Friday, April 11, 2008

Reading the future

A couple of further thoughts about books and reading post the Lovemarks launch in Frankfurt. The first thought is that most of the innovation in the industries based on reading is not coming from traditional book publishers. The latest attempt to encourage e-book reading is the Kindle from Amazon. Still out of stock and only available in the U.S., this wireless portable reading device (what a description!) has sparked huge passion for and against, but the publishers seem to be trying to remain neutral. Maybe they’re waiting to see who’s standing at the end of Round 1: the makers of books or of reading devices. It was the same thing with the invention of the automobile of course. Did the Model T Ford come out of the factories of the leading carriage makers of the day? No, it did not.

The second thought is really a question. Will the Kindle end up being used to read books? It’s possible, but it’s also possible that Kindlers will find some other, more interesting use for it. When Alexander Bell invented the telephone, after all, he assumed it would be used to listen to concerts. Marconi was convinced that his invention the radio was a way for two people to talk to each other. In the end the people who use them will decide. The future use of the Kindle, like so many inventions before it, is in their hands. That’s why I felt Steve Jobs’ observations on the Kindle were so misplaced. He reckoned the Kindle would fail because Americans have stopped reading. I reckon that reading might be only part of it – although, yes, I am sure that Apple would have made a nicer job of a reading device than Amazon has.