Books,  Open content

Kindle inches towards the free content scenario

Amazon’s Kindle received a lot of positive and negative attention this week. The positives seem to be that people like the device, it goes some way to capturing the tactile and emotional element of book reading, and the connectivity adds another dimension. The negatives seem to be that the DRM and pricing model.

To me though it represents another small step towards the scenario of digital content becoming free. Quoting yourself is bad form I know, but in my post on the Future of content I said

"let us consider what would happen if digital paper really arrived (despite several proclamations digital ink and paper have been stubbornly difficult to realise, but that isn’t the point of my argument). It felt like real paper, you could have it bound in books like real paper, you could write on it like real paper. But crucially the content it displayed could change, you could search it, and it could record all those annotations you made.

Even as something of a bibliophile, this begins to look tempting to me. I like having books as objects on my shelves, but I used to like having vinyl albums and CDs also, but now I only have MP3s (and clear shelves). If digital paper were so good it overcame the 3 benefits of books above, then it would have significant advantages over real paper. "

Kindle isn’t there yet, but it’s another step along the path. And what we will see happen now is the disintermediation of publishers. As an author I can now publish direct to Kindle. And as Clay Shirky argues, when it comes to a face off between fame vs fortune, fame wins.

Last month Radiohead, this month the Kindle, perhaps the future of content will be with us sooner than even I anticipated.


  • AJ Cann

    The Kindle will have the same impact on books as the Zune had on digital music – negligible to none. People that like books will still buy hard copies, preferring them to an electronic device. And geeks won’t pay the silly prices being asked to subscribe to digital content (e.g. a few blogs – minus the comments).
    I’m not anti-Kindle, I’m just anti this implementation, and waiting for the iKindle (an iPod touch with a 10 inch screen).

  • Martin

    I’d agree – Kindle isn’t a killer app here (e-paper probably is) and the pricing structure is foolish (and will be dropped I’d predict). It’s significant because it’s Amazon, so I think it’s another tiny step, but not as significant as the Levy article suggests.

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