Ubiquitous Digital Reading

With all the discussion about the Kindle, the Sony eReader, and other “digital book” devices, it is sometimes hard to remember we are at the beginning of what could be a significant transformation of how we read.  Amazon has given us the best glimpse into the future with wireless delivery of content, synchronizing your reading between devices, and offering larger (and therefore, smaller) reading platforms.

This can make for a very interesting future.  I can imagine a very fluid world with digital books, using much of the technology already existing.  Let’s discuss briefly the existing tech (in the Kindle) and the look at how we can imagine a new reading world.

Ease of Delivery First, the Kindle allows the purchase of books through the Sprint cellular network (a service Amazon has called “Whispernet.“)  Books are delivered relatively quickly (in my experience in less than a minute) and are ready to read.  I actually ordered, and was reading, a book for our Sunday School class before the sign up sheet to order the hard copy of the book even made it to my row.  So here we have the first component to the future.

Fluid Movement Between Devices For those readers that are unaware, Amazon has released a Kindle app for the iPhone that lets users read Kindle books on their phone.  As with any book that you read, when one goes from one device to another (or pick up a different copy of the same book) one must search for where they left off.  A different copy means no obvious book marks.  Amazon makes this simple–they synchronize where you were in one device when you pick up the other.  It tells you that you have read further ahead, and asks if you want to move to that spot.  Pretty “cool” in my book.

Devices for Different Settings As noted above, the Kindle is no longer just the “device” but it is the operating and reading application.  One can not only read on the “Kindle” that you purchase through Amazon (see the link on the right column of this page) but you can choose two different size Kindles.  In addition, you can also read using the free application for the iPhone.   As you move through the day, you can read using the devices that best fit your lifstyle at that time.

Currently books, magazines and papers are sent to “Devices” and are thus tied to the device.  You can move easily between those devices, but cannot pick up a different device.  But imagine a different world.

Imagine a world where the books,magazines and papers are associated with the person rather than the device.  As you move through the day, you pick up a “Whispernet capable” device (iPhone, Kindle, or something new) and “log in” to the Kindle.  You are presented with a list of items you have purchased, and you select which one you want to read.  Quietly, and quickly, the book or paper is downloaded to that device, and it picks up right where you left off when you were last reading.  In this way, you are able to read your books, without being tied to a device.

But what could this mean?

  • Libraries can have “digital reading rooms” where people (especially students) can sign out a device, log on, and read their books simply, and easily.
  • One could have several devices in the house and work place, shared between family members or co-workers.  Just grab the closest device, log on, and start reading.
  • With the digital voice technology (available in the Kindle2) we can even imagine a device that, when we log on, will read to us as we drive.  Satellite Radio replaced by books!

Reading can become what we do, when we want to, not when we remember to bring our books, or our devices.

The possibilities seem almost endless.  How could you imagine this world?

2 thoughts on “Ubiquitous Digital Reading

  • Steve Swartz

    Steve: I read your commentary a while back, had some initial reactions, and then decided to think about it a while.

    [You know me- and can appreciate how unusual that is!]

    Upon reflection, I’m still not sure I grok the whole propositions associated with your vision of the effects of the digital format and the associated capabilities. I do have a couple of thoughts though for your consideration:

    – A large number of people are already probably looking at kindling (“Kindle” I think may have already reached Xerox or Kleenex status as a trade name confiscated by the common language; at least it’s “fixing to” become a generic term) as a technological oddity without any kind of sticking power. So a lot of folks may not be tuned in to some of the aspects of kindling that you bring up. I’m not sure exactly where I stand on that issue quite yet . . . (next)

    – I do love to access textual information; massive quantities of it need to be available and searchable; and it has to be quick to find and pleasant to “upload” (to my brain).

    – Therefore, I do appreciate the borg-like vision (Who were those dudes from Dune with the temporal lobe jack-in to the master database? The navigators? The cost accountants?) of having the sum of all man’s knowledge available to everyone instantaneously as being a Good Thing (many folks might not, OBTW). However

    – I don’t buy into the fallacy that Omiscience and Omnipotence are the same thing though . . . sheesh, if we can’t talk on a bluetooth device without plowing into each other on the highway, having even more data feeds won’t automatically make us any *smarter* just more *knowledgeable*. There’s a difference.

    O.K. so that’s my “big picture” vision. How close does the Kindle technology get us to the kindle universe?

    Not quite there yet . . . but ya know what? Kindle 4.0 will probably get us very close to the vision . . . at least as close as a visual medium for data transfer can get us.

    Kindle 5.0 with a heads-up display and eyeball tracking with blink point and click interface? Kindle 6.0 with direct jack into the visual cortex?

    Strap it on, Johnny Mnemonic!

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