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 –
- Features that 5% of readers really, really want and the other 95% don’t. These are the 5% loved and 95% hated features.
- 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 –
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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 –
- 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.
- 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.
- Openness – Lots of people want a lack of DRM and the freedom to move their books around. Most people just want something that works.
- 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.
- Games – Most people don’t care or are slightly hostile to adding lots of games to the Kindle.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.