Monday, March 30, 2009

The Future of Books & the Kindle

The hottest tech gadget today is the Kindle. Before the Apple fanbois get on my case, I haven't discounted the iPhone. How I see it, the iPhone isn't just a gadget any more; that device has transcended from the realm of catchet to that of abject necessity. The Kindle hasn't reached that stratosphere yet, but the v2 release of the device has many punters predicting the demise of newsprint and paperbacks as we know them. Stop the press...

The realist in me thinks that there is still a ways to go before we stop devoting real estate to books. The first reason for my stance is nostalgia - many of us have a story that involves leafing through a publication, torchlight in hand, bedsheet failing to hide what you are truly doing; what about the comicbook hidden in a tome for a textbook? The second reason is that the Kindle, though a huge improvement over v1, is still a ways away from being the ideal reading device. No backlight, no color, no go; not for now. And last but not least, the demise of the paperback has been predicted before, but the medium hasn't gone away.

To the Kindle's credit, the device+service show what the future has in "store", and the little time I spent with the Kindle yesterday has made me a believer in the service model devised by Amazon. Others have waxed eloquent about the device and the service already, so there is no point in repeating their words here. What no one has touched upon is how the Kindle can make further inroads into the market; that's where I can add some value (props to Karan for the brainstorm):

- Kindle in Education
Let's face it, kids hate lugging textbooks around. The prohibitive cost of textbooks is the reason they are the most popular torrents on thepiratebay. The Kindle could be the final piece that helps broker a deal between educational institutions and textbook publishers that allows students to receive all their textbooks on a Kindle for a flat rate < total price of physical textbooks. This becomes an especially lucrative deal for publishers catering to University level courses where piracy and 2nd hand book sales are rampant - currently, publishers don't profit from either channel.

- Newspapers and Magazines
I think a good swath of the population would opt for a 2yr online-only subscription if a Kindle came bundled with the purchase. This saves on paper (environmentalists of the world rejoice), helps finance a publication's online endeavors, and peddles more Kindles.

- Kindle & Kaplan
'Nuff said.


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