Friday, December 07, 2007

Show Me Off

This is not easy to type with two kittens on my lap. At least they are sleeping.

So I was thinking some more about Amazon's Kindle, based on a conversation I had with Karen about how she was ok with electronic books but wanted a representation of them to be able to show, and I remembered that one of the lessons of the industry I am in is the intense relationship people have with mobile personal technology. It's not just for communication, or music; these devices become symbols, extensions of the owner's personality, signage about which tribes and institutions and feelings the user wants to broadcast belonging and allegiance to.

The same is true for newspapers and magazines: the benfits are not just their content, but being seen with them. Executives want to be seen reading the WSJ and not New York Post, design weenies want to be seen with Wallpaper, scoffing will ensue if music people are seen with the "wrong" music magazine. If publications weren't public signifiers, plain brown paper wrappers would never have been invented.

Kindle obliterates that benefit. All you will be broadcasting to the people in the train or street or bus or waiting room while using your Kindle, is that you use a Kindle. Kindle turns a form of identity-broadcasting off. This is a loss of benefit that Kindle has to also work against beyond all other issues it has.