Thursday, March 05, 2009
Kindle, you had me at Fassabook.
Sure, that's what it pronounces about three times a sentence whenever I turn its text-to-speech functionality loose on TechCrunch. But the fact it can read TechCrunch (and other terrific information sources I might not otherwise get to) to me while I dash about in the car is life-changing. There is no Daily TechCrunch or Daily LA Times or Daily Threat Level or Daily Deep Links or Daily SF Chronicle podcast — or rather there wasn't. There is now, it's called a Kindle, and it's a powerful tool for those of us who can't or prefer not to spend all day in front of GReader.
Text-to-speech just scratches the surface of my infatuation with this device. I'm a lawyer, often an appellate one. I read and annotate a lot of documents. Kindle is designed for reading and annotating. It's easy on the eyes in a way a monitor is not, plus tiny, sleek, and capable of toting around 1.5 GB of data. It makes processing legal documents a joy — well, as much as that task can be. Bob Coffield tweeted that the Plastic reader might work well for lawyers too, given it's 8½ x 11 screen, but Kindle does just fine and its size and other features are compelling. Kindle is in alpha/early stages with its document delivery and management features, but you can see where this is headed. I love the notion of colleagues and counsel sending or serving me with review documents on such a reader-friendly device. I suspect courts and judges will like it too.
More stuff to like:
Newspaperifying the Web (and Webbifying newspapers just enough)
I like Salon and Slate, but (until now) hardly ever read them. They're large and multi-topical — like a traditional newspaper or magazine. I might check out a link when pointed there, but that's it. For me, it's just not comfortable to browse through such a collection of information online, where ads, eyestrain, cumbersome navigation, and the rest of the Web all pull my attention away from the substance. The same goes for the online experience of a newspaper. Call a link to my attention and I'll read it, but I've never started my day by hitting latimes.com or some cross-section of its dizzying array of feeds. We get the newsprint version at home, but I never do more than scan the front page and business section. Though there are undoubtedly other things I'd like to read in that mass of paper, it's too much work to get to the wheat through the chaff.
Enter the Kindle. For sites like Salon, Slate, and even long-form blogs like The Huffington Post, it makes them more unified and coherent, more readable, and more readily navigable. For newspapers, it does away with the actual paper without sacrificing readability, and, suddenly, makes them navigable too. I may be unusual in this (e.g., Leo Laporte told us on this week's TWiT he doesn't care for the Kindle newspaper experience), but I really, really like reading newspapers on the Kindle. No more paper to rifle through and recycle. No ads. The ability to quickly scan all the sections and go right to the interesting bits. As David Sarno writes, "If you’ve been following the saga of Amazon’s Kindle . . . you might feel optimistic about the future of slow-read media." For the first time in a long time I'm optimistic. For the first time in a LONG time, I'm a newspaper reader — first thing in the morning, over coffee later on, it just works. [Update:] And see Steve Gillmor, Feeder's Digest: "The App Store may be our first glimpse of the Phoenix formerly known as the newspaper business."
Kindle's highlighting, annotating, clipping, and bookmarking functions work easily and well. Great for making notes and comments on a document. Great for keeping a blog, tweet, or otherwise-follow-up-on-this list as you read through material. GReader-esque on-board sharing functions would be nice, and I'm guessing are in the pipeline.
While the Plastic reader might be a better size and fit for standard document review, it's not going to have the Kindle store. If I'm going to carry something around with me, it had better have more than one function. It had better be able to serve up both Mashable and Toot and Puddle (in color on the iPhone, no less), as the situation warrants. As Apple says, "If you're like most attorneys, you've probably noticed that your work life and personal life frequently overlap." Kindle serves both worlds well.
It also looks attractive by candlelight.
(Thanks to Jason Perlow for putting a smile on the ZDNet bloggers' faces with this.)
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