Three developments regarding the Kindle have recently caught my eye.
1) The Bookseller reported during the Frankfurt Book Fair that the Kindle would not be released in Europe this year due to complications with data carrier agreements.
2) Oprah is now endorsing the Kindle, which you can read about from the Bookseller, the Guardian, Time, Amazon, and Oprah.com.
3) Several American university presses will release Kindle versions of textbooks (old news, but I just found out about it)
But what does it all mean? Are we just lusting after another gadget, or are some readers ready to change their reading habits? We no longer have a problem with the electronic versions of songs. We gave up our CD towers with ease and eagerness, but nobody wants to get rid of their bookshelves. People complain that you can’t take a Kindle to the beach, but then why do we take our MP3 players to the beach?
I had a conversation with a German family about the Kindle recently. Although they had not heard of the Kindle, they said that $300 did not seem like too much to pay for such a device. They seemed intrigued. Germany has an amazingly strong reading culture, and I am looking forward to seeing how the Kindle does in that market. The only person in this conversation who was not intrigued by the Kindle was the person who worked in book publishing.
Maybe the target audience is not actually the publishing professional, but the book club member, the business traveler, and the readers who have nothing to do with the business of publishing outside of consuming it. Most of the talk about the Kindle comes from inside the industry, yet I hear relatively little about the Kindle from outside the book biz. Despite working with and producing e-books, publishing people mostly stick with ink-and-paper books (as found in a survey conducted by the Frankfurt Book Fair, over 60% of respondents do not use e-books or e-readers).
As a potential user, the primary reason I would buy a Kindle over the Sony Reader or any other device is the internet connection. Gadgets need to be multifunctional and convenient these days. Maybe I should just buy the iPhone instead. The truth is that consumers are not sure what they want when it comes to digital reading, which makes it difficult for publishers to create products for them.