Big Screen Kindle: Back Pack Snap and Crack

May 4, 2009

I have been involved in electronic books for a number of years. The form factors pose several challenges:

First, there is the issue of screen contrast. Although contrast is improving, white on black is more like light gray on dark gray. Great for young eyes. Not so hot for those in their mid 60s.

Second, there is the issue of user interface. The early devices were clunky. Today’s devices are – well – still clunky. But on a long trip, would I tote a bag of dead tree books or a Kindle? I go for the Kindle One because I like the extra capacity the secure digital storage card affords. Still early days on form factors.

Third, durability. In the late 1990s, I interacted with a development shop with a flexible screen. Very interesting. But with repeated flexing, there was some image degradation. Today’s devices require careful handling. My early Sony reader got a screen crack just passing it around. Sony’s support was impossible, so I disassembled the gizmo, kept the screws, and tossed the device.

I am on my second or third Kindle. These devices are not sufficiently study to deal amicably with airport security checks. The “holder” a sort of faux book cover seems to eject the device when a TSA inspector takes a closer look. Am I the only person to travel with one of these devices? TSA is surprised routinely by my having a device which seems to have sharp edges.

As a result, I am curious about a large format Kindle. I agree with MG Siegler in TechCrunch. The article “The Big Screen Kindle Hail Mary to Newspapers Will Fall Incomplete” here. News papers may look at the Kindle as a way to save their business. I think most of the traditional publishing companies will have to pull a rabbit from a hat.

The most interesting comment in my opinion was MG Siegler’s observation about textbooks:

In fact, I’d argue that it’s the much less sexy textbook business that could be the real key to this big Kindle. Textbooks are an absolute rip-off in print form, with many costing over $100 a book. If Amazon was able to offer textbooks on this large Kindle at a discount the same way it offers a discount on regular books on the regular Kindle, that would be worth the price of admission for just about every college student in the country right there. And a Kindle textbook reader makes sense because it would make bookmarking, taking notes and syncing all of those things up to the cloud, a snap.

I think this is a valid point. With regard to student use, I think the durability will be the key. Textbook publishers are as fragile – maybe more fragile – than newspaper publishers. If a student snags a big Kindle with an expensive textbook, how long will the Kindle last in a back pack? My instinct is that the device will have to stand up to harsh treatment. Smash a couple a semester and the student may have to take out another student loan.

Stephen Arnold, May 4, 2009


One Response to “Big Screen Kindle: Back Pack Snap and Crack”

  1. marc arenstein on May 12th, 2009 12:00 am

    Re: Color e-paper displays
    May 11, 2009
    (based on recent “Nature Photonics” and “Journal of the Society for Information Display” articles)

    “It’s not clear what technology will power the first generation of color devices, but researchers are looking to steal a page from traditional print media by making colored pigments part of the future of e-books.” Two technologies reported in development: electrofluidic display (Sun Chemicals and University of Cincinnati) and CMYK display (Phillips).

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