In a publicity storm rivalled only by A-Rod's doping admissions, the Amazon Kindle's second-generation e-book reader made quite a splash yesterday. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos certainly has grand plans for this technology, saying he envisions access to "every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds."
Although timeliness often leads to hyperbole when it comes to technology, I have to admit that I'm both excited and anxious about what this means for the future of publishing. Many of us have been reading e-books for at least five years now. That's nothing new. But the portability and capacity (Kindle 2.0 holds 1500 books) of this reader are attractive features. As much as I love bookstores (the smell, the book-lovers, the scads of unique formats and editions), there is something nice about pulling up a new book in under sixty seconds, right there from the comfort of your Barcalounger.
While the device is still expensive ($359), the books are pretty cheap. You can purchase some stories individually. If you buy a lot of books in a year, and particularly hardcovers, this sucker could pay for itself in short order. The user reviews for Kindle 1.0 have been, largely, quite positive.
The implications of technology like the Kindle are enormous for the publishing industry, of course. Amazon reported that, for books offered in both print and e-book formats, Kindle-version sales jumped 10% in 2008, a positive result in a decidedly gloomy year for the publishing industry. Although Bezos and Amazon won't ever usurp Gutenberg in the public consciousness, the rapid nature of the marketplace's embrace of the Kindle can't be discounted.
I'd love to hear reviews for any of you reading this that own Kindle 1.0. What's the call-traditional books or e-books?