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Re-Kindle Your Love of Reading

The original printing press created by Johannes Guttenberg quite possibly revolutionized the world. His invention created at least one new industry, announced the forthcoming scientific revolution, and brought literacy to the masses. The creation of the book is quite possibly the single most significant technological contribution in the history of mankind. An easily portable set of information that never becomes obsolete, requires no instructions for proper use, does not require installation, has no batteries to worry about, and may be released in every language in the world. Any attempt to improve on this accomplishment faces a virtually insurmountable uphill battle. The challenges facing the creation of building a better book notwithstanding, there have been several attempts to move books into a digital format. Amazon.com‘s Jeff Bezos is attempting to do just that with the newly available Amazon Kindle.

Amazon’s new e-reader is the latest entry in the emerging market of dedicated ‘readers’ for electronic books, or e-books. Both software applications and hardware devices have been promoted as the next step in revolutionizing how we think of books and the printed page. Software applications are a difficult sell in this movement as looking at a novel, or journal, or newspaper online fails to transport the reader in the same manner as the printed page. This phenomena referred to as ‘transparency’ is the major hurdle in developing a truly dedicated electronic medium for ebooks, journals, and news.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos set a number goals for the development of the Kindle. First and foremost among them was it needed to be as ‘book-like’ as possible. The Kindle is not meant to be a web 2.0 gadget with a bunch of flashy features and gizmos, but a new way to deliver the venerable printed word. To this end the Kindle has been designed to hit the reader’s sweet spot, specifically the reading area of the Kindle is the same size as an average paperback novel. The interface is a simple screen with buttons for next page and previous page, and the device includes an integrated hardware keyboard.

Media is delivered to the Kindle wirelessly via Sprint’s wireless network, without an additional fee for subscribing to the network. Users can download books directly from Amazon for a fee of $9.00 per book, and the device has sufficient memory capacity to store up to about 200 books. An SD-Card slot provides the user with the option of adding additional storage for even more books. Even if a book is deleted from the device, Amazon has a record of the download and purchase so the book may be reacquired at no additional fee.

The Kindle also provides access to journals and newspapers, though some of these (such as the New York Times) do require an additional subscription fee. Online content such as blogs and RSS feeds can also be accessed using the Kindle.

Aside from generating a significant amount of buzz, Amazon’s entry into the electronic reader arena has raised questions about the future of the book. Enough controversy has been raised by the Kindle that it was recently featured as a discussion point on KCRW’s program “Left, Right, and Center” (KCRW is a member station of National Public Radio). The major question raised by the Kindle has been, “is this the end of the book?” In all likelihood the answer is ‘no’. What the Kindle is likely to do is revolutionize how books are written and how books are published. It is even possible the Kindle will give rise to the next generation of serialized stories, allowing authors to change the arc of a narrative on a continuous basis.

Click the video below to view CNet’s review of the Amazon Kindle:

For more information about the Kindle visit the links below:

  • The Kindle product page on Amazon’s website.
  • A really great review from YouTube’s technology evangelist.
  • The excellent article in Newsweek
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