READ IN A DIFFERENT WAY——The development and possibilities of the Amazon Kindle

Pub 802
Maggie Zhao (Qinyu Zhao)

 

The invention of Kindle is one of milestone in digital media especially in digital publishing area. As we know, digital media have an effect on our daily life by changing media environment we are in. Portable devices in today are different with the mass media in earlier era, which enable individuality became the center of the media and even the media itself. And Kindle is the most successful electronic reading mobile machine nowadays.

Books and Amazon

Amazon is exactly a book company or a retail company, or an Internet company and even could be seen as an infrastructure company. To some extent, Amazon is an algorithmically managed infrastructure company that has single–handedly rewritten the publishing industry’s rulebook. The data shows that five of the world’s biggest tech companies have collected 70% of the industry’s estimated $300 billion in revenue over the past 12 months. And Amazon is the biggest one, it accounts for 33.2 percent of Internet revenue by the five companies.1 The success of Amazon doesn’t just rely on buying up other book retailers and distributors; it also acquired statisticians, analytics, data miners and hardware technicians.

At the same time, enter Amazon, which some people still erroneously regard as a mere bookshop at first, when in fact it either has become the Walmart of the web. In order to realize that ambition, some years ago Amazon embarked on an exceedingly far-sighted strategy. As the company built a cloud-computing infrastructure to support its colossal retailing and logistical operation, it designed that system to be dual-purpose: it supported the company’s core business, but it could also be rented to outside users, for a fee.2 With the development of business field, the new technology network also benefits books’ market. Thus the Amazon Web Services, a global cloud-computing platform, which operates from 11 geographical regions across the world was born. The core components are the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), which together enable anyone with a credit card to rent servers by the minute and unimaginable amounts of online storage capacity. Of course, these basic technology developments have a significant positive impact on other advanced service such like Kindle.

The focus of the new publishing order should be Amazon’s signature product:  the Kindle. Amazon has sold millions of Kindles since the device’s launch in 2007, making it its own bestselling product. In 2010, Amazon claimed that Kindle books were outselling paper books in its own marketplace. What makes Kindle unique is what makes Amazon unique: its physical presence is an avatar for a stream of digital services. In the spirit of its parent, it is more infrastructure than device. Kindle provides a convenient and effective way for our reading.

Kindle’s development

Kindle’s development can be regarded as progress towards satisfying people’s increasing demand on a better reading experience. What’s more, Kindle also helps us to read whenever and wherever, since it’s portable and light. The development of Kindle reflect two core ideas: focus strictly on reading and grasp the trend of the times.

Taking Kindle’s layout for an example, the design of Kindle became more and more similar to traditional books with the addition of some digital media advantages. he digital media advantages. The original Kindle has an off-white plastic casing and an asymmetric, beveled shape, like a closed three-ring binder. It has a rubberized back that makes it easier for users to hold the device. And Amazon has changed the design of Kindle a few times since its introduction. The third-generation device, also known as Kindle Keyboard, is less angular than the original model. It initially came in two versions: a WiFi-only model and a 3G and WiFi model, the former of which is no longer available. In September 2011, Amazon unveiled three new Kindle models with E Ink electronic ink displays like the originals, along with a tablet called Kindle Fire. The first new Kindle model, which is now the base model for Amazon, uses a five-way controller and doesn’t have a physical keyboard. It’s the smallest Kindle yet, measuring in at 6.5 inches (17.3 centimeters) long and 4.5 inches (11.4 centimeters) wide and weighing 6 ounces (170.1 grams). Two Kindle Touch models — one a WiFi only and the other a 3G and WiFi device, both with touch-screen interfaces and very few physical controls — were also introduced.

