Reviewing 49 Kindle Keyboard Improvement Suggestions from Roger Knights

Roger Knights has shared his Kindle 3 Improvement Suggestions List which encompasses 54 improvements and additions for Kindle 3 (Kindle Keyboard). Please do check out the entire document for interesting details. Particularly interesting is the analysis that it would cost Amazon just around $400,000 and less than a year to implement these improvements.

Thanks to Roger for sharing these. It was a lot of fun to go through and look at these. Reminds me of just how well made the Kindle 3 was. Hopefully, at some point of time in the near future, Amazon will revisit Kindle 3 and make a new version of it.

I’m doing a quick review of the 54 suggestions and ideas. My thoughts on each item are in italics. Please feel free to add your own Kindle 3 improvement suggestions and your own thoughts on these 54 suggested Kindle 3 improvements.

Hardware Improvement Suggestions for Kindle Keyboard (Kindle 3)

  1. The Lettering on the Keyboard should be Larger, for Readability’s Sake. Very, very true. It’s stupefying that a device that comes with ‘large font sizes’ for better readability uses tiny alphabets on the keyboard.
  2. Numerals should be imprinted about the upper row letters. Yes, or even better – Add back the number buttons row.
  3. Non-letter keys should be visually distinct from the Letter Keys. A no-brainer.
  4. Let the user disable the page-turn buttons on 1 side. This is to reduce accidental page turns. This makes a lot of sense. You can grab one side firmly.
  5. Make the Imprinted Orientation Identifier (which side is up) Prominent on the USB Cable. This problem exists with nearly every USB Cable. And I like this solution a lot.
  6. Provide a ‘Reward If Found’ Sticker. So that users can attach this to their Kindle’s back. Super idea.

Flaws & Rough Edges to Polish – Kindle Keyboard (Kindle 3)

  1. Always Display the Notes & Marks’ Page Number. Don’t fully understand this. However page numbers should be always shown.
  2. Fix the Left-Arrow’s Ineffectiveness INSIDE Chapter 1, Article 1, etc. Pressing left arrow on the 5-way should take user to the start of Chapter 1 when inside Chapter 1.
  3. Make the Down-Arrow Highlight the Last Line on the Page. Good to fix this. This is an annoying usability bug.
  4. Treat the Dash as a Word Separator when highlighting. Yes, this is a must fix. Makes it hard to highlight precise portions of the text.
  5. Fix the Flaw in View Downloading Items. There’s little point in having View Downloading Items if it doesn’t work instantly once Wireless is turned on.
  6. Change Upper-Row Letters to Numerals Automatically when ‘Location’ values are entered. This really is a no-brainer.
  7. Save Users a Step when ‘Going To’ a location – Let user ‘enter’ by pressing center of the 5-way. This happens in other places too – Amazon should cut down number of required steps as much as possible.
  8. Perhaps Enable the Delete Key to Remove Content. Since the Press Left Arrow Method is not obvious. Yes, hardly anyone knows you can press Left Arrow to get the ‘Delete Item’ option. Makes more sense to enable the Delete button.
  9. Change  ‘Wake’ to ‘Waken’ in Your Screensaver’s Message Line.

Half Finished Features that ought to be Finished (Kindle Keyboard)

  1. Include a Down-Arrow in the ‘To Wake’ Screensaver Message. This would indicate the power switch position. Interesting idea.
  2. Provide Trial-Mode Password-Testing Before Activation. This is an excellent idea. There should also be Password reminder emails and Password reminder questions to let users reset their password without needing to call up customer service.
  3. Provide an “Exact Match’ Search option. Much needed. And as suggested by Roger, using the Google convention of “exact term search in quotes” to search would be smart.
  4. Add “Go To Index”. Very useful for nonfiction books. This is true. Index is much better than search for some types of books.
  5. Add Two “Go to Highest Page Read” Options. Very badly needed. Amazon uses ‘Most Recent Page Read’ as ‘Last Page Read’. Which isn’t always the best option.
  6. Add a “Back Matter” Marker. Something that lets you set a page as ‘Last Page Read’.

Bookmarks & Chapter Markers Improvements for Kindle Keyboard (Kindle 3)

  1. Insert Bookmarks and Chapter Marks in ‘My Clippings’. This would really help.
  2. Add an Advance to Bookmark Feature. This would be interesting – it would let users navigate by bookmarks (which some users already do for books that don’t have a TOC).
  3. Allow Users to Activate Non-active Chapter Titles. Basically, allow users to create a TOC quickly.

