Posted by: Steven Harris | November 20, 2007

Kindling a Fire for Ebooks

Amazon just released their Kindle ebook reader. The reader technology is much the same as Sony’s Reader. They are both based on the E-Ink electronic paper display. The big differences are the inclusion of wireless connectivity and annotation capabilities in the Kindle. But these are BIG differences. The Kindle may not yet be the ebook killer app, but having the ability to connect to a larger library of works wirelessly will go a long way to popularizing the device. The ability to annotate, coupled with connectivity will mean that conversations and discussions could possibly begin to happen INSIDE a book.

Another interesting development is that Amazon is offering the Kindle as a self-publishing platform. Once again, they are tapping into the Web 2.0 mindset and allowing the general audience to contribute to the product base. It will be interesting to see if this takes off.

I am trying to think of ways that libraries can deploy ebook readers like these. I suppose one day the customers will already have their own ebook devices and libraries will offer titles to be downloaded. Some kind of date stamp would be necessary, so that books could be “checked out” for a limited time period. The publishers wouldn’t go for unlimited use of a single purchased copy.

In the interim, I am thinking that libraries could buy a couple dozen readers and circulate them much like they do laptop computers. The trick will be getting the books the user wants loaded on the reader. Perhaps, with the Kindle, a library could set up limited accounts and let the user download up to a specified dollar amount. Or, alternatively, the list of Kindle titles could be maintained on a computer. The user would review the list and download the desired titles to the Kindle that they would be taking away. A lot of intervention for that scenario. But it would be a good way to gauge interest in the technology.

Kindle vs Sony:

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