The Book 2.0

According to a new Newsweek report, entitled The Future of Reading, Amazon will introduce a device this week that could usher in the long-awaited ebook revolution. It is called the Amazon Kindle, named to evoke the crackling ignition of knowledge.

jeff bezos with the kindle theme shadowed on his face

According to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (pictured above),

This is the most important thing we’ve ever done…. It’s so ambitious to take something as highly evolved as the book and improve on it. And maybe even change the way people read.

And, he may have actually done it. Only time will tell. According to Newsweek, the Kindle:

  • Weighs 10.3 ounces.
  • Is about the size of a paperback book.
  • Can hold 200 books itself and more on ancillary memory cards.
  • Uses the display technology of E-Ink, which can be read equally well in bright sunlight or dimly lit environments.
  • Can provide 30 hours of reading on a single charge and can be recharged in two hours.
  • Has a built-in keyboard.
  • Provides the ability to search inside the book, highlight passages, and take notes.

None of this is particularly new. Other devices, such as the Sony Reader sport similar technologies. However, the Kindle has something no other device to-date has offered: Internet connectivity. This will enable you to download entire books with a single click. It does this via Whispernet, a technology that is based on the EVDO broadband service offered by Sprint. This allows it to work anywhere, not just Wi-Fi hotspots.

In my view this is what gives the Kindle the potential to catch fire (pun intended). It may provide the kind of user experience that iPod users already enjoy. You won’t have to think about how to get your electronic files onto the device; it will happen automatically.

And, unlike all the iPods until the most recent one, the Kindle can function independently of a PC. According to Newsweek, you can use it to browse for books, check out personal recommendations, read reader reviews and even post new ones, thanks to the built-in keyboard.

Some 88,000 books will be available for download when the product is announced this week. And—get this—they will be available for $9.99 each. This has the potential to revolutionize the book publishing business model. And it may just give readers the incentive they need to go digital.

In addition to books, you can subscribe to newspapers (e.g., the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Le Monde) and magazines (e.g., The Atlantic). You can also search for items on the Web and view Web pages.

While many in my generation may be reticent to give up traditional books, this is not true of the younger generation. They grew up with the Internet and already do most of their reading electronically. The Kindle is simply the logical next step.

Finally, the Kindle will also appeal to environmentally-conscious consumers. Consider the “energy-wasting, resource-draining process of how we make books now. We chop down trees, transport them to plants, mash them into pulp, move the pulp to another factory to press into sheets, ship the sheets to a plant to put dirty marks on them, then cut the sheets and bind them and ship the thing around the world.” The eBook revolution—if it catches on—could change all of that, perhaps faster than we think.

Personally, I think the handwriting is on the wall. Welcome to The Book 2.0.

Update: Amazon now has the Kindle available for sale. You can find it here.

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