Many folks received Amazon’s Kindle from Kris Kringle this year (say that three times fast) and discovered a pretty cool way to read books.
The online retailer is trumpeting that more people bought e-books on Christmas Day than physical books, a first for the company.
The Kindle is a black and white, wireless book reader that costs US$259.
The once cutting-edge device has some stiff competition these days from several devices including the Nook, a Barnes and Noble device, and several other book readers out there.
And not to mention the alleged upcoming Apple tablet PC and the iPhone, Droid and a few other smart phones with big screens.
The Kindle clearly has a lot going for it.
The screen is lovely for book reading, with clear and crisp graphics and very little eyestrain.
The Kindle also has a full keyboard that can be used for annotations or other tasks.
The real problem with Kindle is what is missing. If the device is to become a browser for magazines, newspapers and other periodicals, it has to upgrade to a color screen.
That will lead to shorter battery life, of course, and perhaps a higher price.
But magazine content is going to demand colour, and readers are used to seeing it in print and online.
Which leads me to my second improvement needed:
A lower price.
These book readers ideally need to get to $99 someday but for now really need to hit $199.
It’s the Barbie doll retail concept at work; sell the doll at a loss and sell the clothes for $15.
These booksellers need to understand they need to saturate the planet with their readers in order to sell the $10 books, which at this point are tied to a certain reader format for the most part.
Right now $259 is close to the price of a real Windows laptop, on which you can read plenty of books. (Surely the Apple tablet, which may or may not be called the iSlate, will cost $1,999 or so, which makes it far more than a book reader.)
I would imagine the next Kindle will get rid of the physical keyboard and give that real estate to a larger screen and use on on-screen keyboard.
I can’t imagine people are using this device for lots of typing and this is a huge amount of space to give up.
Then there is the question of rights; can you buy a book and electronically “give” it or “loan” it to a spouse, friend or someone else’s reader?
Right now in many cases you are limited against sharing content, which makes e-books a drawback. However, authors don’t want their work just passed around the Web without any kind of rights management control on it.
If new books go the way of music and become readily available as free downloads, we will see a fundamental crash of the publishing industry as we know it today, where authors typically receive about a buck a book or less as it is.
Take a look at a Kindle or a Nook if you get the chance and send me your impressions.
I think the next generation or two of these devices will be even more interesting.
James Derk is owner of CyberDads, a computer repair firm and a tech columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is email@example.com