the Kindle, Books 2.0 and evolved literary forms

Len will be covering this in a future Kindle Chronicles podcast – However, I couldn’t resist writing about it. Tim (via Kindle Chronicles) suggested a really interesting topic for discussion.

How the Kindle might affect literary forms in general … Netflix and DVDs have changed my viewing habits considerably (shows rather than movies)… how then might the kindle affect books? I also wonder what the special features of digital books might end up being.


Here’s my take on why the Kindle has basically unlimited potential to change literary forms, and what some of those forms might be.

What the Kindle Really Is

It’s really important to see the Kindle for what it is – A device optimized for reading that still incorporates big technological advances that books do not have. Here are a few elements that creators and authors should take advantage of. 

  1. The Internet – An always-on connection to the internet. 
  2. Non Linearity – The option to have hyperlinks and create non linear books.
  3. Audio – The option to incorporate audio into books. Imagine having audio snippets as footnotes.
  4. Touch (soon) – Down the line adding the option of touch. 
  5. Communication – Having communication between readers. Instant ‘while you read the book’ communication.
  6. Social – Connection with other people. When Amazon does open this up, it’ll create an extremely powerful well knit community.
  7. Direct Feedback – Having feedback for authors and publishers.
  8. Moving Images (down the line). Hitting yet more of our senses.

The Kindle is giving creators much more powerful tools and giving readers a much more varied experience involving more of the senses than a book.

How will the Kindle’s features be used?

Having all these new tools and means to tell your story creates an interesting problem – there is not much precedent here. In many ways we’re still thinking too in the box. We’re still thinking – a better book. We should be thinking in much bigger terms.

We are beginning to see, mostly on the internet, some examples of new creative forms – blogs, podcasts, life-streaming, home made movies, multi-player games, virtual worlds, crowd-sourced websites.

The Kindle creates the possibility of having advances of this scale in the world of reading and books.

Three big trends I see

The Kindle will result in a few trends (which, to be fair, started with the internet) –

  1. Network Effects – Very strong network effects with good books becoming runaway successes much quicker and at a larger scale than ever before. 
  2. Socialization of Reading – Readers will be much more connected with each other and will start depending on each other much more for reading decisions.
  3. Democratization of Publishing – A lot more varied books and media will be published giving readers and authors unprecedented freedom and choice.

These are important – however, equally important is the possibility that entirely new literary forms and new forms of media emerge. 

Big new literary and media forms

The Kindle does allow for new forms and my money is on –

  1. Micro News – snippets of news delivered every few hours that will supplant newspapers.
  2. A new type of ‘collage book’ that while it retains the essence of what it is to be a book i.e. some variant of “a book comprehends a treatise written on any material … put together in any portable form”, it uses all the means at the Kindle’s disposal to create a fuller, richer treatise. Example – I’m a musician and my book is a collection of my songs, samples from the songs that inspired me, pictures of my loves, my essays on music, and snippets from books and movies that made me.
  3. Social Recommendations – a crowd sourced recommendations and ratings engine that will help you decide what to read next. It’ll be bigger than YouTube because it’ll not just determine what you watch (read), it’ll determine what you buy.
  4. Audio-Text Hybrids – Plays with context, Books with ambient sound, Game Books with sound effects, and other combinations. 
  5. Micro Radio – some variant of Podcasts. Again, I believe that shorter, consume when you want micro-radio with updates every few hours is what will become popular here.

In addition to the new products that I see here, I also see the Kindle 2.0 becoming an important purchase device. Buying straight from the device is an important, important part of the Kindle eco-system.

Alongside Netbooks, Kindle 2.0 and future iterations have the most potential to become primary devices and purchase devices. Phones are just too small, and laptops and desktops aren’t mobile enough. The Kindle 2.0 and Netbooks really do hit the sweet spot and have the most potential to become our connections to the internet and by extension the world.

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