About a month ago I was involved in a two-day seminar discussion during journalism week at the University of Nevada-Reno. (Invited by my friend Larry Dailey, we met years ago at the Missouri Photo Workshop.)
This think tank was organized to envision the shape of journalism and how we will access it in the years ahead. (Maybe in the months ahead, if the surge in newspaper bankruptcy filings continues apace.)
And now we also have the second-generation Kindle, an electronic book reader from Amazon. Just as the desktop computer, the internet-connected laptop, and the mobile phone have all changed the way we access information and each other, my money is on a vast explosion of mobile internet-connected computing devices that hybridize the best of the iPhone/iPod Touch platform and the somewhat larger Amazon Kindle. Each intrigues but neither fully satisfies.
The iPhone/iPod Touch offers a great screen with wonderful color fidelity, the Kindle's is bigger and easier for reading but is only grayscale and not backlit. Like the iPhone, the Kindle is net connected via its SprintNet cellular modem, which allows downloading of books, but also any Acrobat PDF or Word.doc file you email it. Little touted, this for me is Kindle's killer feature.
I've been using an iPod Touch ever since it first came out, the iPhone without the phone. It is a wi-fi enabled handheld computer that also plays music and videos. I can read and write email on it, and surf the web. Its keyboard does not compare to that of a Blackberry, but its attractive graphics and screen dazzle. Despite its lack of support for Flash-format animations, the iPod Touch is by far the most interesting computing device I've used in years.
Recently I got a new-generation Kindle, not so much to read books on screen, but to to carry and read research papers and articles on ideas and issues I'm focusing on. If I'm at a desktop or laptop machine connected to the internet, and I find a research report, science paper or news article of interest, all I have to do is email a PDF or word.doc file to "email@example.com", (which comes assigned to the Kindle you buy) and in a minute or so it has wirelessly moved through the ether the Kindle. (On a Mac it is easy to create PDF files of any page in any application by "printing" to PDF, no extra Adobe Acrobat software purchases needed.)
So what comes next? Somewhere over the horizon there must await a hybrid of the iPhone/Kindle waiting to emerge. Something with a bit larger touchscreen than the iPhone, hi-definition color, net connected via wi-fi and/or cellular modem, all waiting for customizing it to our needs and whims.
And this will move us a step closer to the end of printed newspapers.
Alan Mutter: Reflections of a Newsosaur
The Atlantic: Resisting the Kindle, Sven Birkerts
The Atlantic: In Defense of the Kindle, Matthew Battles