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Emotional reactions to the Kindle

I was somewhat surprised by the rather negative and emotional reactions many in the blogger community had to Amazon's e-book reader. You'da thunk somebody was suggesting that lovable old grandmothers were being replaced by Satan, or something.

The Valleywag blog does this little comparison


I suspect that had the the author of the chart above been writing in 1907 instead of 2007, it may have looked something like this:


Other folks have been fussing that the device is a single-function machine; that it uses a proprietary format (and one would have to actually pay for creative content); and that it can't re-gifted at Christmas to the brother-in-law, etc.

I suspect many people will be unable (or unwilling) to make the switch from cellulose to silicon readers. I suspect both better technology and better content distribution/remuneration schemes are just around the corner.

But what many of us fogies are forgetting is that IT IS NOT ABOUT US. I find it ironic that the Kindle release and the knee-jerk reactions to it were made the same week as the latest report by the National Endowment for the Arts that decries the decline in reading by teens:

1. Young adults are reading fewer books in general.

• Nearly half of all Americans ages 18 to 24 read no books for pleasure.
•The percentage of 18- to 44-year-olds who read a book fell 7 points from 1992 to 2002.

Could it be that kids read, they just don't like reading on paper? Be a shame if our own preferences, predjudices and quibbles related to book format discourage reading by the next generation.


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 


Building 2.0

It was with great delight that I read Jeff Utecht's Thinking Stick post, Tech Plan Part 4 – Implementation, He had taken and IMPROVED upon an old model of tech planning I had written some time ago. Read all his posts on tech planning. They're great.

While I am still unsure about some Web 2.0 tools like Twitter and Facebook and Ning (being a slow-typing, slow-moving, slow-thinking geezer), I am sure the ease with which professional sharing, reaction, and knowledge building has tremendously improved because of a more interactive web.

And it is fun to think that I am able to corrupt a new generation of tech leaders like Jeff. 

From The Thinking Stick blog...