Top Ten Reasons Why the Kindle Won’t Be an iPod for Books

A little sidebar to our previous post that wonders whether Amazon’s Kindle can revolutionize the book industry

1) When you buy an iPod, you can transfer all of your current music onto it. With Kindle you have to start buying all new books.

2) The paper-form book (aka “dead tree version”) is still the best technology for reading: fully portable, a nice thing to own and put on shelves, great for sharing, good in bed, at beach, etc. If you lose it or get it wet, no big deal—easily replaceable.

3) Music has constantly found new formats that improve on the old. Same for the iPod. It’s unquestionably better than that bigger, skipping CD player. Books haven’t been able to improve on the form for centuries.

4) Holding 100 albums in your hand is great. Holding 100 books? Not as much.

5) How often do you really go away for so long that you need 10+ books? (Bookstores are everywhere.)

6) Kindle is too expensive (see #1) and too big.

7) Books take much longer to consume, don’t work well in individual (shuffled) parts, and we often only read them once.

8.) Now that you can carry music on your phone, and the iPhone has bundled music, email, internet, and telephone in one small size, is anyone really willing to buy a bigger iPhone or Kindle just to read books on it?

9) Most of us spend more time listening to music than reading. We just do; it’s easier to do while we’re involved with other things.

10) Books: they’re better!

Seth Harwood podcasts his ideas on the publishing industry and his fiction for free at sethharwood.com. He is currently figuring out how publishers should best approach the new, emerging e-book market. Hear his ideas in his latest Hot Tub Cast™ and read them here soon. His first novel is JACK WAKES UP, in stores now.



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  • lou

    I agree, the Kindle won’t be the iPod for books. But there is a need for one. I’m a book nut and can’t stand not having something to read. I have to give it some thought and effort to make sure I have enough reading materials on week long trips.
    I know train and bus commuters who read 100 books / year. They have to schedule time to go to the library or used book store. They would love to download an ebook from the library.
    When i go out for the day i take my glasses, iPod, phone, and a book. I need a little bag for all the stuff. It would be great if all that stuff could be combined.
    I know i could get an iPhone but I can’t afford the service plan.
    I’m looking forward to an iPod, cell phone, e-reader combo with a bluetooth headset built into photo-gray glasses.
    I think someone already said it but the big market for e-books is college textbooks. I think it’s got to happen there first and then migrate to high schools. Once you already have a reader you’re more likely to buy a e-book.

  • http://sethharwood.com Seth Harwood

    You make good points. One of the things I thought the Fast Company article said very well was how much it makes sense to bundle e-books with everything else, more than to have a separate piece of hardware for it.If that means that Apple’s going to be the one to bring e-books into major use, then so be it.

    My current thinking is to figure out how the publishing industry can get ahead of this movement to take books into e-books on their own terms.
    I don’t think they’ll get “napstered” (see this article) but something’s got to give!

  • Kurt Roithinger

    though i’m bound to regret this exercise, let me respond to each point raised:

    > 1) When you buy an iPod, you can transfer all of your current music onto it. With Kindle you have to start buying all new books.

    certainly some truth to that. however, this sort of thing is the case for ANY ebook reader, not just the kindle.

    > 2) The paper-form book (aka “dead tree version”) is still the best technology for reading: fully portable, a nice thing to own and put on shelves, great for sharing, good in bed, at beach, etc. If you lose it or get it wet, no big deal—easily replaceable.

    well, ok, i was stunned by this. mainly, because it’s so damned silly, i really had to wonder if this whole list wasn’t just a joke.

    fully portable? carry around even the abridged OED much lately?
    nice thing to put on shelves? sure. until you realize that the majority of your living space is nothing but book and CD/DVD shelves. at that point, not so much.
    good in bed? truthfully i find reading with the kindle in bed to be far better than most any dead tree editions. no problems with larger books, no issues with accidentally losing you place.

    losing it or getting it wet? total strawman. if i get some of my existing hardcopy books wet, it’d be something akin to a tragedy to me. if i lost or broke my kindle, i’d have it replaced (yay! insurance!) and re-downloded and that’d be that.

