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Old 05-08-2009, 12:49 PM   #1
Daithi
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Top 10 improvements for a future Kindle

Amazon has announced the Kindle DX and it won't even start shipping for a month or two (or three), so now seems like the perfect time to start requesting additional features for the next Kindle, or maybe this will give a legitimate competitor such as Sony some ideas for a device that could slow down the Kindle juggernaught.

1. Folders!!! (and/or tags)
Once a Kindle user has acquired a couple hundred books he will quickly learn the Kindle does an awful job of managing those books. The Kindle only allows sorting by a small number of fields -- Author, Title, and Most Recent -- and navigating to a book you would like to read is done by paging through these sorted lists. Users have been begging for a better system. For example, a folder system, or a system that allows users to add their own tags to a book. Providing both options would be the best of both worlds because folders are quick and easy to manage, but tags are more versatile. Another option is a "Read List" which is analogous to a "Play List" on an iPod. Unfortunately, Amazon has steadfastly refused to add any of these features.

2. ePub support
The ePub standard is far and away superior to Amazon's mobi file format. It is based on the same XML and CSS standards that drive the Internet. This allows far more control over layouts and better designed books than are currently possible on the Kindle. For example, many printed books currently use dropcaps or have text flow around an image (like the illustrations in Alice in Wonderland) but these tasks are not possible on the Kindle because of limitations in the AZW (or mobi) file format used by Amazon. Furthermore, the ePub standard is not only superior, but it is also an open standard that isn't tied in to any manufacturer.

3. Allow access to DRMed content from alternate sources
One reason Amazon may not be supporting the ePub file format is that it could potentially open the Kindle up to eBook content that is purchased from sources other than Amazon. This is currently a difficult process because Amazon has gone out of their way to make doing so nearly impossible. Even loading DRMed content from public libraries is nearly impossible. There are tools to get around this problem, but Amazon has issued Take Down Notices to websites that provide or discuss these tools. The latest Kindle supports PDFs, but it does not support PDFs with DRM (Adobe Content Server 4). This is just further evidence that Amazon is trying to lockout the Kindle from other content providers.

4. Do away with DRM
Even better than allowing access to DRMed content from alternate sources is to do away with DRM altogether. The content placed on an eReader can be very expensive and far beyond the cost of the eReader itself. Consumers are afraid that if they invest in content, and a new eReader with advanced features is introduced, then they will be excluded from the new device because all of their content is locked into their current device. This is probably the #1 thing Amazon's competitors could do to acquire marketshare from Amazon. However, this problem is driven more by publishers than by eReader manufacturers, and convincing publishers to sell their content without DRM may prove difficult as they are afraid of piracy. Nevertheless, publishers don't want to be tied into a single distributor either, especially one that is making in roads into the Publishing business. So, it is in the publisher’s best interest to move away from DRM as well.

5. Make it available outside the U.S.
Another one of the biggest complaints about the Kindle is that it is not available outside of the United States. There are two reasons for this situation. This first reason is related to hardware. Amazon use the cellular phone system to transfer files to the Kindle and to allow shopping on the Amazon website through the Kindle. The rest of the world does not use the U.S. cellular phone system, so different hardware and phone carrier agreements would need to be worked out in the various countries in which an eReader was sold. However, the primary reason the Kindle is only available in the U.S. is that the rights to sell ebooks in various countries needs to be negotiated on an individual basis. Just because Amazon has the rights to sell ebooks of Meyer's Twilight series in the U.S. doesn't mean it can sell them in Australia. Negotiating these agreements is a large tasks, but it is also an opportunity for a competitor to take advantage of Amazon's slow pace in moving into these markets.

6. Add an ombudsman (or listen to your customers)
Many large newspapers have a position known as the ombudsman. This person serves as a trusted intermediary between the paper and the public. Amazon has very good customer service, but surprisingly they have done a remarkably poor job of listening to their customers or responding to customer complaints and suggestions. For example, "Why doesn't Amazon provide folder or tag support for the Kindle?" Nobody knows. We can guess, but nobody has any idea if Amazon is working on the issue, plans to address the issue, or if they think their customers are wrong and believe it's not an issue. Amazon needs a much better mechanism for communicating with its customers, and Amazon's competitors should be capitalizing on this failure.

