96 posts categorized "Web/Tech"

April 28, 2017

A dose of compassion

“You may have no outward cause whatever for sorrow, and yet if the mind be dejected, the brightest sunshine will not relieve your gloom.” – C. Spurgeon

People need hope for a variety of reasons. They could be suffering from some kind of illness, disease, abuse or injury that affects their physical being—even their life. They could be suffering from more internal factors such as depression, addiction, fear, or other assorted trouble.

These forms of harm can be physical, psychological, or spiritual, but they are often found in multiples. Harm is dynamic, and people are not always aware of all of the ways that they are suffering, beyond the most obvious. It is not always clear when someone—even someone close—might be lacking hope, as outward symptoms aren’t the only indicators of a hope deficiency.

In addition to those who are suffering, there are also those who are walking beside them. They want to help them in all the ways that they need help—through psychological, spiritual, or material support.

Hope is the belief that things will improve from their current state. It is "the door out of the blackness of depression and despair." - Richard Winter

Seeing this video today reminded me of how difficult life is for people going through all manner of trials, and it made me want to weep for them.

In our various efforts to reach people, we do humanity a great disservice if we are looking only to what we get out of it. We ought to desire putting ourselves in the shoes of those around us, understanding their points of view and the various baggage they bring to the experience we are designing.

How can we foster hope?

“Desponding people can find reason for fear where no fear is.” They “convert [their] suspicions into realities and torture.” - Spurgeon

“Like other issues of mental health, we don’t talk about depression. If we do, we either whisper as if the subject is scandalous or rebuke it as if it’s a sin. No wonder many of us don’t seek help; for when we do, those who try to help only add to the shame of it all.” - Zack Eswine

Compassion is a key component of design. It's best if we remember it is not all about us.

- Cam Beck


September 27, 2013

The Google Encryption Dilemma

If you've been only moderately interested in looking at your search reports in Omniture, Google Analytics, or whatever tracking software you're using for your website, you've probably noticed an alarming growth in the number of referring search keywords that are (not provided) for you to see. If you're in this space heavily, you're probably well aware of it, and you may be  a bit miffed at Google for taking away these insights from you.

I've also come to enjoy the sorts of insights made available by this data, but take some comfort knowing that the sky is not falling. Your jobs just got a little more interesting.

Why did Google do it? Folks are saying it is a response to being dinged in the public arena for cooperating with NSA's prism program to track what people are doing online. 

If you understand how we actually get our data in Google Analytics, you know this explanation is curious. Excepting third-party CRM applications, we can't actually see who is searching. In Google Analytics, we can only see what they are doing in the aggregate, once they get to our site. Why can't Google send the aggregate data as they have been, so we can see which keywords are having the greatest success, so that we can optimize our site for the better-performing keywords?

Happily for us, there is a solution, which unfortunately means more specialization and attention than before, with fewer actionable insights. But it isn't nothing.

Note for beginners: Always have a Google Analytics profile with no filters applied. If you don't know what this means, I recommend picking up the excellent Avinash Kaushik's Web Analytics 2.0. I may address this at a later date, but he's your man, if you want to learn how to do this stuff.

Essentially, you have to "trick" Google Analytics to tell you what landing pages people are arriving at, when you're examining keywords from Organic Search. This doesn't tell you the keyword, but you see where they're going. Here's an excellent tutorial by Kiss Metrics that explains how this is done.

Also, install Google Webmaster Tools. From there, you can see which keywords are bringing people to your site. Even the "encrypted" ones (See? Was that so hard, Google?). What you can't see is what they did when they arrived at your site.

Examine your paid search performance to use as a proxy for organic search. In this case, Google isn't really telling you what people did, they're telling you what you're paying them for.

Continue your keyword research using whatever you've been using to try to identify opportunities for content development and writing. 

Rinse and repeat.

So what's coming? I have no idea. It's crossed my mind, however, that either Google is leveraging this unnecessary move in the name of a specious allegience to "privacy" to sell more stuff -- either more AdWords, its DoubleClick advertising platform, or access to Google Analytics premium -- meaning free access to Google Analytics basic gravy train would be on the way out (Hopefully a lower-cost option than GA Premium or Omniture, or else smaller companies just wouldn't be able to afford it).

