Amazon's Jeff Bezos with the Kindle.
Download current bestsellers as well as the latest release of your favorite not-so-mainstream author. Plus everything ever published, ever. Coming soon.
Last week's cover of Newsweek magazine (11.26.07 issue) displays a nearly life size photo of the device Amazon.com is betting will finally offer a serviceable alternative to that bastion of civilization, the book. The 'Kindle', as it's called, is a far more exciting product than electronic readers I've seen so far, and halfway through Steven Levy's feature article I found myself enthusiastically describing the benefits to anyone who would listen.
Not only can the Kindle hold a library-worth of books (200 or so) at any given time in the palm of your hand, but it has a screen you can actually read them on without inducing migraines, and additional books are accessible at any time without hooking up to a computer. Using cell phone type broadband technology, the Kindle exists independently of your computer, which makes it even cooler than an iPod for bookish types. There are no connectivity fees.
Your grandmother wants to know what you're reading about? Instantly change the font size of the text. Plus get the daily paper and top bloglines instantly without carting along your wi-fi ready laptop.
Imagine having mobile access to your favorite blogs, newspapers (hot off the press), magazines (latest issues before they hit newsstands) and even being able to read freshly released chapters of that new crime novel as the author finishes writing them. Errata can be corrected instantly -- because the Kindle remains accessible to publishers even after your download is finished. Rather than a static printed page, the book becomes a link that connects the reader with the entire publishing community.
All using a device that has been designed to look and feel like a book, with a six inch screen and about 10 ounces of heft in your hand. Can readers move both forward and backward at the same time, reading serialized fiction in the manner of Dickens on a device that can also access his entire oeuvre at any given moment?
The larger goal, as Amazon adds to its offerings (currently approaching the 100,000 mark, including books, blogs, magazines and newspapers) is to make instantly available everything ever published. Say what? Get in line if you want to talk about copyright infringement, but the potential is exciting. Texts are totally searchable, which has great implications for scholarship. Nothing ever goes out of print. First chapters are free, so you can try before you buy.
No wonder it costs the same as an iPhone currently does.