Notes & Marks Suggestions for Kindle Keyboard (Kindle 3)

  1. Provide Notes & Marks Headings that Differ Typographically by Type. Yes, using shades or icons or different font types to let users easily differentiate between Notes & Bookmarks & Highlights would make things much easier.
  2. Let the User View the Three Types of Notes & Marks Separately. Much needed.
  3. “Flag” Notes & Marks More Helpfully. Such an important point about putting markers in the top left corner of the page and not the top right. And also a great point about having markers for Notes & Highlights.
  4. Let the User View Entire Notes and Highlights in Notes & Marks. Yes, I’ve never understood why it doesn’t have the ENTIRE highlight or note in the list. Why ask the user to jump around to read the highlights and notes?
  5. Make Users’ Notes Available to Notepad-Type Apps. What can I say? This should have been done 3-4 years ago.

Highlighting – Suggestions to improve Highlighting on Kindle Keyboard

  1. Perhaps More Distinctly Underline Popular Highlights. I actually dislike the whole ‘Popular Highlights’ feature. However, having it be a different type of highlight than user highlights is a good idea.
  2. Let the User Highlight Bad Passages Differently. Not sure of this one.
  3. Add a Type-Feedback-To-Authors Feature. This would be worth its weight in gold. This alone would make Kindles sale increase 20%.

That last feature/improvement is a very, very, very big deal. It would GREATLY and MASSIVELY improve the quality of ebooks and the happiness level of readers. If Amazon had to pick ONE thing to add in the next Kindle, this Send-Feedback-To-Author feature is it.

Collection-Related Improvements for Kindle Keyboard (Kindle 3)

  1. Place Add/Remove Items FIRST in a Collection’s Right Click Menu. True. The most used function is adding and removing items.
  2. Add a Book-Menu Option to Add/Remove a Book to/from a Collection. This makes a lot of sense. It’s often when in the Book that you want to add it to a Collection and/or remove it from one.
  3. Flag or Dim Already-Collected Items When Adding to a Collection. This would be a huge help. Some visual cues to tell a user that certain items are already in other Collections.
  4. Provide Three Simpler Ways to Add & Remove Collection Items. Splendid Suggestion to have three new ways to Add/Remove – ‘Add Uncollected Items’, ‘Remove Items that are already in this Collection, and ‘Add Items from Another Collection’.
  5. Let Users Dim “Books I’ve Read”. Dim or Hide (I prefer Hide). This would be a super addition.
  6. Let the User Flag on-Kindle Books as ‘Reading’, ‘Hope to Read’, etc. This would also be a super addition. The whole point of having books in digital form should be that they are WAY easier to manage and categorize and work with. The categories suggested are interesting too – Reading, Hope to Read, Stopped Reading, I’ve Read (Already Read?).
  7. Allow the User to Select from Built-In Sets of Collection-Names. Yes, that would speed things up. Certain Names like Science Fiction, Romance, Next 5 Reads, etc. should be available to choose instantly.
  8. Select (Advance to) The Next Line after Adding an Item to a Collection. Yes, this makes sense. Why force the user to make an extra move when 98% of the time, after selecting or de-selecting a book, the user will want to go to the next line.
  9. The Archive should be Collection-Aware. This would be a winning feature for me. Right now the Archive is almost impossible to work through if you have more than a few hundred books.

Quite frankly, I think the way Amazon did Collections is completely wrong. It should have done Folders and allowed multiple levels. It also made a royal hash of how items are added to Collections and how they are removed. However, these suggestions from Roger Knights would greatly improve the Collections feature.

Other Software Improvement Suggestions for Kindle Keyboard (Kindle 3)

  1. Provide One-Letter Passwords for Collections and the Archive. This would really help a lot of users. The idea to have a one letter password is brilliant. Solves a lot of problems in advance.
  2. Add a ‘My Vocabulary’ Document (made from User-Extracts from the Dictionary). This is a must-have. It’s so easy to do and it would add so much value. Just do it Amazon.
  3. Add a Cover Slideshow. Good idea. Also allows for some character.
  4. Let the Cover of the Book-Being-Read Display as a Screensaver. Good suggestion.
  5. Include More Pauses After Paragraphs in Text to Speech. Good suggestion. Allows users more breathing (listening) room. Speaking of TTS why don’t all Kindles ship with TTS?
  6. Let Authors Flag ‘Front Matter’ for Non-Inclusion in the Free Sample. Excellent suggestion. No point in having samples that have just a few pages of the actual writing.
  7. Let users go to a Percentage-Based Location. Again, this all stems from Amazon’s stubbornness in sticking to locations when no one even knows what location means. Just shift to Page Numbers and Percentage read.

There were also 5 suggestions that were fixed in a Software Update.

Closing Thoughts on Kindle 3 Suggested Improvements

Kindle 3 is arguably the best eInk eReader made by any company. It got a lot of things right and really moved things forward in a big way. It’s a bit sad that we had Amazon take the whole ‘touch with no keyboard’ approach. Amazon might have been much better served by focusing on improving Kindle 3.

