Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Apple’s Kindle Killer in Waiting ...

The tech, business and publishing worlds have been emitting at least a low-level buzz in recent months about what the ever-secretive Apple Inc. may (or may not) be on the verge of doing on the e-book reading device front. That is, are they poised to launch a Kindle killer?

Inevitably, they have something up their sleeve, and given their track record on hardware development, odds are it will be game changing. This recent “Silicon Alley Insider” column from lays out a couple of interesting possibilities and makes what seems to be a reasonable speculation on how things will shake out.

Most of the book/magazine/newspaper-lovers (i.e., readers) I’ve talked to have been quite skeptical about the Kindle and similar e-readers up to this point. While I agree the current technology leaves A LOT to be desired, I do believe that once we get beyond the Betamax equivalents of e-readers, they will be something that readers of books and magazines can and will embrace. That is, when they are conveniently portable (flexible and roll-upable, like a printed magazine), wirelessly connected to the all of the world’s literature and periodicals, energy efficient, touch sensitive and full color with image quality equivalent to today’s glossy magazines.

From what I’ve been reading, whatever Apple is working on won’t likely be all of those things right out of the shoot. But it will probably be the equivalent of a 50-yard gain – moving the e-reader ball well down the field.

Assuming all of the above does occur, my main and lingering reservation about these devices is the tradeoff for having a full library at your disposal anytime, anywhere is you will also have an expensive and fragile device to look after (i.e., protect from damage and theft). Gone will be the carefree reading of a paperback that you can lose or pass on to a friend and the hassle-free discarding (recycling) of a magazine that you’ve finished reading. When your e-reader is with you, it’s with you ... and it’s not fond of sand, water, extreme heat or cold, direct sunlight, being dropped, etc. Nevertheless, that tradeoff might still be worth it.

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