Just a note for those that might have missed it…I’m one part of a three part post over at TechSource on the Kindle 2 and libraries. I’m pointing it out mainly because of the fact that I did the very first, I think, video for TechSource, showing off the Kindle 2’s Text-to-Speech feature. Go take a look, and let me know how you think it came out.
Ok, so we’ve all seen the press, read the Newsweek story, and if you’re reading this you probably read my take on the Amazon Kindle. Here’s a new feature that wasn’t heavily marketed for the Kindle, that has a direct impact on library efforts…and the surprising thing is, it has nothing to do with reading a book.
I’m talking about Amazon NowNow.
It’s an “experimental” feature on the Kindle, but NowNow is a human-powered answer engine that uses the Amazon Mechanical Turk group to search and answer questions for users. The service is in beta, and has been for a year or so (Jessamyn blogged about NowNow back in January).
So what’s the big deal? Well, the Kindle is an always-on internet appliance…anywhere you can get a cell signal, you can be online with the thing. Which means that you can ask a question and get an answer, from nearly anywhere, from a human, emailed directly to the device you used to ask the question in the first place. And this is built into the device…yes, Amazon might decide to charge for this, but right now they aren’t.
Is this Reference 2.0? Imagine being asked a research question by a patron, finding the perfect article for them, and being able to send that article to the device they are going to use to read it. Yes, I realize that laptops sort of fill this goal already, but the Kindle is certainly a more user-centered way of getting at this process. The patron doesn’t have to find a way to ask us questions…the device they are using is a direct line to us. It might not be that distinct from a webpage with a meebo widget…but I think it is qualitatively different somehow.
The Kindle is for sale at Amazon right now, and the details of the device are intriguing. More highlights:
- It connects to the net via cellular networks, specifically EVDO. So anywhere you can get a cell signal, you can buy a book. And there is no charge for the connectivity…Amazon is underwriting it.
- There looks to be subscription models for newspapers, magazines, etc, all delivered automatically in the background. Wake up every morning and the Times is waiting.
- New York TimesÂ® Best Sellers and all New Releases $9.99, unless marked otherwise.
And, my favorites:
- Includes free wireless access to the planet’s most exhaustive and up-to-date encyclopediaâ€”Wikipedia.org.
- By using the keyboard, you can add annotations to text, just like you might write in the margins of a book. And because it is digital, you can edit, delete, and export your notes, highlight and clip key passages, and bookmark pages for future use.
- The source code for the device appears to be available…one can only guess that they leveraged some open source software and are complying with the license. Except that it’s machine readable source…hmmmm.
Here’s the bad:
- They are advertising “more than 250 top blogs…” I take this to mean there is no open RSS reader built in. That seems a nearly criminal omission from the Kindle. I mean, RSS is the backbone of content choice on the web right now…come on Bezos!
- It does support ebooks via Audible…so you can read or listen, as you choose.
- From the License Agreement: “Amazon provides wireless connectivity free of charge to you for certain content shopping and acquisition services on your Device. You will be charged a fee for wireless connectivity for your use of other wireless services on your Device, such as Web browsing and downloading of personal files, should you elect to use those services. We will maintain a list of current fees for such services in the Kindle Store.”
- And here’s a good one: “You agree you will use the wireless connectivity provided by Amazon only in connection with Services Amazon provides for the Device. You may not use the wireless connectivity for any other purpose.”
Ah, and here’s where eBooks and physical books diverge, and is the source of 99% of my frustration with the format (also from the License Agreement):
Use of Digital Content. Upon your payment of the applicable fees set by Amazon, Amazon grants you the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy of the applicable Digital Content and to view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times, solely on the Device or as authorized by Amazon as part of the Service and solely for your personal, non-commercial use. Digital Content will be deemed licensed to you by Amazon under this Agreement unless otherwise expressly provided by Amazon.
Restrictions. You may not sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense or otherwise assign any rights to the Digital Content or any portion of it to any third party, and you may not remove any proprietary notices or labels on the Digital Content. In addition, you may not, and you will not encourage, assist or authorize any other person to, bypass, modify, defeat or circumvent security features that protect the Digital Content.
That book you bought? Not yours. Can’t sell it. Can’t even give it away.
Oh, and for those librarians who still hold tight to the privacy bandwagon:
Information Received. The Device Software will provide Amazon with data about your Device and its interaction with the Service (such as available memory, up-time, log files and signal strength) and information related to the content on your Device and your use of it (such as automatic bookmarking of the last page read and content deletions from the Device). Annotations, bookmarks, notes, highlights, or similar markings you make in your Device are backed up through the Service. Information we receive is subject to the Amazon.com Privacy Notice.
They know when you are reading. They know what you are reading, and that you bookmarked the sex scenes. Oh yes, they know.
So, exciting new product? Yep. Amazon, like Apple before them, has realized the power of a closed market segment, where they control the distribution and the consumption of media. The real test will be whether this survives the 2-3 year adoption cycle and moves into the magic price point range ($100-150).
“The vision is that you should be able to get any bookâ€”not just any book in print, but any book that’s ever been in printâ€”on this device in less than a minute.” –Jeff Bezos
How’s that for a librarian’s dream? The Kindle, Amazon.com’s new eReader, launches tomorrow, and Newsweek has an article online about the new, possibly revolutionary, product.
I can’t do a complete thinkpiece on the Kindle right now, but over the course of the week I’ll get to my take on the device. There are still lots of questions unanswered (the wireless connectivity charge, for one), but here’s the quick take to be expanded on later:
- This could very well be the iPod for books. It is revolutionary.
- Libraries seriously need to get their heads on straight regarding copyright law and licensing. If we don’t do some very, very serious lobbying very, very soon, eBooks will kill the current library model. We really need to do some serious thinking about how this impacts us.
- It is too expensive. For $400 I can buy a laptop (or two!) and do many more things on it.
- I want one.
Now playing: Counting Crows – Love and Addiction