Amazon's Kindle 2

Amazon's Kindle 2

On February 24, online retailer begins shipping its Kindle 2, the newest version of Amazon's electronic book reader. The Kindle is essentially a magazine-sized computer that can download, store, and display up to 1500 books; users can change the scale and resolution of the text on the Kindle's screen to suit their reading environment (and their eyesight). But what does the advent of the latest Kindle – and competitors like the iPhone -- mean for design?

Will electronic text readers mean the end of book and book jacket design as we know it? Only time will tell, but the answer is probably yes...with a few caveats. First of all, as laptop computers get cheaper and better, graphic designers and typographers will have plenty of work designing for the web. But just as compact discs and mp3 files did indeed kill (or at least maim) the album cover as an important form of popular art and iconography, e-books will likely kneecap entire classes of book-jacket art and type design. First to go will be design that accompanies texts best suited to a monochromatic device like the Kindle, or the smaller color screen of the iPhone: schoolbooks, newspapers, and consumer magazines. Popular novels will go next – anything serialized and voraciously consumed, from Stephen King to Jackie Collins. But  so-called literary novels may stick around for a while, since their covers, typestyles, and even paper stock are all a part of their desirability. Having the latest Jonathan Safran Foer opus on your Kindle 2's memory chip is one thing, but showing off a hardbound first edition – with its jacket design by Jon Gray -- on your coffee table or nightstand is quite another. (Then again, that's what they said about Dark Side of the Moon.)

  Image Creative Commons, via John Pastor


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