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    Have you heard about Amazon Kindle?

    Güven Sak, PhD09 January 2010 - Okunma Sayısı: 1249

     

    We might not be aware, but the world is still on a change. I am not talking about the "changes" brought forward to spice up the daily disputes. The world has been changing deep down due to quite structural reasons. And technologic change does not care about any crisis. Question of today is; have you ever thought how Kindle can change the world?

    Kindle is an e-book reading device marketed by Amazon. First version of Kindle was introduced to the market in late 2007. In 2009, new versions of it started to blossom. As you know, Amazon was originally established as an online bookstore. Now, it rapidly turns into an online supermarket. You order books, CD's or DVD's at the website (www.amazon.com). Amazon deals with the logistics and sends you the package. In Turkey, there are online bookstores serving to the same purpose. I do not like them as I think their sites look too complicated (let me talk about this someday). Now together with Kindle, Amazon is better than the best. It is turning into an online library then an online bookstore. This, I guess might have interesting consequences. Note this down; we can talk about this later.

    In last December, electronic versions of some books sold more than the hard copies. This was what reports say. There is no concrete data, but people talk that Amazon Kindle sales have reached 1 million. It is said that in 2013 around 28 million people will be using Kindle. However, the market is limited so far. To begin with, all books are in English. Kindle is sold in the United States of America for legal grounds. Recently, relatives of an author who is no longer with us, demanded to sign a new contract for e-book sale revenues, a large US publishing company Random House made a statement and said that the existing contract should as well cover e-books. The news piece was in New York Times on 12 December. Wait and see; we will witness many of such lawsuits. So, why did Random House feel the urge to make such a statement? I guess it is because of the new channel e-book business is directed to with Kindle era. E-book business is now getting serious. Rocket e-book was first introduced in 1999. The device was found in the market; but there were only 524 books to buy compatible with the device. Now, in the Kindle era, there are almost 30,000 books you can buy from Amazon. This is the first point.

    Second, Kindle is also a mobile phone compatible with the 3G technology. As soon as the book is introduced in the market, you can download it to your Kindle at one-third of the sale price of the hard copy and without paying any telephone charge. You can not only download books but also subscribe to newspapers and magazines. You can directly access all at the e-book reading device you hold. Is not this good?

    Third, one Kindle can store a couple hundreds of books. It means you can literally carry a part of your library in your bag. Think about its benefits during your travels.

    Kindle currently looks quite like the first PC's. It looks quite primitive; it just has a black and white screen. But like all technologies of the era, it will advance rapidly. And about the process of social change this technology can initiate. Kindle does not ease but harden the work of the author. All books reach rapidly all around the world; the market grows rapidly. But can you imagine the magnitude of change the book industry is facing?

    To begin with, value chain of the industrial product called book starts to change sweepingly. How was the former value chain? First, the author wrote the book. Then some people decided that the book worth publishing. Then the book was typeset and designed. Everything from the cover to the pages had to be completed. After that, the book would go to printing house and be published. To do this, some people would have to cut down trees and produce paper. Moreover, ink should have been produced. When the book was published, distribution companies and courier companies would step in and the book would be distributed to bookstores. This way, the book was delivered as close as to the bookstore next door. There, reading events with the author of the book would be organized. But this value chain will never be the same in the Kindle era. It seems possible to figure out the winners and the losers in the list above.

    The second point seems directly related with the winners and the losers. It appears to me that content providers and those working with mental labor will not lose much while physical labor will lose. White collars will be safe while blue collars will lose. Can we reach to a generalization from this, though it is a dangerous act? Technological advance makes skill-based inequalities more permanent day by day. Those with a poor skill set are forced to run behind those with a rich skill set. And this is the second point.

    The third point about this Kindle issue is; as Cem Yılmaz, a famous comedian of Turkey, states impressively, "education is a must." If the finding put above is correct, administrations that improve the initial endowments of the public are to be more successful in the twenty first century. Of course this is not a concern for us in Turkey. We, of course, are dealing with much more important issues. It appears that while Turkey tries to go round in circles, Israel of the region has shaken the dust off its feet. My biggest fear is that the possibility for saying the same for Russia grows day by day. Turkey seems as a strong candidate of leadership in the 'lagging behind' tournament in the region. This might seem nonsense to you in this period where the image that some things are going on around is delivered. But this is the truth.

    By the way, let me conclude with a personal assessment.  I have read my first novel with Kindle. And yes, pressing the back-forward buttons on Kindle gives the same feeling with turning over pages. Did I make my point clear? I liked Kindle.

    Happy weekends to all.

     

    This commentary was published in Referans daily on 09.01.2010 .

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