The Kindle Matters

Posted on October 7, 2008 by Tony Uphoff

Blogging about media and technology feels trivial at a time when our global economy is in free fall and we Americans are preparing to select the next President of the United States in what seems like one of the most important elections in our lifetime. If I felt I had any unique insights or value to add on the economy to blog about I would. I understand media and technology however so it's here I will blog. Keep the faith. America is a remarkably resilient country and system. Now to the matter at hand...

The Kindle matters. A lot. For those of us who live and work in technology, media and design hotbeds like The Silicon Valley, The Thirty Mile Zone of Hollywood or New York City we tend to think of innovation as something that happens like lightening. It comes on, as the patent office definition of invention goes, "as a flash of genius". The fact is however that most of the truly game changing inventions have taken many years to gain a foothold. Television took nearly 20 years after it's invention before it reached a level of critical mass. The Internet as well took nearly 20 years from it's inception to commercial impact. E-books my friends, yes E-books are about to have their turn. 20 years later E-Books are starting to gain traction and the Kindle is a major reason why.

Most of my family, friends and colleagues know I'm a major gadget geek. My wife regularly jokes that consumer electronic marketing departments likely have my photo on their wall. I was one of the first iPod, iPhone, Treo, and BlackBerry users. I've had all manner of cell phones as each new technological advance created a new set of features. Heck in the garage I've got a 128K Macintosh Computer tucked away in a box. So it's not surprising that I've been into E-books. After exhaustive investigation about a year ago I bought one of the more advanced readers from the original Phillips electronic paper team called The Iliad. Gorgeous device. Beautiful screen, fantastic features. Couple of problems though. They use a proprietary, buggy software that forces you to log onto to a computer to access a relatively limited selection of content that's incredibly hard to download. Oh yea. And no wireless.

When Kindle launched people mocked the lack of elegant design. "Looks like an etch a sketch". "Reminds me of an old TI Calculator". In the era of the iPod it looked decidedly low tech. What it had however was a great screen, simple, easy to use features and a fast wireless connection to a ton of good content. Well as you can imagine I'm now a Kindle owner and have to say it's a phenomenal product. This isn't a product endorsement on my part here as much as a category endorsement. Is the Kindle the iPod of the E-book category? I'm not making that assertion. I can say however that I'm not alone in the growing interest in Kindle as the market is starting to gather real momentum. E-books are about to have their turn in the spotlight and will now open up even more access to digital content from books to magazines to blogs to audio files. This has huge implications for content producers and distributors especially those making the move from analog to digital. Perhaps the real question we should be asking is, what invention are you working on or have you seen that's been struggling to gain traction for nearly 20 years? Might be your next best investment.,

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