This morning NPR featured a news segment by Wendy Kaufman about Amazon’s reported sales of its Kindle e-reader and e-books. The company announced that during the spring and early summer, it “sold 143 e-books for every 100 hardcover books, a gap that is widening quickly.” In addition, sales of the Kindle tripled after Amazon reduced its price from $259 to $189 in order to compete with other e-readers on the market.
Changing the way we read
Although the Kindle and its siblings have been on the market for several years, until now it would’ve been an exaggeration to say that they indicated a coming seimic shift in our reading habits. But something is happening. These days, you might expect to see someone reading a Kindle on the subway. When I floated a question about the merits of the Kindle on Facebook, I was surprised by the Kindle owners who came out of the woodworks to sing its praises. (Yup, it helped to convince me to buy one.)
Recently, the Apple i-Pad splashed onto the market as a multi-faceted device that includes e-reader capabilities. If you fly a lot, you’re likely to encounter several passengers (okay, mostly guys) fiddling with them in rapt attention.
But will they change the way we work?
Nevertheless, for the time being, I don’t think that e-readers are likely to change dramatically the way we work, even for people who regularly use written materials for their daily tasks.
For example, although the Kindle has search, notetaking, and tagging functions, it is not as easy as having various documents, reports, and books around you for easy access and reference. Although I have become a fan of the Kindle for leisure reading (it’s especially convenient for frequent travelers), it is most useful when reading a book from cover-to-cover. Its emerging competitor, the i-Pad, can do a lot more things, but it is more a computerized gadget than a full-fledged computer.
Of course, it is quite possible that the next generation of these devices will have a more transformative influence on the workplace. I see a souped-up variation of the i-Pad as having that kind of potential, bridging the gap between standard desktop and laptop computers and the more limited-function e-readers.