Monday, November 19, 2007

Three to Think About

Sometimes I run across things one after another that seem connected to me but I’m not always sure about the connection. So, I’m not going to try to connect the dots this time, but just share and let you make any connections you see.

Amazon announced/released their Kindle e-book reader:

"Books have stubbornly resisted digitization," he elaborated. "I think there's a very good reason for that, and that is, the book is so highly evolved and so suited to its task that it's very hard to displace."

. . . Kindle tips the scales at a total 10.3 ounces--"That's less than a paperback book," Bezos said--and uses an "electronic ink" technology to mimic paper, not a computer screen.

. . . The battery life, company representatives said, will last several days to a week. A charger can juice up the battery in a matter of two hours.

Notably, Kindle does not require a PC for synchronization or any software to be installed. "Instead of shopping from your PC, you shop directly from the device. The store is on the device, and then the content is wirelessly and seamlessly delivered to the device," Bezos explained.

. . . Bezos also announced that dozens of newspapers, from The New York Times to France's Le Monde, would also be available for the device, as well as magazines and 300 of the most popular blogs, such as BoingBoing and Slashdot. "On Kindle, newspapers are delivered while you sleep, automatically," he said. The publications will receive a cut of the subscription fee revenue, as no advertising will be displayed on them.

Additionally, Kindle comes with an electronic dictionary and access to Wikipedia. Each device, as reported, also provides the user with a personal Kindle e-mail address so that word-processing files such as Microsoft Word documents, as well as image files, could be sent to the e-book reader.

Livescribe (via Jeff Whipple, and you really need to watch the three demo animations to get the feel for it):

The Livescribe paper-based computing platform – a smartpen, paper, software applications, and development tools – will be available online beginning in Q1 2008. The smartpen will be less than $200. Additional dot paper will be available at prices comparable to standard paper products.
  • Listen to your class lecture by just tapping on your handwritten notes.

  • View & listen to your notes on your PC and search by keyword.

  • Email your written & audio notes to your classmates or study group.

  • Translate a word or phrase by simply writing it on paper.

  • Download one or more languages to your pen computer.

  • Practice your pronunciation by tapping on a word and listening

  • Write & send a message directly from your notebook.

  • Create & send an animated voice message from your paper.

  • Post a message, drawing or animation (with voice) to your blog or Facebook profile.
Google-backed Genetic Testing Launches (and more):

Google Inc-funded 23andMe launched on Monday and began offering a DNA saliva test for $999 per person, which would help users of the online site learn about their genes, inherited traits, family trees, and participate in research.

"The mission of 23andMe is to take the genetic revolution to a new level by offering a secure, Web-based service where individuals can explore, share and better understand their own genetic information," said Linda Avey, who co-founded 23andMe with Anne Wojcicki.

I think the first two obviously have more in common with each other than the third one, but the phrase “individuals can explore, share and better understand” seemed to sum things up nicely for me.

Any thoughts?


  1. Interesting article on Kindle today in Forbes ( — gist is it may be too little, too late, and too costly because low-cost laptops and smart phones will be able to do all of this better.

  2. The one thing that bothers me about this Livescribe, is that the technology still assumes that learning will be "lecture based." Will we ever escape from lectures?

    Also, it would be a little creepy for EVERYTHING I say in class to be recorded and available that easily ... I wonder how higher ed will feel about it?

  3. I'm a little torn on this one. There is a little part of me that is shrinking from this type of technology- reading on a screen just isn't the same as reading curled up on the couch with a book... but then most of the reading I do now is on the screen: blogs, news feeds, and websites. So I could make the switch, I suppose.

    The thing that catches me is this ability to read anywhere, anytime. There have been times when I wanted to read something that I didn't have with me. Out of town, with the book I brought, wishing I'd instead have brought another. In the van, waiting for the kids to get out of school, etc.

    The possibilities here are great. But we cannot forget the traditional texts benefits, either. I don't know about you, but I don't just read books, I USE them. I write in my textbooks, theory books, etc. I fold down corners on pages in novels if there is a passage I want to go back to. I truly use my books up- they are a consumable product to me. So no, I wouldn't go 100% with a reader of those types, but yes, I would find many uses for one!

    hrothman- Interesting thought on the iphone already replacing the readers- but the iphone screen is just not enough for me to curl up to a book on it- or to read comfortably with. I am a fast reader, to have to scroll down so often would be agony to me. I could see the need to have both.

  4. @everyone Since I haven't used a Kindle, it's hard to say for sure, but my guess is that it will get better (or something that's much better will replace it).

    @hrothman - It's been a hard sell for me as well that small, more function-specific devices like the Kindle will be able to compete with an inexpensive, full-blown laptop. But other smart folks that I respect think that some version of the cellphone will beat out laptops. I think a ton will depend on the user interface - I wouldn't have predicted that the iPod would be so successful at that price point either . . .

    @Maria - I agree on the lecture aspect. I also agree it might be a little creepy, and many things would be taken out of context, but I'm not sure we're going to have much choice about everything being recorded so I think we're going to need to develop ways to manage it. First suggestion, stop expecting teachers/students to be perfect in everything they say.

    @trishia - I still love the feel of a book as well, but I'm not sure that applies to everyone. Ultimately, I think the convenience, ubiquity, and storage capacity of an electronic device will replace the book. I also think they will do a better job of making it be a better tactile experience, and I would predict that future versions will have the "tagging" capability that you currently have with paper-based texts.