Here’s more from that that NewsWeek story (which seems to have it pretty much covered):
[Note: the whole story is worth a read. These re just the highlights.]
This week Bezos is releasing the Amazon Kindle, an electronic device that he hopes will leapfrog over previous attempts at e-readers and become the turning point in a transformation toward Book 2.0. That’s shorthand for a revolution (already in progress) that will change the way readers read, writers write and publishers publish.
Amazon has worked hard to get publishers to step up efforts to release digital versions of new books and backlists, and more than 88,000 will be on sale at the Kindle store on launch. (Though Bezos won’t get terribly specific, Amazon itself is also involved in scanning books, many of which it captured as part of its groundbreaking Search Inside the Book program. But most are done by the publishers themselves, at a cost of about $200 for each book converted to digital. New titles routinely go through the process, but many backlist titles are still waiting. “It’s a real chokepoint,” says Penguin CEO David Shanks.) Amazon prices Kindle editions of New York Times best sellers and new releases in hardback at $9.99. The first chapter of almost any book is available as a free sample.
The Kindle is not just for books. Via the Amazon store, you can subscribe to newspapers (the Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Le Monde) and magazines (The Atlantic). When issues go to press, the virtual publications are automatically beamed into your Kindle. (It’s much closer to a virtual newsboy tossing the publication on your doorstep than accessing the contents a piece at a time on the Web.) You can also subscribe to selected blogs, which cost either 99 cents or $1.99 a month per blog.
The subscriber charge for blogs definitely is a bad move since it limits your audience. I mean Scoble’s 600 feeds at $1.99 does turn out to be a lot of money. Even my modest reading list at 130 blogs makes reading on the Kindle prohibitive
Now comes the Kindle, which Amazon began building in 2004, and Bezos understands that for all of its attributes, if one aspect of the physical book is not adequately duplicated, the entire effort will be for naught. “The key feature of a book is that it disappears,” he says.
While those who take fetishlike pleasure in physical books may resist the notion, that vanishing act is what makes electronic reading devices into viable competitors to the printed page: a subsuming connection to the author that is really the basis of our book passion. “I’ve actually asked myself, ‘Why do I love these physical objects?’ ” says Bezos. ” ‘Why do I love the smell of glue and ink?’ The answer is that I associate that smell with all those worlds I have been transported to. What we love is the words and ideas.”
That is really important. I still buy my newspapers and books from a bookstore. Nothing beats the smell of ink and the texture of finely sliced and diced wood shavings ( ).
Though the Kindle is at heart a reading machine made by a bookseller—and works most impressively when you are buying a book or reading it—it is also something more: a perpetually connected Internet device. A few twitches of the fingers and that zoned-in connection between your mind and an author’s machinations can be interrupted—or enhanced—by an avalanche of data. Therein lies the disruptive nature of the Amazon Kindle. It’s the first “always-on” book.
This leads to ever grander possibilities. I have on my bookshelf The Great war For Civilization: the Conquest of the Middle East (Ironically, I link to Amazon.com here), written pre-Gulf War 2. Wouldn’t it be absolutely marvelous if the book updated itself for a modest fee on publication of a second edition? Or if my Wrox ASP.Net 2.0 magically jumped versions to 3.0 0r 3.5? that would be great.
Updates, no problem—in fact, instead of buying a book in one discrete transaction, you could subscribe to a book, with the expectation that an author will continually add to it. This would be more suitable for nonfiction than novels, but it’s also possible that a novelist might decide to rewrite an ending, or change something in the middle of the story. We could return to the era of Dickens-style serializations. With an always-on book, it’s conceivable that an author could not only rework the narrative for future buyers, but he or she could reach inside people’s libraries and make the change. (Let’s also hope Amazon security is strong, so that we don’t find one day that someone has hacked “Harry Potter” or “Madame Bovary.”)
As usual, they beat me to the observation. I like the idea of returning to Dickens era serialization, it’s antiquated, almost - dare I say it- bookish.
But, nonetheless, this is an exciting step from Amazon. The whole idea is revolutionary ( if, that is, the implementation stands up to our high expectations).
Would I get one? Let’s wait for the announcement.