7. Add an SD Card
The Kindle 2 and the Kindle DX both lack support for SD Cards. The Kindle DX comes with 4 Gig and 3.3 Gig is available to the user. This may sound like a huge amount of storage, especially when you consider that ebook files are usually very small, but 3.3 Gig really isn't that large. The Kindle DX also supports PDF files, and some of these PDF files can be composed entirely of images. A PDF copy of the original Principia by Sir Isaac Newton may take up more than 300 Meg all on its own. A dozen files like this an your new Kindle is completely full. Furthermore, the Kindle also supports audio books and MP3 music files. Anyone with a phone that plays music can tell you how quickly 3.3 Gig of space is gone. The Kindle provides the opportunity to hold an entire library in your hands -- every classic ever written, all the major religious books, all the major philosophy books, the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, shelves of books on your favorite interests, shelves of books on interests that might become a favorite, shelves of books that hold no interest. Why place limits on yourself or your eReader?

8. Add a Software API/SDK
The Kindle has the potential to be far more than just a device for reading books. Apple has a wonderful Apple store where customers can purchase all kinds of different apps for their phone. They can buy different skins, or games, or utilities, or even use it to read books. The thing that has made this possible is that Apple has allowed independent developers to write applications for the iPhone by providing them with a software API or SDK. Amazon could provide something similar for the Kindle, and independent developers could quickly provide features such as folders, tags, and read/playlist. They could add a two column mode (or multi-column mode) for displaying documents. Calendars, Contact Lists, Games, and a whole host of new apps would quickly be developed. The next time Jeff Bezos visits his doctor he may see him with a Kindle in hand reviewing his medical chart, and then using it to schedule a follow up visit. Applications not even contemplated yet could make the Kindle the next must have piece of technology.

9. Open up the hardware
Don't just open up the software -- open up the hardware as well. Allow users to add devices such a USB keyboard, thumb drive, WiFi, printer, or scanner. The battery should also be accessible and replaceable by the user. NOTE: There are cell phones on the market with SD Cards and replaceable batteries, and they are just as thin as the Kindle 2 and Kindle DX, so excuses that the Kindle is too thin to support access to the battery or inclusion of an SD Card are flimsy at best.

10. Color Screen with superfast refresh rates
There isn't any technological barriers to accomplishing the prior 9 items, but this 10th item does require advancements in the current state of technology. However, imagine a device the size of the Kindle DX with the improvements described in the prior 9 items and that also includes a color display, touch screen, superfast refresh rates, and that is connected to the internet. Essentially, this is a super portable eInk 'netbook'. You can read books, magazines, and documents; you can browse the web; you can listen to music; you can play games; or whatever... all with the benefits of a small form factor, wicked long battery life, and easy on the eyes display.


TWO BONUS ITEMS

11. More robust PDF support
The Kindle DX finally adds PDF support and Amazon has licensed the Adobe Reader Mobile 9 SDK. Unfortunately, they have not implemented all the capabilities of this technology. Adobe Content Server 4, which allows PDFs with DRM is not implemented. The ePub standard within the Adobe Reader Mobile technology is not implemented. The reflowable PDF standard is not implemented, and even more basic functionality may not be implemented. This includes the ability to annotate PDFs and to search the text of PDFs (maybe with text based PDFs this is possible -- we'll have to wait and see). The support of PDFs also means that is possible to have a large number of PDFs on a device. For example, a physician’s office with PDFs of all of his patients charts. This would then require a means to manage this large number of documents -- such as a PDF filing cabinet.

