Tomorrow, Amazon is set to release “Kindle,” the digital book reader that holds over 200 books and does a whole lot more (i.e. full text searches, annotations, wireless downloads, online surfing, etc.) It’s a huge suggestion, isn’t it, that we might be on the verge of moving one of the last bastions of the analog world online, and I know that this is a real sore point with many who love to curl up with physical books and turn pages. As an article titled “The Future of Reading,” in this week’s Newsweek about Jeff Bezos’ and his new device says:
Computers may have taken over every other stage of the processâ€”the
tools of research, composition and productionâ€”but that final mile of
the process, where the reader mind-melds with the author in an
exquisite asynchronous tango, would always be sacrosanct, said the
I’m not so sure. When you think of all there is to read now, and how the form of that reading has been changed by the Web, I think it’s clear we’re in a transition period that is moving us to something not necessarily better or worse but different for sure. (One of my favorite sayings about many of these shifts.) Again, while fully admitting that my personal practice right now in no way reflects the practice of 97.45% of the rest of the population in terms of the creation and consumption of digital content, and while I still love books with pages and read many of them each year, given the choice, I would rather go digital. (Don’t forget, I still love my Tablet PC even if I don’t use it as much these days.)
The bigger question, as the article alludes to, is whether or not this shift will begin to reverse the trend of people reading fewer and fewer books. And I love the possibility, as suggested in the article, that one potential of connected books are connected readers, that this device or one similar may open up all sorts of ways in which we can share the reading with others. Ben Vershbow, author of one of my favorite blogs, says “The idea of authorship will change and become more of a process than a product.” (It already is, isn’t it?) If you want even more mind bending examples (like the ability of liberals to annotate an Ann Coulter book for all of us to read) then read the whole article.
But is the Kindle the device that’s going to make the slope even more slippery? I’d love to try one out, no doubt.
And in the end, I think that’s what I like more than anything about all of these conversations. That in these shifts, in these changes come all sorts of not seen before potential to create connections, to build networks. Like the Kindle, much of this is absolutely different. That’s what makes it fun, don’t you think?
(Note: The Newsweek article is decidedly rosy about this event. For a less upbeat assessment, try this column in Information Week.)
Tina Steele says
This is a thought-provoking post. The announcement of “Kindle” appeals to my sense of creativity. Students today want to create and recreate. Image the possibilities! I can’t see it replacing but rather enhancing our already existing resources (books, technology tools, etc.). It is another way for us to flatten the world and become a part of the process and participate in the conversations of the world. How exciting! Tina
Doug Johnson says
Thanks for the post and links to the articles. I’ve had an interest in and been writing about e-books for about a dozen years – especially as they will impact schools and libraries.
To me, some of the excitement ought to be about what these devices might be able to do for struggling and ELL readers. A genuinely differentiated learning/reading experience is now possible.
Amazon selling best sellers at $9.99 might be the real breakthrough here though. The first iPod wasn’t the big idea – it was the $.99 song at the iTunes store that made Apple’s fortune.
Jenny Luca says
I’m a Teacher-Librarian and can see that this is the way of the future. James Patterson is right; the older gen hangs onto paper – our students are happy to do everything on a screen or hand-held device. I can see the Kindle taking off even with an older generation. All those sight affected readers out there who struggle to find large print books will be thrilled. In my profession we need to be on board early with this type of technology. I’d love one now – anyone know when they will be available in Australia?
Writing is a collaborative process – sharing with other writers, soliciting feedback, revising and sharing again. And all of this can take place virtually. It only makes sense that reading evolves into a similar experience. Great food for thought!
Gary Christenson says
Devices like the Kindle will certainly have their place, particularly in the college textbook market, which has already moved toward digitalization, and with other information that must be searchable. But will people want leisure reading through such a device? A few certainly, but most? Even a cheap paperback doesn’t offer such problems as screen glare and battery recharging. But I think the biggest problem with eBooks is the lack of permanence the medium offers. I own books that belonged to my grandparents, that were held by them. Some still contain margin notes written in their hand. I doubt my great-grandchildren will have my Kindle around to read. Indeed, I wrote a book back in the ’80s with software and in a format that is no longer accessible by any device I own. Thank goodness I still have a box of the books tucked away in the closet.
Chris Champion says
Requirements for me: is cool, is lightweight, is easy to read under a multitude of lighting situations. I still LOVE reading novels. I have textbooks and other books, but come 10:00 I pick up my paperback novel and read. If Kindle is as comfortable as a paperback book… it might be the iPod of books.
