Here we go

I think this is really the beginning.

But as interesting and notable as I think this release is, I have written enough uninteresting stuff about electronic books. I really posted this because I want you to watch for the first text to come up on the reader during the promotional video. Yeah they're thinking about it.

reaction 1) i want one

reaction 2) ive been given pause

i never, ever imagined that i'd want to read books on an electronic device rather than on paper, and i still can't quite imagine wanting to (except for the primer, of course). most of the reviews i've seen so far focus on how it's LIKE a book, i.e. readable and portable (much smaller than many "real" books), and most of the questions people ask (the same questions i have) are to what extent kindle allows you to do the things you can do in a "real" book. for example:

"I can see this being handy, but I’d never give up the smell of a good book. Plus, can you put notes in the margin? Dog ear a page?"

(if anyone has a definitive answer on that, i'd like to know. from what i gather, it's possible, but maybe tricky). the more relevant questions, though, concern how kindle is better than a book, and i'm still not sold. here is the only advantage i can think of:

1. you can store hundreds of books in one book-like device, plus some internet browsing.

is that it? really? i personally don't think it's worth it to have all those books at my disposal. i'm not such a fast reader that i can read more than a book a day, and i find that flipping back and forth between books makes me understand them much less than i would if i'd read them straight through. i really hope that the kindle doesn't do to books what the ipod has done to music, i.e. make it so that people don't have the attention span to finish anything. i do realize that my technological determinism is somewhat unwarranted, but i still don't like the looks of this.

below, stumpy mentions the benefit of immediate access to the meanings of words you don't recognize, which i admit is pretty cool. if i'm away from a dictionary, i try to remember to look up words later, but i usually forget. but seriously, there could be so much more. i know we can't have the primer yet, but what about the memex? why can't it be like that? if i'm missing key elements of kindle, feel free to enlighten me.

the tutorial video for kindle showed you can "dog-ear" pages by scrolling to the top and clicking or something. not like that is in any way similar to the physical dog earring of pages that let you feel your place in the book, instead of only visualizing it. as far as i know you can't write notes in the margins

I was reading Time magazine's best inventions issue (definitely check this out I can't even believe half the stuff in it) and they were talking about the iPhone and how Apple's success is largely due to how much time and effort they put into the design of their products. I am totally a sucker for Apple and I love how sleek, small, and downright sexy all of their products are, and my first thought about the kindle was that it definitely wasn't the prettiest looking device. But I think you're right campagnolo, they really were thinking about it. I love that kindle can be read for 30 hours (that's definitely enough time for me to read a Harry Potter book in one sitting, which I do) and the paper-like screen is fantastic. The key, as Bezos says, is making sure that the kindle keeps e-book reading similar to reading, while allowing even more features. One of the best things about the kindle is the dictionary feature. This is just one part of Kindle's intertextuality. It makes reading so much more accesible, because you have all the references and allusions at hand. You read about a character in a serial novel and you can't remember who they are. "Close" the book and quickly retrieve the information you need from another book by using kindle's search function. This is so hot. So I guess the key is that Kindle isn't sexy like the new iPod touch because Kindle doesn't want to be sexy, at least not that kind of sexy. Kindle is, first and foremost, a book.

hmm just in case anyone didn't notice I meant to point out that Diamond Age was running on the kindle as it is displayed in the video. Definite allusion to the primer. I guess I always thought about design and technology as divine realization as opposed to the systematic accomplishment of an existing vision.

You have to watch the 2min3sec video at the top to see the diamond age, the 6min17sec video at the bottom (which is what I watched) features some book on crime as the first close up.

for $400 a pop I think amazon would have done better to up their sex appeal, 'cuz no one likes an ugly gadget. Oliver Luft says it well:

It looks like a piece of medical equipment. I don't want to be sitting on the bus with everyone thinking I'm some kind of techy hypochondriac constantly monitoring my vital signs.

This video review is really good too, and reveals some bizzare design flaws, like how large and flimsy the page turn buttons are.