    > 3) Music has constantly found new formats that improve on the old. Same for the iPod. It’s unquestionably better than that bigger, skipping CD player. Books haven’t been able to improve on the form for centuries.

    you live in a society where some people still think 33.3 LPs are the pinnacle of sound. the internet has been awash with arguments pro and con about the shapes, forms and sizes of digital media for years. ‘unquestionably’ isn’t a term i would even remotely associate with this sort of thing. in fact, there are PLENTY of questions in regards to them improving upon fidelity of sound. thus your argument is reduced to how much more portable and easy to to store and manipulate digital audio media is. i would assert that the same could be said for ebooks vs. dead tree editions, but that is something you seem to poo-poo above. go figure!

    > 4) Holding 100 albums in your hand is great. Holding 100 books? Not as much.

    which, of course, is in fact an argument in favor of a e-book reader like the kindle.

    > 5) How often do you really go away for so long that you need 10+ books? (Bookstores are everywhere.)

    bookstoreas can be anywhere. good book stores that carry a section that caters to the stuff you would most like to read — not so much. btw, 10+ books in a week or so? not terribly uncommon for me.

    > 6) Kindle is too expensive (see #1) and too big.

    can’t really argue the price much. i really think amazon should consider a non-whispernet edition for like $99 that doesn’t have the wireless feature (which is what the big upfront price is most likely paying for) and just uses your PC to transfer books on and off.

    too big? seriously, have you even bothered to use one at all? it’s smaller and lighter than most paperbacks published these days. if you wanna drag the DX into all this, fine. but to me, that’s really a device for a whole different market mindset.

    > 7) Books take much longer to consume, don’t work well in individual (shuffled) parts, and we often only read them once.

    ok, so if we only read them once, what’s the point of buying and keeping books and putting them on our bookshelves (see #2)? so we can point to them and say ‘yeah, i read that’? ugh. plenty of people out there re-read stuff all the time, so really, this is a non-starter.

    do books take longer to consume? for the most part, i’d agree. some albums have required me to listen through them multiple times just to sort of get at the core of my like or dislike for them, but that’s besides the point. books tend to be a bit more cumulative — after a while you’ll either press on or stop. that said, the lack of a shuffle play for books is a bit baffling. i know plenty of people who enjoy reading 4-5 books concurrently, based on mood and whatnot (i’m not one of them), but you know what else doesn’t work well with shuffle play? video content and games.

    shuffle play really is something that works best on a music player, first and foremost (imo) and thus not something you can really ding any other media with.

    > 8.) Now that you can carry music on your phone, and the iPhone has bundled music, email, internet, and telephone in one small size, is anyone really willing to buy a bigger iPhone or Kindle just to read books on it?

    this, imo, is a very good point.

    i’d argue there are some other factors at work here (f.e. i can’t read on backlit screens for any given long period — which made reading ebooks on my winmo PDAs damn hard — no such problem with epaper, though), but amazon does make a kindle app for the iphone. if that winds up being the way to go — well, so be it. personally, i’m not terribly big on putting all my eggs in one single basket, but that’s just me.

    > 9) Most of us spend more time listening to music than reading. We just do; it’s easier to do while we’re involved with other things.

    true! however, i’d argue that on the whole, we tend to read an awful lot each and every day (i had to read this article, f.e.!) and thus, for those who *DO* read in prodigious quantities, a dedicated device to make that whole process a smidgen easier might have a place.

    after all, we probably listen to music more than we watch TV, and yet somehow VCRs and DVRs didn’t go the way of the dodo either.

    > 10) Books: they’re better!

    better than what, exactly? every book on my kindle is just that — a book. a book, whether it’s made of paper or electrons, in it’s core nature still is the same thing: a container source for information so that said information be able to be transferred from one individual to another in a highly accurate format. hardcopy or e-copy doesn’t really make much of a diff in all that and so stating that one format might be better than the other is just subjective. both get the job done, period.

  • Linda

    I bought Kindle v2 last month to help with the reading associated with my studies. It is excellent. I use third-party software to convert my library of PDFs to Kindle’s format. Currently it holds about 10 academic-level books that I am reading. I can make notations and save blocks of text into RTF files. As I live outside of the US, the Kindle’s download agreement with Amazon is irrelevant. I like the Kindle much more than I expected. I spent much time comparing other e-book readers (Sony, BeBook, Illiad, etc) and am pleased with the Kindle. It’s new price (US$300) also makes it one of the lowest cost e-readers on the market. Just my two cents worth….

