The word Kindle makes me think of burning books

All branding aside, the oncoming launch of Amazon’s e-paper device essentially begins the practical discussion about e-paper in earnest.

Books are a neat trick, but I’m pretty exclusively thinking in terms of the future of newspapers here.

Things to pay attention to:

  1. EVDO: This device has ubiquitous Internet access when in cell range. That’s good. Obviously, any cell phone with a data plan has the same thing, although I’d argue the iPhone handles the user interface for news better than many other devices at the moment.
  2. DRM: The e-books (which users will be able to by at $10 a pop from Amazon) will be in a proprietary format, not based on an open standard. Start thinking now about what newspapers will do as devices like the Kindle improve enough (read as: get lighter, less expensive and better-looking) to get a solid adoption rate going. Will your paper (or company) charge users for a Kindle subscription and encode the pages so they can only be read on a set number of devices? (Think iTunes-style DRM.)
  3. Price: $400 isn’t that bad. I usually see sub-$200 as a spot where mass adoption becomes possible, but $400 is halfway there. Remember when DVD players cost $400? Me neither, because it wasn’t that way for long.
  4. The wider Web: It’s not clear from what I’ve read so far if the Kindle has a browser built in, but it clearly has some sort of Web access. That’s smart, and necessary. There’s something weird going on involving paying to subscribe to blogs in a feed reader, but the question for news organizations will be whether to make it easy or hard for users of future e-paper devices to get off their reservation and out to the Web.
  5. Hackability: Given the recent history of the PSP and iPhone, I’m going to take a wild guess that the Kindle will be hackable, and that users will do interesting and unexpected things with it. That’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.

And a red herring to ignore:

It’s ugly. Seriously. Instead of looking at it directly, try to imagine a device with similar funcationality, but thinner, with a flexible screen, and fewer buttons. That’s what it will look like in, let’s say, four years.

Notes on migrating three quarters of a mile

So we moved. And by “moved,” I mean we loaded our stuff into a truck and drove less than a mile to an apartment with more space, less drunk people throwing up next to our bedroom window (so far), and far more sanity all around us.

The state of our new living room as of a night or two ago:

A portion of our possessions

Yes, we did this with a seven-week-old in our arms the whole time, for those of you taking notes.

Many thanks to all the friends who lent a hand or a back over the weekend.

And thanks to my bosses who resisted the urge to insist that I work today. (We sent an intern to the illegal fireworks at the beach with a video camera – I’m banking on greatness.) I can hear all the action from our dining room table, now that we live on a block that’s actually above sea level.

One of the fun parts about all this packing and piling has been reading Grapes of Wrath in the middle of it all. The Joads just got to California, and they’re hanging out by the river near Needles waiting for the sun to go down so they can cross the desert.

Our short trip wasn’t quite so dramatic, but it was worth it.

Happy Independence Day.

Pleasure reading, fiction and otherwise

In an effort to take a break from instructional books of all species for at least a portion of the day, I’ve picked up a couple lighter reads this week.

First, there’s Pete Dexter’s Paper Trails. This just barely counts as ‘not work’ since he’s a newspaper columnist and I heard about the book at work, but his non-fiction is written with the rich narrative detail of New Journalism without stepping off the stage of reality into the Sidd Finch zone.

Last night, I picked up Steinbeck’s Cannery Row for the first time, a good solid 10+ years after watching Grapes of Wrath (haven’t read it, but I’m as much a fan of John Ford as I am of Steinbeck) and upwards of 15 years after reading Of Mice and Men for a junior high English class. Again, even though I seem to be learning about California Central Coast history while I’m reading, I’ll classify it as ‘not work’ to give myself the benefit of the doubt. In this one, too, it’s the detail that hooks me.

Show me a newspaper story that makes me understand the quality of light on a quiet street and I’ll be happy.