Amazon and its Kindle e-book platform are fighting back against the iPad challenge on Apple’s own turf–the iPad and iPhone themselves…. This according to the media newsletter MINonline. Maybe so, but the handful of audio and video-enhanced titles introduced this weekend for the Kindle platform aren’t going to convince anybody that the future is all the way here.
The initial baker’s dozen includes five travel guides by Rick Steves, Knitting For Dummies, a cake cookbook, a guide to bird songs and an off-brand history of the FDR administration. It’s a little like wandering through one of those cavernous, eerily quiet chain stores that sell nothing but remainders: They’re books, yes, but not the ones you want. You might pick one up and page through it in a desultory fashion, maybe even buy it because it looks vaguely good for you — Come on, it’s Best of the Beatles For Acoustic Guitar! — but you’ll regret it before you’re back in your car. And the audio-video content… well, it doesn’t exactly thrill. Steves offers slightly paraphrased versions of the text in the chipper, We’re gonna have fun! tones of the guys who used to host afternoon cartoon shows on local TV; Rose Levy Bernbaum fumbles through some earnest cooking demos (“Butter is another very important ingredient used for making cakes…”) in a way that will practically force you to remember the old “Delicious Dish” sketches on Saturday Night Live. None of the enhanced content adds much to the text. It all has the feel of the corporate web sites you used to see in the Gold Rush days of the late ’90s, when everybody took it as an article of faith that a business had to be on the Web but nobody really knew why, or how it could be used to do something useful like differentiate a brand. It’s just sort of… there. (And the fact that it’s just sort of there on competing devices — iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch — doesn’t exactly speak volumes for Amazon’s own Kindle reader, which better get a color touchscreen real quick.)
“This is just the beginning,” Amazon’s Dorothy Nicholls tells MINonline. That’s for sure. There’s certainly better, livelier and richer multimedia content to come in the ebook market. Just not yet.