Amazon Fire Is The Future of The Book


Nicholas Carr is beyond words:

With the Fire, as with its its whizzy-gizmo predecessors, the iPad and the Nook Color, we are seeing the e-book begin to assume its true aesthetic, which would seem to be far closer to the aesthetic of the web than to that of the printed page: text embedded in a welter of functions and features, a symphony of intrusive beeps. Even the more restrained Kindle Touch, also introduced [yesterday], comes with a feature called X-Ray that seems designed to ensure that a book’s words never gain too tight a grip over a reader’s consciousness: “With a single tap, readers can see all the passages across a book that mention ideas, fictional characters, historical figures, places or topics that interest them, as well as more detailed descriptions from Wikipedia and Shelfari, Amazon’s community-powered encyclopedia for book lovers.” The original Kindle, now discounted to $79, is beginning to look like a dusty relic – something for the rocking-chair set.

He backs that up with a bit of history:

The future arrives wearing the clothes of the past. The first book that came off a printing press – Gutenberg’s Bible – used a typeface that had been meticulously designed to look like a scribe’s handwriting…

The first TV shows were filmed radio broadcasts. The designers of personal computers used the metaphor of a desk for organizing information. The world wide web had “pages.” The home pages of online newspapers mimicked the front pages of their print editions. As Richard Goldstein succinctly put it, “every novel technology draws from familiar forms until it establishes its own aesthetic.” It’s tempting to look at the early form of a new media technology and assume that it will be the ultimate form, but that’s a big mistake. The transitional state is never the final state. Eventually, the clothes of the past are shed, and the true nature, the true aesthetic, of the new technology is revealed.

So it is with what we call “electronic books.” …[T]he e-book, in its early form, used the metaphor of a printed book as the design concept for its user interface. But it was only a metaphor. The Kindle’s aura of bookishness was the modern equivalent of the Gutenberg Bible’s aura of scribalness. It was essentially a marketing tactic, a way to make traditional book readers comfortable with e-books. But it was never anything more than a temporary tactic.

Jeff Bezos is a businessman. He never really wanted to save the traditional book. He wanted to destroy it.

Amazon Silk:

You might be asking, “A browser? Do we really need another one?” As you’ll see in the video below, Silk isn’t just another browser. We sought from the start to tap into the power and capabilities of the AWS infrastructure to overcome the limitations of typical mobile browsers. Instead of a device-siloed software application, Amazon Silk deploys a split-architecture. All of the browser subsystems are present on your Kindle Fire as well as on the AWS cloud computing platform. Each time you load a web page, Silk makes a dynamic decision about which of these subsystems will run locally and which will execute remotely. In short, Amazon Silk extends the boundaries of the browser, coupling the capabilities and interactivity of your local device with the massive computing power, memory, and network connectivity of our cloud.


But is Silk a spider web? Chris Espinosa on the implications:

The “split browser” notion is that Amazon will use its EC2 back end to pre-cache user web browsing, using its fat back-end pipes to grab all the web content at once so the lightweight Fire-based browser has to only download one simple stream from Amazon’s servers. But what this means is that Amazon will capture and control every Web transaction performed by Fire users. Every page they see, every link they follow, every click they make, every ad they see is going to be intermediated by one of the largest server farms on the planet. People who cringe at the data-mining implications of the Facebook Timeline ought to be just floored by the magnitude of Amazon’s opportunity here. Amazon now has what every storefront lusts for: the knowledge of what other stores your customers are shopping in and what prices they’re being offered there… This is the first shot in the new war for replacing the Internet with a privatized merchant data-aggregation network.

Not an iPad killer? Jim Dalrymple at The Loop:

At $199 people are going to view the Kindle Fire as a device for reading books, shopping at Amazon or surfing the Web and getting email. It’s not going to touch the high-end of the market where the iPad lives. Those people are still going to get an iPad, although they may buy a Kindle Fire for their kids or spouse.

The companies that have to worry about the Kindle Fire are other Android-based tablet-makers. They are in real trouble at this point because they’ve already shown they can’t compete on the high-end with the iPad and now I don’t think they’ll be able to compete on the low-end with the Kindle Fire.

Will Oremus at Slate:

Once you look beyond the price tag, the Fire’s specs won’t knock you out. On the plus side, the new Kindle comes with an email client, and it lets you browse the Web via Wi-Fi, with a promising, Flash-enabled browser. There’s no native word processor, however, nor any other productivity apps. In truth, this is a mediocre Android tablet dressed up as the ultimate media reader.

Gruber says content is king:

That’s the difference that other tablet makers missed. Motorola, Samsung, RIM — they seem to be chasing the iPad on specs, building the best tablet they can manage at the same starting price of around $500. But they have no clear message telling people what you can do with them….

The Kindle Fire is interesting because it’s the first one with a good answer: it’s much cheaper, Amazon offers a digital content ecosystem that rivals Apple’s (fewer apps, more books), and millions of people already use and enjoy Kindle hardware. The e-ink Kindles are to the Kindle Fire what the music-playing iPods were to the iPhone, and what the iPhone was to the iPad — traction in the mass market based on trust and loyalty.

Amazon built an alternative to the iPad, rather than a direct competitor. It’s a different market segment. As Steve Jobs explained back in 2010 at the introduction of the original iPad, there’s unexplored territory between smartphones and laptops.

Production must be tight on the Fire and Touch models; they’re only being offered in the U.S. The only new Kindle for sale outside the U.S. is the $79 non-touch model. The Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch ship in November. Yesterday’s announcement, 45 days early, is likely intended to influence holiday gift decisions.

Will you be buying one?

3 Comments

  1. Color me old. I still like to hold a book in my hands… you know, with paper and binding, print and covers. Crazy no?

  2. Having a built in browser and more imbedded research type functions won’t do much for me. The basic Kindle was the true dragon slayer of the printed book because the Amazon paid-for online download saves time, money, gas and bookshelf space. That was truly a superfecta of technological invention.

    I actually like the idea of different equipment for different purposes. When the archaic Razr rings, I know its a personal call. When the IPhone rings, I know its business. The Ipod represents only music during a workout or a hottub…times when I actually don’t want to know about a phone call. Admittedly, I do use the IPad for readily transported multifunctionality, but still prefer the PC, standard keyboard and gigando monitor when shopping or researching on the web.

    Now, if you guys would invent a charger that had one electric plug but multiple USB tails to multiple devices, that would be something I would buy.

  3. I actually hate touch screens. They get messy quick. All the time I saved by touching the screen is lost in cleaning it afterward.

    I still hate the iPad, and I will never own one, or anything like it.

    Give me a real keyboard, and a mouse. I’d rather read the book on a miniature laptop than a touch screen gizmo.

Submit a Comment