Tracie Heskett says
I agree with Gary Christenson’s comments about those notes in book margins. He also makes a good point about the reality of technology becoming obsolete. I’ll probably remain one of those last hold-outs who wants to curl up on the couch with a good book and turn pages. On the other hand, if Kindle provides easier-to-read print and a way to combat glare, it could be a wonderful option.
I don’t get the excitement about the Kindle. eBook readers have been around for a while, and as the “iPod” of ebooks goes, that is not it. It costs too much, and as someone upthread said, the key for iPods was cheap music. If I’m buying an ebook to read on a $400 reader, I expect to pay less than $10 for the book or I might as well go to the bookstore and buy 40 books. (Also, music has the advantage that I can easily port all my existing music to my iPod, while I can’t similarly get access without paying again to books I own on an eBook reader.)
The other thing I don’t get about the Kindle excitement is that there are superior eBook readers out there — Sony reader, Bookeen Cybook, iLiad. Yes, they don’t have quite as many bells and whistles, but the reason the iPod has been so successful was partly a lack of bells-and-whistles. It’s all about that fundamental principle of design: simplify.
Of course, one of these days someone will actually do a good job of making an iPod-eBook reader-cellphone-pda-handheld game player and we’ll only need one piece of expensive tech to do everything portable. Or so I can hope.
I think that e-books will be beneificial for educational purposes. Students will be able to find and read texts on-line, which will help with the research process immensely. Projects and reports will be easier for students of all reading levels. I personally find it very frustrating when the library doesn’t have a book I need, and with e-books this will not be as big as a hassle.
However, I am an English major and I love books. I love curling up and reading them, going back over my favorite parts, and seeing my beloved collection on the shelf. I hate sitting attached to a computer when I could be outside reading on the hammock, or out at the beach with my favorite paperback. There’s just something special about the physical book itself. I love those books that my parents have given me, that are old and loved. If schools begin this change over to digital books, I can only hope that teachers would teach what is special about the book itself and not make it merely a tool in a computer.
The Kindle and the fence, that is where I am sitting. Is it a good idea? Yes, particularly for those who do not have easy access to a bookstore or library. Do I think it will replace bookstores? No, the ambience of sitting in Border’s or Barnes and Nobles browsing through shelves of books, or reading a full size magazine while sipping a cup of tea will not be replaced by handfuls of people holding a white Kindle sitting…where on a park bench in a KIndle Store or on the fence with me, wondering whether to hop off and visit the bookstore or stay seated and download a copy of Jodi Picoult’s latest book on my Kindle.
Ciro Greco says
I love the envirionmental impact, less paper. Although some people such as my wife for one enjoys the tactile sensation of holding a book and turning the pages. As an education tool I can see it being an asset, no more ripped pages in the text book and up to date editions.
Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach says
Wish I had read this before I posted my blurb about Kindle in a post on my blog:
Gist is this-
Benefits of Book 2.0
There are definite benefits to having an electronic reader –possibly an innovation that could revolutionize a near perfect invention that has stood the test of time. Imagine the impact such a device could have on the developing world. Books are costly to print and more costly to move.This kind of disruptive technology could lower the cost of transporting the best books to the developing world and also lower the cost of ideas/books coming to us from the developing world. Additionally, in these times of angst about global warming, Book 2.0 concepts present a huge opportunity to reduce the negative impact on the environment by changing the process of producing a “book” as we now know it. Or how about the fact that knowledge is changing and expanding at unbelievable rates; many textbooks are outdated almost as soon as they hit the shelves. Medical textbooks need to be updated every year and electronic versions would address this issue nicely.
However, online readers like Kindle have been around for awhile and have not gained popularity. Why? Because new technologies should result in doing things very different from the way it is currently being done. Just taking an analog book and making the text digital ignores the potential of using the Web as a new way of reading. The innovation has to include taking a linear medium and morphing it into a divergent, spiral, hyper, nonlinear form, making use of all the Web has to offer.
“Kindle” digital book reader would be an exciting technological tool for educators. The writings of the world could be translated, read, researched, and enjoyed from anywhere by more people. What a great way for a teacher to engage their students.
I agree with those “curl up and read” a book proponents, as that is what I love to do. However, I also believe there is are vast opportunities inherent with the new technology also. I suspect my 85 year old mother will be among the early users of “Kindle” – she also became a computer programmer at age 60!
An old-fashioned Teacher says
Reading is an adventure. For some, it requires more than the written word. Personally, I like books and am a “curl up and read” person.