribly easy to share those notations with others. And forget ever loaning an electronic book to anyone who does not share your Amazon account. The digital rights management [DRM] on the device does not allow it to be transfered.

But, today is Earthday, and as such... I began to think about the trees and paper this could save. That has to be a good thing.

I began to think about the educational portibility and teachabilty this kind of thing could enable. As a former teacher I can see big school system implications in this kind of technology. Think about being able to download college textbooks. Easier, cheaper, less weight in over heavy back packs.

And I began to think about the cool factor.

We need kids in the digital age to read, read more often, read better, read and talk about reading... and it seems to me that something like the Kindle will bridge the gap and make it easy for the internet savvy kids to approach books of all types and genre.

I still want a Kindle, still not ready to fork out the money or wait for ages to get one. (Hoping for my birthday- hint hint) But in the meantime I am keeping an eye on this whole idea, and would like to hear your thoughts as well.