Saying goodbye to Kindle 2

The Kindle 3 is still 23 days away and already the thought of not reading on my Kindle 2 is beginning to bother me.

It’s been a year and 5 months. Books. Checking up facts for posts. Comparisons, Reviews, Photos and Videos.

Playing around with the KDK Beta. KDK Apps are the silver lining – because will still have to test apps on Kindle 2.

Here are the things that are hard to let go of -

  1. The fact that it’s linked to the pleasure of reading.  
  2. The whiteness.
  3. The row of number keys. In an alternative universe Kindle 3 probably still has them.
  4. The slider that almost doesn’t work.
  5. The 5-way that keeps going left instead of down. 
  6. Spending way too much time on Folders and then finding out there’s a way to add all the books at once.
  7. One handed reading in bed.
  8. Pressing Home thinking it’s Previous Page.
  9. Figuring out how to highlight across pages and the disproportionate joy of it.

It’s strange how every purchase seemed wrong – the iPhone, the iPad, the Nook. The Nook seemed the worst of all.

However, the Kindle 3 is – well, it’s the only wrong purchase – because it’s meant to replace my Kindle 2.

10 things about the Kindle that puzzle me

Why can’t you buy other Amazon products from it?

There’s no reason for it to not have an Amazon shopping app that lets you browse through Amazon and buy products.

Why can’t you chat with other Kindle owners?

Wouldn’t adding a social aspect to reading ebooks be a really good feature? There’s lots Kindle owners have in common. We can get recommendations, share stuff, and in general connect with similar people.

Why isn’t the keyboard better?

Given that the Kindle’s screen is 9 out of 10 for reading its surprising that the keyboard and keyboard related interface is a 5 out of 10 for taking down notes. The real estate is there to have bigger keys and there are lots of ways to make note-taking easier. It makes sense to improve the note-taking abilities.

Why isn’t there an app store yet?

Amazon have said they’ll be adding an App Store at some point of time. There are lots of directions in which developers would take the device and perhaps some of those are bad directions. However, users get to choose whether or not they want to go.

There are lots of features that a subset of Kindle owners really want and that Amazon will never get to that independent developers would probably deliver. Not only do Amazon get lots of people working on adding Kindle features for free, they also make money off of every single purchase.

Why isn’t there better font support?

There are lots and lots and lots of people who would buy the Kindle if it supported Unicode fonts. Additionally, people would not have to use hacks and such to get Unicode font working on their Kindles. Hacks that they have to uninstall and reinstall every time there’s a new Kindle firmware update.

Amazon are losing sales every day because it doesn’t support more languages and its time they addressed it. How big of a fix could it be?

Why is the Kindle DX still at its launch price of $489?

Since it’s launch the Kindle 2 has seen a steady drop in price and an addition in features including rotation support and PDF support - two of the supposed pluses of the Kindle DX. The Kindle DX has also seen most of the features added to the Kindle 2. However, it’s price hasn’t dropped at all. It’s over a year and you have to start wondering when Amazon are going to cut the Kindle DX’s price.

You also have a slew of tablet devices and large screen smartphones coming in that offer a lot of value for money and make a $489 dedicated reading device seem overpriced.

Why is there only one Font?

There is the simplicity argument and it’s a beautiful font – However, one font leaves the user with no choice.

Perhaps someone likes sans-serif. Perhaps someone has a favorite font. Perhaps people are tired of seeing the same font. There might be authors who have a specific font in mind for their book and there might be reasons users want separate fonts for separate types of reading.

Caecilia by herself isn’t enough (even if she is breaking my heart).

Why aren’t there more keyboard shortcuts?

It’s nice to have Alt+B for setting bookmarks and Alt+G for refreshing the screen to remove ghosting. It would have been nice to have a shortcut for changing font size, one for screen rotation, and one for search. There are a lot of keys on that keyboard plus a Shift and an Alt key.

Amazon could and should make things faster by adding in a bunch of keyboard shortcuts.

Why aren’t there Page Numbers?

Yes, we all know the page sizes are dynamic and it would be really difficult to have Page Numbers. Here’s a simple solution – Tag the first and last words on a page and use those tags to list page numbers. If a page on the Kindle is a mix – simply write it as ‘Page 26, 27 of 312′.

Locations are a technically smart solution and they totally throw people off. Isn’t the aim making things simple for users. Everywhere Amazon shines at this and yet with Page Numbers they totally miss it.

Why haven’t Kindle 3 and Kindle DX 2 been released yet?

Amazon are fighting against the latest technology with a Kindle 2 that is 1.5 years old and a Kindle DX that is a year old. Even eInk/PVI should have been able to manage some eInk screen technology advances in that much time.

