Is Amazon neglecting eInk Kindles?

Two recent comments from Roger Knights and Cherril Mealing reminded me of something that’s been in my thoughts for a long time i.e. Kindle Fire and other factors are causing Amazon to neglect eInk Kindles.

First, Roger Knights writes –

Bezos is a good Big Picture guy. I just wish he’d be more perfectionistic about the small stuff (Kaizan-oriented, IOW) and fix the 100+ flaws and omissions in the e-ink readers that have been painfully obvious for years.

Any long-term Kindle owner can empathize with this. There are lots of improvements, including obvious and easy ones, that Amazon never seems to get around to making.

Next, Cherril writes –

Lack of a memory card which allows me the freedom to organise my eBooks as I wish is bad enough but to further limit the storage available for books on the latest Kindle is a totally negative move and smacks of Amazon trying to force us into reading books according to their stereotype of how we should be using our purchased material.  They have further restricted our ownership of any books we purchase because with the new AZW3 format we do not have the ability to download to a desktop in a readable format –  only to the Kindle itself.

Maybe I am paranoid but unless Amazon is deliberately using a ‘clutsy’ interface which is slow and difficult to navigate, in order to force us to load only a limited number of books onto the Kindle why have their skilled technical geniuses not provided enough memory and a smoother, easier interface to allow readers to carry and access all of their library.  I was very excited about the new Kindle but there is no way I will purchase a Kindle with a very limited memory which is actually a retrograde step from the previous Kindle Touch.

To Cherril’s point I would add that not only is Kindle Touch 2 a backwards step from Kindle Touch 1 ( which had more memory and audio), Kindle Touch 1 itself was a backwards step from Kindle 3 (which had page turn buttons and a keyboard).

So it’s two generations now that Amazon has made the Kindle slightly worse and not slightly better. Touch isn’t even much of a feature for an eReader. The in-built light definitely is. But that leaves us with ONE significant improvement and screen contrast and brightness improvements on a screen that was already quite good.

At the same time we’ve lost a lot of features and not added obvious features.

Lost features – Memory (now just 1.25GB instead of 3.3 GB available for your own books), Audio, Read to Me, Page Turn Buttons, Keyboard.

That’s a LOT of things lost.

Why is Amazon letting B&N have the lead in eInk Kindles?

With Kindle 3 (Kindle Keyboard) Amazon had a good (though not huge) lead over B&N and other eInk Reader makers. It was a combination of evolutionary improvements. However, it made Kindle 3 the clear ‘Best’ eInk eReader.

Amazon had the opportunity to REALLY add some KILLER FEATURES and make Kindle 4 absolutely amazing. Instead it seems to have focused on Kindle Fires and left the Kindle updates to a skeleton team that prioritizes based on what’s best for Amazon and not what’s best for readers (Kindle owners).

With Kindle Touch, Amazon went in a strange direction with the eInk Kindle. The shift to no keyboard. The lack of page turn buttons. The removed Menu and other lost buttons.

With Kindle Paperwhite (Kindle Touch 2), Amazon seems to be continuing to take the eInk Kindle to a place Kindle owners don’t like. No Audio? No Read to Me? Lower memory capacity?

It’s bad enough that Amazon took its sweet time to release a Kindle with an in-built light (it gave B&N five months or so of the market all to itself with Nook GlowLight, which B&N messed up by not having enough supply). Now it’s gone and released a Kindle Touch 2 that has several obvious limitations.

Why would you remove a feature like Talk to Me that was a HUGE competitive advantage? Why would you not add page turn buttons (which Nook GlowLight has) and continue to let them have that competitive advantage? Why would you reduce memory capacity to 1.25 GB and create a huge competitive advantage for Nook GlowLight (which has a microSD Card slot to go with 1 GB of available memory)?

Yes, the in-built light neutralizes Nook GlowLight’s main competitive advantage. The Kindle Paperwhite screen will probably beat Nook GlowLight’s screen. However, that doesn’t mean you drop your other competitive advantages.

Are we missing something, or is Amazon?

This trend of dumbing down devices and limiting customer options seems to be common between Amazon and Apple. Its a race to the dumbest, most money-making device ever sold.

We gradually lose more and more things –

  1. No replaceable battery.
  2. No SD Card.
  3. Lower Memory with ‘Cloud’ storage supposed to be the answer.
  4. No Proper Folder Structure, with the companies promoting Collections or hobbled Folder Substitutes.

Amazon seems to be going even more extreme than Apple (who would have thought that was possible) –

  1. Amazon is dictating what it thinks is the best interface for eInk eReaders. Touch instead of keyboard. Touch instead of Page Turn buttons. It almost seems to be saying – don’t waste your time taking notes when you should be buying instead.
  2. It is reducing memory. Again it seems to be trying to influence Kindle owners’ behavior – Use the Cloud, not your own device’s memory.
  3. It has a bare bones Folder feature. Apparently, we aren’t supposed to organize our books and have them in the Cloud instead.
  4. No Page Turn Buttons. Who made that stupid decision?
  5. No Read to Me feature.
  6. No Audio.
  7. No power adapter. You have to buy that separately.
  8. No mention that the price of Kindles includes a discount in lieu of running Ads. Amazon should at least mention there are two models at different prices and that the one without Ads is higher priced.

These are all backward steps.

Does Amazon not realize this? Or are the Kindle owners who want more memory and Read to Me and Audio and Page Turn Buttons and keyboards confused? Are we just moving to a world where people want the most dumbed down Kindles possible?

Is that the aim – to make a device dedicated to readers that’s so dumbed down that Cavemen and Cats could use it?

Or is that just the direction that’s most convenient for Amazon? To shift everyone over to its Cloud and to use the device as just a device for consuming content?

This is the first time I’m seeing an Amazon device that is more dumbed down and stunted than an Apple device. Who would have thought that would ever happen?

Amazon is playing a dangerous game here – It’s trying to BOTH win over readers as Kindle Converts AND turn them into quick consumers of books that don’t dilly dally with pointless things like making notes and organizing books and using Read to Me to have the book read to them.

In its efforts to make eInk Kindles better ministores, and by shifting its main focus to the devices (Kindle Fires) that make better mini Amazon stores than eInk Kindles, Amazon is creating a huge opportunity for its rivals.

The time is ripe for a company (ANY company) to bring out an eReader that is FOCUSED ON GIVING READERS THE DEVICE BEST SUITED FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE BOOKS, not the device that makes the eReader company the most profit. Even a compromise would be better than the extreme direction in which Amazon seems to be taking eInk Kindles.


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