kindle – Stay N Alive

Mobile, Tablets, and the Need for an Extended E-Reading Experience

Imagine buying a book from the book store and only being allowed to use a yellow highlighter to highlight that book and not being able to add any notes as you read it.  Seems pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it?  Yet we’re forced into that with today’s default readers on devices such as the iPhone and iPad, or even Amazon’s Kindle or many readers on Android devices.  Right now when you read books, you’re forced into the experience the manufacturer of the device you’re reading on has decided they want you to experience.

On the iPhone and iPad, we’re provided with iBooks, a beautiful reading experience and great store to go with it that will even let you import PDFs and ePub-formatted books and documents.  However, for the static content we read on these devices, we’re stuck with only the ability to highlight in the colors they give us, copy, select, and a limited set of features to extend that reading experience.  What if I want to draw a picture on the book?  What if I want to add a text note?  What if I want to share the text I just highlighted to Facebook?  The same goes for other devices like the Kindle, and even Android, and I bet the same for upcoming Windows smart phones.  It has been this way on PDA Readers since Palm and Handspring even.  The reading experience on these readers of static, published content simply isn’t extendible, and it hasn’t evolved much in ages.

We need a Reader that has an API attached to it.  The API should tie into the highlighting, the selecting, the turning of the pages, the rendering of the content, the bookmarking, and more, so app developers can alter the reading experience beyond what comes with the device.  I’m talking about a plugin-type architecture for Reader apps that render static content.

Currently just about all modern web browsers support plugins.  If I want to render a website in a slightly different manner than what the website owner intended for my personal uses, I can do so, and it sticks to my browser and my browsing experience.  Currently, in Gmail I use Rapportive to provide more information about the people who are e-mailing me.  It uses a simple browser plugin that reads, identifies, and alters the content of Gmail in a manner that is relevant to me, in a manner that the makers of Gmail probably never considered (nor did the makers of my browser).

Imagine as you’re reading a book, being able to pull in the relevant Tweets of other people reading that book at the same time.  Imagine being able to share bits about what you’re reading with your Twitter and Facebook friends.  Imagine reading a book, and having it automatically notice your Facebook account, it reads information about you from that Facebook account, and it alters the content of the book based on who you are, perhaps even bringing you into the experience.  Imagine the ramifications of this for Text Books that can learn about you as they present information you can learn from.

Currently we’re reinventing the wheel over and over again as developers create new mobile apps that recreate the reader experience in various ways.  My publisher, O’Reilly, for instance, is creating individual applications in the app store just so they can have more control over the publishing experience for their books (at least I’m guessing that’s why they do it), and their readers get the experience they want to provide. (search for “FBML Essentials” in the app store to find my book)  What would happen if Apple instead provided the basic reader, and O’Reilly could then provide just the extension necessary for that basic reader to customize the experience for their readers.

By extending the basic book reader on mobile and tablet devices, I think we’ll see a new revolution in the way books are published that print books simply cannot provide.  It’s time we break out of the static book reading experience and provide an open, extendible experience that any developer can use to alter the way your books are presented to you, and at the same time you, the reader get to choose the best way you want to read that book.  This is the future.  This is the future with no log in button I talked about earlier.  It’s the Building Block Web, applied to books.

I wonder if Kynetx could power such an experience.

The Kindle Technology Will Be Disposable in The Future

Esquire E-Ink TechnologyToday the buzz of the tech blogosphere has been the coming launch of a new, bigger and thinner Kindle which will target newspapers in a way some are claiming will save the dying industry. MG Siegler is calling it a hail-mary, last-ditch pass that will most likely fail. Dave Winer and Robert Scoble think otherwise, stating the potential for networked devices, and the convenience of such devices to relieve the need to carry multiple books or papers while traveling, or visiting the beach.

I suggest this game is far from over for the Newspaper industry. When I worked at Media General, a large, Publicly-traded media organization that owns Newspapers and TV stations throughout the southeast, we were talking about technologies such as the Kindle even 5 years ago. This stuff isn’t new to them. They know this is the future.

