If you want a device that can do a pretty good of chopping veggies, opening bottles and cans, extracting small screws, cutting paper, sawing small pieces of wood (very small), chiseling even smaller pieces of wood, and picking your teeth…then the good ol’ “all-purpose” swiss army knife is what your looking for! It may not be the best at any one of those things, but then you just want something that covers all the bases adequately, right? Who knows what you’re going to want to do at any given moment, and you want to be ready to do it all, right? It’s not as if today’s individual actually has the time to plan their activities and intentions in advance, is it?

However…

If you know what you want to do in advance, and you’re the type of person that prefers to focus on one activity at a time, with minimal distraction, then it stands to reason that you should select the best tool for the job. For example, if you have a particularly thick steak that you wish to enjoy eating, your swiss army pocket knife is going to be a messy and challenging device to deploy, resulting in a less than exquisite dining experience. A well-crafted, high-quality, high carbon stainless steel knife is the only option in this case. It does one thing…reeeeaaally well.

iPad: The Victorinox of tablet devices.
Kindle: Yup – the steak knife.

I do not want my car to have email functionality on the driver side; I do not want my oven to do my laundry; I do not want my book to play movies. Not yet. Not until the car drives perfectly, the oven bakes beautifully, and the book reads crisply. I prefer my devices and tools to be as cost effective, robust, elegant, and functionally precise as possible, so that I may have the liberty to develop a relationship with my products that assures me the highest degree of satisfaction, at the best price.

At a moment in time when consumers are desperate to bring order to the chaos in their lives, when people are eager for simplicity; when companies such as Flock and Pip.io are growing their user base of evangelists intent on collapsing the layers in their social worlds…why isn’t Amazon’s marketing department focusing on the fact that their product is built for one main purpose, and it accomplishes that purpose with an elegance that the iPad’s multifunctional personality cannot pretend to approximate, except perhaps via the Kindle App itself? The e-ink differentiator is a worthy advantage, I agree, but perhaps it’s time to focus on the big value advantage: the Kindle knows what it’s supposed to do and, a few minor tweaks notwithstanding, it does it very well.

I know where my steak knives are. I use them regularly. I have a Swiss Army knife, but have no idea where it is…never use it anymore.

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Following on from my assertion earlier this month that e-reading will become ubiquitous, and for the better, I offer this video excerpt as clear supporting evidence of the attractive potential that is currently crossing the threshold of traditional print publication houses (fiction, news, or otherwise).

In 4 days, it is rumored that Apple will reveal their hand in this market sector – a move which would do much to erase, once and for all, any doubt that eBooks are to print media what mobile devices have been to the landline. How swiftly and enthusiastically publishers and, perhaps more crucially, readers react to these still emerging opportunities will determine more than just the rate of development of the hardware and software surrounding these devices and platforms. It will heavily influence a diverse array of communities: from the literary to the artistic; from advertisers to consumer product marketing agencies; from students and teachers to parents and pundits.

Presently, the cost of an e-book device is still too high for the average citizen, until you calculate the ROI. Consumers were willing to pay $600 for the iPhone, when it was released. The current iteration – considerably improved from the iPhone model of less than 2 years ago – is only $99. Meanwhile, over 3 BILLION iPhone apps have been downloaded, and the device has revolutionized the mobile device industry, as well as consumer behavior habits. Apple has recouped its investment handsomely, and the smartphone (in its many incarnations) is now almost a necessity to a whole generation of users across the world (indeed, in the developing nations it has transformed lives).

Currently, e-book devices cost far less than the early iPhone, and there is no doubt that the price will drop further. Add to this the dramatically lower cost to publish digitally, as well as the positive Green considerations (no ink, no paper, no hard distribution costs, etc), and the value proposition to the purveyor (technology hardware provider, service provider, publisher, writer, et al) is clear. Meanwhile, assuming (perhaps somewhat naively?) that publishers will soon lower the price for eBooks and eMags, in order to make them more digestible to mass market consumers, the value to the reader will be explosive.

