I Dream of Kindle

Kindle I remember being a bit cynical last winter when Amazon announced their “revolutionary device” that would change the game.  As a tech enthusiast, I’m probably one of the folks that they should hope gets excited about this.  Then again, I’m not a big reader, so perhaps I’m not quite in the center of their bulls-eye.  When I first laid eyes on the Kindle, my exact thought was, “you’ve got to be kidding me”.  It really doesn’t say “2008”.  I’d argue that the Sony eBook Reader is a bit more sexy than a device where about a quarter of the precious real estate on the front of the device is dedicated to a physical keyboard.  (I know, I know – version 1.0).

Being the resident techie in most of my circles, it wasn’t long before the questions started… “what do you think about that new Amazon book thingy?”  “So when are you getting a Kindle?”  My answers were always pretty smug.  Don’t get me wrong.  I understood what Amazon was trying to do.  However, I thought they could have spent a little bit more time designing something that was lust-worthy instead of a device that looks like it was designed in 2000.

Time passed… and I had forgotten about the Kindle.  Regardless of how many times I’d go to Amazon.com and see the thing staring me in the face, my eyes would move somewhere else. 

But then a funny thing happened.  I stopped thinking about the design, and started thinking about the usability.

The time that I spent not paying attention to the Kindle caused me to miss out on the key selling points.  I would pick up random features listing to Leo Laporte’s TwiT podcasts.  And the more that I’d hear, the less cynical I got about the device…

Recently, (and I can’t quite explain how I’ve arrived at this…longing) I’ve been thinking a lot about the Kindle.  I don’t know if an Amazon guy spiked my iced tea or if they flashed a subliminal message while I was reading reviews on iPhone cases.  How it happened doesn’t really matter.  The fact is that I’m starting to see the advantages.  And I want in.

So what’s the big deal?

  • I carry around two copies of the Holy Bible.  (Please don’t judge – sometimes I’ll need to reference the King James version and other times I just want to get closer to the intent via my Student Edition of the New International Version).  By no means is it a heavy burden.  But there might be a more elegant solution.  Perhaps there’s a way to keep that and several other versions of the scripture by my side.  Not to mention the hymn book that I’d like to carry, but because it’s rather big I always leave at home.  Yes, this could be the answer…and for several reasons…
  • The Kindle is searchable.  Rather than wonder where in the book a character was introduced or when a certain thought was uttered, you can simply search through the text.  (How nicely that works is another matter altogether.)
  • The Kindle is online.  Via EVDO (i.e. fast 3G speed Internet Access).  And it’s free.  (Well, you pay for the device, but they’ve committed to free online access.  Never before have I seen that kind of commitment to just giving away 3G access.  This is the stuff Verizon makes you pay $59 bucks a month for.  And yes, it’s only useful on the Kindle, but that’s not a tremendous limitation because…
  • The Kindle has a built-in web browser.  OK, so I’ve heard that it’s so poor in displaying data and rendering pages that they might as well not have included it.  But this might be enough for me.  Many times when I’m traveling home on the bus or to work, I’d like to just pull down a full page of Engadget.com and just peruse the stories.  Nothing sexy.  Just stored.  Not sure if this is going to allow me to do that, but it might be better than the iPhone experience that I have now.  Most of the time, Safari will crash as I’m scrolling through a page like Engadget.  Also, until I get a 3G phone, it’s just a bit slow.  I don’t need a great web experience.  I just want to stay up to date while I’m driving.

  • Media is taking over my life.  There are DVDs, BluRay discs, Music CDs, PS3-Wii-Xbox 360 and other games, books, magazines, etc.  They’re taking over my living space.  And while I’m slowly ridding myself of the clutter, I’d still like to get a book every now and then.  Perhaps this will keep me reading without building a huge reading library (although I do hope to have one of those fancy libraries one day… you know, with the gold and leather bound classics!)
  • Foolishly, I think this might make me read a bit more.  I’m not even an average reader.  I might read 4 or 5 books a year.  Most of my time is spent either writing or reading about tech.  Why I think this will help me read a bit more (other than the expensive cost of the device) is beyond me.

I can go on about the reasons.  Somehow this thing has captured my attention.  I’ve watched no less than about fifteen YouTube reviews (including a scathing video/letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos that Robert Scoble posted) and I’ve still got interest. 

What excites me more about the Kindle than the prospect of me reading more is what it might mean to education.  Imagine every child having one of these devices instead of the aged textbooks that they carry back and forth to school.  Saying nothing about the ergonomic issues associated with dragging a roller bag to class at age 9 or 10, why are we buying books that will be outdated from the moment that they hit our desks.  Yeah, there are a lot of logistics to work out.  Yes, I understand that the device doesn’t display images and might not resonate as well with younger readers.  But this is definitely in the future, and I’m hoping the near future.  Even more exciting still are the prospects for cheaper college books.  Even knocking the production costs off a bit from these $300 and $400 books would help.

Yes, I’m drinking the kool-aid.  Yes, I’m starting to see the future.  And sadly, I’m sure that the moment I buy the device, Amazon will announce a revision that will address half of the points that kept me from looking at it in the first place.  But the point is that I’m sprung.  This is an innovation that might not come in a wrapper as sexy as my first iPod, but it’s possibilities that have me dreaming.


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