Until that happens, the sky is not falling. And if it does, it will be time for smaller companies to look at other solutions. It's always good to be prepared.

December 22, 2011

The College Degree Myth

SchoollessEducational institutions have it all wrong. 

If you go to college, you will earn more money than if you did not. College admissions departments send collateral that show increases in income levels for those who earn degrees. Teachers, undoubtedly with the best intentions, hoping to find something that will motivate their students to learn the material they're being taught, repeat the same chorus: "If you don't pay attention now, you will not be able to go to college. If you don't go to college, you won't be successful."

They ask you to look the other way when they teach you about people from this august list.

  • Benjamin Franklin
  • George Washington
  • Abe Lincoln
  • Frederick Douglass
  • Thomas Edison
  • The Wright Brothers
  • Steve Jobs
  • Bill Gates
  • Michael Dell

None of them earned college degrees. All were brilliant. All were succesful. And in case it's not clear from the list, several in the group had to overcome modest -- even oppressive -- circumstances of their youth to achieve great things.

There may be an explanation for this. In his classic book, How to Lie with Statistics, Darrell Huff suggessts that the premise of the statement is the child of a post-hoc fallacy, that presumes that because many people who have degrees are successful, the degree must have caused it.

"Actually we don't know but that these people are the people who would have made more money even if they had not gone to college. There are a couple of things that indicate rather strongly that this is so. College get a disproportionate number of two groups of kids: the bright and the rich. The bright show good earning power without college knowledge. And as for the rich one... well, money breeds money in several number of ways. Few sons of rich men are found in low-income brackets whether they go to college or not." 

People like Lincoln, the Wright Brothers, Douglass, etc., weren't stupid on account of their lack of a degree, and they weren't self-made men. They were "Open-Source Learners" -- people who tapped into the resources of their age to improve their understanding about how some part of the universe works.

How much more should we in the 21st century, who can write and talk with and see people halfway around the world in an instant -- for next to nothing -- be able to improve our understanding of how some useful part of the universe works, and with the tools at our disposal, put it to good use?

A little background

My brother Gannon ran into a motivation wall when we were kids. Convinced by the world that he needed to go to college to be successful, once he got it into his head that he could neither afford college nor earn a scholarship, he lost hope, checked out mentally, did as little as he thought he needed to in order to stay eligible for sports and bided his time until he could graduate and join the Marines.

And he was smart. One semester in high school, he dedicated himself and got straight As. Just to prove that he could. After having accomplished that, not believing the effort was worth it, he fell back to Bs, Cs and Ds.

Since then, I've watched his very intentional transformation from a amatuer hobbiest illustrator to a master craftsman. (You can follow some of his work on his blog). His skill can't be chalked up to superior genetics or fancy schooling. It is a product of reading, collaboration, and 5 years or 10,000 hours of practice.

How to Pursue a Degree Without Going to College

In his book, Schoolless (Available on Amazon in paperback and for the Kindle), Gannon doesn't argue that college isn't useful repository of excellent learning tools, or that people should eschew a college degree... Rather, it is a celebration of alternative learning strategies that don't cost $27,000 (the average cost of a 4-year college degree in 2005).  

Wondering how you're going to possibly send your kids to college? Lost hope in ever getting a degree without a mountain of debt? The good news is that you have options. There's still time to get this book for Christmas! Do it today. - Cam Beck


December 21, 2011

My (Brief) Android Sojourn

Android_logoA few months ago, with my iPhone 3GS spiraling into obsolescence, I waited anxiously for the announcement of the iPhone 5. Android would also release its newest software, named "Ice Cream Sandwich," the same month, but with my existing music library so dependent on Apple's iTunes network, I initially considered the idea of going to Android to be a far-fetched dream. However, with the prodding of some Android-centric friends, positive reviews of Ice Cream Sandwich, and an overpowering curiosity that might exceed the boundaries of helpfulness, I decided to ditch my old iPhone for the Samsung Galaxy S II "Skyrocket." 

