Will Amazon “Kindle” a New Lifestyle Trend?

Kindle ebook readerThe big announcement in November was Amazon’s Kindle eBook reader. Reviews are rather more polarized than mixed — some people hate it, some love it.

I love it. I’m all for Kindle and any other technology that delivers convenience and enhances the quality of my life without further complicating it. I am hopeful that Kindle will allow me to conduct business — professional and personal — in a way that provides me freedom of time and place, as well as to enjoy my leisure without becoming a slave to the very technology that allowed for it in the first place.

Leaving aside the reviews complaining that it’s ugly, there are a couple of areas where people seem split. I find these reviews interesting in terms of how this new innovation will affect those of us seeking to balance life and work.

To me, there seem to be a couple of reasons for an eBook reader, in terms of balancing my life, making my life easier, and helping me keep work and life in tune with each other.

The first of those is simply reading books. I am a voracious reader, and often have three or four books going at one time. Clearly, having several books in one reader would be great for me. I could carry it with me all the time, I could read whichever book I want whenever I want, and I wouldn’t leave one book downstairs when I wanted to read it upstairs.

I picked up a couple of very interesting ideas from a live blog about the launch event on the Engadget blog. “Jeff Bezos! Jeff Bezos! He’s discussing the history of text … every thousand years there’s a paradigm shift in reading. “We forget that this is a technology… but books are a technology. And the process for making them is a very sophisticated technology.” “… The printing press has gotten a lot more sophisticated since Gutenberg’s time … Gutenberg would still recognize a modern day book.”

I agree. This is very interesting. The idea that we still hold onto a book probably has a number of reasons, one being that books are inexpensive and easy to handle, and another being that we have a cultural attachment to a book in a way we may not have had to LP records or audio cassettes.

As for whether Kindle can “beat” the book, I’m not sure it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. Guy Kawasaki captures the whole argument for me: “Most will conclude that it won’t because of cost, requirement to recharge, dropability, and dunkability (ie, in water), and in these ways it won’t. But this is mostly true for novels and any book that you’d read once and not again. However, for reference books, Kindle kicks butt. For example, I would love to have the Chicago Manual of Style on Kindle, so I can search for rules in a much better way than referring to an index. You can roll your own by sending documents to your account, and they will appear on your Kindle.”

This is where the argument, for me, gets interesting. I read a review on Amazon where one guy was saying that what Amazon doesn’t understand is that he doesn’t want to replace a book, he wants to replace his laptop.

I don’t think that’s true for people concerned with lifestyle moderation. I honestly don’t think we want to be able to carry our entire business libraries and all those documents around with us everywhere we go so that we can always work. Anita Campbell wrote about this over two months ago.

For people who do want that, Kindle is not the right choice at this time, because of its experimental PDF support.

While many reviewers are asking if Kindle can “change how we read,” I think the question is even deeper, in that Kindle may be poised to change how we think. I frequently look things up online that I could look up in a book, much faster than having a dictionary or thesaurus on my desk. How will Kindle change what I do with written words?

Only time will tell. One thing I’m convinced of today, however, is that it will positively affect our abilities to do what we want, when we want. This is always a good thing.

We’ve all been anxiously waiting for the “paperless office” prognostications to come true, yet this promise appears to be a delusion that’s more elusive than ever.

Will Amazon’s new eBook reader change the way we think?

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David Bohl on Lifestyle for EntrepreneursAbout the Author: Husband, Father, Friend, Lifestyle Coach, Author, Educator, and Entrepreneur, David B. Bohl is the creator of Slow Down FAST. For more info go to Slow Down Fast and visit his blog at Slow Down Fast blog.

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  1. Interesting…I hadn’t heard of this yet. I will have to check it out. Not sure that I would be into it though. I’m curious, how many of you would use it?

  2. My problem with the Kindle are it’s limitations – can we allow a proprietary system to become the standard? We’ve done it once with PDF files – whether we like it or not, they have become a standard format. MS files have done something similar – though there are other options out there word processing files, spreadsheets and presentations, though I know MS would like to think they’re the only one out there.

    Amazon wants me to pay $400 for a reader that’s only going read items I purchased through them? And I can’t share those items with someone else? Plus it’s going to select the newspapers and blogs I can have delivered to it? How are they going to determine what items are available in their format?

    I see too many limitations in this specific piece of technology. Far better for my use would be a mobile web appliance that has a quality web browser, the ability to read books (from wherever I buy or borrow them from), listen to audio files(including audio books) and do the other things I need to do. I am not yet convinced the iPhone is the way to go either, though it does several of those things.

