Amazon.com recently unveiled an electronic device that could transform the way we read books, carry books and store them. The “Kindle 2” is actually and upgrade of Kindle, launched in September 2007 and the company claims it’s the next generation wireless reading device. It uses an electronic paper display and downloads content over Amazon Whispernet using the Sprint EVDO network. The Kindle can be used without a computer, and Whispernet is accessible without any fee. The device is thinner and lighter than a paperback and can hold over 230,000 electronic books, magazines and newspapers. It’s thinner than a pencil and claims to provide crisper images and clearer text for an “improved book-like reading experience.”
Yet Amazon isn’t the only company to create a sort of iPod of books, Smartphone authors challenged the Kindle device claiming iPhone, Blackberry, and Android would bring e-books to smartphones everywhere. PC World explained that while smartphone-based e-book readers have been available in places like Apple’s App Store for a while, it has close ties to the publishing industry that set it apart from the pack. Because of the company’s connections with major publishers, it’s been able to secure the rights to brand new books that are often tough (if not impossible) to find on other services.
However, a report in the Science Christian Monitor said, “Many argue that, despite software that allows e-books to be read on smart phones, the Kindle retains an advantage. Its E-Ink display is so easy on batteries that it can go without a charge for two weeks, and it’s easier on the eyes than the LCDs found on Blackberrys, iPhones, and other smartphones. PC World Bizfeed blogger Robert Strohmeyer is firmly grounded in that camp. He touts not only the Kindle’s great screen and battery life, but its one-handed design, free 3G internet, and the low cost of new books.
Although the first version of the Kindle sold out in 2007 (280,000) and this new version is already on back order, some believe that Amazon cannot possibly turn the devise into a megahit. Peter Burrows of BusinessWeek said. “I don’t see Kindles around in the real world, and I’ve never heard anyone express the desire to own one (that includes people who have tried loaners). Even if the Kindle matches the first year sales of the iPod, as Citicorp analyst Mark Mahaney thinks it will, I can’t imagine the Kindle approaching the unit sales or cultural impact Apple’s music player went on to have. After all, iPod sales took off once Apple unveiled a compelling content strategy-with an online store, available to both Mac and Windows users. But it seems to me Amazon has already figured out a great content play. The most revolutionary thing about the product is the ability to wirelessly get almost any book and many newspaper and other subscriptions in a matter of seconds.”
In spite of naysayers who say nothing can replace a printed book, the Kindle 2 and other devices of its kind could eliminate heavy textbook for students. Back packs could be illuminated completely because students can carry an electronic reading device much more easily. If the reading device does become a megahit, giant publishers may find themselves competing with self-publishers for the market.
This sort of technology may not make actual books obsolete for a very long time. There are too many things that need to be ironed out to actually make buying and downloading books easier. In the meantime, the public library will stay open for many years to come.