  • Mike

    Seth,
    I agree whole-heartedly with your sentiments. I just wish it were all true! Even if the Kindle doesn’t take off the way the iPod did, electronic books will soon cause serious damage to the traditional book lover’s infrastructure — independent bookstores and even large chain bookstores — so that eventually, as with newspapers, it will all collapse. Another thing that really worries me: As “tethered media,” electronic books are only licensed for use, and not purchased, so they can be deleted or redacted by the license provider — or some other authority. Sure, bookshelves take up space, but at least our old libraries can’t be remotely zapped out of existence! 1984 indeed.

  • Kurt Roithinger

    woe is me! ebooks are tethered media and all these evil corporations will someday pull all our media and five seconds later, the sky will indeed be falling.

    alas, my tinfoil hat is in the shop this week, so sadly, i’m not buying into this whole concept much.

    the first suggestion in these matters would be to revisit the wild west era of digital audio media — where DRM formats were just tripping over themselves trying to establish supremacy that would install them as a sort of permanent market leader.

    the whole notion of DRM’d media was enough to entice some of the big music labels to sign on with places like itunes and before long, the medium achieved critical mass. woohoo, etc.

    at no time along this route did the public *EVER* get terribly fond of DRM’d media and thus, when amazon kinda got it’s own critical mass with it’s non-DRM mp3 store, the writing was on the wall, plain for all to see. the only DRM schemes that have been able to sorta hang around at this point are the rental schemes (like the zune pass, f.e.)

    does anyone SERIOUSLY think it’ll be any different with books?

    eventually, a critical mass will form (whether it is from within the apple or amazon camps matters little — though i wouldn’t be at all surprised if they don’t wind up collaborating on this one rather than compete) and once it does, the public desire for non-DRM will gradually take over and displace the various schemes in effect now. if this sort of stage doesn’t come to pass, then the whole ebook issue is kinda moot, because it’ll forever languish in mediocrity.

    so, is tethered media something we all should worry about? not really. we’re simply looking at a content delivery platform in its infancy and as such, it has issues that need to be worked out and an evolutionary path that we ought to expect it to take towards eventually achieving broader acceptance.

    the whole kerfluffle over amazon removing the illegally sold copies of ’1984′ to me were more about the poor communication displayed and assessments made. there were plenty of better ways that they could have handled this — but they didn’t. i hope they learn from this when the next issue comes along. of course, we could just simply stick to this mantra of ‘all corporations are evil and really want to do nothing more than screw their customers’ and fearmonger the issue into infinity.

    bottom line, tethering and other DRM issues are simply transitory states that exist now but probably won’t exist forever. best we all can do is work hard on making sure that the next state is achieved sooner rather than later.

    a note on the changes in infrastructure faced by a bibliophile…

    there is one area where the book industry is kinda heading towards a sort of e-book armageddon — and it isn’t in the book retailing sector. imo, the field of publishing is in for a pretty hefty set of changes if ebooks take off. with the cost of publishing effectively being dominated by the cost of print and the cost of promotion, building a content platform that eliminates one and changes the focus of the other can only be a big thing in the long run. now, one might argue that printing is only one part of creating a physical copy of a book — and tis is very true. but it is equally true that the tools necessary to format an ebook are pretty ridiculously easy to get and use these days. creating a nicely formated e-book in some instances can be done from within a simple word processor (word, open office…dunno about google docs, but wouldn’t surprise me.)

    promotion would becomes the responsibility of the author and usually is done by growing a community fo fans. in this regard, things could be very similar to how musical artists broke away from major labels and started self promoting and self-publishing and suddenly started making more money than ever before. there really is something to be said for being in total control of your creative endeavors.

    however, one service most publishers provide that (again, imo) will be hard to replace or replicate, is that of a good editor. now, not every publisher has an abundance of these individuals, but when you do find a good one, they can work magic (conversely, a bad one can pretty much ruin you.) it wouldn’t surprise me if before long people set themselves up as freelance editors who will grammar or structure consult on a manuscript with you via the internet for sensible rates. who knows, maybe such things exist already (i’m kinda snobbishly discounting editing-by-committee in a wiki-like setting — i just never had much faith in editing by committee. if it works for others, though — fantastic.)

    but again, publishing is the one area where the infrastructure stands to change the most if ebooks ever take off and proliferate. we could see authors making deals to just publish their manuscripts directly to an ebook platform and we could also see an influx of people who otherwise would never have been published via conventional means but who grew their fan base organically and then just release an ebook to take things to the next level. all these scenarios should cause a pretty sizable upheaval in the book publishing world. retailing imo pretty much already went through its bloodbath phase with the emergence of discount internet retailers, which pretty much undermined/killed the effectiveness of the smaller chain book stores. larger brick & mortar stores will probably keep on keeping on for a generation or two, but realistically, their fate is kinda sealed now, whether ebooks ever take off or not.

    local used book stores (imo) have better long term prospects and will probably be around long after most of us are dead and buried. after all, used record stores might have consolidated some of the last two decades, but they still exist for the most part.

