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Stephen King on the Kindle

   January 24th, 2008

Amazon.com's KindleI know a lot has already been said about the Kindle, Amazon's new book reader. I more or less gave it all a miss, because I am kind of a Luddite when it comes to techno-toys. Go figure.

But a friend of mine forwarded me an article from this week's Entertainment Weekly, in which Stephen King reviews the Kindle. This caught my attention because King has long been out front exploring and playing in the post-print/electronic book world.

It's a short article, and worth reading. King's bottom line is:

[It's] a gadget with stories hiding inside it. What's wrong with that?

His point is that, although a physical book does have its own intrinsic value, it's the text, the story or the information, that's the most important thing. I agree. He says that in the case of the Kindle, once you get used to the device, you forget about it and let the story encompass your attention.

He wasn't "using a Kindle," he was reading a story. And that's what's important.

Phonepedia logoAnother recent development in the "it's the information, not the package" department is Phonepedia. Casey mashed up a voice-recognition front-end with Wikipedia. People call a phone number, ask a question, and the Wikipedia article answering that question is then texted/emailed to them. Information Without Borders in action.

But back to the Kindle: from what I gather (from outside the article now), the biggest drawback seems to be that Kindle-compatible books can only be purchased from Amazon, and only used on the Kindle. Their Whispernet apparently makes it very easy to do, but when you're locked into a technology like that, it essentially is building in a short lifespan. Just ask anyone who bought a laser disc.

From a consumer point of view, it seems like a neat product. But from a library point of view, it just doesn't seem applicable. The adjustable font size is great, as are automatic subscriptions to newspapers and magazines. But for for circulating books to patrons, it just doesn't seem to fit.

amazon, bisson, books, casey, ebooks, electronic, kindle, king, libraries, library, phonepedia, public, stephen




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7 Responses to “Stephen King on the Kindle”

  1. Product Reviews » Blog Archive » Stephen King on the Kindle Says:

    [...] Original post by herzogbr.net blog [...]

  2. Chris Says:

    Actually, I think libraries could really have fun with this. The Kindle already has a feature where you can keep a book for 3(?) days and “return” it by deleting and not getting charged for it. A library could work a deal where they loan a book out and it’s automatically deleted after 3 weeks unless renewed. Basically, it could be a virtual library where the book is removed after X number of days.

  3. Lee Whitney Says:

    I believe the idea of a Kindle device becoming ubiquitous is inevitable. The only question is, when will it happen and will it be this device or the 2nd or 3rd generation of this device?

    Another really good take on the Kindle was the review by Walt Mossberg in the WSJ.

    Regards,
    LW
    Ecards: http://www.hdgreetings.com

  4. I Love My Kindle » Blog Archive » Kindle Google Alerts for 24 Jan 2008 Says:

    [...] Stephen King on the Kindle By Brian Herzog Amazon.com’s Kindle I know a lot has already been said about the Kindle, Amazon’s new book reader. I more or less gave it all a miss, because I am kind of a Luddite when it comes to techno-toys. Go figure. … herzogbr.net blog – http://www.swissarmylibrarian.net [...]

  5. Brian Herzog Says:

    I think the problem with libraries and Kindles is the cost – buying one won’t be enough to fulfill patron interest/needs, but buying a bunch might be too expensive.

    Plus, if we did buy books for them, I think each copy can only go on one Kindle – which means either we’d have to buy multiple copies of books for each device, or else you know the two most popular titles would end up on the same Kindle, causing everyone would wait for that one device.

    And Lee might be right – it’s not that I’m poo-pooing all ebook readers; I just don’t think the model is quite right yet for libraries. For it to really work, the device would have to be separate from the book: a patron would check out a (cheap) device, and then be able to download whatever title(s) they wanted to it from our (vast) ebook library – while at the same time other patrons could access the same books.

    Not to mention that any ebook device should not only display the text (in variable font size), but also be able to read it out loud to you, too – ebook and audio book in one.

    And then when you’re done with one book, you can rate it, and click some link right on the device to “read more like this.”

    Yes, that’s what I’m waiting for.

  6. Chris Says:

    See I guess I was thinking about this a little differently. I was thinking the patron supplies the Kindle and the library supplies the Kindle Book server. Cuyahoga County libraries in Ohio does something similar with PDFs if you have a valid library card. I can download a time locked PDF which only works on my computer. No hardware costs of theft worries for the library in that case.

  7. Brian Herzog Says:

    Ohh… well, that certainly is a good idea, which did not at all occur to me. The model of providing certain media types for patrons to use on their own devices is one libraries understand – we loan lots of XBOX, PS2, and other games, DVD and VHS videos, as well as downloadable audio books. So just providing access to Kindle files is realistic, and more plausible than lending the devices.

    But I think I read somewhere that Kindle files are non-transferable – once they’re downloaded to a device, they’re only good on that device. It’d be great if Amazon opened up a service of this kind of libraries, like NetLibrary and others do. So, in this case, like so many others, it all comes down to the vendor creating DRM policies that allow for library use – which is rarely the case.