Everyone’s been buzzing about the Kindle. I watched the video this morning along with, well, everyone. I want to see the e-paper screen, just to see if it really is the cure to eye strain and Everything That Is Wrong With Computers.
I like the concept, but I’m not wild about the execution. First, the superficial: why must all consumer electronics try to look like the iPod? “Try” being the operative word here. Also, the price? Youch. The dimensions look good, though. Small enough to be portable and easy, but not squint-inducingly tiny.
My first big question: why is it black and white? If it was books only, okay. But they’re pushing the newspaper and blog content. Boing Boing in black and white (and without all the links)? I am not convinced. Also, it seems like a step backwards to push websites that were built on interaction and community as read-only e-paper content.
I was pretty hung up on the black and white limitation. Once I got over the thought of web content without color or interactivity (or YouTube?), I realized that the wireless connectivity is pretty neat. So neat, in fact, that I would like to use it to browse all the time.
And hey, didn’t Amazon just add Mp3′s? Can I get those on WhisperNet? No? Audiobooks? Please? Maybe I don’t want a Kindle, but an iPod Touch with a bigger screen. One upside: the increasable text size could be good for cranky eyeballs (and the Kindle is certainly easier to lug around than Large Print editions). Once again, though, $400? Without color?
Tim posted the New York Times Bits review to Web4Lib, and pointed out that it probably isn’t a good thing to have release day reviews talking about what a product could do. There’s a lot of could in the Kindle, but I don’t see the same universal appeal that’s fueled iPhone sales. I’m looking forward to a decent ebook reader someday- what a great way to reach potential patrons. In my imaginary DRM-lite future, we’d be able to loan out ebooks and offer quick lookup services for mobile devices. A quick call to the library, and the article you need pops up on the reader. A few minutes later, related articles and links arrive, in case you need them (because we won’t be able to help ourselves in the future, either). Of course, we can do that now with email and IM, but it never seems to go as smoothly as it does in the imaginary future. There’s always a compatibility issue, or a typo in the email or some AOL problem.
The real reason libraries will do well with mobile connectivity isn’t redesigned sites that look great on two-inch screens or free ebooks. It’s service. Patrons can call the library and ask for directions while they’re driving on the freeway, and it may aggravate us, and we may complain about it later on our blog, or library_mofo or in the back workroom, but we’ll try our damnedest to get them the information they need. If we take questions from bar trivia contestants on the pay phone in the back, sending that crucial WSJ article from last week to someone in a board meeting isn’t a big stretch. I’m just willing to wager that we’ll be sending them to more powerful, smaller (and harder to search on) devices like Blackberries and iPhones then we are to ebook readers like the Kindle.