Electronic Books: The Next Chapter
MP3 players have been around for a while; it took a visionary like Steve Jobs to design both the hardware and a delivery system that was elegant and simple to transform digitally stored music from geekdom to everyday use. Words are even more easily transmitted electronically than music; one would have thought that it would have been figured out first. Perhaps it is not the technology (the Sony Reader is supposed to be easy on the eyes) but the lack of a co-ordinated hardware and delivery system like iPod/iTunes.
Amazon is evidently trying to fix that with its new Kindle, being launched this October. Engadget got a sneak peek last year when Amazon filed an application to the FCC; when it comes to elegant design it ain't no iPod, more like a Trash 80/100 from 1985.
However what is interesting about this is that it downloads directly through a high speed EVDO network without a computer as an intermediary, from Amazon's Kindle Store. According to the New York Times:
"Several people who have seen the Kindle say this is where the device's central innovation lies — in its ability to download books and periodicals, and browse the Web, without connecting to a computer. They also say Amazon will pack some free offerings onto the device, like reference books, and offer customers a choice of subscriptions to feeds from major newspapers like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the French newspaper Le Monde.
The device also has a keyboard, so its users can take notes when reading or navigate the Web to look something up. A scroll wheel and a progress indicator next to the main screen, will help users navigate Web pages and texts on the device."
The Times continues with a list of its flaws- lousy browser, monochrome E-ink screen, and proprietary Mobipocket software, but concludes:
Nevertheless, many publishing executives see Amazon's entrance into the e-book world as a major test for the long-held notion that books and newspapers may one day be consumed on a digital device.
"This is not your grandfather's e-book," said one publishing executive who did not want to be named because Amazon makes its partners sign nondisclosure agreements. "If these guys can't make it work, I see no hope." ::New York Times