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A new-media Christmas

It’s no secret that new media is taking the hammer to old media, but this was the year the fight came straight to my Christmas tree.

First, my mom -- one of the most avid book purchasers I know -- got a Kindle.

Then, even the traditional media gifts under the tree turned out to be new media knock-offs. The one book was Cake Wrecks, a whimsical volume of pictures of professional cakes gone awry based on an eponymous blog. There was also a Susan Boyle CD with a cover proclaiming, “As seen on YouTube.” Seriously? I realize that more than 100 million YouTube viewers saw her “Britain’s Got Talent” performances. But if you liked her because of the internet videos, how likely are you to buy an old-fashioned CD instead of downloading the music (or videos)?

Together, the gifts were an odd reminder that the Internet now leads, and other media are trying to figure out how to get in on the action. I don’t know the solution, but I can’t imagine that creating Internet knock-off products is the long-term winning strategy.

This week, Amazon put numbers behind the trends, reporting two interesting facts from the holiday season. The Kindle is now the company’s most gifted item ever. And, for the first time, electronic books out-sold physical books on the site on Christmas Day (Amazon stock immediately climbed on the news).

Obviously Christmas Day e-books sales are just the trailing indicator of all the excited Kindle gift recipients. Nonetheless, this sure seems like a massive warning bell for the publishing industry. CEO Jeff Bezos previously announced a self-publishing program in which authors can sell Kindle books on the site and keep 35 percent of the proceeds (which, as Bezos notes, sounds small but is more than most authors currently receive). This smells an awful lot like what the music industry went through over the past decade.

We don’t need a lot of additional evidence that the media world is changing by the day. But if Christmas at my house was indicative, change is coming even faster that we think.

By Kevin Huffman  | December 29, 2009; 7:54 AM ET
Categories:  Huffman  | Tags:  Kevin Huffman  
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Amazon does not seem to be entirely caught up to their own e-book phenomenon; there is no mechanism in place right now to gift a Kindle book. My Mom is on her second Kindle (the first one is now my Dad's) and to give her books I could only give her a gift card with suggestions as to the books to get.

Just as an aside, my Mom has MS and has found the Kindle to be much easier for her to read than either regular books or newspapers.

Posted by: rosasmommy | December 29, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Seriously Kevin, are you 12? The over whelming volume of comments (1) indicates the readers are adults and won't waste their time of kid stuff.

Is there a single WashPost editor or writer who is not appalled that this is the writing of "The Next Great Pundit?" Positively horrified that the once great WashPost chose a man-child who dribbles out pre-teen nonsense?

My guess is the NeoCon Editor Fred Hiatt feels childish gibberish is better than having a liberal pundit with something real to say. But for the rest of you, can you really tolerate this travesty?

This I can promise, those who participated and those who read are disheartened.

Posted by: chucky-el | December 29, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Hey Chucky-El...

Bitter much? Just because your attempt at punditry failed miserably doesn't mean you have to waste our time with your inane d-bag ad hominem nonsense. Kevin is a fresh, engaging voice, and I enjoy his columns very much. So there.

Posted by: rjm242 | December 29, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

How do you 'gift' - that's a noun, not a verb - a kindle? How do you wrap it? This being Washington DC, how will people know you are reading something prestigious?

Posted by: malcomj | December 29, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Interesting column! I'll have to look into this Kindle thing a bit more - I was getting emails left and right from Amazon hawking that product. I like the heft of a book in hand when I'm reading but I can see the benefits and appeal of using a Kindle or other like technology.

Posted by: MILWI | December 29, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Simmer down, Chucky-el and get back to work on that Kindle book that I know you must still have in you--or maybe hand-written in spiral notebooks stored in a massive oak chest----aha, takes one to know one.

I enjoyed this effort by Kevin even though in "my book" kindle is still what you use to start a fire. I have so many "real" books in my house there is hardly room enough for the people and dogs who live here, but that's all right, I love my books and want nothing to do with this
subversive new technology, at least not until I change the batteries in my smoke alarm.

My only complaint with this, Kevin, is I think it would have made a better full-length column, at least at this particular time. Sharing scrolling space as it does with all the stuff on terrorism....the headline is a bit jarring and seems out of place. That can work in your favor but I don't think it does here.
On the other hand, what's a humorist to write on the topic of terrorism, especially in the week right after we have had the "event." Well, ok, no one was hurt. That is on your side and I really think you should take the topic and run with it. Otherwise you will have to deal with the likes of Chucky-el and martymar and there will surely be more of the old loser crowd to come and sit in judgment....
Good luck, Kevin.

Posted by: martymar123 | December 30, 2009 6:58 AM | Report abuse

Hi martymar123 and chucky-el!

Happy New Year, all!

For what it's worth, the only folks I know who have bought a Kindle are 50- and 60-something women. Probably about Huffman's mom's age demographic.

Rosasmommy: I have MS as well and find Kindle to be distinctly unsatisfactory. I'm glad it works for your mother, though.

While not as disappointed as chucky-el regarding the fluff factor of Huffman's recent work, I am left saying "so what?"

To me, the role of the pundit isn't to provide anecdotal examples of the changing media landscape, but to provide me with his/her perspective of the importance of these changes.

Slice-of-life writing is nice, but it ain't punditry.

Posted by: MsJS | December 30, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

What is this? An ad for Amazon? Keep your Kindle and "new" media. Next you'll be telling me Fox isn't part of the main-stream media. Not everyone needs the newest toy.

Posted by: jckdoors | December 30, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

"For what it's worth, the only folks I know who have bought a Kindle are 50- and 60-something women. Probably about Huffman's mom's age demographic."

MsJs: OUCH! I don't have a Kindle, though. Or a son named Kevin. Kahlua, anyone,
while I have the alliteration out?

Your point about punditry is well-taken, MsJs. Personally, I would like to see Kevin marry his wit with hard-hitting political commentary. And who knows, such a move might eventually result in the pitter-patter of little grand-pundits down the hallway in a year or so....which would surely please his old mum. (I am a 50+ woman, so I know what they like....)

Wishing you the best in the New Year, MsJs.
"You're the one who rocks."

Posted by: martymar123 | December 30, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

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