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Amitabh Kumar

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Kindle and Other Reading Devices
by Amitabh Kumar   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Posted: Wednesday, August 04, 2010

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E-readers such as Kindle are now gaining in popularity. What is it that the readers really want in these devices? What does it mean for the Authors?

 

Kindle and Other Reading Devices
A number of new reading devices have been making their debut in recent times. They are seen as the contemporary way to buy, read and store books. The screen sizes vary from about half a page( of a normal paperback) to smaller ones including those on 3-4" screens.
I have been wondering what is the greatest factor which is driving their sales today- aside from the push and promotion by vendors, which is at an unprecedented level, if their discounts to associates are anything to go by. Apparently, once the reader has selected a particular device, say kindle,  the Vendor has assured buys of its products for the next 3-4 years, which seems to be a great way to do business.
But I have been wondering how this device affects the readers and the authors?  
To understand this, one must try to understand what the users actually do with this device. As the prices are  in a affordable range( $200), and there is great sales push and peer usage, buying an ebook reader seems to be a no brainer.
Reading a book is another matter. In most cases, at least with those I have talked to, the reading experience is much inferior to a "normal" paperback. There is complete deprivation of even the simplest sensory pleasures of being able to turn pages, look at pictures or read some quotes.
Does anyone believe that books are to be read linearly? If not, a device such as Kindle would not be a preferred way to read. The entire pleasure of being able to jump to a page and read select lines is lost forever as is the touch and feel of the book.
It seems to be a very efficient way to store books however. Most users seem to be intent on acquiring more and more books whether free or paid, till the device is nearly full. In most cases the desire to really read a book is then lost. A book may seem very attractive - say about stock trading or an exciting  novel. Once it is stored, it appears very attractive as an icon. But who really wants to read it immediately? Once you have it, it can be read any time later. When a users starts reading a book, he or she does a few pages and perhaps closes a book. In any case reading seems to be going out as a habit except for textbooks at critical times and a few others. You can also have books tucked safely in the device, which only you know about. They do not lie about on your table or bookshelf, which others can see or share.
So is it acquisition and possession that a device such as Kindle is all about? It would certainly seem so.
So how should authors deal with authoring for Kindle?
Technical books are a different game-the best one can do is provide links which can then take the reader to another source so intended by the author. The same applies to books on tourism, travel or arts such as cooking. But this is akin to using the internet. The user may return to the book or be navigated away to another area. In addition there may be multimedia content.
That leaves the "ordinary books" i.e. novels , stories, autobiographies et al. Should the authors continue to write them as they have been doing? Or perhaps provide links to Facebook, Twitter of other online Social networking sites, so that if the reader finds something funny he or she can immediately share it? It also reflects well on the user for using an e-reader, reading a book itself and sharing it! The seriousness of the subject is likely to be lost and perhaps the reader will enter a conversation, putting an end to reading, at least briefly. But then, this perhaps gels well with the short attention spans which most readers seem to have acquired, primarily owing to their preoccupation with multiple activities. Or perhaps embed music in the ebook so that the desire to wean oneself away from the book is done away at least for some time?
Earlier, even in a busy schedule, travel provided a period when one could read most of a book at a single sittiing. But  that seems to be a thing of the past now. With entertainment and internet becoming available, by the time a user returns to Kindle, it is time to sleep.
Instead of writing with his or her heart, for Kindle( or any e-reader) it is perhaps advisable to write using your tools and skills. The more there are artistically placed "sidebars", pointers, banners, stars etc. the more attractive a book would look and perhaps engage some attention. In any event the user would then close it and look with satisfaction at the over 100 books which the device perhaps stores. The next one to be bought would have over 10,000 titles. With 2TB smart drives, soon you would be able to store an entire library on the device, indeed a matter of great satisfaction.
There would be no need to read anything anymore.
 

 

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