Apologies to readers for misquoting a Billy Joel song title. And the terrible pun.
My friend, Kate Carruthers has an interesting post about sitting next to an elderly gentleman on a recent flight and hearing his views on the change the Amazon Kindle is bringing to the book publishing industry.
As a Kindle owner of just a month, I consider the device transformative in its market segment. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking the Kindle is the first device of its kind – we’ve had ebook readers of one form or another for quite some time now. But it’s the first to make a difference in the public mind.
What I do believe is that with now-global availability of both the Kindle 2 and the larger-format Kindle DX, the book publishing industry is facing a watershed moment. It’s a moment of no lesser transformation than that the music industry has faced with the dominant emergence of the iPod and the iTunes Store. Again, Apple didn’t invent the electronic music player nor selling music online, they simply had the smarts to define it. And I think Amazon has likely done the same thing with the Kindle.
As a device, it’s trivial to use. The interface is incredibly easy, and the smarts built into the OS such as the way the Menu button reveals an in-context set of activities based on what you are doing (reading, browsing titles in your library, looking at the Kindle store, etc), make device usability very good. It’s not perfect, but it is close.
On top of the actual usage experience, the ease with which the device allows you to access your library (from multiple devices) as well as wide availability of titles, makes obtaining new and interesting reading a trivial task (as with the iTunes Store for music). It’s also potentially expensive, as the purchase hurdle is now near-zero.
Lastly, the usage experience is pleasurable. The Kindle is easy to read on. It’s as clear as a book and the electronic ink the screen uses is much easier on the eye than an LCD screen.
I don’t think the Kindle is yet in a position to supplant paper books. Not even for a tech early adopter like me. Books, and the tactile please to be realised by holding one and reading it, curled in a lounge chair, isn’t under threat from the Kindle. Nor is every book published on the platform yet.
But it is a tangible threat to book publishing. I believe it will transform the retail end of the publishing industry, though I don’t yet understand how. And, with Amazon opening the platform to developers, there are potentially further as yet unseen benefits.