Tom Hanks, bowel evacuation and E-Readers. A love story.

Posted in Gadgets, Issues, Technology by The Editor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Scientists and Historians can be certain of two absolute and undeniable facts. Mankind has forever had the mandatory requirement to evacuate their bowels in turn leading them to spend literally thousands of years designing waste receptacles and developing elaborate sanitation systems to handle it. Mankind has also spent the best part of millions of years trying to communicate both verbally and through the written word. Thus thanks to this genius idea we have at least some sources of reference to study or read up on our ancestors. Proof, if any were needed, that the bathroom and the written word have been strangely entwined together since the dawn of time.

Fast forward to today, January 12th 2010. CES in Las Vegas is over and aside from all the hoo-haa over 3D televisions, the devices that I feel made the really big noise at this years’ exhibition were E-Readers.

Rewinding the clock I recall with some fondness reading one of those flimsy free books you get with magazines, you know, the ones with a million old video game cheat codes in them that you can just look up online. Or the one’s which are bundled with the Christmas edition of your favourite print magazine (anyone under the age of 18 look up ‘magazine‘ on Wikipedia for a quick history lesson) along with a chocolate bar, a poster you’d never dream of pinning on your wall and a water balloon marketing a video game no one is going to buy. Oh and a Frisbee (marketing a video game no one is going to buy).

This free book (I forget the magazine it came with I just remember it ran for about 3 or 4 issues before folding around the time the original PlayStation console came to market in the UK) although long since discarded, still resonates with me today. It was a pocket book containing articles by the staff writers and their ideas regarding the future of technology and entertainment. Now bare in mind this book was written circa 1995. I distinctly remember a few passages in the book by one of the writers discussing the future of the printed word. I recall intricate details mentioned such as flexible hand held devices and displays and paid content subscription models. Reasonably accurate projections I think for an article written around 14 years ago.

The concept of the E-Reader dates back even further than that. Travel back to 1988 and recall the hit Tom Hanks movie Big. If you haven’t seen it, do so, it’s a delightful yarn. You’ll notice toward the end of the movie, Hanks and co-star Elizabeth Perkins present a new invention at a toy company meeting. The idea they dream up is for a portable electronic device (which actually looks uncannily like the new Microsoft Courier concept) that displays and allows the user to interact with pre-purchased comic books supplied on 5 1/4″ disks. A well-designed device concept, a paid content subscription model and (the icing on the cake) a full colour display!

It makes you wonder that if Tom Hanks and Elizabeth Perkins can come up with a colourized version of the Amazon Kindle in 1988, why haven’t the good people at the dot com giant (or anyone else for that matter) released one already? Hanks and Perkins were marketing this bad boy for a cheeky one hundred dollars with new content at a couple of bucks a pop. Genius marketing strategy, a sure fire winner, a guaranteed global hit. Sadly Tom Hanks flushed (pun intended) his career away by wanting to be 13 again and thus left the company but that’s beside the point. The bottom line is for 1988 this idea was deemed achievable even if it was ultimately presented in a work of fiction. What I am saying is, the idea was there.

Back to today, and in 2010 the E-Reader (yes along with the aforementioned 3D revolution) is set to be the hottest thing since the Netbook (anyone under the age of 3 look up Netbook on Wikipedia for a history lesson). We’re in 2010 and we’re still fiddling with a nearly 3-year old device with a black and white display designed by an online book retailer. The less said about electronic giant Sony’s attempt at an E-Reader the better. I expected more from the inventor of the Walkman.

John Doe 1 walks in to a restroom carrying a Kindle 2 on his person. John Doe 2 walks in to a restroom carrying a magazine on his person. John Doe 2 I feel would be likely to flick through a few pages of the magazine finish up and exit the restroom within lets say 10 to 15 minutes (20 at a push, pun not initially intended).

I really want an E-Reader, truthfully. I can shamefully reveal I’ve spent countless hours drooling over the Kindle pages at Amazon.com lusting for a Kindle 2. I’ve recently spent those hours ogling the news flooding through from the 2010 CES news wire. Every other press release recently seems to be for a new E-Reader. Perhaps the market is quickly becoming over saturated with product that hasn’t been launched yet but I am still keen to buy one now. My heart says “GO! BUY! HAVE FUN!” My head says to hold off and wait to see how this pans out, especially with market leader Amazon rumoured to be developing the Kindle 3 and colour E-Reader displays additionally being touted as ‘not too far away’.

I believe the right thing to do as of now is fend off any early-adopter syndrome you may be harbouring and wait to see how the market develops. As of now we have several devices lining up on the trenches ready to go over the top. When they do many will fall in the field, few will be left standing. My predictive senses believe Amazon will emerge from this market victorious if they can get the Kindle 3 right. The word ‘Kindle’ in my opinion is already becoming a recognizable device brand name akin to the iPod, Walkman et al.

The beginning of this article discussed a rather loose entwining of humans, toilets, faecal matter and the written word man relyeth upon for both factual and entertainment purposes. In fact recently a first edition of Evolution Of  The Origin Of  Species by Charles Darwin was found in a toilet (where it had been lain for years prior) and sold at auction for thousands of dollars! With so much choice and vast storage space offered by today’s current crop of electronic reading devices, what does the future hold for bathroom reading and will E-Readers become a bane of the bathroom for households across the globe?

I tried with little success to research the origins of when going to the toilet and bringing along reading material became synonymous. However the few scraps of information I did come across were filled with page after page of site visitors and forum users discussing the origins, the pros and cons of and suggested material for reading on the toilet.

Could the future of bathroom reading be set to change with the mass-market penetration and (according to Amazon.com’s Christmas 2009 sales figures) rapid uptake of E-Reader devices? Think about it carefully. I’ve devised the following for use as an example.

John Doe 1 walks in to a restroom carrying a Kindle 2 on his person. John Doe 2 walks in to a restroom carrying a magazine on his person. John Doe 2 I feel would be likely to flick through a few pages of the magazine finish up and exit the restroom within lets say 10 to 15 minutes (20 at a push, pun not initially intended). John Doe 1 meanwhile has an assortment of 1000+ books, magazines, comics, newspapers and annotations at his fingertips thanks to his Kindle device. Couple that with wireless access and you’ve the perfect recipe for longer toilet stall occupation than that currently enjoyed by that guy/girl in the stall next to you emitting nothing but the sound of a BlackBerry trackball rolling around and clicking interspersed with occasional ‘plop’ and ‘fart’ sounds (yes women are guilty of this too I have been reliably informed!).

I hope with this rather crude analogy you can see the point I am trying to make here. I believe if E-Reader devices do become a mainstream hit in 2010 it will essentially change how we consume printed media forever. The industry is already dying a death thanks in part to the explosion of the Internet over the last decade coupled with higher operating costs.

I strongly believe we will read more than ever over this coming decade. This can only be a good thing. If that means newer and successively cheaper devices, the ability to carry more books, magazines and textbooks on my person at one time and ultimately higher global literacy rates I’m all for it. Count me in.

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2 Comments to “Tom Hanks, bowel evacuation and E-Readers. A love story.”

  • Great post big champ! I just wish I could have actually read this on a kindle, on the can, but I’m old school, usually flippin’ through the Latest addition of Cayman’s ‘What’s Hot’.
    Side note, Playstation store is now offering comic books, you can load them to you PSP! Rad.

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