While there’s plenty being written about the Kindle Fire and its putative battle with the iPad for tablet supremacy, the stealthier disruption of the original Kindle continues on cat feet, sneaking farther down the road with Kindle X-Ray, a service Amazon describes in these words:

With a single tap, readers can see all the passages across a book that mention ideas, fictional characters, historical figures, places or topics that interest them, as well as more detailed descriptions from Wikipedia and Shelfari, Amazon’s community-powered encyclopedia for book lovers.

A video of X-Ray tells more yet:

I have yet to experience this feature firsthand, but as a fan of non-fiction, the index, and reference works in general, this has an innate appeal for me — every book becomes a de facto reference work, indexed in a really new, interesting, and useful way.

As Nicholas Carr writes:

With the Fire, as with its its whizzy-gizmo predecessors, the iPad and the Nook Color, we are seeing the e-book begin to assume its true aesthetic, which would seem to be far closer to the aesthetic of the web than to that of the printed page. . . . [T[he real importance of the Fire is what it presages: the ultimate form of the e-book. Historians may look back on September 28, 2011, as the day the book lost its bookishness.

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Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.


4 Thoughts on "The Kindle Changes Books Again — With Kindle X-Ray"

Some random non-Xray Fire thoughts:

The real loser here isn’t Apple. The iPad is still a much more versatile device than the Fire, and will continue to command the higher end of the market (the area where Apple has pretty much always succeeded). The real loser here is Google, as the combination of iPad and Fire now makes Android tablets non-starters. They can’t compete on price with either and can’t compete on having such a functional ecosystem to aid usage.

Even worse for Google is that Amazon is completely disintermediating them here. Using Fire’s Silk browser, your internet activity runs through Amazon’s data centers. Amazon knows who you are and what you’re requesting. All Google gets to see is the aggregate traffic from Amazon. All that valuable data on individuals that Google, or anyone else tracking users through cookies and the like, does not exist for the Fire. Except, of course, for Amazon who can collect all of it. Amazon gets an amazing benefit from being able to collect all the data on all of your online purchases from any source. When you use Silk to buy a book from Barnes & Noble or a song from eMusic, Amazon will now track that purchase.

This is going to create privacy issues, to be certain, but creates a huge tactical advantage for Amazon as far as becoming a data broker. And all of this is done using Android, the operating system created by Google. Ouch!

Personally, I have a hard time paying $278 for a device that lets me shop at one particular store. I haven’t yet found a reason I need an iPad, and while derided for its “walled garden”, at least Apple is fairly neutral as far as the source of my content. I can use an iPad and buy books from many places, stream movies from many places, even use songs and movies transferred from a cd/dvd. It’s unclear if such freedom will be allowed on the Fire–will there be a native Netflix app? A Nook app? Can I get music I’ve purchased on cd onto the device without paying Amazon for cloud storage? When a device is created with the sole purpose of making purchases from one vendor, I expect that device to either be free or at least a lot more subsidized than we’re seeing with the Fire.

I have an Asus tablet running Android and chose it to avoid the problems associated with both Amazon and Apple’s incompatibility limitations! I purchased it after a reasonable amount of research because I wanted to beta-test ebooks I’m putting together and wanted to be able to sideload my books to test them. With my Asus tablet I can load off USB via the dock, access the Kindle store and test epubs with Aldiko, so to suggest the competition is between Amazon and Apple only is nonsense. Android has shifted from being a mere phone app to an OS that is gaining significant momentum via the tablet market. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t trust any of them – but it is what it is!

This is a tangential question, sorry. I’m just wondering – can the indexed sidebar information be user updated, or am I getting too technologically ahead of myself here? (I’m thinking of applying smart search tactics to indexing via usage statistics, based on interest, activity, profile. A smart book like a smart phone – as our literature becomes increasingly electronic, its indexing should also utilize capabilities based on user data. I guess this will have to wait for cloud computing tactics to be applied to ereaders / electronic libraries, as this is probably too user-specific.) Do you think this might be a viable option down the road?

Can we personalize or bookmark sidebar information? (If you look up an interesting phrase, can you backtrack to it later? Are searches saved? Do you have the ability to note why you looked it up, or when, for your own reference? Are related books suggested for further reading?)

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