Kindle DX 2 and 5% features

The arrival of the Kindle DX 2 and the accompanying reactions have highlighted a new category of features. We’ll refer to them as 5% features because they fall into one of two categories –

  1. Features that 5% of readers really, really want and the other 95% don’t. These are the 5% loved and 95% hated features. 
  2. Features that 5% of readers really, really want and the other 95% are indifferent to. These are the 5% loved and 95% ignored features.

Please note that we’re only talking about reading and people who read books – So you might find features on these lists that 95% of people who never read books want. There will also be some mistakes – You might find Folders or Custom Screensavers or Custom Fonts on there even though lots and lots of readers want them. 

Kindle DX 2 and the ‘5% loved and 95% hated’ Features

The first feature in this category is backlighting. We don’t know the exact percentage of users who are in love with backlighting. We do know they are a minority, probably around 5% to 10%, and we are painfully aware of how strongly they feel about backlighting on eReaders.

This is a feature that would adversely affect most Kindle owners – the backlighting would take away the advantage of eInk not tiring the eyes and it would eat up battery faster and cause loss of readability in sunlight. It would kill a few major eReader advantages and worsen the experience for 50% or more of readers – All so as to placate the 5% to 10% who really want this feature.

There are other features that fall into this category –

  1. Social Network Integration – With the Kindle 2.5 release it was hilarious to see every single press article consider the social integration with Twitter and Facebook to be a very big deal and not even mention Folders and Improved Fonts. Most readers want a device that disconnects them from all the distraction they can find on their PCs and phones and dislike all this social randomness.
  2. Advertising Supported Books – Lots of companies would want to try out advertising and some users would play along. However, most readers hate advertising and would rather pay for books than be inundated with ads or have their personal information auctioned off.  
  3. WiFi instead of 3G – 95% of users would be troubled by having to figure out WiFi and losing their free connection to the Kindle Store. However, there is a very vocal minority that want WiFi support accompanied by a perceived $100 price cut (they feel 3G costs make up  most of the Kindle’s price – an assumption that is very far from the truth). 
  4. Re-selling eBooks – A certain group of users (perhaps as many as 20%) want to be able to re-sell their ebooks. Most readers would hate to have to pay more for eBooks just to get the right to re-sell them. We’re assuming there’s no way to keep ebook prices low and also introduce a used ebook market – That allowing re-selling would either lead to increased ebook prices or kill authors and publishers.

There are probably some more features that we could fit on to this list.  

Kindle DX 2 and the ‘5% loved and 95% ignored’ Features

Here we see a lot of features that mean a lot to a certain demographic and are mostly irrelevant to others –

  1. Color – If you stick to reading books there isn’t really a need for color. Yes, covers would look beautiful and that’s about it. People who want this want to be able to see the illustrations in their textbooks and read magazines and read cookbooks. Nearly everyone else is indifferent to the presence of color.
  2. Touch – A certain group of people are fascinated by the concept of being able to flip through pages using their finger. Nearly everyone else is indifferent. There’s also a group that don’t want to mess up their screens with smudges and fingerprints.  
  3. Openness – Lots of people want a lack of DRM and the freedom to move their books around. Most people just want something that works. 
  4. Video – This feature request stems from people who want books with embedded video or want an eReader that doubles up as a TV. Don’t see any reason a book should have an included movie and most readers don’t really care.
  5. Games – Most people don’t care or are slightly hostile to adding lots of games to the Kindle.
  6. Zero Feature eReader for $50 – Hardly a feature but something that a lot of the main-stream people wish for and 5% of actual readers ask for too. 95% of readers don’t care because they value reading and understand that we’re still in an evolving field – not to mention all the money they know they’ll save from cheaper ebooks.
  7. Specializing for magazines – This is a completely different category of users and a completely different device. These users are better served by an iPad or whatever Skiff conjures up.
  8. Subscription Plans – Some users would want to pay $10 up-front and sign up for a 2 year data-plan or ebook program. Most users don’t care about this option and are happy to pay upfront.
  9. Replaceable Battery – Most users don’t care. Some users want the flexibility and the option to be able to carry a replacement battery with them.
  10. A better browser – Most readers don’t really browse on their eReaders. A small group of users want to use the Kindle for browsing in addition to reading.
  11. Make eReaders really, really pretty – There’s a portion of readers (or perhaps not) who care more about how good their device looks than how good it works. Read the iPhone 4 review by Jon Gruber and it’s hard not to notice how much he cares about appearance and looks. He spends most of the first 2 pages talking about how pretty it is. It’s safe to say 95% of readers care more about how good the Kindle DX 2 is for reading than they do about ‘how close it is to its idealized Kindle form’.

This is a list we could keep expanding endlessly.

Keep Adding 5% features and you’re left with a Device that’s terrible for reading

This ‘Kindle DX 2 doesn’t offer much’ post at ZDNet is a masterpiece in 5% thinking. Consider this section –

Larry cited four things he’d like to see in a next-gen Kindle: a touch display, a better browser, a bit lighter in weight and, of course, WiFi.

