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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

The Kindle started a fire in the world of books

Amazon's device is 10 years old this month. It's impact has been felt far and wide

Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite tablet. Patrick Fallon / Bloomberg
Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite tablet. Patrick Fallon / Bloomberg

When the Apple iPhone turned 10 years old this summer, a wave of favourable retrospectives hailed its enormous impact on mobile communications. Back in 2007, when Apple unveiled its first iPhone, BlackBerry and Nokia products were our handsets of choice and few of us had any idea that our phone could be “smart” or that we would by now rarely use our handsets to place a call and have a chat.

Later this month, the Kindle E-reader celebrates its own 10-year anniversary. One suspects November 19 won’t be marked with quite so much fanfare as the iPhone’s June birthday, although the Amazon device was the subject of an appreciative column by Peter Nowak in our business pages earlier this week. In particular, Nowak praised the Kindle for its affordability.

Perhaps the Kindle’s greatest achievement was to bring the biggest bookshop in the world to the fingertips of its millions of users. Before its widespread uptake, one might have to wait weeks for a new hardback to be delivered to the UAE or elsewhere. The Kindle reduced that wait to seconds, even if Amazon has, in the process, radically remodelled the book-selling world and not always for the better. As Nowak mentioned in his column, the Kindle also inspired a generation of self-publishing authors, most notably E L James.

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This power to break down the traditionally closed doors of the book publishing world has been matched by the Kindle’s ability to protect the copyright of the author or content creator. While the newspaper industry, record companies, filmmakers and TV producers have watched the digital revolution chip away at their revenue streams and forced them all to into a protracted period of reinvention, the book business has sailed through the age of piracy with comparative ease. The Kindle established, fairly quickly, that customers were willing to pay to legally enjoy a new work of fiction or biography. Although the Kindle sparked a quieter revolution than the iPhone, arguably it has been just as significant in its impact.