Wednesday, November 21

Kindling The Future: Amazon Kindle

“What’s a record? A cassette tape?” — my son, 2007

“What’s a magazine stand? A dust cover?” — his son, 2037

It might look clunky at a glance, but it’s the first generation sneak peek of the future. And like most technological breakthroughs that shock the system, the Kindle, a pricey and apparently improved e-reader, is no exception.

There were 3,200 posts and counting, just yesterday, equally split between positive and negative opinion. There were 398 reviews on Amazon, delivering a divided 2.5 stars. And while Seattlest jumped with comments that included “I wouldn't use it if someone gave it to me for free,” Barnes & Noble saw its stock drop 5 percent.

All because of hyperbole before the first Kindle could ship. Yet, very few people even mentioned this fact. It was too late, with just one more example of how bloggers follow media. Social media chimes in on any story when it seems especially hot. If they don’t, their readers will be discovering new blogs, maybe better.

Here are some highlights that struck me yesterday.

"This is a disruptive approach, the sort of thing only a market leader could pull off. It changes the world in a serious way." — Seth Godin with the marketing perspective.

“It’s not going to revolutionize the industry overnight, though it sounds like Amazon is going to take this business seriously and continue to invest in it.” — Joseph Weisenthal with the tech perspective.

“Whether this will be the death of print concerns me less than if it will be yet another slow down in reading complete books -- the physical or digital kind,” — Valeria Maltoni with the human perspective (my favorite kind).

“That Jeremy is probably right. I’m excited about the new reader to be sure. But getting geeks like me excited by a new “shiny toy” is pretty easy. Getting a large market excited? That’s a LOT harder.” — Robert Scoble with the geek predictor perspective.

“So unless you live in a dark cave (without Wi-Fi) you know that the Gadget News of the Day was Amazon's release of its eBook reader called the Kindle.” — Danny Dumas, with the recap perspective, including Jose Fermoso’s roundup of eight more opinions.

Did anyone notice the media has already embraced this? They’re on the subscription list. It makes them relevant; expect many more articles ahead.

So there you go. Maybe it will be Kindle and maybe not. But there are truths inside the truth because this is playing out much like the iPhone. There was a split decision a few months back. A lot of people came out for and against it. It was all kind of silly.

But today, all that conversation is irrelevant because Apple sold 1.12 million iPhones last quarter, representing 27 percent of the smart phone market in the United States and 3 percent of the overall cell phone market.

Not bad for Apple’s first phone.

Unless there is a serious technological flaw, like charging you to put your own content on it (oh right, there is) you can expect the same with Kindle or the second generation reader that someone is already busy working on. But I don’t want to play guessing games. Instead, I’ll offer two observations.

The hyperbole is real.

Sometimes social media gives permission to craft a runaway opinion for the sake of having one. And there is nothing wrong with that. Opinions are like bottoms and everyone has one. In the age of glass bathrooms, full moons are not only invited, but some say they’re required.

The future is polar.

The Kindle aside, the technology behind it represents an opportunity to educate everyone on the planet (once there is a price point drop), giving them access to the best books ever written. And, it also represents an opportunity to enslave humankind by filtering future content and killing the last refuge of reader privacy at the same time.

“Cool,” some say. “How can I list my blog and get paid?”

Good night and good luck.



Valeria Maltoni on 11/21/07, 8:58 AM said...


You had me spell bound. This is an awesome piece of writing -- content, opinion, and elegant use of language. Many of your posts are, just thought this one really went above and beyond in all the elements. It's a gift.
Which brings up another point -- I learned English from the classics, many masters of writing. And I perfected Italian from washing my language in the Arno, so to speak -- Dante Alighieri. I'm not quite sure were I'm going with this, except for: make the tools available to everyone, and teach children how to read is a great recipe not only for literacy. It's a great idea for the species, the human kind ;-)

Rich on 11/21/07, 10:50 AM said...


Thank you for such a touching compliment, given I'm often taken by yours.

I'd love to see a literacy leap around the world, and more people teaching children how to contribute to and/or rethink the ideas that are laid before them. The gift of education, like yours or mine, regardless of how it is obtained, is one thing that can never be lost.

Equally so, I hope we remember to not be so caught up with the speed of progress that we wake up one day with a real need to reconcile it, especially if there are unexpected and unintended consequences.

All my best,

Sweet Tea on 11/21/07, 11:04 AM said...


Full moon? Excellent article! According to my mother I was reading alone by age 3. My love of books and education has never wavered.Nothing will ever compare to holding a new book in my hands and placing it to my nose to get that special scent.
I'm with you on literacy!Thanks.

kystorms on 11/21/07, 12:03 PM said...

Great post as always Rich.
Call my simple, but the idea that books will evolve into a box in ones hands, instead of a bound first edition of say Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan the Ape Man is scary to me. I fear the total loss at some point of libraries, the one place on earth that I can truly call a haven of peace :-)
I respect that this might be the cause of literacy ( always a good thing of course) being in every land however, at what cost? Will the children of the future never know the smell of a book's pages, never know how it feels to turn the pages in anticipation of what will come next to the heroine?
And I also have to say I agree, this leads to a control of content, and this I am not comfortable with.

Kim on 11/21/07, 12:57 PM said...

Just as an aside, lots of the Amazon reviews are shills. Check out the comments about the top reviewer and you'll see what I mean.

How anyone can review and RATE a product that isn't even yet available is beyond me. Typical Amazon.
Wonder which books won't be available on their new technology. Atlas Shrugged?

Rich on 11/21/07, 3:33 PM said...

Thanks Jane.

I'm with you on that, as I know Valeria is too. I greet the potential future with enthusiasm as well as cautious skepticism or perhaps just sentimentalism ... as I just received an e-mail offer from Amazon ad with my local utility as a cosponsor. Spooky.

Spooky too is that, yes Lisa, one day bound books might be even more treasured as a work of art. For example, Nick Bantock's series could have never been so extraordinary on the screen. Nor can Kindle be signed by an author or passed to a friend. And yet, not so long ago, our immediate ancestors were saddened about missing horses.

Had Amazon existed then, I suspect we might have voted down the automobile, which leads me to yours comment Kim. Yes, there is some truth to that ... especially those that are skewed upward. In this case, it seems the idea is being voted down before the potential.

I can only hope products like Kindle do not become so segmented as distribution channels that they become our content gatekeepers. If that is the case, then people will need to read Atlas Shrugged all the more.


P.S. I'll be posting some Thanksgiving wishes tomorrow; but for anyone who will not be online. All my best to you and yours. Happy Thanksgiving.

MS on 11/26/07, 4:03 AM said...

"Enslave humankind"? I can imagine a few scenarios, but what did you have in mind?

A $400 entry point to even access the news or other print media is rather scary. So is the notion that a business will determine what content is available. And how about reading a book and passing it on to someone else. Kindle would eliminate that. Nothing good here, I fear.

Rich on 11/26/07, 12:22 PM said...

Hey Mark,

Almost all price points eventually come down. A flat screen television is now within reach, for example, as is access to the Internet.

If e-readers become future content funnels, one has to wonder who will decide which content you or I read. It seems most social networks have added censors on some level.

In addition, since privacy barriers are all but eroded, allowing private companies some extremely savvy data collection tools, which they will turn over to authorities upon request.

Of course, even if it is not Kindle, e-readers will be part of our future. So the best time to instill an obligation to allow the free flow of information is now, not later. Yes, it could be scary.


Rich on 12/9/07, 11:01 AM said...

More Words:

While some people are still unconvinced that Kindle is the thing; there is some evidence that the launch of Kindle has sparked an interest in ereaders:


hat tip:


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