When Will the Kindle Catch On? – James Meléndez / Jaime Patricio Meléndez

Is the Kindle catching on? While the Kindle DX is due to ship on June 10. The Kindle family is getting out there and now it is time for the public to open their wallets and get to shopping for their e-reader. Right? But I think the e-reader is getting a lot of press and the public is quite silent but talking a bit more about the Kindle and other e-readers. I am based in the Bay Area and either riding BART and other public transports I have only spotted one other Kindle reader. Just a few short years ago I saw a lot of newspapers and like the wind they have all nearly gone away. Instead I do see people with an occasional magazine or book but more commuters are sleeping in the morning and reading only slightly more in the evening commute—and a few scan their smaller computing devices where possible—certainly not possible in all underground and tunnel situations. Personally, and I know I am exception, I am a voracious reader and look for any opportunity to read—I can’t imagine at just staring straight ahead on a morning or evening commute. I see people do this even without headphones.
I was recently at a well-known technology company in the Bay Area and was in one of their nice cafeterias and I was surprised how no one had a Kindle. I thought there would have to be at least 3-4 in this room of 100 people eating their lunches. This is a fairly moneyed room or at least a room with expendable income and low probability of layoffs. I figured being in the company of bright individuals there would have to be a few people like me? But there was no one—I scanned the line and occasionally perused at fellow diners to see if someone was going to take out their Kindle out of their messenger bag. After 10 minutes, I stopped glancing and started to wonder—if in this room there are no Kindles would there ever be any? And then as I was nearing the finish of my lunch I had several people come up to me—my immediate thought was they wanted something from the table—a napkin or salt shaker? Instead they were asking how I liked it and asked for a demo—these people wanted to know what type of reading I do. I replied I like to read newspapers, books, blogs and my personal documents on my Kindle. Each person came up and intently listened to what I had to say. I asked them if they were going to get one and if they had any impediments to buying one—one person said it was due to price so making certain it was a device for them was essential, another person asked to see what it looked like. In each case a show and tell was helpful and getting their appetites even further whetted.
In some ways I wonder if there will be a big(ger) demand later—after this painfully long recession is over. I wonder if there are fundamentals to reading that continue to change what people do—are they reading less? Given most people I know are time starved are they going to pick up an e-reader at it’s current price point – $359.00?
I was in college and graduate school when I had to carry and oppressive load of books to class. What I would not have done for an e-reader to help me out physically. I know I had developed back pain and I thought it was the many heavy books I had to carry. I didn’t have time to go from class to car and any locker system was sparse to non-existent at my Alma Maters. How about those rare times I forgot a book for a class? It was always Murphy’s Law that worked so well—the book you forget is the one you need the most. I can see the benefit of not just having your current years of text books, journal articles and PDFs from your entire schooling carried with you everywhere. I do think at some point in the future school e-readers or at least large format e-readers like the Kindle DX will take off.
I do think e-readers are viable and will take longer to sink in. A few friends of mine said “Oh I can get a reader for my iPhone.” And I said I don’t think there are enough power reserves to do everything on your iPhone. Even if there were plenty of power reserves—I could not fathom reading on my phone. I do think that multiple devices is just a way of life and that for logical reasons e-readers will have a place.

Now, I pine for a Kindle DX but I must say that my Kindle 2 has been quite handy for traveling and commuting and I ask myself could I give this up and go back to paper? To which I easily answer “no.”

© 2009 James Meléndez / Jaime Patricio Meléndez – All Rights Reserved

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