Books, kindle and social information

Posted by on Oct 25, 2009 in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Lots of noise around Kindle and  Sony's reader at the moment. I know that many folks like Gerd are big fans of them for reading business stuff from but me, I'm still very much analogue for longer text stuff, be it work or leisure.

So today's Sunday Times has a great thought from Lynne Truss which suggests why the adoption of this kind of device might not be as rapid as their advocates might imagine (or hope).

"I like to see what other people are reading on the bus or the train; how far they've got; whether they're enjoying it."

In other words, part of the means we have of choosing books and content is other people's reactions to them. Maybe even, our individual enjoyment of what we read might be shaped by the enjoyment others seem to have. Which is why it is important that this stuff is visible.

"It seems to me that such information needs to be public for the good of us all and I'm sad to think of reading in public places ultimately becoming so private or even furtive" 

Maybe the tangible version of our books/magazines/newspapers is important in another way from mere nostalgia…

HT Sair


  1. Gavin Heaton
    October 25, 2009

    I hadn’t thought of it in this way before, but yes, I see it. The iPhone, by comparison, is a device that confers status back upon its owner. It is as much about the device as it is about the way it is used.
    The eBook reader, however, is more purely functional. We purchase the reader to get to the book, not the other way around.

  2. Alex Walker
    October 25, 2009

    Maybe I would like anybody not to know I’m reading Harry Potter…

  3. Anita Lobo
    October 26, 2009

    I think Kindle/ Sony etc are discounting ‘screen fatigue’. Phones, laptops, TV screens wherever we go.
    Many people are pushing away the screen for visual, sensory, social relief and to get away from the sense of being plugged in 24X7.
    Reading a book is as private or as conversational as we want it to be!
    Anita Lobo

  4. Brent
    October 26, 2009

    I am now required to share with the rest of the world my current book, because other people get warm fuzzies from seeing book covers on the train?
    Must I also publish then name of the person I’m emailing to everyone around me, so they can pleasantly feel more informed?
    This strikes me as more nervousness from those who see e-book readers as somehow unnatural. It’s like early requirements that car drivers honk at every intersection.

  5. Vern
    October 26, 2009

    For me, they made it TOO much like reading a book. To the iPod analogy, the real impressive parts were the ability to sort and filter music in play lists, rate songs, recently played, and now, see color art and media along with the music. Apple upped the experience of music inside the device.
    The Kindle is, well, just a book. Saves on weight if you’re traveling, but not much else.
    If I read a newspaper on line, I not only get color media, but can immediately pull up Wikipedia in another tab, drift off to a blog site in a third tab, then come back to the article.
    I was hoping for features like:
    – every time you see a character name or key place, you can click it and go back to the page where they were first introduced to re-read it. Wait was Josh the detective or the barkeep? I forget.
    – look up a map of the city, region in question
    – get background information on whatever theme the story is about
    Maybe I just want a palm PC with the contrast and battery life of a Kindle – plus eBooks I can load into it.

  6. Maesepedro
    October 26, 2009

    It’s a good point from Lynne Truss, for now…
    Surely as eReaders advance one logical thing is to socialise whatever content you are reading. So I can easily jump from the text to comments made by other people who have read it, in the same way that I can see what other users have said about a particular track while I’m listening to it. So the device will not just deliver the content but be the gateway into whatever community is into that bit of content.

  7. ziya
    October 29, 2009

    The Kindle represents a fundamental paradigm shift in reading behavior and media consumption. What most people are missing in the discussion of the device is the fact that I can carry around multiple “books” on the Kindle. Something I’ve tried to do with real books but have suffered visits to my chiropractor after each attempt. The Kindle is not a “book”. It is a platform upon which to read whole libraries of books (and magazines and newspapers and…). On a recent train ride to work the other day I went from reading Hamlet to downloading Julius Ceasar’s accounts of his campaign in Gaul to browsing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It has interface issues and lacks many features that we’d normally expect. As such it is a device in transition (and is priced accordingly). And Amazon has nothing near an iTunes experience (far from it actually) but you can go ahead and carry your book if you’d like. I’ll be in the seat next to you with my Kindle reading and browsing my entire library of books (and magazines and newspapers and…). Oh. And did I forget to say that it is wireless? Can your book do that?

  8. Mark Earls
    November 2, 2009

    Thanks, all for commenting here. I still think the point that Lynn makes is a useful challenge to our own neophilia and our assumptions about the functional advantages to individual users of a particular piece of technology – it’s just a reminder that adoption is often shaped just as much by social forrces.

  9. JamesDX
    February 11, 2010

    Maybe this is me talking nonsense, but it seems like Google isn’t a company run strictly by the top and they seem to be doing quite well.