Big Kindle, little phone: Which will it be?

By Steve Outing

So on Wednesday, Amazon will be introducing a larger Kindle e-reading device. I’ll be away from the Internet on my mountain bike in southwestern Colorado so will probably miss the announcement. But I can’t help but ponder the significance of the advancement of the portable e-reader.

While I do believe that Kindles (medium and large) and other e-readers will grow in popularity, I still can’t get too excited about them. Now, if a Kindle device ran the Mac operating system, was a serious replacement for my Macbook, and of course had a color screen, then I’d really take it seriously.

But for now, I can’t imagine wanting to add another device to carry around with me.

Here’s my personal history with extra devices (it’s short). Years ago I bought a Palm Pilot clone, called a Handspring. It was cool at first, and was one of my many attempts to find a to-do and calendar system that worked for me. Trouble was, I seldom took it out with me; I simply wasn’t comfortable carrying a cell phone AND a Handspring PDA in my pockets. The Handspring gathered dust for years; it’s probably in a box somewhere in my office.

I suspect many people will have the same experience with the Kindle, including the new one. Sure, there will be Kindle aficionados who are never without their e-reader. (I have a friend who fits that description.) But I don’t see the Kindle as a device that you’ll always want to carry with you.

For me, the iPhone changed my life, and for the first time in my life I have an organization system that I regularly use and is always with me. Between Google Calendar and Remember the Milk on the iPhone, I’m now more organized than I’ve ever been. The reason is simple enough: My iPhone is always with me (even on a mountain bike ride miles away from cell service).

The larger screen of the new Kindle may be appealing to newspaper and magazine publishers, and it well could be a boon for them. But if I had a $1 million development budget, I’d allot a small portion of it to publishing to Kindle and e-readers, and spend most on developing apps for delivering content and services to smart phones.

In my view, the small size of the phone’s screen is far outweighed by another positive factor: The phone is nearly always with me. Want to get your news content to me any time I’m awake? Get it to me on my iPhone.

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!