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When Information Is Like Currency

   March 24th, 2009

digitized moneyI heard an NPR call-in show this weekend about the new Amazon Kindle, and the callers seemed to fall into two categories: they liked it because it was new and did things books don't, or they didn't like it because it wasn't a book.

However, there was one point that the callers and host never seemed to make: books, magazines, newspapers, Kindles, skywriting, paintings, etc. are all just different ways to convey information.

The difference with the Kindle is that the information never needs to change formats as it moves through the supply chain. The author can type a manuscript on a laptop, email it to an editor, the editor forwards it to the publisher, the publisher creates properly formatted final copies, which the reader downloads and reads.

It can all happen without the information ever being manifest in the physical world.

This reminded me of how most money works now - paychecks can direct-deposited into a bank account, purchases made with a credit card, and credit card payments can be automatically withdrawn from the bank account. It feels like we don't even need to be involved, as everything is electronic and automatic. I would say that all of my "wealth" is just on paper, but it's not even on paper - it's just stored in memory.

scrooge swimming in cashSo I could be a rich as Scrooge McDuck, but it seems the days of swimming in cash are over.

Which seems to be part of peoples' reluctance to the Kindle - there's nothing tangible about an ebook, so it doesn't feel real. Newspapers and magazines seem to fit well with the Kindle, because they are inherently temporary, but books have more of a permanence that ebooks just haven't recreated yet.

They need to convince me that an ebook copy is going to last longer than the quick life cycle of these devices.




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5 Responses to “When Information Is Like Currency”

  1. Marissa Says:

    I agree with the comment “books have more of a permanence that ebooks just haven’t recreated yet.” I think the Kindle is a very cool device, but I am tactile and love how every book feels different in my hands as I read it, which is lost with a Kindle. Also, scrolling through a list of downloaded books has a very sanitized feel to it, whereas scanning shelves has a sense of dynamism. The Kindle doesn’t do it for me yet. Bring on the paper and covers.

    Marissa

  2. Auntie Nanuuq Says:

    “Which seems to be part of peoples’ reluctance to the Kindle – there’s nothing tangible about an ebook, so it doesn’t feel real. Newspapers and magazines seem to fit well with the Kindle, because they are inherently temporary, but books have more of a permanence that ebooks just haven’t recreated yet.” Well that about says it all, for me at least!

  3. Gabriel Says:

    I bought a used Kindle 1 and I really like it, but I agree that permanence of purchased materials beyond the device itself needs to be addressed. Someone is eventually going to hack Amazon’s DRM, which should solve that, so I’m not terribly worried about it. It’s very different than reading a book, and hasn’t replaced books in my life at all. As a librarian, I think it has tremendous potential.

    I love the Scrooge McDuck metaphor – very appropriate. As a book lover who has given away, sold or donated tons of books and continues to see his small apartment overrun in paper reading materials of all kinds, I like the idea that the Kindle might help reduce the clutter. If I had the equivalent of Scrooge’s money pit, like a separate room for a library, I might not feel this way, but as someone who knows they’ll be moving again in the (relatively) near future, such a powerful, portable library really appeals to me, just as carrying a debit card in my wallet vs. a load of pennies also appeals.

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