5 cultural memes antiquated by Kindle (or profound ways products impact lives)

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Disclaimer: This is not another Kindle review.

I’ve been using an Amazon Kindle for couple of months now, and I think I realize what revolution means.

  1. My children’s children will probably not understand that different books can have different weight and thickness. I am almost done readying Ulysses by James Joyce, and it suddenly dawned on me that I’ve never even seen the book in its traditional format. I can sense from reading it on Kindle that it’s really long, but I don’t know how long it is. It’s perfectly fine with me not knowing but there is something profound about this context being lost.
  2. Large print books will be first to go. Every e-book is in all possible fonts from regular to enormous, and it simply makes no economic sense to have a separate printed large print edition of any book that is available in e-book format. A few years from now the familiar image of an old man in his recliner with a magnifying glass bent over a book would cause just as much curiosity as a horse-drawn carriage.
  3. Insanely heavy backpacks will be a thing of the past. I remember suffering all through high school hauling my textbooks around, having to think twice about which books I really needed that day. I would shuttle them between the locker and the classroom, between the house and the locker, stashing them at the wrong place for the time being and missing the book I needed when I needed it on the weekend.
  4. The whole term out-of-print is becoming meaningless. All books are going out of print. Out of print is in, in print is on its way out.
  5. No more dog ears, frayed paper bookmarks falling out of place and all over. No more ugly highlighting that soaks through the page. It’s like the vessel that carries the book’s contents is becoming devoid of any personality. No scribbled notes in the margin left by the previous owner. No coffee stains or greasy fingerprints. No bookmarks. Yes, but you can now actually find all your underlines without flipping through the book. Did I mention flipping itself (and fanning yourself in the process) is a relic too? Opening to a random page is gone.

Alright, don’t get me wrong. I am not lamenting the disappearance of these cultural memes from the lives of generations to follow. It’s fine with me. I am simply reflecting on the fact that I am witness to nothing short of a revolution. I am also not crediting Amazon or any particular e-reader for bringing this about, and this is not meant to extol the virtues of any one of these devices.

And yet the power of products to affect our lives is incredible. That alone should make anyone in product management feel the staggering responsibility that lies before us in the product business. Our products will change and better lives of people, and that’s an exciting and equally intimidating thing to think about when I power on my next book.

Incidentally, it says “Opening” when I power it on. How is that for a cognitive dissonance?

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