Amazon Kindle, trainers and a virtual library
Technology is changing all the time, but one thing that has moved (historically) least is display technology. Is the Kindle e-book reader from Amazon a valuable tool for professionals? Is it worth the money and more importantly the weight and space in our already busy lives? The launch of “virtual paper” (e-Ink) displays is one of the ‘newer’ technologies, and being in a household that devours books I thought it was time to explore these, both for business and pleasure use.
What is the technology?
Much like the MP3 player was for music and audio files, e-book readers provide people with their own portable Virtual Library.
Virtual paper or e-Ink displays are very different from conventional LCD or the new oLED displays. there is no light emitted – it uses the ambient light reflected much like paper in a conventional book, so if you want to read these things in the dark you will need a torch!
Having looked at what was available I went for the Kindle 2. This product seems better supported than many of the competitors, we also went for the Kindle-2 rather than the DX as its size is more “travel friendly” and can be used wireless in the UK and Europe (unlike previous models).
The Kindle is easy to set up and download new content for, although at present there is not much in the way of business books available. You can order content easily on the Kindle website, or from the Kindle device itself. It has its own 3G mobile connection which allows you to browse the amazon store for free. It also has access to wikipedia (free in the UK & US). In the US you can also access almost the whole of the net! I hope this facility is added to the UK, even if we had to pay a small subscription.
The Kindle device is dispatched to a registered user, and only that user can re-assign the product and downloads to another Amazon user – this is the start of a neat security feature. It also means if you have a large Virtual Library, you can select what you carry with you and what remains on your Amazon Virtual Library.
The Kindle will also store PDF and MP3 files, which can be emailed to the device from any registered email account – or directly via a USB cable.
The neat thing is as well as being your Virtual Library and reading your books to you, this device can be used to read research PDFs you have stored, background reading, or indeed any PDF based document. Ok so its not in colour – but it is perfectly serviceable – and easier to read than many other portable devices (laptops, net-books, smart phones, iPhone etc).
Reading on the move
Maybe not for your novel, but if you want to catch-up on the latest report, reading on a train is one thing – but while driving? The Kindle has the great ability to read to you through headphones (text to speech) – so yes you can ‘read’ while driving. Ok not the best sound in the world, but functional.
Working on the move
As well as reading you can annotate pages or comments, which can be downloaded later as a text file. Now while the keyboard is not the best on the market, this added little feature will make it a boon for students revising, or for professionals reviewing material on the go.
Battery life on the Kindle
Because of the display technology you only use power when changing pages, this means a typical charge will last a week!
One potential problem with the Kindle – Security…
One of the features of the Kindle ebook reader is that it has access to your Amazon account for downloads. In the first week of use while browsing for titles I accidentally clicked on the product and it installed it and charged me – no warning or “are you sure” – infact it was too easy. This was such an easy mistake I actually did it twice! Added to the fact that there is no password on the device if someone stile your device, they could have a spending spree, and provided they did not connect the device again would be there permanently! The great this is that Amazon via the Kindle service quickly refunded the costs and removed the files.
If you are unlucky enough to lose your Kindle, because Amazon have a record of your purchases, if you buy a replacement you can download your products again for free!
Uses of a Kindle
As well as reading publications, it is easy to download PDF documents for catching up on research or other reports you have to read. How long will it be before journals start providing PDF versions that you can download at any time. With the search facility, it will be easy to find that article just when you want it. And whats more with a storage capacity of 1500 books that is a lot of potential magazines to carry around with you!
This can lead to us having our own virtual library, with us at any time. This got me thinking about the future of books and reading…
The virtual library of the future
The new future of books and libraries is about to change beyond all recognition. With changes to lifestyle, technology and expectations, will the local authority municipal library survive?
With the advent and growth of digital book readers the landscape is changing, and will publishers beat the music industry at their own game?
What am I talking about?
With an increasingly connected society, what if the book publishing world beat Amazon and Google and put all content online. Not for free but in a giant library where we paid a small fee to borrow the book for a week (say 50p or 50cents). With Kindle-style digital rights management after a week either the product was deleted, renewed or purchased.
This would make any book accessible, and generate revenue.
The libraries could then operate a service where people could borrow a reader with the content they wanted if they did not have their own device
This approach will be good for the publishers, enabling a try before you buy, reduce physical printing costs, and generate a new market of print on demand local high street providers for people that wanted a hard copy of publications they had purchased.
A Kindle is a great little product, not the cheapest of its kind on the market, but easy to use, great to read from and increasingly flexible. I can see this technology really taking off, and if we can have a dual screen net-book with conventional screen and liquid paper screens we will start to have a great portable device…. but wait it is here The enTourage eDGe The next 2-3 years are going to be interesting for the whole of the publishing and tech market – the question is what format and provider will lead… where is Apple in this?
If you love reading, but weren’t sure if technology would replace the printed word – then be prepared to be surprised!
Now will the publishers of the books I have allow me through proof of ownership to provide me with a digital copy – even if for an admin fee?
This post was first published Oct 2009