This (reinventing the software and hardware wheel) is a mistake that companies like Amazon and B&N seem to consistently make. Polish a product and OS for 1-2 years. Then, after 2 years switch to a new design and be forced to redo all the work.

Contrast this approach with how iPhone and iPad have kept the hardware and OS almost exactly the same. That adds stability and allows for really, really polishing the software. Amazon has changed the hardware and software of both eInk Kindles and Kindle Fires multiple times – with little tangible benefit and with the huge downside that it’s never had a really polished software experience. Kindle 3 was close but then Amazon switched to something completely different in Kindle 4.

Let’s hope that Amazon decides to make a new Kindle that is an evolution of the Kindle Keyboard, and that Amazon incorporates a lot of Roger Knights’ Kindle 3 Improvement Suggestions in this new Kindle.

Which Kindle e-reader should you choose?

First – a story…..

I’ve been thinking a lot (which can be really dangerous) about e-Readers since the Amazon press conference announcements happened yesterday. 

I purchased my first Kindle e-reader (my beloved White Kindle 2) about 3 years ago.  It changed my life.  Seriously.  All joking aside. I thought the price was ridiculously expensive at the time but have been hooked on reading as long as I can remember and the thought of carrying only one book on a trip made me somehow justify the expense. 

Just holding that device in my hands, I knew it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Or, since I love to run, the greatest thing since wicking fabric was made for the masses.  It was true love. I could make the fonts larger, smaller, listen to books with the atrocious monotone voices (which has made my life so much easier during two painful eye surgeries and recoveries). 

Those were the good old days.  New books were $9.99 each the day they came out to market.  I could justify buying almost any of my favorite novels because it was so much cheaper than a physical hardback book.  I started getting rid of books because I wanted them only on my Kindle.  Amazon was the main bookstore at that point in time, so my original purchase was easy to do.  I didn’t even look at other e-readers, didn’t consider the Kindle 1 and couldn’t afford Kindle DX.

I was thrilled when the Kindle store came out with its first few apps.  I am not a big game player, but love words and anything to do with word games, so those first apps were word related and I was hooked.  Now I had apps to kill time with when I wasn’t busy reading books (ah – I remember those days when I could read as many books as I wanted to).

Readers are probably thinking….”Get to the point!  How could a Kindle 2 change your life?”

I had been following the blog at ireaderreview.com for a few months.  I happened  to read a blog post by some guy called Switch11 who was looking for beta testers for some Kindle apps his team was creating. I happened to love Kindle apps, had done a lot of testing in my career, and thought I would volunteer to get some free apps.  Too late! He had already filled all the slots.  But, since I had some decent credentials, he thought he would try to get an extra slot and give me a try. Within a day or two, I had several beta apps to test.  Jumped in a little gung-ho and sent off all sorts of issues.  Asked Switch11 if I was doing any good and he replied that I had found a pretty decent amount of issues. Jokingly – I said that maybe I should ask for a raise.  Seriously – he asked me to be head of Quality.

One e-mail – in which I crawled out of my shell to volunteer for a project led to a whole new exciting career that I have been following for going on 2 years.  See – an e-reader can change your life.

<——>

Now that you know the decision of which e-reader to purchase has monumental implications, let me give you some insights into which of the current slate of Kindle e-readers you might want to consider:

Kindle Keyboard 3G – For $139 with special offers (ads) or $159 without special offers (ad free) (please note: this often goes on sale around the holidays) – if you have the money and need to use apps or take notes and such and will be typing a lot – please choose this device.  I have had 4 Kindle e-readers and this is BY FAR the best e-reader Amazon ever made.  The keyboard is awesome (once you forgive them for removing the row of numbers), the 5 way controller is great, and the page forward and page back keys are wonderful.  The device is a good size and comfortable to hold. I think 100% of the Kindle apps also work on this device. 

By the way – if you wonder if it is a pain to have the Special Offers….I pretty well ignore them.  I actually find them a pleasant change from the boring, stock screensavers that Amazon forces on Kindle owners.  Some of the special offers are pretty good.  Save the $20 to buy apps or books.

Kindle – (Known by some as Kindle for Kids, Mindle, Cardboard Kindle) – Price just dropped to $69 (with special offers).  This price is a steal.  I think this is 1/3 of what I paid for my first Kindle.  It still has the 5 way controller.  It has physical page forward and page back buttons.  About 85% of Kindle apps work on this device.  Yes, there is an on-screen keyboard.  This will slow you down some if you need to type a lot.  However, if you are rough on Kindles, needing an inexpensive (but excellent) Kindle, or starting a young book lover on their e-reader journey, this is the device for you. 

Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Paperwhite 3G  – $119 and $179 respectively (with special offers).  The newest additions to the Kindle family are replacing the Kindle Touch of late 2011 (or is that the Late Kindle Touch of Late 2011?). Note: I was not impressed with the Kindle Touch, but found it liveable.  My biggest disappointments – no physical page turn buttons and no requirements to make apps available for the device.  I live alone, so reading all night with a light on is not a big concern, but I am excited at the idea of the backlight in the app.  Sharper fonts and cleaner screens – all sound like positives to me.  More pixels, better contrast….better and better.  If I happen to get one passing through my mailbox, it might not ever reach its intended destination.  Add $20-$40 to the cost of the older Kindles in order to add in an attachable light and this price looks great.  I would particularly recommend this for someone who likes to read in bed at night (and actually has to share their room with someone else), travelers who read a lot on airplanes (why do they always turn down the lights?), reading to children in the dark and on car rides, etc.  If you have a smart phone, you won’t need to use the keyboard as much and that might help make a decision.

When to go for 3G?  If you do not have WiFi in your home and don’t live in the Hundred Acre Woods, then I recommend getting 3G.  This will make it easier to download purchases without travelling to the nearest Starbucks all the time.

My one concern on the Kindle Paperwhite? No word yet from the folks at Amazon if any of the Kindle apps for Kindle Touch will work on this device.  If apps are important to you, I’d hold off until a little more information has been released so that you can make an educated decision.

Kindle 3 + eReader updates for Sunday morning

A lot of Kindle 3 related updates this morning –

  1. At the official Kindle forum a suggestion to add ‘Kindle Review’ to the review title when reviewing books you’ve read on the Kindle. It’s a good suggestion and it would be a good way to help other Kindle owners.  
  2. Kindle Update 3.0.2 is available. Well, don’t understand all these dot-dot updates. Will we get 3.0.2.5 next?
  3. Every Word is back from detention.
  4. Someone built a reflector so that they could get around the fact that the Lighted Cover is on the top left of the screen and light the screen of the Kindle 3 evenly. It’s basically reflective photo paper on the left and bottom edges of the eInk screen held up by rubber bands.
  5. A question on how people manage to press Shift+Alt+G at the same time (it’s the shortcut to take a screenshot). Well, the buttons are too small for my fingers and the only thing that works is laying my thumb on both Alt + Shift at the same time and then using another finger to press G. Here’s another good solution which is actually easier –

    1) Lay Kindle on a solid flat surface.
    2) Use index fingers of both hands (fingernails pointing to each other) to hold down Alt and Shift
    3) While holding those keys down, use the middle finger of the right hand to reach out and touch the g.

  6. Cagey at the official kindle forum claims that Amazon is aware that page turns are slower when it’s hot (when Kindle is in direct sunlight) and that the developers are working on a fix. All of it sounds rather unbelievable – How could you fix what sounds like a temperature related issue? Have heard a few people mention this – Apparently in bright sunlight page turns get slower and take a second or so.
  7. NY Times has an article with a photo of a prototype color eReader display from eInk. Check my 2009 post for a color eInk screen photo that PVI/eInk was showing off in 2005. It’s 5 years and PVI still only has prototypes to show.
  8. Lots of drama in UK as Hachette pushes the Agency Model and Amazon pushes super low prices.
  9. David Morrell, author of First Blood and The Brotherhood of the Rose, has decided to do a Kindle ebook exclusive and it’s causing much consternation amongst non-Kindle eReader owners. This exclusive stuff is rather strange.  
  10. A claim that clicking the ‘Request a Kindle version of this Book’ button worked for a Kindle owner. Thought it was just there for show but apparently there’s an email or something sent to Publishers. Update: Actually the books clicked on are written by David Morrell – so it might just be a happy coincidence or it might be what caused David Morrell to do a Kindle exclusive.
  11. PsychCentral is having a Kindle 3 Contest and giving away a Kindle a week to people who subscribe to their weekly newsletter.

Nothing is unconditional these days – even for free things you have to prostitute your email address.   

Lab 126 does some interesting hiring

Quick on the heels of Amazon hiring a Xbox executive we get news from Tech Flash that Amazon is hiring a Pixar and TiVo veteran.

The list of recent Lab 126 and Amazon hires now includes –

  1. VP of consumer applications at Linden Labs (which runs Second Life). In the past he’s worked at Pixar and TiVo. 
  2. 2 former Real Networks executives. 
  3. Director of gaming etc. at Xbox.

That sounds more like hiring for the iPad than for the Kindle. Perhaps there really is a Kindle Phone or Kindle Tablet in the works.