Here’s why I think we’re far from the Newspaper industry going out of business: Paper. The Newspaper industry knows paper – they thrive on it, and their business is dependent on disposable forms of media. They have hundreds of years experience in paper. Media General itself has newspapers that root in the Civil War era. This is the paper you can have delivered to you, which you can throw away when you’re done. There’s something about the tangible feeling of paper that people enjoy. The problem is it’s wasteful and with the amount of paper used, it’s rather expensive. It’s also at times not very convenient.

Enter the Kindle. The Kindle brings the power of Ink technology to digital form, in a single box you can take around with you, download new content, and refresh that content daily as new content arrives. The problem with the Kindle though is it is Amazon’s brand. It’s their power to determine the formats papers need to be in, and what they look like. It’s their power to determine revenue models. Newspapers still have their own brand to maintain. Relying on one technology for that won’t work.

In addition, the Kindle still doesn’t quite hit that disposable paper niche that Newspapers are so good at. The power of the Newspaper industry is that they are local – they currently own the media distribution of entire cities and towns, and know those towns in a way no other media entity can know. For this reason, having a local paper-boy deliver a disposable paper to your door adds to that personal touch – nothing digital can replace that in-person relationship people have with their local Newspaper. Add to that the local relationships with local businesses and the ability to generate very personalized ads thanks to those relationships. It’s hard to beat that with a much larger, digital entity.

In essence, in a timeline of events, we have gone in our world’s history from tablet forms of writing – gold, brass, slate, and more, to paper form, to ink forms of writing on top of paper and mass distribution because of that via the printing press and computers. Now with the Kindle, we’re going back from Paper form, back to the tablet. It’s a non-disposable, re-usable form of writing.

I predict this cycle will repeat itself. We actually already have the technology in front of us. Last year we saw Esquire magazine release a magazine with a cover written in digital ink, along with a digital ad for Ford on the back. They’ve proven it’s possible, and they were able to fully maintain their brand by doing so.

What will happen is memory technology will get smaller and smaller for the amount of memory you can store content like Newspapers. Batteries are already getting smaller. The technology you see on the Kindle today will be able to be produced in tangible Paper form in 2 years I predict. At that time, you’ll see the News stands full of single sheets of paper, the dimensions of the new Kindle, but in disposable, paper form, with the Newspaper corporation’s brand and advertising all over it. You’ll be able to purchase it for not much more than the price of a single newspaper today (in theory, it ought to be cheaper to produce). It will integrate with Facebook. It will integrate with other viral technologies. It will even potentially have GPS, not just for networking and viral promotion, but for ad analytics and tracking, making the Newspapers valuable again.

While the newspapers are dying now, I predict they’ll be back. This technology is just around the corner in affordable measures from us. Will the Kindle survive? I think so, but I don’t think it will fully compete with the Newspapers. I think it’s Apples and Oranges – the Kindle is presenting an entirely new distribution mechanism that will manifest itself on many other devices as well. Paper itself is not going away. It is going digital.

Photo courtesy mstearne.

I’m On Facebook–Now What??? Now Available for the Kindle – Get Your Copy Today!

I'm On Facebook--Now What??? For the KindleRecently when Amazon made their Kindle software available for the iPhone I told Jason and our Publisher Mitchell at HappyAbout that it was time we get our copy in the already strong database of books the Amazon Kindle Store provides. Now, not only would you not have to buy a Kindle to read our book digitally, but you could now take it anywhere with you, in your pocket, along with dozens of other of your favorite books thanks to the portability of the iPhone. This was very appealing to me, as now with just the push of a button you could download our book, read it anywhere you go, bookmark it, select your favorite pages, and more in a nice, easy-to-read digital format.

So I was proud to learn today that you can now go to the Kindle Store, search for “I’m on Facebook”, and with one click, have our book in your pocket or on your Kindle wherever you go. Better yet, it’s the cheapest of all versions, at only $9.56! We save on publishing costs, you get half off the original book price. How’s that for win-win?

If you have an iPhone, you can download the Kindle app by clicking on this link. You can also buy the Kindle 2 on Amazon (affiliate link) and get the full experience. To get the book, just go here, click the “Buy now with 1-click” link, and it will automatically be downloaded to your Kindle the next time you turn it on or open the app on the iPhone. Or, if you were always wanting to see what it was about, try it out for free! There’s a “Send sample now” link on that same page which will send you just a sample so you can see a preview of what you’re purchasing before you buy it.

Oh, and be sure to share this with your Facebook friends!