  3. Laura,
    You’ve done a wonderful job of illustrating Kindle’s limitations.

    Additionally, you’ve noted that there have been other technologies over the years that have blazed similar paths, most recently the iPhone. Amazon is betting that past models used when introducing new technology will hold true for Kindle. They want to win a small piece of the way we manage information.

    The Kindle is user-friendly to those who do not want the versatility of a system as you’ve described. If you’re simply looking for something that is low-maintenance and will deliver books, newspapers, magazines, and blogs, Kindle may be for you.

  4. I don’t know, in the day of converging technologies, pcs and tvs, phones with all the functionality you need. Look at the dissapearance of PDAs, when was the last time you saw someone with a Treo… So to carry around another device… to read… nope dont think so. Screen quality on phones is getting larger, pcs as getting smaller and lighter is there really the need?
    Image the futur, its a simple sheet of paper, its light, you can take it anywhere and when you are done you throw it away… the newspaper, the paper back the magazine… why bother with another electronic device?

  5. I don’t like the idea of it for two reasons:

    First of all, I’m a purist, and turning the pages of a book beats scrolling down a screen any day. I still have to go into a bookstore. There’s just nothing like it!

    Second, I don’t think there’s much you can get only on the kindle that you can’t already get on the computer. My husband has a blackberry, and I often wish he weren’t so able to be “in touch”!

  6. “I would love to have the Chicago Manual of Style on Kindle, so I can search for rules in a much better way than referring to an index”

    Have you seen the online version of the Chicago Manual of Style? http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/ It does a lot more than you can do with a Kindle. You can create and store your own stylesheets for instance. And would a Kindle have all the hyperlinking and navigation utility of the web version? The web is a much more powerful and flexible publishing platform than these ebook readers.

  7. Thanks for the excellent piece on a subject that I’ve been meaning to research. Literally 28 years ago I had an argument with a girlfriend, who was (and still is, I’m sure) a huge bibliophile. I took the side that SOMEHOW books would someday become fully digitized, because analog publication is too antiquated. If you’ll pardon the obvious metaphor, the publishing industry is hidebound (definition: “stubbornly conservative and narrow-minded”).

    The book publishing industry is one of the last to enter the digital age, and because of it, profit margins for publishing companies have not been nearly as high as other mass media categories.

    I love books. I love the feel of them, and their heft. But I don’t like everything about them, and some things drive me crazy. They take up a lot of space, require dusting, and I have been known to misplace them over the years. That used to happen for me with my LP collection (ah, vinyl!), until I moved over to CDs, and now MP3s. Some fought this transition. I went willingly, trying to focus on the benefits — and the content these media delivered.

    I’m sure many of our ancestors believed a book printed on anything other than sheepskin — or, before that, papyrus — was unthinkable. I suspect history will show that the ink-and-paper camp to be equally quaint.

  8. Jeff,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I’m going willingly on this one.

    As I look at the stack of books next to me here at my desk, glance across the room at the shelves filled with more books, and think about the collection I have downstairs under glass in my family room, I cannot help but be motivated by the need to declutter.

  9. David B. Bohl at SlowDownFAST.com

    To All:

    Here’s an update on Kindle from Amazon.com’s Kindle page (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000FI73MA/ref=amb_link_5892762_2?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0HXGPKJD2HMK4DBMCJ32&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=334283001&pf_rd_i=507846):

    Due to heavy customer demand, Kindle is temporarily sold out. Because we ship Kindles on a first-come, first-served basis, please ORDER NOW to reserve your place in line. Your Kindle will not arrive by December 25th. Note that Kindles cannot currently be sold or shipped to customers living outside of the U.S.


  10. I think what is unsaid here is, despite the hype of this particular device, this is still just a start. Modifications, improvements, and lower pricing will follow. Digitization is largely a foregone conclusion in the long run. How much money could be saved if even 25% of books could be delivered digitally.(Not too mention greenhouse gasses) The cost of shipping books all over the country seems like such a waste when they could be streamed across the internet in a matter of seconds. For those of us who have ever moved before, know that one of the heaviest things we have to pack are our books. While I’m sure this Kindle will not conquer the written word, I am sure that the generations to come will. As a reminder, the first MP3 players were bulky, expensive and not very popular. Though I think we all know that story.

  11. Doug,

    Absolutely. All good points. It’s all about progress, not perfection.