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.

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