12. Improve the Kindle Store
The Kindle Store can also be improved and tied into the Kindle better. For example, users should be able to use their Kindle to request a book that is not yet available in a Kindle version. Furthermore, the user should have the option to be notified by Amazon as soon as the book does become available. Amazon could also provide a top 100 requested books list to make it easy for other individuals to request these books as well (in other words put pressure on the publishers). Another improvement would be to sell books in bundles. The Kindle allows you to carry a library in your hand, but at $9.99 a piece this library would be very expensive. Amazon could bundle all the works of an author and sell them for a single price. For example, let's say there are 100 Agatha Christie novels. At $5 a piece (what they are selling for now) would be $500, but if Amazon offered the entire collection for $100 they would have happier customers and very likely generate more revenue (as people who would have bought her top 3 or 4 books will now buy them all). Another example, would be to sell a collection of sci-fi books, or mystery books, or whatever. The customer gets 50 books for $2 a piece (i.e. $100) in this collection and let's say 20% of the books are from well known authors and the rest are not so well known. This would help the customer build his library and also help Amazon and the publishers promote lesser known or up and coming new authors.


Now head on over to the corresponding poll (How should Amazon improve the next Kindle?) and vote for the top 3 features you want to see implemented.

Last edited by Daithi; 05-08-2009 at 01:22 PM. Reason: Fixing minor grammar errors
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Old 05-09-2009, 09:00 AM   #2
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Quote:
6. Add an ombudsman (or listen to your customers)
Many large newspapers have a position known as the ombudsman.
Using what newspapers do is not a very compelling argument as we watch that species go into extinction.
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Old 05-09-2009, 11:52 AM   #3
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You have a good point there slow_hand. I suppose I could have used a better analogy. Maybe I should have said Press Secretary, like we have for the U.S. Presidency where an individual answers questions by the Press on a daily basis. Or maybe you have an even better idea to convey the point that a company should listen to its customers.
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Old 05-09-2009, 12:31 PM   #4
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excellent suggestions, daithi. i hope there are some ebook manufacturers out there who are listening. any device featuring all these improvements would be a killer for sure.
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Old 05-09-2009, 01:20 PM   #5
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Excellent suggestions. Sony, are you listening?
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Old 05-09-2009, 02:29 PM   #6
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Indeed, 3.3 gigs is not large enough. When I first got my PRS-700, I thought why not just get a 4GB SD card because that would be more than enough. Well, some weeks later, I find out that as I'm organising my library, the entire 4GB card is not enough space. I like to carry my entire library with me on the PRS-700 so I bought a 16GB SD card, the highest capacity the PRS-700 can handle, an right now have 11GB left. I'm still organising my library so have probably another 2GB work of material.
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Old 05-09-2009, 02:58 PM   #7
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One other important need is for foreign language dictionaries. Books in French, German, and Spanish are readily available on sites like MobileRead or feedbooks. I'd love to be able to read say Balzac in the original with the help of a French-English dictionary. The current Kindle software already provides a capability to switch dictionaries, but Amazon doesn't yet have any such dictionaries for sale.
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Old 05-09-2009, 03:00 PM   #8
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i'd love to see dictionary support (with multiple dictionaries possible) as a standard feature on all devices.
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Old 05-09-2009, 04:09 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Daithi View Post
5. Make it available outside the U.S.
Another one of the biggest complaints about the Kindle is that it is not available outside of the United States. There are two reasons for this situation. This first reason is related to hardware. Amazon use the cellular phone system to transfer files to the Kindle and to allow shopping on the Amazon website through the Kindle. The rest of the world does not use the U.S. cellular phone system, so different hardware and phone carrier agreements would need to be worked out in the various countries in which an eReader was sold. However, the primary reason the Kindle is only available in the U.S. is that the rights to sell ebooks in various countries needs to be negotiated on an individual basis. Just because Amazon has the rights to sell ebooks of Meyer's Twilight series in the U.S. doesn't mean it can sell them in Australia. Negotiating these agreements is a large tasks, but it is also an opportunity for a competitor to take advantage of Amazon's slow pace in moving into these markets.
I don't agree with these two reasons.

- Why a Whispernet esquivalent should be mandatory? People can always use Amazon's website to buy & download ebooks, just like we already do with the pBooks.

- If I can import a book from any amazon store (usa, uk, fr...), then why shouldn't I be able to buy the ebooks as well?