After a week, though -- and to the disappointment of my very good, helpful, generous and patient Android friends -- I had to switch back to the sweet familiar taste of the iPhone.

What I learned

First, some background. I have never had any use for those "Mac vs. PC" debates of yesteryear, and less so for the "Android vs. iPhone" debates of today. 

I mean, I used to build my own computers and was pleased enough that I could customize to my heart's desire. If one piece failed it was no big deal, because I could replace the piece, not the entire computer. At work, I worked on both PCs and Macs. I think I was hired into my early design jobs mostly because I could use both platforms equally well, and they couldn't find anyone (except clients) who would venture to design on a PC. 

Eventually, I discovered that it's a lot of work (and money) to keep pace with the rapidly changing technology, and I opted to go with easy, instead, which leads us to my brief sojourn into Android-land.

Size Matters, and Bigger Isn't Always Better

Samsung's advertising campaign focuses on the device's size and screen quality.


It is nice; there's no doubt. Its Super AMOLED+ (whatever that means) screen is a beauty that delivers rich colors and deep blacks. I could watch a movie on it. Except that I don't use my phone that way. The increased size just makes it difficult for me to use with one hand -- especially when typing.

A Little Tactile Feedback Goes a Long Way (or not)

One of the early gripes of the iPhone is that it had no tactile feedback. Steve Ballmer famously laughed off the iPhone for business use because of the lack of tactile keyboard.


However, the iPhone DOES have four well-designed points that give tactile feedback. The home button allows you to orient and activate your phone easily. The three switches that control volume, the vibration setting, and the power are firm and discourage accidental interaction. 

By contrast, every time I pulled the Samsung out of my pocket, I had to reorient it, and I often pressed buttons I didn't intend to press, which forced me to spend more time than I should have to recover from those accidental interactions.

Also, the lack of tactile feedback on the Android is more of a liability for me than it is on the iPhone. Autocorrect humor notwithstanding, the iPhone's screen keyboard just predicts my intent better, even when I make errors.

Here's an example of one of my very typical Android typing attempts:

"Just? Ade SwiftKey? You default keyboard. I auto irreconcilable not imprrssive"

What I was TRYING to say was this:

"Just made SwiftKey my default keyboard. Its autocorrect is not impressive."

Just for grins, I typed the same message on the iPhone just now. Here's what it gave me: "

Just made swift key my default keyboard. It's autocorrect is not impressive."

Not perfect spelling or grammar, but at least sensible to someone who knows what SwiftKey is.

Android allows you to pick your own keyboard, I tried several and was never able to find any that matched the iPhone's sensitivity and effective error mapping.

More Options Can Slow You Down

One of the things I was most anxious to try was the advanced customization options that the Android device allows. I was able to put a weather app on my lock screen, so I don't even have to unlock the device (let alone launch an app) to see what the weather is going to be like for the next few days. 

There was an app that transcribed my voicemails (though I never got it to work, I don't doubt that it could). Another app could back up all my texts into an email. 

It took awhile (and patience) to figure these features out, but with persistence (and patience of one of my Android friends), I was able to do a lot of cool stuff. Google Maps on Android devices is also clearly superior.

But once I had amy device all tricked out, I realized that I just don't use my phone that way, and that I still had to deal with the device's drawbacks for my day-to-day use.

Galaxy S II Not Fully Compatible with my Car's Entertainment System

I like listening to my music and my audiobooks while I drive. When I use the iPhone, I can see what's playing and who is singing it on my navigation/entertainment display. On the Android, the best I could get is affirmation that something is streaming from my phone.

My Android friends expressed dismay over the industry's fascination with ensuring compatability with the iPhone over the platform that has more market share (though part of the compatability that is important to me deals with the music player aspect, which leverages Apple's dominance there).

In the end, whatever their reasons (probably fragmentation), the Android device just doesn't work for how I want to use it. And I'm more likely to switch the phone to work with my car than I am to switch my car to work with my phone.