It’s great to see an awesome Kindle 2.5 release with Folders and supersize fonts and features that the Press can twitter about. However, the hardware is due for an upgrade too. Kindle 3 needs to arrive soon and it needs to make a big impression.

Kindle 2 Thoughts

This is just a collection of Kindle 2 related musings -

  1. A great tool, Mysteria, that lets you keep a reminder and get alerted when a book becomes available in Kindle format.
  2. Allegedly Its run by a K1/K2 program manager from Amazon (used domaintools to find out Jason Merkoski is the site owner). Got to love the Internet.
  3. There’s also a David Merkoski who’s a Design Manager at Frog Design, the company that designed Kindle 2. Wonder if they’re related?
  4. A commenter (Michael Long) on Joe Wikert’s Kindleville Blog had an interesting point -

    Isn’t there some way to do a “smart” page refresh that doesn’t require inverting the entire page during each page “turn”?

    People cut down video size by saving information on the pixels that change with each frame change. Why couldn’t the Kindle 2 save books as the pixels that change, instead of individual pages? And then do ‘smart’ refreshes?  

  5. Speaking of screen flashes, Ectacto is touting it’s JetBook as free of these ‘screen refresh flashes’ and is now available at Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Magellans. Of course, buying it at Amazon would probably be easier.
  6. At MobileRead, Mike L has a way to get free samples in areas outside of WhisperNet – you do need an iPod or iTouch to make it work.
  7. Wondering if anyone anywhere has information on who the bestselling self-published Kindle Store authors are?
  8. Another low-priced book shows up in the Kindle Deals section of the Kindle Store – Afraid by Jack Kilborn. Just $1.99 and very well reviewed.
  9. Nieman Journalism Lab believe something that sounds completely inconceivable – only 3% of newspaper reading happens online. Will write a separate post on this.
  10. And finally,  someone created an easy way to read the Kindle in bed – Kindle in Bed. If you’re too lazy to make your own, try out the Peeramid.

That’s my K2 thoughts for today.

Kindle 2 for Blind People + Kindle 2 Environment Impact

August 2010 Update: We now have the new Kindle 3 with Voice Guide which reads out menus and Kindle home page listings. Combine this with the Text to Speech feature on the Kindle 3 and the recently added super size fonts and the Kindle 3 is a very good reading device for blind readers and low vision readers.

I wouldn’t really have a kindle blog if I didn’t believe in the Kindle (and now Kindle 2). However, the lack of some seemingly straightforward things (folders, kindle app store, etc.) can be a bit distracting and sometimes I might come across as rather harsh on the Kindle 2. Overall though, the Kindle 2 is a definite improvement over the Kindle and a step in the right direction (not a leap – just a good sized step ;) ).

In this post I wanted to focus on something I’ve been thinking a lot about i.e. Kindle benefits that we don’t really talk about. Things that in the bigger picture are worth much more than having folders and having better next page buttons.

Kindle 2 and what it means for Blind People and People with weak eyesight.

The Kindle 1 was really good for people with poor eyesight because -

  1. Larger Fonts made reading easier. 
  2. You could read any book available in the Kindle Store, and didn’t have to wait for a large print edition. 
  3. Kindle was much lighter than most large edition books.
  4. eInk is much easier on the eyes than computer screens, and nearly as good as print.

The Kindle 1 also really helped people who had problems with holding heavy books and some other subsets of people.  It really was an example of technology improving people’s lives for the better. For all the talk of iPhone Apps and Web 2.0, there are few cases of these technologies helping people as much as Kindle 1 helped people with weak eyesight.

With the Kindle 2, Amazon has stepped it up a notch -

  1. I came across this post/discussion on a Livejournal blog

    1: Amazon’s Kindle Reader
    Could someone please explain to me what exactly the Kindle and Kindle 2 readers are and how they work? I’ve heard bits and pieces from the blind community on-line but have never read a comprehensive explanation of what this is
    2: Good question, I’d like to know more about this too, such as whether they can read regular text files or whether I am stuck with a proprietary format, and how accessible they are, whether or not I can use big fonts and reverse colors, etc

    I can’t even imagine not having sight. However, I can see how the Kindle2 with its Read To Me feature could/should be a huge boon.

  2. Kindle 2′s Read To Me feature allows blind people to be able to access absolutely any Kindle Store book, blog, newspaper, and any of their personal documents. On the go, with really long battery life, and in a light, conveniently sized package. I don’t think there’s anything that compares.
  3. That’s amazing range – I’m pretty sure more than books in Braille.
  4. You don’t have to go to a store to buy it – I guess you’ll have to have someone help you make purchases. However Read To Me is a boon.

I really think this has the potential to add a tremendous amount of value for blind people. I wish Amazon added a FAQ for blind people on how to best use the Kindle 2.

Update: please do read Stella’s thoughts -

The Kindle 2 will not be usable for all people with low vision.

