Ever since I purchased my first iPod, I’ve been very happy with digital purchases for my music.  Of course that’s technically confusing, as CDs are digital as well.  But most people say digital to mean on-line, physical-less data.  Of course it’s easy to copy those files to a flash drive or burn to a CD, and then it would almost be like purchasing the CD.  When iTunes became popular, I don’t remember there being too great a debate over choosing it rather than physical CDs.  There were those who complained about the lack of receiving a booklet, some with lyrics and/or artwork, and not being able to actually “hold” the music in their hands.  But most people knew those things weren’t as important as the key feature: simply listening to that music.  And with the popularity of iTunes, album sales have given way somewhat to singles.  Now instead of having to grab a CD to listen to that popular song on the radio, I can just purchase that one song.

There are many great features of iTunes that go along with the convenience of on-line music purchasing.  Some things have been added to appease some of the previous complaints (Artist LP, etc.).  Now that music has essentially evolved to its new form, will the same happen with books?

With music iTunes is the king; in eBooks it seems that Amazon is the lead candidate.  While Apple has begun work on iBooks, and Barnes and Noble has its Nook, it would be hard to argue against the popularity of the Kindle.  And with a Kindle app on the iPad, you can use both Amazon’s and Apple’s solutions.  Now on its third iteration, the Kindle has some great features, a good selection of books, and most importantly is very great to read on.

But is it as an important thing as an iPod?  Will the Kindle and its competitors shove paper copies to the sidelines as the iPod has done to CDs?  There are plenty of things that would make me root for the Kindle’s success.  It is much easier to hold and read the Kindle than either a mass-market paperback or a large hardcover, even if the Kindle (not the larger DX) screen isn’t as large as that format.  Being able to immediately purchase and download a book that’s available for the Kindle is such a better experience than fighting with the crowds at a local bookstore or waiting for an online order to ship.  There is also the amount of space that paper books use.  Several years ago I pared down my book collection as it was far too much to devote space to and move as wel.  What I have left still takes up more space than I’d like.  If all of those books were available on the Kindle, then all the books I would ever need would only take up the space that the Kindle does.  The Kindle’s collection can also be shared among several devices, so I could either continue reading on my iPhone or my work PC, or even share an account with one or more family members.

So what all will it take for the Kindle to match the iPod?  Well it’s not a whole lot.  The hardware is pretty much at its prime, though there is always room for improvement in the screen quality and speed of page flipping.  The app on the iPad and other platforms is also improving.  The Kindle store is fairly easy to use.  Its primary roadblocks are the selection of books and its prices.  I do think the prices are on average much higher than they should be.  Some have said this is due to the publishers, other have said it’s Amazon’s or Apple’s doing.  Regardless, I think fairer prices could be set for “standard” mass-market titles, while textbooks and such could warrant a higher price.

For now I will wait to purchase a Kindle or if I ever get an iPad, but I don’t think it will be too long before eReaders are as much a part of a person’s life as the iPod and smartphone have already become.