  • http://www.johnconnell.co.uk/blog/ John Connell

    I suspect you’re right about the Kindle, specifically, but you are almost certainly wrong about a killer e-book reader that is surely just around the corner. It will be open, non-proprietary, easy to use, easy to carry, and cheap (ok, maybe the last will take time).

    Most of your reasons simply don’t stack up, I’m afraid. For instance (#4 & #5) – I would love to be able to carry hundreds of books with me on holiday, when I’m working, whenever, wherever. Why? Because I rarely read a book from cover to cover (I read few novels and lots of non-fiction) and I like to dip into my books (I have thousands of the things at home) for ideas, for reference, to support my own thinking etc.

    Most of the remainder of your reasons are equally uninspiring, I’m afraid.

  • Mike

    I’m sorry, Kurt. My tin foil hat was securely fastened but apparently I had wandered off without taking my medication. I’m glad you’re so fearless. Perhaps the “kerfluffle” over Amazon’s remote deletion of books was, as you say, “more about the poor communication displayed and assessments made.” Like the kerfluffle in Iran, where the government blocked access to the internet. Poor communication indeed. Or in China, where they have been selectively blocking websites for years. Your fearlessness inspires me, Kurt. Anyway, why NOT delete Noam Chomsky? That annoying bastard.

  • http://sethharwood.com Seth Harwood

    Wow! Some great comments here, all around!
    Yes, there’s definitely some tongue-in-cheek aspect to this list so if some of you found humor in it, then good.
    Otherwise, I find it really interesting to see these comments and defense(s) of the Kindle. It helps me see the bigger picture in publishing to hear from those of you who’ve come to love your kindle. Interesting.

    I do wonder whose opinions define the popular feeling, though. To be sure, even the Apple Newton must’ve had some devotees, but the question I mean to ask here is whether the Kindle will ever have the full reach of the iPod adn therefore enough to really change the face of the publishing industry and be able to set prices for e-books.

    I should admit that iPod reach or not, I think the day is coming for the Kindle/e-books and the publishing industry needs to accept it. Time to start making plans for how to work with that reality instead of putting it off and hoping it doesn’t come.

    I still think the “Napstered” article from Slate last month (http://www.slate.com/id/2222941/) is extremely relevant, and the pricing stance that publishers have adopted (price-points need to stay at $15/$25 for ebooks) can’t last. The question becomes, “How will they handle it? Will they be proactive, or let things be done TO THEM like the music industry did?”

    Last thing: if we can debate that LPs are still better than MP3s, we can debate/argue ANYTHING! Let’s face facts: MP3s are now the dominant format. If paper-print books go the way of the LP, that will be a huge defeat for the publishing industry.

  • Kurt Roithinger

    > I do wonder whose opinions define the popular feeling, though. To be sure, even the Apple Newton must’ve had some devotees, but the question I mean to ask here is whether the Kindle will ever have the full reach of the iPod adn therefore enough to really change the face of the publishing industry and be able to set prices for e-books. I should admit that iPod reach or not, I think the day is coming for the Kindle/e-books and the publishing industry needs to accept it. Time to start making plans for how to work with that reality instead of putting it off and hoping it doesn’t come. I still think the “Napstered” article from Slate last month (http://www.slate.com/id/2222941/) is extremely relevant, and the pricing stance that publishers have adopted (price-points need to stay at $15/$25 for ebooks) can’t last. The question becomes, “How will they handle it? Will they be proactive, or let things be done TO THEM like the music industry did?” Last thing: if we can debate that LPs are still better than MP3s, we can debate/argue ANYTHING! Let’s face facts: MP3s are now the dominant format. If paper-print books go the way of the LP, that will be a huge defeat for the publishing industry. <

    tape was once the dominant format in that segment. if printed books go the way of tape — THAT would be scary.

    as i noted before, i think printed books are pretty much on their way out and change in the publishing industry is sorta inevitable at this point. the question is how long and when it’ll all be fully realized.

    that said, i kinda doubt printed books will ever fully go away — they simply will morph into a different market space from what they have now.

