Easy does it

<p>You may have already dismissed the Amazon Kindle as just the latest in a long line of technological breakthroughs that heralded the supposed end of the book. The dire fortunes of early e-readers have given observers great grounds to be complacent but the Kindle is different. Indeed, this may be the one . . .</p>
<p>Let&rsquo;s leave aside the carping about how reading on a screen will never be as good as reading on a page. The vast majority of people already read far more on their PC screens than they ever do in books. If anything is the &ldquo;norm&rdquo; it&rsquo;s reading electronically.</p>
<p>Let&rsquo;s also park the debate about how much people love books. There are as many people who don&rsquo;t read books as do. If anything, the problem is that we don&rsquo;t love books enough.</p>
<p>Finally, let&rsquo;s not get too worried about trying to change people&rsquo;s behaviour. Books are just a delivery system and it is fascinating how changes to the delivery system attract new users. Just look at the younger, chiefly male profile of Audible.com&rsquo;s consumers versus the typical older, female audiobook listener.</p>
<p>Whether we like it or not the world is changing and so are people&rsquo;s relationships with the written word. So why might the Kindle succeed where Sony&rsquo;s Reader is faltering?</p>
<p>It is easy to get distracted by features, but history shows better products don&rsquo;t always win&mdash;just witness the triumph of VHS (the worst format) in the early video technology wars.</p>
<p>For guidance about the prospects of the Kindle, we should examine Apple. Not because of the iPod, which was a great design, but because of the iTunes library and store. Many were amazed that Apple, a company with no music pedigree, could attain a dominant position in a completely new sector. They managed to do it by knitting together the hardware and the content. They made it easy for &ldquo;normal people&rdquo; (as opposed to techies and teenagers) to find the music they wanted and get it onto their MP3 players.</p>
<p>It is this same connection between the player and the content that makes the Kindle such an attractive proposition. Basically, consumers don&rsquo;t have to think about it. As soon as you combine the words &ldquo;new technology&rdquo; with &ldquo;effort&rdquo; most people are put off. They&rsquo;d rather wait until something easier comes along because they know it will (an example of inertia as a force for change). Kindle closes the loop and makes things simple. That&rsquo;s why it&rsquo;s completely different to anything that has gone before, and that&rsquo;s why I want one for Christmas.</p>