The E-ink technology enables Kindle’s screen to flash less than its tablet rivals. It connects to the Internet via the “Whispernet”, far below the speeds to which we are becoming accustomed. It is white, grey or, at a push, grey-black, and definitely plastic. Its low-tech appearance also sidesteps many of the controversies of electronic reading: slow refresh rates keep it from the skeuomorphism of Apple iBooks’ page-flip animations; its reduced connectivity discourages the distraction of social services, which means the device focusing on reading experience. Because of this small changes, it’s more like traditional reading experience when you read on Kindle. It is robust and slips easily into a bag or pocket without the protective/fetishistic coverings of more expensive technologies. As technology writer Tom Armitage has noted, “the Kindle is a device that always seems content with itself. Just sitting there, not caring if you pick it up or not. Like a book.”In October 2012, Kindle Paperwhite and Paperwhite 3G were released. Two differences on the new device are a lit screen and the omission of the physical home button. Aside from the power button, the only interface on the Paperwhite is the touch-screen.

The central feature on all Kindle models, with the exception of Kindle Fire tablet, is the electronic paper screen, which is a recognition as the most effective metaphor. The screens on all Kindle models except the Fire and the recently discontinued DX measure 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) along the diagonal. Kindle Keyboard 3G and the base Kindle have a resolution of 167 pixels per inch (PPI), whereas the new Paperwhite models have a resolution of 212 PPI. 4The screen can display images in 16 levels of gray using a technology called E Ink. Unlike LCD screens, Kindle e-reader’s screen isn’t backlit. For all but the Paperwhite, you’ll need a reading light if you want to skim a novel in a setting with little ambient light. And even the Paperwhite is not actually backlit like a tablet.

New technology enable Kindle has a large stage to realize their core ideas.

Challenges and Problems

Different with the rapid development at an early stage, Kindle has been around for almost a year now, without major changes in the technology. The development of Kindle also meets with some challenges such as people’s reading habits, especially for elder people in society. They may tend to traditional paper books rather than e-books. And it’s apparent that when you use Kindle to read books for long hours, paper books seem to be a better choice. So it’s pretty necessary to required better reading experience in e-book machine like Kindle.

Additionally, Kindle connects the reader to a carefully, algorithmically managed world, a code/space that affects reader and reading, and ultimately writing and literature. Code/spaces are physical spaces in which use of the space is contingent upon software. An example is provided by the warehouses of Amazon itself, which long ago grew to complexity mentioned that they require algorithmic management. Objects placed within them conform not to any human taxonomy but to a mathematical equation, a computation of frequency that ensures goods are stored as close as possible to multiple sites of use and packaging. As a result, only an augmented human can find stock in its millions of seemingly randomly distributed square feet; if the inventory software fails, mere people are adrift among millions of scattered flotsam. From these points, Kindle still remains some disadvantages to solve.

How the Amazon Kindle Works?

In short, Amazon has two distinct advantages over earlier e-book manufacturers. The first is that the company designed the Kindle to interface seamlessly with Amazon’s online store. Amazon.com hosts more than a million titles in electronic format. Because Kindle is wireless, you can access the store without connecting the device to a computer. You can buy a book or subscribe to an electronic version of a newspaper on Amazon and download it directly to Kindle. The second advantage is that in a circular fashion, Kindle was part of what gave Amazon the large customer base. Once a reader has a Kindle in their hands, they are unlikely to go anywhere else for books. Both of these factors give Kindle a leg up on the competition. Self-publishing platforms also help the amazon to build a new publishing empire.

In July 2014, Amazon added the Kindle Unlimited subscription service to the store that at release allowed unlimited access to over 638,000 titles and over 7,000 audiobooks for a $9.99 monthly fee. It provides a larger platform for self-service publishers and has also encouraged people to re-examine the construction of digital library. More than 500,000 titles of the 600,000 online source of e-books in the Kindle Unlimited are self-publishing books which did not through the publishers but published directly by the author. Amazon is not willing to do network distributor only, but firmly control the publishing resources.

Previously, Amazon also launched Kindle Direct Publishing Select project. It encourages the authors to work on its platform and sets the stage for a subscription service. Cloud storage, Mobile Internet and subscription service make books become a kind of streaming media. Although printing books still have incomparable charm, getting rid of some specific form, books might get a longer life.

