Tomorrow, Amazon is set to release “Kindle,” the digital book reader that holds over 200 books and does a whole lot more (i.e. full text searches, annotations, wireless downloads, online surfing, etc.) It’s a huge suggestion, isn’t it, that we might be on the verge of moving one of the last bastions of the analog world online, and I know that this is a real sore point with many who love to curl up with physical books and turn pages. As an article titled “The Future of Reading,” in this week’s Newsweek about Jeff Bezos’ and his new device says:

Computers may have taken over every other stage of the process—the
tools of research, composition and production—but that final mile of
the process, where the reader mind-melds with the author in an
exquisite asynchronous tango, would always be sacrosanct, said the

I’m not so sure. When you think of all there is to read now, and how the form of that reading has been changed by the Web, I think it’s clear we’re in a transition period that is moving us to something not necessarily better or worse but different for sure. (One of my favorite sayings about many of these shifts.) Again, while fully admitting that my personal practice right now in no way reflects the practice of 97.45% of the rest of the population in terms of the creation and consumption of digital content, and while I still love books with pages and read many of them each year, given the choice, I would rather go digital. (Don’t forget, I still love my Tablet PC even if I don’t use it as much these days.)

The bigger question, as the article alludes to, is whether or not this shift will begin to reverse the trend of people reading fewer and fewer books. And I love the possibility, as suggested in the article, that one potential of connected books are connected readers, that this device or one similar may open up all sorts of ways in which we can share the reading with others. Ben Vershbow, author of one of my favorite blogs, says “The idea of authorship will change and become more of a process than a product.” (It already is, isn’t it?) If you want even more mind bending examples (like the ability of liberals to annotate an Ann Coulter book for all of us to read) then read the whole article.

But is the Kindle the device that’s going to make the slope even more slippery? I’d love to try one out, no doubt.

And in the end, I think that’s what I like more than anything about all of these conversations. That in these shifts, in these changes come all sorts of not seen before potential to create connections, to build networks. Like the Kindle, much of this is absolutely different. That’s what makes it fun, don’t you think?

(Note: The Newsweek article is decidedly rosy about this event. For a less upbeat assessment, try this column in Information Week.)

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