Android Will Continue to Do Well

Patent Wars aside, it's good for there to be competition in OSes, as long as it forces the players to innovate. I hope Android devices continue to do well, but at least for now, I'm not going to be one of their customers. But I don't have to be. They don't need me to be. As one iPhone Lover at Techcrunch put it, "they probably don’t (or shouldn’t) care too much about converting iOS users over to Android. All the non-smartphone users out there remain the much bigger prize to go after (for both Google and Apple)."

- Cam Beck

November 03, 2011

3 Ways to Use Mobile Effectively

Since my last post, we've had a few major events in the mobile space.

  1. The iPhone 4s was released to the general public, and people who have been able to overlook the new phone's battery issues (apparently a software issue that will be resolved in a few weeks), they've been so enthralled by its semantic-web (or Subservient Chicken) inspired Siri that they even launched a website that highlights both its ability to recognize complex speech and its personality while doing so. 
  2. A little while later, Google announced its new new Android mobile OS, Ice Cream Sandwich, and the sound of geeks drooling could be heard around the world.
  3. Now Amazon said that it is launching a book-lending service to go along with its Prime membership (as long as they own a Kindle). It's sort of like Netflix, but in addition to movies, it also provides books. Oh, and free 2-day shipping on most of the items you can order on Amazon. Gizmodo calls it "Officially the Greatest Deal in Tech." Certainly Amazon just became more of a digital content juggernaut than it already was.

I'll have more to say on these developments later, but for now, let it suffice to say that this confirms that mobile is reaching the critical tipping point I mentioned before.

(As an aside, I can always tell when some technology reaches the tipping point when my parents start using it. RIght after they joined Facebook, the rest of the world did, even though I had been on it for about two years by the time they joined. True to form, my dad started texting me recently.)

What does this mean? It means that the best computer is the one you have on you. It means if you need to reach people, they need to be able to access you wherever they have a need for whatever it is that you sell. Finally, it means that not having a mobile strategy at this point may well be, competitively speaking, like one of those dreams where you accidentally show up to school without your clothes on ("Shoot! I KNEW I forgot something...")

So what do you do? You get your butt moving, that's what! As I'm sure I heard Seth Godin say at some point, the best time to start is a year ago. The second-best time is right now.

And it's not enough to produce any old thing. Says Jakob Nielsen, "Last year, it might have been cool simply to have an app. Now, that app better be good. Requirements have gone up."

Here are three strategies to get your brain going. By no means is this list exhaustive.


This is when you take everything that is on your website and cram it into your mobile website, but optimize it for the smaller screen sizes. Everything can be reformatted to fit the screen, of course, but for all intents and purposes, they are carbon copies of one another.


This is when you design a mobile experience instead and in exclusion of a desktop website. I can't think of any effective examples for this. Maybe some independent developers looking to create a killer app -- but even most (all?) realize the importance of having a website to support it. Plus, being developers, they also know how easy it is to get something credible up quickly.


A displacement strategy is when the experience designed for each device is married to its respective strengths and divorced from its weaknesses. For instance, desktop devices have a bigger screen area that can be used to enhance navigation or display more information, but you won't have it on you when you're out with your friends wondering what is happening in the city today. Mobile phones, on the other hand, are instantly available when you need quick information, they can identify what's around you due to enormous (and growing) infrastructure support, but doing certain things, like typing, can be murder.  


To successfully pull off any strategy, you really need to put yourself in your audience's' shoes. Which is great if you are your own audience. If not, you're going to need to do some research. Don't skimp on this! If you don't have a much of a budget, start with some guerilla stuff. Take your small wins and build on them.

Be strategic.

Be intentional.

Be mobile.

And be quick about it, will you?

What are some of your favorite strategies for mobile implementation?

- Cam Beck

October 13, 2011

Has the Age of Mobile Finally Arrived?

According to Nielsen, 40% of all mobile phones in the U.S. are smartphones, which are poised to overtake feature phones later this year, and although tablets are showing only a 5% penetration, as the cost of entry falls and Amazon throws its hat into the tablet ring, smart money is on a boom in the next few years. If you've been holding out on designing for mobile over the last few years, your time is up.

