Jason Kottke wrote a nice concurring post (at least I think it was concurring!) to my look at single-use and call for integrated-use reading devices. Then in a follow-up, he expanded on his position that the correct single use [for an e-reader] isn’t buying and reading books, but READING, in all its forms:
I do a *ton* of reading, upwards of 100-150 pages a day when I’m working full-time. About 0.5% of those pages are from books. But the Kindle? I tried it and didn’t like it. The screen is still great…the rest of it didn’t work at all for me. And this is what is frustrating for me…the Kindle seemed right for buying books but not for what I want it for: reading all that other stuff. I know the functionality exists on these devices to read blogs, magazines, newspapers, etc., but they’re marketed as book readers (Arment even calls them “ebook readers” instead of “e-readers”), the user experience is optimized for book reading, and the companies (esp. Amazon and B&N) view them as portable bookstores.
Like Jason, any kind of single-use reading machine is pretty far from MY ideal solution. But I can imagine that it can be an ideal solution for some people. I don’t really need a dedicated digital camera anymore, but that’s partly because I’m at best an occasional photographer. The first (and last) person I recommended the Kindle to was my grandmother, whose reading of blogs and comic books is (ahem) light. I’d also recommend a Jitterbug cell phone to her. Me, I’ve got an iPhone.
Like Jason, too, a big chunk of what I read are blogs. If you add other online periodicals (whether web-only like Slate or web versions of mags like the Atlantic), we’re probably talking 60-70% of my total page count. I read a lot more books than Jason, because I’m a freaking literature professor — and still, books don’t begin to dominate, let alone exhaust, my reading.
But when I think about test cases for the mythical integrated-media reading machine of the future, I almost never think of blogs. Children’s books, comic books (and strips), textbooks, maps, pamphlets, restaurant menus, grocery store coupons — these are the text/image hybrids that I think 1) push the limits of what the Kindle can do and 2) are actually more central to the everyday experience of “reading” than full-length books. And I can start to think about how reading machines and reading software can best be designed and employed to perform those acts of reading.
But blogs? Is there a device, a software setup, a purchasing and subscription system, or delivery and commenting and reposting mechanisms, that are optimized for reading blogs — above and beyond what current exists for our PCs, laptops, and smart phones?
To approach the books vs. blogs problem from the other side:
- What would a reading machine designed and optimized for blog reading look like?
- What would be the key differences between an electronic blog-reader and an electronic book-reader?
- Likewise, how would the “marketplace” functions — purchases, subscriptions, advertising — differ on a blog-oriented reading machine?
- How successfully would such a machine function as a general-purpose electronic reader? That is, how well could a blog-reading machine handle traditional books (and book sales), comics, newspapers, textbooks, etc….
- Since I’ve talked about this recently — could a blog reader have a different kind of relationship to places and spaces — maybe coffee shops and internet cafés instead of bookstores? — or are we back to the Kindle’s view from nowhere?
It’s worth exploring the possibility! I mean, unless you’re sinking capital into these things, what do we have to lose?