Plus, maybe this is a fluke review, but:

The battery is seriously and mysteriously terrible
"Combining a big battery, a display that takes practically no power and a cell phone that doesn't make calls shouldn't result in a device that has less than half the battery life of a cell phone." — Peter Svensson, The Washington Post

Does it have severe limitations? Yes. I also think some of these are intentional. They clearly are thinking of the iPod as a model, and apple has systematically held back features so that they can offer updates, and create a repeat customer base. I think really all amazon wants to is establish brand. They they can introduce color. Then they can introduce touch screens. Then they can introduce a stylus that can takes notes right(write?) on the screen. Then they introduce PDF design. I read somewhere that hardware companies introduce technology that is always three years behind what they have available. Anyone think this wasn't basically ready three years ago?

More interesting. Amazon is sponsoring a search to find the "next great novelist" or something like that. They encourage authors who are not selected to self-publish using their self-publishing software, interface, and format, where they can sell their own electronic product.

I think this is a dual move, into hardware, and into publishing. I think they see the two as inseperable, and I think they are making a savvy move to position themselves as the primary mediator of self-publishing, and as interlocutor for a digitally liberated literature.

But it is ugly and they blew that.

"Is built in e-commerce and social networking really needed in a book?"

Comment by Gary — November 25, 2007 @ 4:04 pm

This is a comment from this article which includes a 13 minute rant. I'm not sure how I feel about the demand for social networking on the kindle. I like the intertextuality of the kindle, but I'm not sure I would want the kindle to network people together. Would you want everyone to see all the books you're reading? I mean what if you're reading some sexual book or a diet book--potentially embarassing. There is definitely value in being able to click to some sort of discussion page about the book, although you can sort of do this on the kindle because you can check out the book's page on amazon.com which includes reviews (not discussions though).

Also, I read on someone else's comment that there is a hacker application for iPhone that can get you free books. I saw someone reading on their iPhone on a plane today and it has great design, but it's too small. The person kept zooming in on their e-mail. Whatever happens to the kindle's design, I think it needs to remain somewhat large. Usually objects get smaller as technology gets better, but I like books the size that they are and I wouldn't want to have to scroll scroll scroll scroll with my hands to keep up with my eyes.

"On the Media" last week was about books and mentioned Kindle...

Some things to take away:

1) Publishing doesn't really work The long tail guy talks about how the publishing industry works for authors 1 through 2000, but the other 198,000 published authors each year get a raw deal. You've gotta believe that Kindle or whatever ebook eventually catches on like an ipod will only push the long tail for books even more than amazon already does. Right now the long tail is a more about the means of distribution than the means of production. This will change and the epublishing that amazon offers with Kindle might be it. Imagine a youtube of books w/ 198,000 authors vs. the 2000 NYtimes bestseller borders crew as hollywood/television.

2) There is Money to be made

Google library, shockingly, helps sales. Sampling on google has been shown to drive sales. It hasn't worked like this in the music industry but so far its been true about books. I think that its because we still like paper. Somebody on the show says its because most students start their research process by typing something into a google search bar unaware of the world of books which organizes most of our formal intellectual output.

Also, books don't have to be so high brow. What if books were free and full of ads? What if certain types of books were free and full of ads? Bestsellers and airplane books get ads and classroom books don't. Of course you can still buy the ad free version.

Medium is the message?
William Powers talks about the physical book isn't going anywhere because of its inimitable relationship with brain functions. This paper is really long but absolutely fascinating and timely. One of the big points is that with the paper book the hands do a lot of really important brain work that your eyes don't have to. Ebook reading asks much more of the eyes and very little of the hands in terms of processing the content. Reading an ebook is a differnt cognitive process, one that may prove useful and common, but it is not like reading a paper book (a fact which contradicts all these kindle ads). Another obvious difference with paper books is that they aren't plugged into the network. This allows for a focused immersion in the book that can never exist w/ the Kindle. Paper's disconnection is one of its most important technologies. These seem like two examples of medium as message.

Ultimately I agree with Powers that digital media is better for newspapers and is already on its way towards displacing them while paper is better for books and though ebooks are useful and should replace airplane and walmart books the paper medium has essential and inimitable technologies (not to mention the personal bias of the literary establishement) that will make it our continued preferred medium. Green paper may need to become more prevalent though.