Search this site
Other stuff

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

My latest books:


        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Page on Facebook


EdTech Update




« Emotional reactions to the Kindle | Main | Building 2.0 »

An e-book reader to light my fire?

Amazon is supposed to launch an e-book reader named Kindle tomorrow. According to Steven Levy's article The Future of Reading in Newsweek, the Kindle will use e-paper, allow full text searching, hold about 200 books, and have wireless connectivity. Levy's full article is worth reading for it also talks about the potential changing role of writers. The counter-point view of the Kindle at Information Week is also worth a look.

I've been writing about (and hoping for) an affordable and practical e-book reader and its potential impact on schools and libraries since about 1995, So far I've been disappointed. Despite the logic of moving from cellulose to silicon, things have just not moved at the pace for which I'd hoped.

But one thing that excites me about this gadget is not the device itself, but that Amazon reports to have worked out deals with major publishers to sell e-versions of their best sellers for $9.99. This may do for e-books and e-book readers what the $.99 song did for iTunes and iPods. At less than ten bucks, you aren't paying much more for that latest Daniel Silva or Clive Cussler than for an ad-filled magazine. Oh, with its wireless connectivity, a truly electronic version of magazines can be sent to the Kindle as well.

I've always held the hope that e-book readers just might prove to be of real benefit to struggling readers with the potential for truly differentiated reading materials, built in glossaries, text-to-speech synthesis, etc.

I've darned well waited long enough. This puppy better be good. And at $399, come down in price real soon.

Thanks to Will Richardson's The iPod of Reading post for this head's up about these articles. 

amazon_kindle.jpg  Prototype from Engadget Sept 2006. Sorta buh-tugly, unfortunately 

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (9)

I'm not thrilled - for fiction, there's nothing like the book. I'm not just saying that because I'm somewhat obsessive about books, but because the idea of a thin mechanical thing replacing the feel of the weight of the tome, the flipping of the pages, the portability and sharability of a book just isn't working for me.

On the other hand, if this thing can mimic a text book (bookmarking, annotating, highlighting, printing), it'd be a bestseller in schools in an instant. Ditto if it can download reference works for research.

November 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLazygal

Being a perpetual skeptic (cynic? :-), I have some doubts about whether a single-purpose device like this will be successful. When I see how many different functions manufacturers stuff into mobile devices and the fact that people are demanding even more (no GPS in the iPhone!?), I'm not sure there are enough who will buy a "simple" book reader.

However, I'm encouraged by the wireless connectivity that's been added to the Kindle (sorry, that name doesn't evoke the "crackling ignition of knowledge" in my head). Not just for buying more books but also for accessing material on the web. But not just to read text. Can I also post to my blog, watch a twitter stream, and view something on YouTube? When it comes to portable electronics, many of us are getting rather greedy.

November 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTim


And the Amish still don't use zippers, but it's no skin off my nose.

I am guessing many of us will be print users for a LONG time. Levy's point of the device being good enough that the reader simply loses oneself in the reading is the critical issue.

Thanks for the note!


November 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Tim,

I understand your point. Two "alternative" views:

First I am already using a single-use device (a book) for reading, so I don't see this as being a huge issue except for those who really want it all. We already carry books, laptops, PDAs, iPods, cell phones, etc. The one-device-for-everything is still not there.

Second, the swiss-army-knife problem kicks in here - a single device that does lots of things, none of them as well as device dedicated to that task. (Ever try using the screwdriver on your Swiss Army knife?) I'd rather carry two devices that both do an excellent job, than one that does a poor job of both.

Interesting problem!

Thanks for adding the note,


November 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

I'd rather spend my money on an ultra-portable computer than a locked down proprietary machine...something like:

Having experienced Amazon's proprietary PDF books specific to Windows computers, I'm sticking with open access resources.

Take care,

November 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMiguel Guhlin

Hi Miguel,

Because of your post, I nearly bought an Asus eee this morning. But then I remembered I had a OLPC green machine on order, a long Christmas shopping list, and a nasty balance on my credit card already. Your blog may be dangerous to my economic well-being.

The problem with non-proprietary e-book formats may be finding popular titles. If you want to stick with public domain titles, you are OK, but anything that an author (or publisher) wants to make money from will probably be locked up somehow.

Thanks for the comment!


November 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Did some more ruminating here:

Take care,

November 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMiguel Guhlin

How do I Twitter my Flickr photos?

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterenalogo

Hi Text Magician,

I don't know. Have you checked the Kama Sutra? And are you sure it is legal in your state?


September 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>