Kindle 2 vs. IPhone vs. Who Reads Books? - InformationWeek

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2/10/2009
04:38 PM
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Kindle 2 vs. IPhone vs. Who Reads Books?

Now that the basics are out on the Kindle 2 bookreader from Amazon, there's a debate about it vs. the iPhone from Apple. Where do you stand? Do the differences even matter?

Now that the basics are out on the Kindle 2 bookreader from Amazon, there's a debate about it vs. the iPhone from Apple. Where do you stand? Do the differences even matter?I ask because of an important criteria that seems to be missing from every online love poem written for one device or the other. Screen sizes, backlighting, controls, weight, price...every conceivable experiential attribute has been noted and either praised or slammed. Yet one question is lacking: What if people don't read books anymore?

Book production, distribution, and consumption aren't broken, per se. Certainly they could be improved, but books actually work unless you're a would-be author without much talent, or a zealot who believes every printed page is an affront to Mother Gaia.

Readership is down, but not because of any production shortcomings: folks just don't like committing the time and focus necessary for reading books anymore. Is anybody demanding more content or other services to further complicate the issue?

I don't think so.

I'd have expected that the real innovation would focus on inventing new ways to construct, parse, and deliver said content, via new techniques and services. Video games are such a novel iteration, as are video blogs. Spoken word "mini-plays" that dramatize written fiction might be another (does anybody know the name for that?). Perhaps some iPhone app that enables a subscription to chapters, or even individual paragraphs, that got delivered to readers if and when they were ready...or combined them with music and sound effects, or whatever?

Compared with real books, the Kindle 2 and iPhone are different technologies, but both fail to capture the simplicity, durability, flexibility, and readability of reading off the printed page. Or, at best, they're a new-fangled version of said format.

But simply repurposing a book -- a technology itself -- via electronic distribution isn't so much invention as redundancy. Novels are a quality of print technology, so repurposing them to neat gizmos is kind of like developing an electronic buggy whip. New tech requires new content.

Does it matter which gizmo replicates the old stuff?

Jonathan Salem Baskin writes the Dim Bulb blog and is the author of Branding Only Works On Cattle.

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