  • Allison Williams

    For all the reasons you mention, I love the iTouch for reading: lightweight, pocket-sized, no monthly fee (only need wifi to download, then you’re independent.) Screen is backlit, page turning is smooth and without distraction. I currently am reading 4 different books from the iTouch, depending on my mood. Just the way I have different print books going for different reasons. I have downloaded free books but I’m also willing to pay. Someone gave me a good tip that often the price of a new e-book drops on Amazon as it becomes more popular so I have rarely paid more than $9.99.

  • Alex Levy

    These are fairly flimsy “reasons.” Why would you want another copy of a book you already own? Obviously, you haven’t checked out the Kindle 2, which is considerably smaller than most books. While you can read a book almost anywhere, try reading one in the sun. A definite nuisance, and again, I much prefer the Kindle with it black type on grey background. And so on and so on… None of this should be interpreted as an I-pod put down. But try finding your page after you’ve recharged the device. The Kindle definitely has its place, as does the I-pod, and as does the book. To match one against the other is a silly waste of time.
    Alex

  • Carol A

    I have to say I agree with Kurt – and I am old enough to remember all these arguments about vinyl record and CD’s. Not too many shops selling these around are there? And mainly the “classy” end of the music recording industry, classical and jazz. Of course there will always be a market for attractive books, but for academic reading an e-book reader is the way to go. Try lugging around 10 textbooks and you will also be an ebook reader fan!
    I also like to read a selection of books, often reading 4 or more at once. I just can’t wait to get my hands on an ebook reader, but not a tied in one like a Kindle. Bebook reader or similar sounds better to me.

  • Hanoch

    Mr. Harwood is absolutely correct. There is virtually no practical purpose for the Kindle.

    A book is just as convenient to carry and generally can be obtained for less money (or free from the library). Furthermore, the Kindle has an extremely limited selection of books, which is a major drawback. If it is important to have a book available in electronic form for a train ride, waiting on line, etc. an iphone or blackberry fits the bill without having to carry multiple devices and doling out an additional $300 for the privilege.

    The Kindle is nothing more than a device for gadget-lovers. There is nothing wrong with that; just don’t attempt to suggest it has any significant practical purpose.

  • rose

    even the name kindle evokes images of books burning in the wake of the new technology…not going to happen. there’s an interesting story about e-reader names over here:

    http://onthebutton.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/books-are-so-yesterday/

  • alex

    reason #11, the name “kindle” is terrible. there’s a good post about the name of electronic readers here: http://onthebutton.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/books-are-so-yesterday/

  • Nis Baggesen

    Personally I’m very happy with my iRex iLiad eBook reader.

    It is as nice to read on as a regular book, and much preferable to backlit screens. I tried Stanza for my iPhone, and while it is certainly a nice piece of software, I found the screen much too small and uncomfortable to read on.

    Also since it can be operated with one hand I find it more practical in a lot of ways, such as reading in bed (yes, that includes any dirty ideas you might get).

    Portability of books matter to me, because I’m usually in the process of reading 5 to 10 books at any given time. I never know what I’ll be in the mood for reading next time, so it is nice to have a selection.

    It is true that I can’t convert my entire library of regular paper books (which I still like, and I still purchase new ones as well) easily to an eletronic format, and that is a shame. On the other hand I know have a comfortable platform for all the great works that can be accessed via The Gutenberg Project, so suddenly I’ve actually started reading the classics. And similarly various pdfs I find – such as scientific articles – have a greater chance of being read, and I waste less paper printing stuff out. As for remote deletion, that is not an issue for me, since I don’t use tethered formats – all the ebooks I buy is stuff I get to download and manage myself.

    Too me the only major downside of ebooks, is that since I’m the only one I know who owns an ebook reader, I can’t easiliy share books (of course some would be DRM’ed so I couldn’t do that anyway, but still).

  • w hostman

    Reason 1: Bogus. Well, actually, for a kindle other than the DX, I’d have to reformat all my ebooks.

    For my sony, however, I CAN scan them, save as PDF’s, and read the scans. I haven’t. But I could.

