A few days ago I was riding home on my Xootr push scooter—yes, it’s a tough commute—when an old Ford Falcon pulled up next to me at the light. I noticed the undercarriage splotched with rust, the tires baring their sole, but what struck me most was the backseat, brimming with books, magazines, and yellowed newspapers, the entire car sagging from its gallant effort. A mobile library, indeed, though best of luck finding a book at the bottom of that pile. I’m no stranger to messy cars, in fact, I once found a certificate of appreciation from the local 4-H to my father, from 1974, when I was borrowing my Dad’s car during a trip home in 1999–and it was in the third car he’d had in those twenty-five years. But I digress.
What also stuck me, besides the exhaust, while wondering at that car in the intersection, was that the iPod Touch in my pocket had at least thirty books on it, even though I’d had it for about a month. Say what you want about e-books, it’s not the same as paper, right, but try carrying 100 books in your pocket, or in your car, let alone the 1.5 million that Google is already providing for mobile devices.
I enjoy learning about technology, and take a keen interest in how it affects learning, networks, and society. Still, I’m not really much of a gadget guy, that is, I don’t feel I have to go buy every gadget that comes along. No video game consoles in my house, an ancient yet hardy stereo, no cable TV. My DJing rig is laughable. Traveling around South America, to use one example, tends to wean one from over-consumerist tendencies, not to mention thinking seriously about the condition of the planet and some of its possible futures.
So it’s been with both a sense of wonder and a bit of trepidation, perhaps, that I’ve been able to start playing around with both the iPod Touch and Amazon’s new Kindle 2. I remember reading about a study that tracked over time people’s attitudes about what they thought were necessities, versus what they considered luxuries. Things like cell-phones, iPods, and flat screens keep getting added to the list of necessities, but nothing ever comes off.
The iPhone and Touch portend much more the future than the Kindle. While the Kindle works great as a reading device, accomplishing that feat with panache, I don’t think that enough people really want a reading device, and a separate talking device, and a writing device, and so on. Do I want to carry around all that stuff with me, or take four or five devices on a trip? The Kindle will indubitably evolve more toward the direction of the iPhone than the reverse. Doubtlessly Apple, Amazon, Sony et al. have in mind to create a device slightly bigger than the iPod Touch that combines facets of the cell phone, iPod, Kindle, Flip camera, and laptop. Let’s call it a Podkinfliptop. There is, of course, more than a little speculation already that Apple is on the verge of such a release. Its educational potential, in particular, are enormous. With thirty million iPhone/iPod Touches in use already, and the huge success of the App store, Apple seems natural to expand its dominance with a netbook type device, but many others will follow.