Tim over at Snarkmarket dropped this one on us — a bit of a theoretical slog, but surely worth wading into–but at the center was the question from his previous post about whether the Kindle of 2020 will play a central role in the way we understand and engage with reading.

My sense is that the Kindle — or any ereader for that matter — will have to do more than manage text if it wants to still be around in 2020.  This is related to my personal sense that “iPhone” and “iTunes” are ultimately bad names for these tools; “iPod” is actually much better, in the sense that it is more able to readily take on new meanings acquired through popular use of it that things that have “phone” or “tune” in their very name.

In fact, the iPhone does so much more than even most other cellphones, while still relying on the basic cellular network that provides its phone-ness, that the name is pretty silly.

But that is the kind of tool our current social and cultural practices encourage and are encouraged by: something that’s infinitely mobile and can easily and quickly connect you with all people and all information the moment you seek it.  Something like the Kindle, at least as I understand it, limits access to text-based material (and even then I understand web-browsing capability is limited) in a way that current practice simply has little interest in, in the aggregate.  If Amazon does not see this and react to it, then I would say there will be no Kindle in 2020 or any other ereader.  More likely, the option to consume ebook content will be folded into an all-in-one pocket device and remain there.

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