    Reason 2 & 3: bogus. Paper is readily destroyed by age, bugs, damp, mold, mildew, careless children, etc. But new innovations (color offset printing, for example) have improved books drastically in the last 100 years… and the ebook is a new step.
    I don’t have a kindle. I have a sony PRS505. I find it to be far superior fr actual reading than a book, except when I forget to charge it up. And a new generation could have thin-film solar panels on the back, and render that, too, a non-issue!

    Reason 4: I carry about 250 books around in my PRS500. I carry no more than 5 dead tree books around. I put the pewbook for church on my PRS 500… along with other things that I may use, but don’t want to waste paper on a single use of.

    Reason 5: Irrelevant. I buy most books at home, or at a particular game store. When I ran a D&D game, I had my ebooks from my copy of the Etools CD on my ebook reader. AD&D 2E had 20 books I was referencing that way.

    Reason 6: Bogus. The screen is too damned SMALL, not too big. I want a full 8×10.5″ screen, or at least 7.5×10″, so I can more easily read the 8.5×11″ PDFs I’ve got. And can put the 5×8″ PDF’s up 2pages at a time.

    Reason 7: Most books I’ve bought get read multiple times. If not, they were no good. I’ve got about 170 gaming books, most of which I’ve read multiple times, on my Sony.

    Reason 8: I don’t want my Ebook reader to be my cellphone, nor vice versa; comfort forms are very different. And I want a BIGGER reader.

    Reason 9: The first one to be actually true.

    Reason 10: wrong. I’m about to upgrade to a PRS600 reader, for the search features and annotations. When Sony eventually releases a full-sheet (LTR/A4) reader, I’ll go for that, too. As in, an addition, not a replacement, for the 600.

    So…..

    Why the kindle isnt’ the new iPod? Price, DRM, fragility, and form factor.

    That keyboard is why I didn’t like it; I’d rather have more screen space and a plug in membrane keyboard on the cover. (time to suggest that to Sony…)

    The eInk display is great; Sony made theirs rugged, amazon didn’t.

    Price: Sony came in under. Not by much. But give it a couple years, and prices should drop.

    DRM: It sucks. Especially with Sony and Amazon’s proprietary formats. But Sony realized this and shipped with support for several non-DRM formats on board… including rendering PDF rather than just translating it to a proprietary text-only format.

    My Sony, BTW, reads (natively) BBeB (Sony proprietary), MobyPocket, RTF, PDF, TXT. A 3rd party converter will make non-DRM BBeB from HTML and RSS, and also from RTF, Text, and PDF, if I choose to go that route. Plus, by use of Adobe software, I can authorize for most forms of DRM PDF for native rendering on the sony.

    We just need both a larger machine and a color machine, and preferably a price drop, to make things go POP!

    BTW, Baen sells their novels for $4-$7 in ebook formats, no DRM, and gives permission to share with immediate family. Fortunately, one of my favorite authors is in their stable: Bujold. Niven, too, but not the ones I want.

  • blah blah black sheep

    Much like how the PDA went the way of the Dodo once iPhones became personal organizers, Kindles are too overly specialized as well. While we have audio jacks and headphones for an iPhone, all we’re missing is a visual jack & easily rollable & transportable screen … something that can roll out to an 8×11 piece of paper and plug into the iPhone (or whatever multi-media device you use), to let you see what’s on the screen in a bigger format. They’re working on flexible OLED’s and such. It won’t be long before something like this comes out and makes the Kindle obsolete. All we’re really doing is finding ways to make it more efficient to get information from a device into our sensory organs. The Kindle provides a large screen, but if the iPhone had an accessory that could do likewise, the Kindle would go away. While people first wanted specialized devices (mp3 player, phone, pda), we’ve moved on to having a generic, portable device that can do all of that (iPhone, Blackberry, Pre, etc). All they’re missing is an easy way to increase screen size. Once an accesory comes out to easily do that, then the iPhone will just turn into a portable computer/interface device which we plug into with headphones and screen reader (or optic pipe, if we get to the point where we have a device that can shoot the images directly into our eyes.) Kindle is a niche device which won’t last, since it ultimately can’t compete with an iPhone. When folks leave their house, the iPhone is the most important gadget they remember to take, not the Kindle. (Generalization…there are folks who break that norm, but they would be exceptions, not the rule).

  • http://www.bit-101.com Keith Peters

    Well, over this holiday season, Amazon reports selling more Kindle books than “real” books. I think that with that, and with the B&N Nook selling out and Sony with something in the works, eBooks have actually finally arrived.

