The world changes today

Well, the world changes every day…but it’s a question of degree.

The Kindle International starts shipping today (Monday, October 19 2009). 

I believe that the spread of e-books around the world will have a subtle and profound effect on the future of humanity.

Oh, it’s not the Kindle specifically.  It’s the idea that books can be easily and cheaply available anywhere.  A twelve-year old in Fiji reads Shakespeare…and goes on to write a play about the human condition that inspires other people not to give up.  A sixty-year old in Washington reads Lao Tse, and chooses not to support a resolution, changing the political path of the country.  A twenty-five year old in Lithuania reads H. Beam Piper…and just has a good time.  🙂

Significantly, it won’t just be classic works.  It will be personal documents…opinions, facts, exposés.  Whereas samizdat under the Soviet Union required copying machines, the new underground literature can be spread instantly at virtually no cost almost anywhere.

Now, I know the Kindle International won’t do all that.  The wireless isn’t available in many countries, the books (including the free ones) aren’t equally available, and there are charges (which are also not the same everywhere).

However…it’s coming.  The Kindle International is a step forward in the democratization of information.  Just the fact that you can send a personal document to someone in another country pretty much instantly makes things different.  Yes, it could cost you ninety-nine cents for a megabyte.  Any idea how big a megabyte is?  It’s the US Constitution, the Communist Manifesto, the 1946 Constitution of Japan, The Prince, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, AND Common Sense…with plenty or words left over.

Obviously, it could be argued that computers have already done this, but it is different.  E-readers are slim, easily hidden, and can run for a week on a single charge.  Convenient, relatively cheap solar power seems inevitable in the next couple of years (there are some options now).  E-reader to e-reader transfer, which was possible with the K1 (by using an SD card) should also be easy.  It could be through a USB bridge, or a Bluetooth kind of short range wireless.

It’s going to become increasingly difficult for governments, societies, and even economies to control what people can read.

Welcome…to the World Wide Word.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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