The Tipping Point
September 21, 2009
Daniel Allen in Hawaii Kai Computer Guy

When providing educational sessions to “Unlimited Support” clients of Hawaii Kai Computer Guy, I often compare the emergence of the Internet to the Industrial Revolution. This period in the late 18th and early 19th centuries saw major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining and transportation, and had a profound effect on the socioeconomic and cultural conditions in Europe, North America and eventually the world. The onset marked a major turning point in human society; almost every aspect of daily life was eventually influenced in some way.

In 1995, when the general public began its expedition onto the Internet en masse (it had actually been around since the 1960s), the world again experienced similar changes and effects.

Once more we are at the cusp of witnessing another monumental shift in culture with an impact most generations rarely experience. Sure, mankind has generally advanced technologies, but rarely have they formed such a swift and mass effect throughout our world’s civilizations. I’m speaking of ‘digital distribution.’

If you own an iPod or have ever purchased music online (Napster, Rhapsody, Amazon, etc.), you’ve experienced it first-hand.

Presently, we can also easily receive movies in a similar fashion. Whether using AppleTV, a PC linked to your television with Amazon, pay-per-view, or a Netflix compatible set-top box, you no longer need a DVD; you can just watch on-demand. I have a Vudu box, myself. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I get hi-definition movies - near Blu-Ray quality – for $3.99 each. Admittedly, I actually have all of the aforementioned products, but I think the Vudu is simplest and maintains the best quality!

With Blu-Ray discs averaging $25 each, having an instant, inexpensive library of 10,000 movies with my Vudu is more cost-effective.

Now, onto the next frontier:  printed media such as books, magazines and newspapers.

Do you think the recent bankruptcies and financial restructuring of major newspapers is due to the economy? I doubt it. The shift has most likely been occurring for years like other industries affected by digital distribution and/or the Internet.

Enter the genre of consumer electronics known as e-readers. While there have only been a few real mainstream manufactures over the past few years, including Sony, the award must be given to Amazon for their Kindle.

I was reluctant and reserved when I initially received the Kindle about a year ago, but quickly discovered that I was engaged and grateful. 

What Amazon got correct about the device was simplicity. The ease by which you can purchase a book from Amazon’s web site or the Kindle itself is amazing. You can buy and begin reading a full book within one-minute. And, the clarity is astounding,  even for a simple black-and-white screen. The e-Ink (electronic ink) technology is the make-or-break feature of the device and it doesn’t disappoint. I find it as easy to read as a standard printed page.

The Kindle’s aforementioned wireless purchasing system is one big benefit, as most other eBook readers require you to hook the device to your computer to synchronize.

With the recently released Kindle 2 a few months ago, the quality has been greatly improved upon from the initial Kindle 1 during the short period. Slimmer, more natural feeling, even greater clarity and a capacity to store over 1,500 books on the unit, Amazon deserves nothing but praise for their diligence. I’m sure their goal is to be the iTunes of books, and they are positioned to easily do so.

Comparable in size to a paperback, my Kindle currently contains over 100 books and counting! If I ever lose my unit, I can obtain a replacement and all of my books will automatically download to the new unit.

With an approximate weight of a cell phone, it’s easy to see the benefit of carrying all of your schoolbooks on the Kindle when compared to lugging several of their heavy printed cousins.

Depending on your personal preferences, digital distribution can be considered a positive or negative change. Unfortunately, for those in the latter mind-set, I sympathize. But, like most changes, embracing it will often yield more satisfaction and happiness than resistance.

Article originally appeared on East Oahu Sun | Your Community Newspaper (http://www.eastoahusun.com/).
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