In circ: Is the Kindle really the future?

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Rumor has it that a new Amazon Kindle will be revealed on Monday, February 9. Depending on the upgrades Amazon offers, and what those inspire in its rivals, the newest Kindle could spark some hope for today's down-and-out publishing industry.

When I interviewed Reed Phillips of media investment group DeSilva & Phillips for a recent news analysis, he said the end of print media as we know it could come about if, “someone comes up with a device that is so much more practical than reading a newspaper.” The Kindle, in many respects, is that — what could be easier than for my New York Times subscription to automatically download every morning, transfer to a portable tablet and be ready to read any time?

The question now is, are readers, publishers and the technology all on the same level? Many print lovers — those who are most engaged with their magazines and newspapers — are wary of e-readers (Where are the pages? How do I take it in the tub?), and not every publisher is yet offering its goods in the e-reader format.

On the flip side of the human-tech divide, the e-readers may not be entirely up-to-date on today's consumer preferences. Kindle, though it's connected to the super-duper wireless “Whispernet,” does not currently allow for any connectivity between readers. You can make notes, but you can't share those notes with your friends. You may like an article, but you can't electronically recommend it to your family. The social piece is an essential one for any media brand these days, and if e-readers really want to be the publishing wave of the future — and they could be — they will have to be able to engage readers fully through their favorite Web 2.0 technologies. Maybe the next Kindle will be a step in the right direction.

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