My guess would be: they can't produce enough hardware for their US costumers, so they just don't spread even thinner by making it available internationaly.
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Old 05-09-2009, 11:39 PM   #10
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you forgot 'color'
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Old 05-10-2009, 12:12 AM   #11
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1. Folders: Calibre already allows tags to be added to the EXIF headers. A book can have more than one tag. Folders are more desirable than nothing but less desirable than tags.
3. Allow content...: Why just DRMed content. We already have access to more books outside the Kindle store than inside it. The Kindle reads non-DRM Mobi, PRC, TXT as well as AZW protected or not.
4. No DRM: I already avoid many DRM books. They have less value than non-DRM so I am willing to spend less on them. A book for $10 that I am renting is not acceptable. A book that I own for $10 is acceptable. DRM is good for about $5, which is all I am willing to gamble on my keeping it.
7. Add SD Card: My Palm Pilot has an SD card slot. Unless the mechanism to read that card is way bigger than the card itself, it looks like it would hold two slots, stacked.
10. Superfast color: This technology uses power only when turning pages (or changing pixels) so I would expect video to be a real power hungry application. I am not interested in playing Myst on my Kindle or any other game that requires a fast screen.
13: Touch screen: Considering that most of my touch screens have failed areas, rendering the device not useable in some areas, I prefer the mechanical buttons for input. I find a touch screen very frustrating, so bad that I even use an external mouse with my laptop that has a pad.
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Old 05-10-2009, 02:00 AM   #12
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about the SD card, a micro SD card would stand nice on a DX

I agree with above about touchscreens.
They are very nice, but nothing beats buttons!

The touchscreen is good for annotations or a virtual keyboard.
Basic buttons that are much used like 'menu', 'enter', 'next/prev page', 'power', and perhaps a couple of function and direction keys would do great! (eg: volume buttons for mp3, a button for search/dictionary/bookmarks).

The meaning is to be able to be able to use the device even if the touchscreen wears out and fails; much like it was possible to operate the Windows operating system by just the keyboard, in case the mouse failed (or mousedriver was not loaded)

And I would get rid of the keyboard altogether and use a software matic keyboard with a pen and the touchscreen.

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Old 05-10-2009, 02:14 AM   #13
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I don't agree with these two reasons.

- Why a Whispernet esquivalent should be mandatory? People can always use Amazon's website to buy & download ebooks, just like we already do with the pBooks.

- If I can import a book from any amazon store (usa, uk, fr...), then why shouldn't I be able to buy the ebooks as well?

My guess would be: they can't produce enough hardware for their US costumers, so they just don't spread even thinner by making it available internationaly.
This is not true, some countries are not able to order stuff from USA.
I for instance was not able to order amplifiers, radios, some extremely rare cd's, and ebooks from USA through amazon without a valid USA VISA or credit card.
I have a valid visa card, and European Mastercard, but could not buy from Amazon with it those things.
On another occasion I bought a notebook from a dealer in USA just fine (hassle free) over Amazon.
So some things Amazon tells you you can not order the items.
Amazon and paypal sometimes set restrictions.
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Old 05-10-2009, 01:48 PM   #14
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6. Add an ombudsman (or listen to your customers)
Many large newspapers have a position known as the ombudsman. This person serves as a trusted intermediary between the paper and the public. Amazon has very good customer service, but surprisingly they have done a remarkably poor job of listening to their customers or responding to customer complaints and suggestions. For example, "Why doesn't Amazon provide folder or tag support for the Kindle?" Nobody knows. We can guess, but nobody has any idea if Amazon is working on the issue, plans to address the issue, or if they think their customers are wrong and believe it's not an issue. Amazon needs a much better mechanism for communicating with its customers, and Amazon's competitors should be capitalizing on this failure.
To me still not having folders or a card slot is an indication Jeff Bezos is micro managing the kindle development. We don't need an ombudsman. We need Bezos to step away from the development of this product. Set the direction and then let the engineers do their work. I think he believes the addition of folders, card slots etc, will make the kindle a techie product and then place it out of the reach of people that are afraid of technology. What he needs to realize is that you can hide the complexity from the users that do not want to deal with folders or cards. While at the same time offering what really isn't a whole lot of complexity to the people that can appreciate these additions.
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