The only feature out of those 4 that a reader would want is a lower weight. Touch doesn’t make much of a difference – pressing down a ‘Next Page’ button isn’t going to kill anyone. Why do we need WiFi when there’s free 3G wireless? A browser is a bit out-of-place on an ebook reader.

The ZD Net article adds some more 5% features –

I haven’t been a fan of the Kindle since its initial release, largely because they’re just high-priced book readers that don’t do much more than that.

Do they play video? No. Are they doubling as music jukeboxes? No. Can I sync my pictures to it? No.

This is perhaps the highest point of 5% thinking you could reach. There are six 5% features listed in a single article – playing video, music jukebox, syncing pictures, WiFi, better browser, and touchscreen. The only feature they don’t seem to want on a Kindle DX 2 is reading.

Perhaps in their language ‘dedicated ebook reading device’ means ‘Jack of all trades except reading’.

Thankfully, there are some really smart commenters who point out the obvious – Kindle DX 2 is an eReader and it’s meant for people who read and it does one thing excellently.

If we add 5% features indiscriminately we end up with a device that is terrible at reading. The Kindle DX 2 is going to get a lot of the 5% people unhappy because it cares only about being an excellent reading device. Non-readers who are confused by the Kindle DX 2 being so different from what they think a device should be don’t realize that this is a byproduct of the Kindle’s focus on reading and their own lack of understanding of reading.

The Kindle DX 2 and the Kindle aim to be devices that people who love to read books absolutely love and that means they will be devices that everyone else fails to understand.

13 thoughts on “Kindle DX 2 and 5% features”

  1. It’s nice to know that amazon is improving the Kindle DX with some features and a lower price.

    But for me, the issue is that the Kindle DX still doesn’t offer a good experience when reading PDF files, its awful.

    I’m still waiting for Amazon to improve the pdf viewer in a way that gets closer to the PDF reader available on pc’s. ( a fit visible option would be nice or a fit to width … )

    I’m also hoping for a hack to open the Kindle DX and make it a multiple format ebook reader.

    The $459 that I paid for the Kindle DX are still a bad investment until today….

    1. You should check out the options Kindle 2.5 upgrade has added.
      For PDFs there is zoom – original size, fit to screen, 150%, 200%, and 300%.
      You can also pan. Zoom is even preserved as you turn pages.

  2. “Why do we need WiFi when there’s free 3G wireless?”

    Because Kindle *doesn’t* have WiFi if you live in a small town or vacation in a small town. Sprint wireless is useless in small towns. We need WiFi and/or Verizon wireless.

  3. I have a Kindle 2 and *LOVE* it! It goes everywhere with me in case I have a chance to sneak some reading in. Backlighting would be nice but it would also be a battery killer. Touch screens are okay, but do you really want to read through fingerprints? As to making my Kindle pretty, that’s what skins & covers are for…to pretty it up and protect it.

    I may eventually “upgrade” to a DX next year but for now, my Kindle 2 is just fine. If I wanted something that did it all, I would stick with my PC or a laptop. I prefer smaller “gadgets”. At least they give me an excuse to buy a pretty new bag from Zoe’s Bag Boutique or Borsa Bella.

  4. Two thoughts:

    First, backlighting that is off by default wouldn’t be a battery killer. Turn it on only when you need it. (However, it will add to the weight and thickness of the Kindle, which is a problem.) Normally I read in decently lit places (or while walking in the park), but for the occassional dark room backlighting would be nice.

    Second, the replaceable battery isn’t so that I can carry a second battery with me all the time. The replaceable battery is so that I can keep using my Kindle while I order a battery when the first one’s life starts to die. Right now I’ve got to send the Kindle back to Amazon and stare at TV for a week or so.

    I’m a reader and would be very interested in the replaceable battery. The backlighting would be something to look at, but a lot depends on the implementation.

  5. They sell the Kindle DX for $379! Originally it was $489. I bought a refurbished Kindle DX last week for $389. It didn’t have an AC plug even.

    This is cheating! Amazon dumped the rubbish for $390 silently and then they’re selling the new Kindle. Amazon should have released the new Kindle first and then sell the old crap.

    Amazon sucks!

  6. I am informing everyone that I just wrote critical review of the kindle DX2 and sent it to Amazon. To sum up I have the DX but am agitated at using the numer keys above the letters. I wazs hoping that they would correct that in the updated model. But alas they did not. Have any of you who have the DX played Sudoku? It is awful. Sometimes when entering numbers the ALT key does not work unless you hold it along with the letter/number key. I try to avoid entering numbers to go to a certain page.

  7. Comics are another significant use case for color, and the sole major kind of reading I do where I’m still stuck with print for the foreseeable future (while comics are readable on PC, they aren’t portable that way).

  8. The weight of new Kindle DX is still heavy. I gave up on my Kindle 2 as I got an iPad. But, I am not happy with the iPad. It is still heavy and two the wifi is not so strong. I have to re-do each time during reading/browsing.

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