Tomorrow, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos will release the Amazon Kindle, a new e-book reader that is supposedly going to revolutionize the reading industry. Here's the rather lengthy cover story, "The Future of Reading," from Newsweek which is well-worth the read to anyone who cares about the future of books.
There have been other e-book readers on the market like the Sony Reader, but the Kindle claims several new features. Like other readers, it can hold up to 200 books in its memory, it is purported to be the size and feel of a paperback, but the Kindle provides wireless connectivity to Amazon, thus allowing users to purchase any book with a one-touch process and the book will be autmatically be downloaded to the Kindle.
The publishing world has been fractioned lately between those that choose to stay with traditional paper-based publishing methods, and those that espouse new e-book technology. Both sides warrant merit. I like the touch, feel and smell of books. I get a special rush whenever I walk into a bookstore or library and see all of the titles stacked on shelves, waiting to be devoured. I doubt I'd ever get that same feeling by holding an electronic device.
On the other hand, this technology may open up avenues of access to a lot of people who might otherwise not read. A 2004 NationalEducation Association study reported that only 57 percent of adults read a book, any book, in a year. That was down from 61 percent a decade ago. How sad is that?
And the argument can be made that this device could potentially save a whole lot of trees and thus have a positive environmental impact.
With the multi-billion dollar power of Amazon behind it, which has in its own way revolutionized the book selling industry, there is no doubt that the Kindle could change a lot of reading habits. Amazon has already impacted the lives of many authors because everytime a used book goes up for sale on Amazon, the author no longer receives royalty revenue from it.
Much like the Writer's Guild of America strike because of lost royalties due to new technologies, the Amazon Kindle is yet another technology that could be another source of lost revenue for writers, or, it could further revolutionize the book industry and give it a much-needed boost.
In my heart, I'd like to think that any gimmic, device or wizardly trick that will encourage people to READ BOOKS is a good thing. It pains me to read statistics that show we are becoming a nation of NON-readers, but every person who enjoys a well-spun tale needs to understand that behind that story is an author with a family trying to make ends meet.