How could Kindle influence the digital society?

Since Media is an extension of human beings, and now many new media device including Kindle with a variety of functions and other personal handheld Intelligent device different from the era of mass media. Two-way interactive features combine the digital media and society more and more strongly.

In short, based on McLuhan’s theory, many scholars called on more attention on media environment. This environment based on an objective evaluation of humanistic care and protection. And media technology is also moving step by step towards the ultimate technology, not the technology inventor at first. So it will influence our society gradually.

And we can control whether the technology has positive and negative impact on human beings. It’s necessary to notice that in media environment it’s not technology that goes first but society.

 

Reference:

John Naughton. How Amazon took control of the cloud.  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/01/how-amazon-took-control-of-the-cloud-john-naughton

Beth Snyder Bulik. How Sony e-reader lost to Kindle and how it’s battling its way back.  http://adage.com/article/digital/sony-e-reader-fighting-amazon-s-kindle-book-dominance/138589/

Sarah Harris. Amazon vs. Publishers: The Book Battle Continues.  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-04-26/amazon-vs-dot-publishers-the-book-battle-continues

Jonathan Chew. These Five Companies Take 70% of Your Online Dollars.  http://fortune.com/2015/11/06/amazon-alphabet-online-dollars/

James Bridle. From books to infrastructure.  http://www.domusweb.it/en/design/2012/06/04/from-books-to-infrastructure.html

Sarah Mitroff. Amazon Kindle Unlimited vs. Scribd vs. Oyster: E-book subscriptions battle it out.  http://www.cnet.com/how-to/amazon-kindle-unlimited-vs-scribd-vs-oyster-e-book-subscriptions/

 

 

2 Replies to “READ IN A DIFFERENT WAY——The development and possibilities of the Amazon Kindle”

  1. Thank you for your essay, Maggie. I feel as though I now have a better understanding of Kindle’s evolution. I’d like to start by addressing your statement of Amazon having become “the Walmart of the web.” I find that statement to be very insightful and also true for a number of reasons. Walmart aims to please the masses, as Amazon does. You mentioned that the development of Kindle was born out of a desire to emphasize reading and keep up with current trends. While Walmart and Amazon’s respective models often raise questions about ethics and don’t by any means appeal to each single person as individuals, they appeal to mainstream audiences who seek convenience overall.

    Through Kindle, Amazon attempted to satisfy their readers’ demand by providing the best possible reading experience. Interestingly, this meant returning to a design in which the visible difference between technology and print books was more seamless. I know that ebook readers like all their books being in one place as well as the fact that they may choose the size of their font. That said, it would have been interesting to know some of the other reasons behind Kindle’s decision to return to a design that emulates print books. Kane Hsieh’s Gizmodo article “Why Do We Keep Making Ebooks Like Paper Books?” suggests that manual to digital items often lack fundamental innovation. For instance, while most find a digital watch to be more convenient than a traditional watch because they can track steps, set timers, &c, users know they aren’t the same; they represent two different ideas. The same can be said for ebooks. The Kindle device has become portable and light and is designed in such a way that readers can turn and bookmark pages. It also flashes less than its competitors. Designing the ebook as to make it almost identical to a print book doesn’t offer the reader anything new.

    I’d also like to address what you said about Kindle being a large reason for Amazon’s success; once a reader has a Kindle, they are unlikely to go anywhere else. That’s obviously an excellent point and superb business strategy on Amazon’s part. While one of my main criticisms towards ebooks remains their attempt to emulate print books, I admire Amazon’s success in incorporating Kindle into their brand. Other electronic reading devices often make this gap very noticeable. Indeed, Kindle’s strategy puts technology at the forefront of their mission; societal and individual demand comes second.

  2. This is a fairly complete account of the history of the kindle, but it is lacking in some analysis of the effects the Kindle and Amazon have had on the publishing industry. It would have been nice to go beyond the descriptive account, and into the realm of the analytical.

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