    Saying the Kindle is the iPod of books is a flawed comparison when you try to take it to the level you are taking it to. Because a book is not a song, or an album. So when you take the analogy to the point of carrying around x number of books vs. albums, you are just losing the point.

    The Kindle is the iPod of books in the sense that it has become the first ebook reader to become a household word. There were plenty of mp3 players before the iPod, and were and still are plenty with a lot more features. But very few people, percentage wise actually owned one. The iPod revolutionized the scene by being THE mp3 player everyone suddenly had. The Kindle is well on the way to doing the same thing in the world of books.

  • Seth Harwood

    Very interesting, Keith. I especially like your point about kindle being the first ebook reader to be a household word. For all its flaws, I wonder whether the kindle will wind up with that dominance as the iPod has. For my money (and hand-size) an Apple product still just feels better and works more intuitively for me.
    We’ll have to see what develops if/when Apple releases its tablet, something I guess everyone’s waiting for.

    I like the point about amazon selling more ebooks than paper ones over Xmas, but if you step back it stands to reason: for every kindle given, and there were a lot, that’ll lead directly to x number of ebooks purchased. So it works out. I’m not sure yet whether this’ll develop into any kind of larger trend. I will be watching, however!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Great points!

    Seth

  • Richard Prince

    I think the list of 10 items is a lot pretty weak reasoning. I think Kurt begins to get at many of the problems with the “reasons.” Perhaps you are just trying to be funny or provocative… but still it is weak and seemingly uninformed (Kindle too big for example).

    All of the current devices Kindle, Sony eReader, Nook, etc. are severely limited technologies – the first of their type and clearly will be seen as the Palm Pilot PDA or the MPMan and Rio MP3 players. The major and disqualifying characteristic of the Kindle and why it won’t last, in its current version, is that has a Black and White monitor. But that’s just the beginning of its hardware and design flaws.

    The key to the Kindle or any other eReader to come along is not the hardware and just like the iPhone, it is the distribution infrastructure of being able to deliver CONTENT easily, efficiently, and by reducing costs that far exceed the book. Books are NOT easy to get, they are highly physically cumbersome to get into the hands of readers and difficult to distribute, especially if you want something more than just the best sellers and chart toppers.

    Book buyers are constantly just guessing (and often poorly guessing) at what readers want and then begin this incredibly expensive channeling, routing, shipping, storing and inventorying books to very particular markets and readers. Not only is the book itself wasteful of trees, that’s just the tiny beginning of the wastefulness of books getting from the head of the writer into the hands and minds of the readers.

    And we have this overly romanticized notion of the book as a perfectly elegant sensual object we sit next the fire, the beach, the lake and read at our leisure. This is actually a tiny percentage of the normal reader experiences AND it should never go away. But this isn’t the “reader experience” or interactive experience most people have with books. People read books for work, for school, for technical knowledge and instruction and for far more reasons than the ONE and only often cited as the idyllic reason books can’t go away.

    Giving a student a eReader and the ability to download all their books as they go away for college is just as valid a reason for change as a glass of wine, sunset and a leather bound book on the beach for NOT changing. Academic and college text books are extremely limited and outdated because of their distribution network. eReaders will significantly transform educational texts, make them significantly better and more up-to-date, and allow them world-wide distribution by simple download. And eReaders will do this at less cost.

    And for may uses, minus novels and fiction, books will become much more highly interactive, multimedia and connected to the internet. They will allow readers to mark up text, link text, and index their notes adding incredible value that currently doesn’t exist with ink printed on paper.

    I don’t think there is any question that change is here now. The entire publishing industry is being radically transformed and you can cry and be nostalgic for some romanticized past but those who resist and the reasons they give sound like defenders of 8-track tapes or Beta video tape formats.

  • Richard Prince

    I think the other point I am in agreement with Kurt about is REACH. People try to put this debate in terms of physical object or paper vs. digital or small vs. large form factors. These things play a part but only a small part. The game that is being played out is distribution and reach; mass market acceptance and building a critical mass of content (books, reference, educational, periodicals, entertainment, etc.) to draw people to this delivery platform. People will argue what was more important to the success of the iPod or the iPhone – the sensual objectness of the device or the iTunes and Apple App stores. I come down on the side of the reach of the distribution network and standardization of formats.

  • Richard Prince
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