The estimable Len Edgerly who produces a weekly podcast on all things Kindle ran a podcamp session called, "Will the Kindle save reading?" in which a group discussed the pros and cons of Kindle reading compared to paper book reading, and touched on some issues of intellectual property and digital rights management. I'm not sure if any progress on the question of saving reading was made, but I learned some interesting things that I'll attempt to relate.
I learned that blog owners can add their blogs to Amazon's store for download to Kindles. People can pay to have blogs downloaded to their Kindles, and Amazon will kick 30% back to the blogger. So far as I can see, the only benefit to the user of this arrangement is that the blogs will be available on the device even when a network connection is not present, but since they can be viewed free through a browser or RSS reader, I was pretty confused by the value prop.
I went to kindlepublishing.amazon.com to check this out and got sort of stuck at the scary terms and conditions, but I suppose this is another distribution channel for bloggers. And at least for now, when the number of blogs in Amazon's catalog is on the small side, you might get some incremental revenue and readers. For me, this part was a dealbreaker, "You grant to us, throughout the term of this Agreement, a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide right and license to distribute Publications as described in this Agreement..."
Book defenders in the group cited differences in the physical experience that were not necessarily deal-breakers, but definitely comfort-reducers when reading on a Kindle: in a paper book, you can immediately see how far into the book you are and easily flip ahead to see how far to the next chapter. Another reader noted that she always reached for the upper right corner of the Kindle to "turn the page." Somebody else pointed out the disconcerting "flash" when the Kindle turns a page. Some said this was a necessary side effect of the e-ink technology, but I actually think it's a design choice that maybe needs revisiting.
The group also covered some ground on the Kindle Orwell kerfuffle, which I also wrote about not too long ago. But what I thought was most interesting - and Amazon execs would be smart to listen in - was the desire among bibliophiles (and authors and booksellers, both present) for some of the sharable and giftable qualities of paper books to translate to Kindle.
Apparently, you can't buy a Kindle book for another user. You can give a gift card, but the crowd thought that a poor substitute for giving a particular meaningful book to a friend. I would love to see the ability not only to give a Kindle edition to a friend (either "fresh" from the store, or to transfer a book from your library to a friend's like you can take a book of your shelf and give it away) but also to "inscribe" that gift the way some people do paper books. Edgerly related a story where he met an author (was it Clay Shirky?) and asked him to "autograph" his Kindle copy of his book by making an annotation. Since the annotation was typed and could have been anybody, Edgerly shot a video of the author "signing" the digital book.
When (and I saw when, not if) the Kindle gets a touchscreen, I hope this autograph/inscription feature gets included or added on. The latter of course will be only if (and I don't say when) Amazon opens the Kindle to third-party or user-created applications.