As readership grows, so new demographics evolve. As eyeballs become identified, qualified, and quantified, so advertisers begin to salivate. From a commercial perspective, the bonus of e-readership is that metrics are more controllable, and thus businesses are able to connect with and – more importantly – STAY CONNECTED TO the interested consumer. This is where the fun starts:

Today’s magazine advertiser has no way of accurately qualifying the value of their placement, and magazines have to publish thick volumes (see Vanity Fair) just to stay afloat. These tomes are 70% advertising, and 30% editorial, at best. Readers have become inured to this dynamic, and breeze past the mag ads in much the same way as they zip past TV commercials, thanks to the DVR. Now, imagine if – thanks to the eMag – an ad was clickable, promising instant conversion. Imagine if, thanks to the eMag, a product offering could be placed strategically in relation to an article, enhancing the value of that product offering in the mind of the reader, by association (a new type of product placement). The discreet advertising opportunities are vast, and promise untold opportunities to magazine publishers and product manufacturers, and the agencies that creatively connect the two worlds. Then again, if the reader prefers an ad-free experience, why not grant it to them, at a premium? Those publications with higher ad-free readerships can offer lower ad rates, and vice versa. All very measurable, to everyone’s satisfaction.

In the e-Lit universe (the environment wherein electronic literature is ubiquitous), publishers can release a new book and have it in the hands of pre-identified “interested” readers within seconds. The temporal investment required, from a marketing perspective, is greatly reduced; freeing publishers to take more creative risks which will inevitably produce surprisingly powerful “accidents” of literary genius. The greatest works of historical fiction were rarely foreseen as commercially viable products. This emerging dynamic will allow a lot of literature to become a user-driven proposition, virally marketed by the readers themselves. It won’t exclude traditionally vetted works of literature, which can continue to receive the type of robust “upfront” marketing support that publishing houses often manifest. Nor will it erode the support for “hidden gems” of challenging yet worthy literature, which might otherwise not be deemed viable by the publishers, nor initially digestible by the public. Statistics are showing that the field of literary criticism is already evolving to function less as a pre-release prognosticator, but as a post-release adjudicator, still very capable of identifying and championing tomorrow’s Ezra Pound or Thomas Pynchon. e-Literature widens the field of offerings. It does not pretend to, nor can it, expand the readership, in and of itself. It does, however, create a new landscape onto which a wider and more diverse readership now has the opportunity to travel. To those who claim this might dilute the quality of literature, I counter that dilution is only experienced and identified upon imbibing. Consider the following scenario:

10 bottles of wine are put on a table. 2 bottles are of the highest quality ($10 per glass), 2 are of strong  but slightly lesser quality ($6), 2 are of middling quality but eminently drinkable ($5), 2 are of poor quality ($2), and 2 are of varied quality but watered down ($3).

A group of wine aficionados is invited into the room, and each given a $10 bill. They are given a quick taste of each wine, and then asked to “spend the money”. How they choose to “invest” their funds, and subsequently advance their experience of wine, is – in my opinion – a worthwhile allegory for the opportunity facing the reading public. The e-Lit universe will expand the selection of available content, and the quality spectrum will widen and deepen, by extension. The more extensive and more diversified availability of phraseological grapes promises a richer and more rewarding vendange.

I could write a book on the multifarious revenue generation opportunities available via e-publication, but this article must remain within the 1,000-word realm. I look forward eagerly to the imminent delivery of my Kindle DX (delayed due to demand, apparently), fully accepting the likelihood that upon delivery I will be in possession of an already usurped iteration. But if I were to think that way, how sorrowful would be my lot. Imagine living in the latter 16th century and, purely based upon your suspicion that “better plays may come out soon”, you turned down tickets to Titus Andronicus (which, by all accounts, received “mixed reviews” back in the early 1590s). Sure, you might be around when Winter’s Tale came out, and you might get tickets, and from the selective logic point of view, you will have arguably made a better investment. However, what if the tickets you were first offered were to Thomas Kyd’s first play, “The Spanish Tragedy”, and you declined on the same principle. What was then seen, and is argued by many today, as “arguably the most popular play of the “Age of Shakespeare” and set new standards in effective plot construction and character development”*, was Kyd’s greatest work. It was all downhill from there.

I intend to enjoy my Kindle, and upon it I shall read with pleasure many plays, books, articles, magazines, newspapers, and more. When something indubitably superior comes out (and when I have a salary that will permit me the indulgence!), I will replace my lovingly used Kindle with whatever relatively new-fangled gewgaw convinces me of its unquestionable worth.