The online news agencies have been buzzing for a few days and today in particular about e-book readers. Amazon’s Kindle 2 is out and this Wednesday, it is expected that a new larger screen version will be announced. Early reports seemed to indicate that this new Kindle was specifically planned to allow the ailing newspaper and magazine industries to resurrect themselves in a digital form.
I must admit that I haven’t seen a Kindle up close and in person, but based on every article I’ve read, it is a very, very cool device. It is limited by being b&w, not supporting a full web browser and limited graphic support. In other words, an upgrade would be needed to allow for larger format material, but also improved image support (format and size). Considering the amount of page real estate devoted to ads, that is a non-negotiable feature for any e-book reader to be successful.
Then word spread that this version of pre-announcement buzz was either wrong or incomplete. As today progressed, reports surfaced of a project with several major schools. This fall students will be given this new Kindle pre-loaded with text books. As anyone who has attended school can attest, one of the dreaded aspects of each new term is the size, price and weight of textbooks. Imagine having one device that downloads each term’s books and you’re good to go! No more lugging around the heavy books, the backpacks, the papercuts…oh my.
Just when it seemed like the Kindle-inspired rumors were at fever pitch and nothing else could happen, it did. Or to be more precise…Apple did. Rumors have been floating around for awhile now that Apple was working on a larger iPod Touch. Speculation has run rampant and that escalated when it was revealed that quite possible this new device would be bigger than the expected Kindle revision and could manage e-book reading. So now you’re talking an Apple device, touch screen, multimedia capable, full web browser, and manages e-books. Well you can imagine the doom-and-gloom crowd already forecasting the death of Kindle (before Amazon has even filled in the picture).
Before we bury Kindle, let’s pause and take a breath. Although there is a general feeling that single-focus devices/products then to lose out to multi-purpose ones, this might be an exception. I agree that the prospect of an Apple product doing all of this is very appealing and would be extremely popular with students. But some commentators have noted that the difference in screen resolution means that an e-book on the Apple device could support more pictures (and in color), the text by necessity won’t be as crisp. By contrast, the Kindle is designed specifically to render text crisply and in black and white. So the reading experience is apparently maximized (please note I’m speaking in the dark based on what I’ve read).
I foresee that both could (and probably should) co-exist and probably fill different niches and for different demographics. One thing Amazon should consider-mass dissemination of the Kindle pre-loaded with as many free books as possible for schools, law books for law firms, medical books for doctors, etc. There are vast numbers of people out there that need a convenient library of text at their fingertips-bells and whistles unnecessary. It’s a green technology that saves trees so that’s always a good thing. Yes I’m an author and “green”-I self publish using a “print-on-demand” publisher (CreateSpace.com) so the only copies of my books exist post-sale.
But it could also be a great equalizer-like the original Gutenberg Press which allowed everyone (not just the rich and powerful or the clergy) to have access to information. People who make e-readers (I know Sony makes one as well so I include them in this-sorry I didn’t mention sooner-still bitter about HD-DVD subconsciously I guess) should find niches like schools, the medical community, law firms, community resource centers, libraries, etc. and ensure they have a stockpile of e-readers for everyone to have access to our collective human library of knowledge. If you love to read as I do, you know how a great book can inspire and free us.
However, things work out, it’s definitely an interesting time to be an author and reader!
Order a copy of my new book Romantic Confessions from the Kindle store – only $2.60