It Only Takes A Spark

22 01 2011

I am rapidly evolving in this high-tech world. No longer do I have the dorsal fin of desktop-only computing. And the tail of my oh-so-tangible chock-filled bookcases and CD/DVD racks is about to fall off forever. I leave behind a new and improved digital DNA for my kids.

Can I get a hallelujah?

I give all the credit to Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon. In 2007 he proudly unveiled the first-gen Kindle, which promised to make reading books a truly portable, electronic and space-saving activity. In spite of my early naysaying, he was right. And oh how it is changing the way we read.

By last summer at Amazon, for books in which a Kindle version was available, the e-book version was out-selling hardcovers 180 to 100. By Christmas, about 50% of all Amazon book sales were for Kindle. Nationwide, about 10% of all books sold are e-books, which means that Amazon is completely and undeniably dominating this niche.

Never mind that Apple’s iPad (which sold over 7 million units in 9 months last year) is actually a far better reading experience. No, it’s just that being able to buy books for roughly half-price and not have them vie for limited space on shelves is a huge drawing card.

I have had a Kindle for about two years, but never really liked the reading experience. It wasn7#039;t until I got the iPad, though, that I felt comfortable doing any digital reading at all. Thankfully, the Kindle app works on the iPad, so I am not limited to buying from Apple’s rather limited selection.

But now that I am a devotee of the digitized word, let me tell you this. I am noticing a lot more people using e-readers in public. In coffee shops. In airports and on planes. About the only place I have yet to see it is church…but if I hurry and download the NIV today, I could take it for a test drive this evening.

Hmmm…

Despite the incredible success Amazon is having with Kindle books, I still do not see a long-term future for the device itself. The Kindle (and its competitor, the Nook) are very limited in functionality. They are basically one-trick ponies. The iPad, however (along with the Samsung Galaxy and other competitors to appear soon) are far more useful because they are really tablet computers.

Still, Bezos started what I consider to be the last attack of the revolution. We have taken music, movies and video games digital, so why not books? Yes, I still like reading tangible books, but I must say that I have noticed (and confirmed with others) that it is possible to read much faster on iPad, Kindle, or whatever. I am not exactly sure why this is true, but it just seems effortless to tap a page turn. I don’t need to worry about falling asleep with the light on. And I can adjust the back light to whatever I need.

Amazon and Apple have both made reviewing e-books a snap. I can download a chapter sample, read reviews and more…just like when I am in a B&M bookstore.

The biggest downside if not being able to take in 150,000 books at once. You know. The view you have when you walk into a Barnes & Noble or Borders, and behold a library of reading choices. It’s hard to even come close to replicating such an experience on a little tablet device, but they are working on it.

Which means you may find me on occasion perusing the shelves of B&N, and taking pics of titles that look interesting. Or even bring my iPad with me for downloading on the spot. Because cheaper prices and faster reading mean I can plow through a heck of a lot more books than I could before. And I can toss that tail away once and for all.

Dr “Book Nerd” Gerlich


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