Friday, September 24, 2010

You mean this does that, too?

It was a day of extremes.

I went yesterday to our local senior center to drop off some books for their library. I had a conversation with the ladies at the reception desk. Neither of them had heard of Kindles, or e-books in general. I directed them toward the Amazon home page, which for years has had that huge Kindle feature that kind of smacks you in the face and almost makes you forget why you arrived at Amazon to begin with. They looked at it, took the electronic tour, and decided that nothing beats a book.

I returned home later and another country was heard from. My daughter walked through the door after a day at middle school and advised that students, who cannot have cell phones with them during school hours (they have to be stored in their lockers), are now permitted to bring Kindles to school to use during study halls. And indeed, her fellow students are taking advantage of this policy Are they reading? Well…yes, reading what they are happily tweeting back and forth on Twitter and commenting on Facebook. I’m sure that this was not what the administration intended. In fact, it is quite possible that the school officials are unaware that Kindle is not just for reading anymore. It can be used for web surfing, listening to music, and yes, tweeting back and forth to keep one’s friends up to date on what is happening (“How R U I m soo bord!”). This hasn’t exactly been trumpeted by Amazon, but if you have a Kindle 2.0 or later, go to the home page, use the menu to go to the “experimental” link, and take a look. If the school thought that their charges would use this tool to catch up on their Cormac McCarthy or Robert Louis Stevenson (okay, or their Stephanie Meyer) they are about to be kissed by the goddess of disappointment.

As someone noted recently, the rate of change is accelerating everywhere, it seems, except at your local Bureau of Motor Vehicles office. Take phones, for but one example. Every time that I have been tempted to trade in my weathered but still functional Blackberry Pearl for the cellular equivalent of a trophy wife I have backed off. It seems that each day brings a new phone with a host of new functions. There are things that I could probably do with the Pearl --- Jack Bauer used to download schematics of nuclear power plants with his --- that I not only don’t know how to do, but also don’t know that I can do. Better to keep the less attractive but comfortable and familiar companion I have than to have to learn the bells and whistles of a new model. My son threatens to buy me a Jitterbug, which would be okay, actually. As far as technology in general is concerned, however, the demographics seem split into three groups: one that does not even know what technology is available; one that is aware of it but underutilizes it; and one that takes the potential to its designed limits, and even beyond. And that is true of the Kindle as well. There are still folks who think a Kindle is something you do to a fire. The majority of people who know it as an e-book reader may be unaware that you can do more with it than read on a sunny beach. And then, of course, there are the younger whiz kids. If that son or daughter of yours has suddenly seemed to acquire a newfound interest in reading which is manifested by taking a Kindle to school you might want to quiz them on what chapter of what book they’re reading. DY feel me?

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What I'm reading: THE FALL by Del Toro and Hogan. Not that it's scary or anything, but I'm on my second box of Depends.

10 comments:

  1. I went to the internet with my Kindle and my yahoo page was tiny and in B&W and I got off that as quickly as possible. Kids are different because they are totally open to whatever comes up next. Me, I don't mind change as long as everything remains the same.

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  2. We need classes to explain what to do with all these devices. I rarely used my only PDA because I never knew what to do with it other than put my address book there or write notes with the portable keyboard. Even then, I preferred paper and pen. Recently I got Internet capability on my cell phone but only use it for occasionally checking email or Twitter. If someone sat down and showed us what else we can do with our gizmos, we might get more use from them.

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  3. great post. I am in the 2nd category, aware of all the technology but under utilizes it. I still don't have an iPhone.

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  4. I use an AT&T pay-as-you-go cell phone. Costs me $100 a year. There's always a big balance left over. Maybe I'll call Miller and use some of it up.

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  5. I'm in the "aware but under-using" category. I saw those features under Experimental in my Kindle, but honestly, except for my few regular online destinations (this blog, the NYTimes, Yahoo mail and news updates), being online has just gotten kind of boring. I used to surf the net furiously, but now I go online only when I feel obligated to check on something. I'd much rather be reading (on the non-Experimental tab of Kindle or a book), watching a DVD movie, or doing something interesting. I wonder when, if ever, the young kids will get bored with Tweeting and texting? Maybe it's their generation's version of talking, and it will never become boring to them. My peers aren't texters, so I'll probably never know. All I know is that I'm exhausted by trying to tap in the simplest text. And I hate the way they come out--poor punctuation, missing letters, yuck!

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  6. p.s. Ironically, as I have been reducing my online time, my parents, who are well into their 80's, have become heavy technology users. My Dad has used digital photography and software to develop an awesome new career as a photographer. My mother is the family genealogist, and she uses the computer heavily to research arcane bits of family history, plus she has developed some kind of heavy-duty historical database that is Top Secret to the rest of the family. I guess you just have to find your "killer app," the one application that really turns you on.

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  7. I'm in the second category too but I am learning. Our son just showed us an app on my husband's blackberry for getting up to date traffic information. Very very useful. And the same app on our son's phone uses the GPS to give us directions turn by turn in a plumy english lady voice.

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  8. I bought a Kindle a few months ago. Have a Blackberry - it's my leash. Bought 2 iPads with a bunch of gizmos & an iPhone 4 just last night. This goes along with the 3 laptops & 2 PCs we already own. (There are only 2 of us!) Now need to carry a notebook with passwords and PIN numbers & a bag for all the chargers, bluetooth thingamabobs, cables & keyboards (& 3 more bags for my wife's camera equipment). Packing, even for a weekend trip, sucks. And I wonder why I'm developing this nervous twitch.

    Glad to hear about kids & Kindles. Maybe some will use 'em to read books.

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  9. Being a techno geek I like to be cutting edge. Therefore I skipped Kindle and went straight to implant technology. Rather than an external ebook I now have an internal "thought-book" chip with cellular/4g technology inserted just behind my left ear. So now, rather than just reading an ebook, I can almost instantly think it. I am ingesting a tremendous amount of literature.

    There seems to be a frequency issue that needs to be worked on. Every time my kids click the remote I suddenly screech and dance about like one of those little monkeys. And whenever they microwave I pee my pants.

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  10. yeah kathryn I agree that surfing the web, somehow, became boring lately. Not sure why that is. I don't think that applies to texting though. To me, texting and web surfing aren't related. Texting is just a practical way to talk to people because you don't need to call them. Tweeting is useful if you're trying to be famous at something. But you need to already be famous to really utilize tweeting. So it's best to just practice whatever you're trying to get famous at.

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