Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kindle or Kill-joy??

I love my Kindle...and my Blackberry Bold...and my IPOD. But, seriously folks, these devices are taking some of the fun out of riding the NY subway or sitting at Starbucks or outdoor cafes or otherwise enjoying the passers-by in this packed metropolis. And, on a more serious note, they put distance between us instead of helping us find community.

If I don't know what you're reading or watching or listening to, how do I know who you are? Or whether I'm in the right place?? Or how I might connect with you?

Yes yes I know. We can share much of this now through social networks MySpace, FaceBook, and dozens of other digital means. I've signed up for a few of these networks and I'm already bored with them or too busy to sit home and let my fingers do the talking. Tweet and twitter all you want, there's nothing like the feeling I have when I see a fellow commuter engrossed in the current issue of The New Yorker or The New Republic or the Financial Times, The Economist. Or reading a book I am reading or want to or once enjoyed. For a fleeting moment, I am not alone.

An ad on the C train this morning for M-Edge Kindle covers got me going on this. We can pretty up the Kindle all we want with dozens of accessories, but what seems lacking in everybody's product development plans is what I'd really like to see--a Kindle that would externally display the cover of the book or magazine that I am reading. These are the little signs and symbols we use to find common ground with those around us. And we're quickly losing them (and each other?).

As a media person, I also see business challenges from a viral marketing perspective as we all become cocooned in our individualized media consumption habits. And as a print publishing dinosaur, I worry about the loss of branding opportunities and the impact on total readership of magazine and newspaper brands.

The digitized compresssed and customized world we have designed for ourselves has increased our isolation from each other. I'm going to miss reading Page Six over the shoulder of the guy sitting next to me.....

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