By Tom Collins
I just bought my first e-book specifically designed to be read in an e-book reader. Why? Because I didn't have to buy a stand-alone gizmo to read it! (I've bought other e-books and, for reasons that will be obvious momentarily, I like the O'Reilly model of selling a bundle of e-book formats that doesn't chain me to one gizmo or format.)
Yvonne was sitting in bed last night reading Trust Agents (food for another post) and tossed me a small flyer that Barnes & Noble sent along with the book, with the headline: "Free Barnes & Noble eReader." Having seen the price advertised for B&N's new "nook" entry in the gizmo wars, I was surprised and read on.
A few minutes later, I had downloaded the free PC version (you can get one for Mac, iPhone, or Blackberry, too). It came with several free "classic" books, but what strikes me as the "killer app" part of this app is the ability to use it on a full-featured, full powered, web-connected device: my laptop, in this case. Here's why.
I opened the book in my Free B&N eReader and quickly discovered that Gladwell had followed the recent formula for turning blog posts into a book (e.g. Guy Kawasaki's Reality Check) by turning his old New Yorker articles into one. Here's how he introduced that fact:
"All the pieces in What the Dog Saw come from the pages of The New Yorker, where I have been a staff writer since 1996. Out of the countless articles I’ve written over that period, these are my favorites."
But check this out: The quote you just read, I was able to select, copy, and paste directly from my free e-reader into my TypePad blog compose space. As a nifty added feature, the act of copying the quote added the quotation marks for me; when I pasted, they were just there!
E-Reader, meet e-Publisher!
This is the missing piece that has always left me unable to see why I'd want another dedicated device with less than the full spectrum of information tools to find, view, analyze, recombine, share.
Five years ago (feels like 500!!), when I was writing and consulting on knowledge management and information design for lawyers, I tinkered with this diagram to illustrate the process of collecting, connecting, and sharing the "dots" that make up our minds:
Any gizmo — no matter how cool it looks — that can't enable me to do all of that simultaneously leaves me unimpressed. So I'm not picking on B&N or it's Nook. I LOVE the fact that they've made a free eReader available for me to use on my laptop for portability, or my desktop.
I'll probably want to down-size the portable device I use a bit to, say, a netbook-size. But it must have a big hard-drive, a full, usable keyboard, a screen big enough to view AND edit documents and images, web connectivity, and all the processing and publishing software I use all the time.
Put a phone and camera into a device like that and I'm set! I don't want to squint and I don't like typing with my thumbs or a stylus. There, I've admitted how un-hip I am.
Hey, Amazon! Sony! Are you listening? When will gizmo manufacturers learn the lesson of the Wang word processor?