It is not high contrast. The display is grey on lighter grey.

The largest font size is not all that large.

St the next-to-largest font size I get four to five words per line.

Text-to-speech is very good but not al all like an audiobook. The speed is somewhat variable.

I need a magnifier to even find the keys on the keyboard.

That said, I can read longer and without the pain I get when using a computer or trying to read even a large print book.

I highly recommend that anyone with low vision considering a Kindle 2 make an effort to try one first. This is not going to work if you rely on reverse print color or other high contrast.

Not all books will be accessible via the text-to-speech,and there is no speech for menus or for buying books

Kindle 2 and its impact on the environment.

With the numerous campaigns and benefits and movements to ‘use recycled paper’ and ‘plant a tree’ and ‘buy carbon offsets’, we really have to give Amazon plaudits for creating something that is proactive rather than reactive, and will have huge impact.

  1. Books via Kindle 2 => Trees don’t have to be cut. 
  2. Newspapers and Magazines via Kindle => Even more trees can be saved. 873K subscribers to the NY Times translates into a lot of dead trees every year.
  3. A side benefit – these books and newspapers don’t have to be shipped around, stored in warehouses, stocked in stores and stands, etc. All of this translates directly into saved fuel and saved energy. 

This is a really, really good thing. Instead of doing little things to alleviate your guilt like buying a 5$ carbon offset for the damage your flight does, do something big like buy a Kindle 2 or some other device that actually helps the environment (energy efficient light bulbs; solar panels).   

 There are somewhere between a few hundred thousand and a million Kindle and Kindle 2 owners who are reading without cutting down trees. It’s definitely going to start having an impact.

Kindle 2.0 Pre-Orders now at Amazon – PreOrder Kindle 2 Now

Update from Feb 9th, 2009 8:22 am -  Amazon now has Kindle 2.0 Pre-Orders – It ships on Feb 24th – however, buy it now to get your place in line (and it might very well sell out). Also, if you’re a Kindle 1.0 owner, order before midnight today to get priority in line.

Next Sunday is important – Amazon’s Holiday Returns deadline ends on Saturday and that frees Amazon up to announce Kindle 2.0.

The question is -

Will Amazon allow pre-orders of the Kindle 2.0, 2-3 weeks before its actually in stock?

The obvious answer would seem to be No. However, there are a few reasons I wouldn’t be too surprised if Amazon actually allows Kindle 2 pre-orders -

  1. Amazon has lost a ton of sales – all these weeks of no Kindle stock, huge Kindle shipping delays (still 5-7 weeks), and no news of Kindle 2 has meant more and more sales lost.
  2. Sales of used Kindles are pretty impressive (speaking of which there is a used kindle available for $300 right now, and another for $359). However, that is not adding to the user base.
  3. Competitors are getting some of these lost customers. Sony reported that it has sold tens of thousands of Sony Readers in the UK (the number quoted was 30,000). Of course, if Kindle 2.0 is not released worldwide those numbers aren’t relevant. 
  4. The Kindle being sold-out is pretty much a fact of life now. The pent up demand means Kindle 2 is almost certainly going to be sold-out too. Pre-Orders would not make much of a difference. In fact they might be important in helping Amazon show that there is still huge demand for the Kindle 2.0 by having it sold-out again.

The more I think of it, the more there seems to be this thread of scarcity and human reaction to it running through the sales and resultant lack of availability of lots of superstar products -

  1. Nintendo was accused of creating artificial shortages for the Wii. Of course, the Wii sells huge numbers.
  2. Apple creates this same scarcity too. iPods and iPhones sell like crazy, and probably would even without the additional pull of scarcity.  
  3. And now Amazon seems to be doing it with the Kindle. And, at some level, they need to continue these Kindle shortages – to maintain the Kindle’s reputation as a superstar product.

A lot of product sales tells people that a lot of other people are buying the product, and social proof dictates they get it too. The product being sold out (or on the verge of it)creates scarcity and the ‘get it now’ mentality. A product being sold out regularly triggers both buttons and helps sales even more. So, the best strategy would seem to be to supply just a little less product than the demand, see how much the demand spikes up, and then again, supply just a little than demand.

Amazon seems to be running this strategy throughout – except, after the Oprah announcement, they truly ran out of Kindles – creating a much longer wait than they would have liked. However, Kindle 2, partly because of the long interlude, has to do well.

It becomes imperative for Amazon to show that Kindle 2 is a bestseller. And one way to increase the number of sales is pre-orders. Another, of course, is a kindle 2 coupon. I feel that one of these is going to come into play in February.

Overall, I feel  (i was right) - Amazon has started accepting Kindle 2.0 pre-orders Feb 9th - a few weeks before the actual Kindle 2.0 release (Feb 24th).

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