The good news is that your mobile site doesn't necessarily have to do the same things your website does. The bad news is that it could take some serious sleuthing to figure out what it does need to do.

The challenge for designers is that this is all very time consuming. Each platform is inherently different and has its own strengths and weaknesses. You can do some things better on a PC because of the additional space. You can do some things better on a smartphone because it's with you and connected when you need it. 

The market for personal computers is still growing in a down economy -- partly because it's still highly relevant for enterprise use, and partly because the market maturity leads to lower costs of entry than newer technologies. Along with the fact that it is a known quantity with established home and business uses, its low cost of entry makes it a safe bet people in the market for a new device. In short, the PC will evolve, but it is not going away anytime soon.

However, as more people adopt these mobile technologies, their expectations for a good experience will not deminish. If anything, they will demand better and eschew those experiences that do not take into account their mode of arrival.

If you want to attract planes, first build a runway.

If you want to attract people with enough disposable income to risk on a trendy device, build a remarkable experience for them for that device -- and give them the ability to share. 

Next time, I'll write about three mobile strategies to consider when planning your mobile presence:

  1. Duplication
  2. Replacement
  3. Displacement

- Cam Beck

August 10, 2010

How to Use the Apple iPad (#112)

Lately I've been toying around with an iPad provided to my team at work in order to explore and study its slim design and touch screen interface. 

So far (and this assessment is subject to modification as time goes on), I've found that the interface lends itself to certain kinds of uses. But in spite of the fact that in can literally be used thousands of different ways (depending on the app it's being used with), a single owner will probably use it for a few things.

Here's one common usage I've observed.

- Cam Beck

May 21, 2010

Googlevision: Coming to a Best Buy Near You

A "who's who" partnership of innovation, Google, Sony and Intel is launching a new television platform that promises to change the way we watch TV by allowing people to access the rich utility of the Internet through their television screens.

"Google was able to conduct a series of Internet searches in a drop-down box that appears at the top of television programs. The search results pointed to Internet videos and other content related to the television program on the screen."

"A telecast of a sporting event can be shrunk into a small "picture-in-picture" box so a viewer can look at statistics or other material about the game on TV."

"Viewers can also make search requests by speaking into a remote that runs on Google's Android operating system."

"Google CEO Eric Schmidt described the potential of the Internet TVs as mind-boggling, although he acknowledged it might be difficult for some consumers to grasp at first. That's one reason he said Google decided to team up with Best Buy, which offers a "geek squad" to deal with complex technology."

It reminded me of an article I wrote back in 2007, "How to Save TV":

"This isn't a competition between TV and the Internet. The Internet is richer because of TV, and it's becoming increasingly clear that programs are richer because of the utility of the Internet. That interdependence needs to be embraced -- even harvested."

"As such, the way to save television is to discard the interruption advertising model on which is based -- that is, to make it more like what is good about the Internet. Rich interactive programs (Choose Your Own Adventure, anyone?), on-demand content that remains free and non-intrusive, and effective, accountable advertising."

"The Internet, simply, needs more bandwidth to support better quality content, higher adoption rates, and better usability. I know Cuban doesn't think much of this can be done, but I'm staking my future on the idea that it can."

"What will we call this integrated system? It's hard to predict. I suppose it depends on the primary path the innovation takes -- whether we're getting the combination of TV and Internet through AppleTV 10.0 or if we're getting it through Comcast Cable. If it's the former, perhaps our children will be asking if we can watch the Internet tonight. If it's the latter, maybe they'll ask if they can play on the TV."

First of all, you're welcome, Google. Your bill is in the mail.

Second, I have to raise an objection to this gross simplification used by the AP in their article:

"Google wants to turn televisions into giant monitors for Web surfing so it can make more money selling ads."

I'm not a fan in all the ways they want to do it, but Google wants to change the world. Selling ads is simply how they are able to fund new adventures, but it's also how they provide these paradigm changes for free.

