Hey Amazon, it’s time to socialize the Kindle

Image by MARQUINAM via Flickr

Over the last few months, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, mostly on my Amazon Kindle.  I think it’s a great device in its current form, an will no doubt get better with the refresh that’s due out next week.  As an electronic book reader, the Kindle is definitely the leader of the pack.  All of the launch time reviews correctly stated that there is no eye strain, and I often forget that I’m using an electronic device (that’s a good thing).  Having multiple books in one compact device makes it possible to jumble my reading interests, without adding bulk to my backpack (I usually read 2-3 books at once, and often move between a business book, fiction, and/or current events stuff).  An added benefit for Amazon is that I’ve ended up buying books, literally, as they were mentioned in a meeting or on a TV show.  That’s another part of the puzzle that Amazon got right, a low friction transaction.  The first generation Kindle defined a market, in many ways, like the first generation iPod did.  And, based on the early, leaked photographs of the Gen.2 model, it looks like Amazon will address some of the awkward design elements of the initial offering.  While most of the coverage on Monday will be focused on the hardware, I’ll be really interested learning what Jeff Bezos and Co. have in store for the software part of the Kindle upgrade.

Reading has always been about community
I’ve found that I learn a whole lot more about a book’s meaning if I can share my thoughts and ideas with others.  I’m not really into book clubs, but Amazon does have a unique opportunity to extend the reading experience into a community experience with the Kindle.  The current generation software of the Kindle allows me to electronically annotate excerpts.  Sometimes I simply highlight interesting passages that I want to go back to, other times I’ll add a note that serves as a reminder to dig deeper into an area or ask another question.  Given the Kindle’s wispernet wireless connection, wouldn’t it make sense to connect those notes about books to a larger community?  I’m just wrapping up David Sanger’s The Inheritance, and I’ve got a ton of notes and comments that I’d love to share with other readers.  Shouldn’t each Kindle book have a ‘community’ wrapped around it?  In the case Sanger’s book, which is related to current events, the author could engage in that community and extend usefulness of his book.  For readers, instead of static reviews of a book on Amazon’s website, we’d have a dynamic community to share ideas with, argue or get deeper insight from the author.  I understand that Amazon doesn’t want the Kindle to become a ‘free’ way to connect to the internet, but wispernet could feed my notes and highlighted sections to a section of the book’s page online, and then I could continue the conversation via my computer connection.  This is one feature I’m really hoping Amazon announces on Monday…and they allow us first generation Kindle users to upgrade our software to enable this community.

Books are meant to be shared
The beauty of a physical book is that it can be shared, resold, or passed along to just about anybody without much difficulty.  As DRM slowly slips away in the music business, Amazon needs to define a reasonable model to- at minimum – resell books that I no longer want.  I believe there is a compelling reason for publishers to want a resale market to exist as well.  Unlike the aftermarket for traditional books, a market mechanism could be setup whereby publishers would get additional royalties for a resold book.  Amazon would benefit as a clearinghouse, and it would also drop another barrier for me (or anyone) to buy some ‘one-time use’ books.  For example, I’ve been hesitant to spend a lot on fiction on my Kindle.  Maybe it’s just me, but most fiction I’ll read once, and then pass it along to someone, or resell it (sometimes on Amazon’s website).  If I knew that there were a reliable aftermarket where I could resell these books, I’d be willing to buy them more often.

These are just two developments I’m hoping to see on Monday.  The Kindle is a revolutionary device.  It’s now time for Amazon to evolve the ecosystem around the device and extend the usefulness of their revolutionary product.  Amazon, it’s time to socialize the Kindle.

UPDATE: I just noticed that Amazon has hinted at the need to extend the kindle format to smartphones.  While this may be another market to chase, I can’t imagine doing extensive book reading on my iPhone.  Now, if Amazon modifies it’s DRM mechanism so I can use the same license on both my Kindle and my iPhone, I’d find it useful for those times when the Kindle isn’t in my bag.  My iPhone is always with me.

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Amazon’s S3 was down for a long stretch yesterday

Image representing Amazon.com as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

In recent months I’ve written more and more about Cloud Computing, and have been a fan of it’s most prominent tool Amazon’s S3. Well, it looks like S3 had another major failure yesterday. I didn’t notice because I spent the day away from the internet, but according to many blog posts, the service was down for several hours. That’s not good, Amazon. Here’s a link to Om Malik’s post regarding the failure:

S3 Outage Highlights Fragility of Web Services – GigaOM

That said, the outage shows that cloud computing still has a long road ahead when it comes to reliability. NASDAQ, Activision, Business Objects and Hasbro are some of the large companies using Amazon’s S3 Web Services. But even as cloud computing starts to gain traction with companies like these and most of our business and communication activities are shifting online, web services are still fragile, in part because we are still using technologies built for a much less strenuous web.

Understanding Amazon’s S3

Amit Agrawal, over at Digital Inspiration, has an excellent set of posts about what Amazon’s S3 web service is all about. Check it out:

Amazon S3 Simple Storage Service – Everything You Wanted to Know

Now some people assume that Amazon S3 is a storage service meant primarily for web start-ups who store data in-the-cloud but that’s not correct because just about anyone (home users included) can benefit from S3.

For instance, you may backup your large music collection or even your entire computer hard-drive on S3. Similarly, bloggers can use Amazon S3 to store web images without worrying too much about their bandwidth bills.

If you never had a chance to explore Amazon S3 before, read the following guide that makes S3 simple even for non-geeks. It has all the information and tools you would need to quickly get started with Amazon S3.

The followup post is here.

Amazon.com went down today, but cloud services not affected

As I’m writing this, amazon.com is down.  It’s not just me, others are twittering about it. I can’t remember the last time a major site like Amazon going down. It’s been down for a while. Amazon’s cloud services seem to be working just fine, however, as my Amazon S3 account is still accessible. It can’t be good for Bezos’ push into cloud computing if his anchor site is down.

Update: @ 3.35pm EDT it looks like amazon.com is back up.  I wonder if we’ll get an explanation on the downtime.