17 June 2009

Kindle: Verb or Noun?

I could be writing another "death of books" post, because I have seen it again today. But I won't.

Ok, maybe I will, just a little. The BYU library has just been chosen as an Internet Archive partner, which means it now has an IA book scanner that will be relentlessly turning out-of-copyright and uncopyrighted works in the BYU collection into pixels. The library has reversed their conservation policy. It used to be that virtually no book would be deaccessioned unless it turned to dust. Now old and brittle books will be scanned dirrectly into the Internet Archive and then discarded. This is but the tip of the iceberg in terms academic libraries becoming data centers. But enough of that.

I was told earlier today that there is also "a pilot project by the library to use kindles for faculty inter-library loan." This is the first I have seen "kindle" used as a generic noun for books delivered in Kindle format.

And then later today I read a great article that observed, "Amazon cares less about our choice of screen than our choice of store. Amazon wants Kindle to be a verb, not a noun, as in 'I Kindled that book,' which could mean that I read it on a smartphone, computer, or dedicated electronic-book device."

This is certainly true. Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, just explicitly stated that Amazon sees their Kindle device and Kindle ebook business as two separate enterprises. Kindle book sales have skyrocketed. 35% of titles sold which are available in both print and Kindle formats are sold as "kindles."

Even more interesting, Bezos also recently said, "We see that when people buy a Kindle, they actually continue to buy the same number of physical books going forward as they did before they owned a Kindle. And then incrementally, they buy about 1.6 to 1.7 electronic books, Kindle books, for every physical book that they buy."

The article I mentioned above discusses our increasing consumption of books in multiple formats, or at least profiles one person's experience. These multiple formats–print, Kindle, iPhone, audio–are not really competing. Many of us, as did the author, may find ourselves increasingly consuming books across multiple media at the same time. Amazon is already selling Kindle/print bundles, and has enabled Kindle purchases to be available simultaneously on the iPhone. And the new Kindle DX can read those books aloud to you (if you can stand the robovoice and the feature withstands the lawsuits).

I predict proper 4-in-1 bundles are next, perhaps with synchronization of Kindle/iPhone bookmarks with iPhone audio books, and vice-versa. This isn't the end of dead-tree books, but soon I expect most of us will also be kindling kindles along with our books.

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