The utilities they've developed in their relatively short life as a company have already changed the way we communicate, the way we travel, the way we do research, the way we invest, the way we advertise and the way we build websites,

Not everything they've developed is exclusively (or even remotely) their idea, but any way you look at it, they've fostered widespread adoption of many of their useful technologies because they've developed a sustainable business model that allows them to offer it at no cost to the user.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting Google, Schmidt, or any other Google employee doesn't care about the money. As Ronald Reagan said, it can't buy happiness, but it certainly can buy a better class of memories.

But money is a means as well as an end. Google could have been anything. They chose the type of business they would be, the applications they would develop and the work they would do.

I'm sure the money is nice. But you cannot sell a product like they're proposing to sell unless it has value to the buyer commensurate with the amount they will pay for it. If Google started out with the question, "How do I sell more advertising," they would have folded long ago. - Cam Beck

May 10, 2010

Facebook rule #1: Don't be an idiot

On Friday, I wrote about how the expectation of certain kinds of anonymity is a myth in an Always On post-Facebook world. The New York Times reported Saturday that the younger generation is learning to keep the seedier side of their lives offline. But this, too, is a myth.

Even if you manage to keep yourself from joining social networks or correctly manage all of your privacy settings against continuously changing policies (which is doubtful), it's becoming increasingly difficult to keep your friends from posting comments and pictures of you on their accounts.

You can request that they take pictures down or try to surround yourself only with people who you trust to mind your personal brand to your standards, but unless you decide to be a hermit, this is becoming difficult, too -- especially for the younger generations.

What is true for corporate brands is true for individuals: If you don't want people to find out you've been doing something stupid, don't do stupid things.

Truthfully, no one will ever live up to that standard. We all do stupid things. Everyone.

But if you're in the business of building brands (and all of us are, whether we know it or not -- we represent our own brand, our family's brand, our employer or company's brand, our church or religious affiliation brand, our political or philosophical brand, etc.), how people perceive you and the entities you represent is predicated on your entire body of work - not the occasional act of stupidity.

True, this may be tainted when we do the inevitable stupid thing, but that's just something we're going to have to learn to live with.

Don't worry about the long-term. Just focus on today. To prevent yourself from doing something stupid, decide to live as if your life had a noble purpose today.

And let tomorrow worry about itself. - Cam Beck

February 24, 2010

Why this iPad Won't Kill the Kindle Platform (and how it could)


Many have already voiced glowing praise or strong disapproval of Apple's recently announced iPad.  Some proponents, such as Leo Laporte, call it a "Kindle Killer." Skeptics and haters call it "The next Apple Cube."

These judgments are premature, however. Whatever "magic" Apple has in store for the future, there's nothing in the first generation iPad that changes the market dynamics so completely that it will disrupt Amazon's economics with the Kindle solely as an eReader.

People who buy eReaders are typically going to take reading seriously. The advantages that they bring are best realized by certain types of people:

  • Heavy readers who want to enjoy the improved economics that eBooks bring
  • Heavy readers who want to conserve physical space
  • Anyone who travels frequently and likes to read on trips

With these audiences, the iPad falls short for a number of reasons:

1. Nearly twice the cost of entry
The starting price for the iPad is $499. For the Kindle, it's $259. By way of example, assume the average eBook price is $10, with its hard-copy counterparts costing twice that. A Kindle owner must purchase 26 books before breaking even. An iPad owner would need to purchase 50. 

So for the heavy reader, the economics are hard to justify. For the casual or occasional reader, they are nearly impossible -- if they're going to use the iPad over the Kindle simply as an eReader.

2. Back-lit display
The e-Ink technology that drives most eReaders today has some limitations, but it minimizes eye strain compared to back-lit displays, such as what the iPad has. For heavy readers, this is a significant drawback. It means they can't read as much without their eyes getting tired. It may still be viable for those who are not heavy readers, but in that case, the economics make even less sense solely as an eReader, and except by virtue of wide market distribution, Apple's bookstore cannot promise much revenue to publishers, making the marketplace less attractive (especially as a closed system, as it likely will be).

