Is Kindle A Novel Idea?

kindleOn November 20 released an eBook reader/service called Kindle.

I assume that the etymology they were following in that name is the verb, to kindle, as in to start (a fire) or light (a torch). or maybe (the transitive) to arouse or inspire (a passion, etc). (Probably not the obsolete - but cute - collective term for a group of kittens.)

It has gotten a lot of online reviews, and people have been hard on it. I doubt that many of the reviewers have even held one or have played around with it very much. Still, Amazon is sold out of units as of this writing. In searching online, I found this post from the folks at 37signals on their blog, Signal vs. Noise, that sums up the noise nicely.

I agree with Jason (who answers my titular question):

I am not suggesting we get rid of books as we know them. Ever. I'm suggesting there is plenty of room for another model that shines the spotlight on convenience rather than the legacy attributes of print. The Kindle sounds like a really interesting device with an interesting value proposition. It's not tethered to a computer. That's big. It's more about the convenience and benefits of your books, small size, instant new books, morning paper delivery more than the physical product or the technology. Kindle isn't the first eBook reader, but it is the first portable bookstore. That's novel.

Perhaps, it is novel - though not unique. The Sony Reader has been out for months (longer in Japan) and serves the same type of market. (Here's a comparison of both units.)

The questions for educators are more likely to be: Are we (teachers+students) ready to start reading books, periodicals, and writing like this blog post on an e-reader? Will this revolutionize the textbooks we use with our students?

Personally, I hate reading anything of length on a computer screen, but this is not that experience. Pause here and watch the video about using the Kindle to get an idea about that experience.

Not all the reviews are negative - there are those of the opinion that the Kindle is "revolutionary."

Back to Jason's post-

...if he's really really lucky [Jeff Bezos at Amazon], he'll sell a million of these things in a year. And that means that at $10 a book, you need to have significant market share to make an impact. The Sony reader has been out for months and it has sold, perhaps, a few thousand units. My thought was to use it, at least for a few years, as a promotion device. Give the books for free to anyone who buys the $400 machine. (Maybe you can have 1,000 books of your choice, so there's not a lot of 'waste'.) You'll sell more machines that way, that's for sure. And the people willing to buy the device are exactly the sort of people that an author like me wants to reach. No harm, no foul, all three of us win. If there were a million of these machines out there and an author had a chance to have her next book show up automatically on all of them, few among us would say, "no thanks to that exposure." This is a disruptive approach, the sort of thing only a market leader could pull off. It changes the world in a serious way.

Disruptive. The good kind (not the student behavior in your classroom). The disruptive technology that gets us thinking in new ways. This is a lot more than just HOW we read. It's WHAT we read and how that content is DELIVERED to us. Just looking at the product features quickly should give you some ideas about how things MIGHT change.

  • electronic-paper display provides a sharp, high-resolution screen that looks and reads like real paper
  • no computer, no cables, no syncing
  • wireless connectivity enables you to buy titles from almost any location & download is less than a minute (text downloads are fast)
  • 88,000+ books available (100 of 112 current New York Times'® Best Sellers), most at $9.99
  • free book samples - the audio download model - read first chapters for free before you decide to buy
I think this will send a ripple out there. A wave? Not yet. This is not the truly disruptive product, but it's coming.


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