At least the format is open-source anyway, so they don't have to reformat their books specifically for the iPad.

3. Shorter battery Life
10 hours is a lot of time to be reading. And the standby time the iPad promises is remarkable, but a back-lit display capable of showing full-color images, videos and applications comes at a price. With wireless off, the Kindle can go at least two weeks without a charge, so there's no reason to be tethered to a power source for travelers.

Marketing Differences

Because the iPad does a lot of things, it's hard to describe it using terms that are clear and understandable by a lot of people. The tagline for the iPad is "A magical and revolutionary product at an unbelievable price."

What's the frame of reference? It's a "product?" So is a refrigerator. And oatmeal. And manure. 

It's almost as if Apple believes an entire category can be created by adding abstract and glowing adjectives.

Plus, because the iPad does a lot of things, making promises about how many books it holds would undermine its uses as something other than just an eReader. And it is much more than just an eReader. It's a "product" that CAN be used as an eReader. Among other things.

The Kindle, by contrast, says it's a "reading device" and promises simply that it will hold 1,500 books. In other words, more than you'll read over the next five years.

That's much more concrete than "16GB," which is how much storage the entry-level iPad promises.

So, as an eReader, Amazon's Kindle enjoys the advantage of being able to be explicitly sold as an eReader.

Apple Raises the Bar for User Experience

Apple has done some things well. Even as an eReader iPad works in some important respects. The prevailing question is whether it works sufficiently for the consumer at their prices.

1. Intimacy
Though not flawless, the experience of reading a book on the iPad looks to be more intimate than with the Kindle. The page-turning metaphor is direct and closely resembles the experience of actually turning a page of a book. Along with the ability to deliver deeper content through color and multimedia (which is impossible with either the Kindle or a physical book), motivated publishers have the capability to engage consumers like never before possible.

2. Usability
The touch-screen interface allows Apple to dispense with the metaphors that drag down the Kindle. That makes interactions more direct and gives publishers and app developers more flexibility on how they choose to deliver their content. As such, students can hope that Apple's platform makes it easier to consume nonlinear books than the Kindle does. And since anyone with an iPod or iPhone is already familiar with the iTunes interface, assuming the experience of purchasing a book rises at least to that level of usability, there's very little reason to believe the experience would be any more difficult on the iPad than the Kindle.

3. Flexibility
The iPad does a lot of little things well, and it looks like it can be used to specialize or converge however its owner intends. It can be a personal assistant. It can be a gaming device. It can be used to stream music or movies (with the right app and know-how) from a media server. It can be used as a netbook computer (especially with the optional keyboard). It can be used as a home automation control pad. Or it can be used as all of these things.

The beauty and the curse is that the consumer controls what it will be used for.

The problem is that convincing the masses that something that CAN be used in such ways SHOULD be used in such ways relies on heavy, repetitive marketing, positive word-of-mouth, or consumers themselves having the imagination for its divergent possible uses. Oh, plus they must be willing to risk at least $500 on the prospects -- with no guarantee of success.

Here's where it gets exciting

I don't know how the mass marketplace will respond, or how much Apple is willing to reduce its margin to gain a wide penetration for the iPad if at first it does not take off.

But even if it doesn't, if Amazon is smart, they won't take this lying down. Nor will Sony or any other manufacturers of either popular eReaders or tablets. If it's successful, the iPad may either drive down the costs of pure eReaders and/or inspire the development of better interactions.

If that happens, people will be more willing to adopt the platform, the cost of reading will decrease, and publishers will be forced to participate in this space and -- hopefully -- embrace the efficiencies it represents for their entire industry.

Whether the iPad brings Apple financial success or not, Amazon will need to improve its interface (which is already very good for linear reading) and technology. The iPad (and -- perhaps more importantly -- the responses it will engender from rival tablet makers) will likely change users' expectation about how they should interact with books.

Even if Apple doesn't sell as many as they hope, I would still count the iPad a success if it resulted in widespread adoption and use of electronic readers in general. - Cam Beck