What’s Still Missing from the Kindle 2?

A while back, I gave my impressions of the Kindle 2 after one week of use. In that post, I attempted to focus on what I liked about Amazon’s latest eBook reader. I also said that “I still don’t think this is the device that will dramatically change the game for publishing.”

the kindle 2 sitting on top of a traditional newspaper

For the most part, Amazon addressed the problems with the original Kindle. However, they still have a ways to go if they are going to capture the interest of the majority of readers. Here’s my list of what is still missing:

  • A color screen. I am confident that this is already in development; it will be essential for many kinds of books, including gift and children’s books. It will also be important for most magazines and even newspapers. Regardless, the iPhone, iPod Touch, and even our computers have shaped our expectation that a color screen is a non-negotiable.
  • A larger screen. The screen on the Kindle 2 is fine for reading most text-based books. However, there are times when I wished it were larger. This will be particularly important for newspapers and magazines. In fact, as I was writing this, Amazon announced that they will hold a press release on Wednesday, May 6. The New York reports that they will announce a new Kindle with a larger screen.
  • A touch screen. Almost every time I hand my Kindle to someone to try for the first time, they try to touch the screen to turn the page. I think this is a testimony to how fast people have adopted the iPhone and iPod Touch interface. It is certainly more intuitive than having to click buttons.
  • Faster processing speed. There is a noticeable delay every time you turn a page or move to another screen. The screen flickers (redraws) and then changes. It’s not so bad once you get used to it, but I have selected the same command more than once, thinking that it didn’t register the first time.
  • A folder system. After you collect several books, newspapers, and other documents, the lack of an organization system becomes painful. Yes, you can sort by type of document, but I would like to be able to create my own folder system and store my books and other documents where I expect to find them.
  • A lower price point. Initially, I thought that at $359, Amazon was only covering its costs and intended to make money on selling content (eventually). But several sources have reported that the Kindle 2 only costs about $185 to manufacture. This provides a nice margin for Amazon. If they are going to see this device catch on with the masses, they will need to lower the price. A price point of, say, $199 would make it comparable to the iPhone, which has sold more than 10 million units.
  • An open API. Personally, I think that Amazon should get out of the hardware business altogether. They should let other companies like Apple and Sony invest the money to create truly great hardware. By allowing these same companies to include the Amazon Kindle store on their devices, Amazon would insure that no one else could really afford to develop their own software delivery system. As a result, they would be selling content on everyone’s eBook reader, rather than just their own.

Even with the above limitations, I still think the Kindle 2 is an amazing device. I am currently traveling now and am appreciating more than ever the convenience of not having to lug around a stack of books.

Question: If you own a Kindle 2, what is on your wish list? If you don’t, what would be required before you would buy one?
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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/brianayers Brian Ayers

    a device with all those features would be AMAZING and would sell well. The device you're describing sounds a lot like the Apple tablet pc (iPad, MacBookTouch, or whatever their calling now) that has been rumored to be in production.

    Whoever makes it, a device like that will quickly be on my wish list.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I can't wait to see what Apple might develop. They generally do a great job of exceeding the market's expectations.

      • Ashley

        That's what I'm waiting on…an Apple version that sales and stores my books in iTunes with all my other media! :)

      • http://Generatornetwork.com Mike Rapp

        Mike, in case you missed it, here's a Wired piece on the upcoming releases from Apple and Amazon/Kindle.

        http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/05/kindle-vs-

  • Steve

    The reviews and comments I have read have stated that it is less than ideal for reading textbooks, which would be my primarily application of the device. If I could carry a Kindle around and have access to all my PhD texts, that would be amazing. But reading a textbook is unlike reading other forms of literature and until I hear good reviews on that front, it's usefulness to me is limited.

  • http://authorsway.blogspot.com Mary Nelson

    As a Kindle 2 owner, I could not agree more. Kindle 2's size and form factor appeal to me (and I'm not keen on a bigger device because it's the portability and wireless purchase that appeal to me the most). But I'd love to be able to turn pages by sweeping my finger across the bottom of the screen, as if turning the page, or tapping the screen as I do on my Palm T|X with Mobipocket.

    Don't know if you saw this tweet: "Apple iPhone 'Mediapad' Could Be a Kindle Killer" http://bit.ly/rA0dN I wonder which company will get to these features first? And I say YES to open API and no DRM, to really spur adoption. I'm just not sure that Amazon will let go of its push to become the publisher not merely the distributor, a topic I've written about on my blog.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Adam_S Adam_S

      The newest Sony Reader has a touch screen but the major complaint about it is that it the way that the touch screen works is by putting a clear overlay on top of the eink screen. That overlay reduces the readability by increasing the glare.

      I totally agree about the size. I do not want a larger device. I would actually really like the device to be a bit thicker, and have about 90 percent of the device be screen (with the same six inch screen).

  • Eddy

    eBooks are nice, and their time is here. I still think they're better for holding multiple books or really "data" containers. There's something about getting comfortable and then grabbing an 'electronic device" that spoils the moment. I like being able to 'thumb' through something and see how much is left in a chapter/book that I might be able to finish in a reading.

    Besides, where is Andy Andrews going to sign my eBook at the book signing.

    Just my thoughts……

  • Karin Haubold

    I think the ability to track to the book page number would be useful. I don't have a kindle (would LOVE one – cuz I love technology, not really in the budget right now), but I have thought about it for my daughter who will be going to college in fall 2010. Not being able to link to the hardcopy page number is a drawback. BTW – can you highlight passages on the kindle? Like you can on a physical book? That might be useful too.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/matthewdbenson matthewdbenson

      you can highlight like in a real book, but best to use non-permanent markers, otherwise the screen gets really difficult to read …

  • http://alexpenduck.wordpress.com Alex Penduck

    I want one badly but the cost is the problem! I hope they bring it down!

  • http://www.tonyhill.me Tony

    Would creating a color screen technology keep it to it's true print-readable format? I guessed I have always assumed if it were in color it would just be a computer screen… which gives me eye strain and dry eyes after several hours. I love that the Kindle doesn't do this. But, if color can have the same benefits as the black & white, then I'm all in.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Adam_S Adam_S

      Estimates I have seen say that there will be commercially available color eink screens around the end of 2010.

  • http://readscott.com Scott

    I think it's interesting that 3 out of 7 upgrades involve how you physically interact with the device (ie. the screen). I think it's a testimony to the fact that, although digital books carry many advantages, the physical interaction with the content is a key enjoyment factor.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Adam_S Adam_S

      I think it just means that the physical interactions are not yet perfect. As there are more devices and more time to see how people use them the UI (both physical and software) will improve.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Adam_S Adam_S

    The $185 doesn't include anything except for parts. Several others have taken costs of marketing, development, the wireless access, shipping, manufacturing and support and estimate the cost is around $310. If they don't make any profit and just sell at cost to get people buying books, then I think that the lowest they could go would be around $300. One thing that surprised me on the estimates on the wireless was only $5 per device.

    The post on this is at http://ireaderreview.com/2009/04/26/kindle-2-cost

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Adam_S Adam_S

    You can highlight, annotate and bookmark. Depending on how you use these they may or may not replace those functions on a paper book.

  • http://blogan.net Brent Logan

    The Kindle is still missing a nice industrial design. What's with the large margins around the screen and all that space at the bottom for a keyboard that's used so infrequently? Sony's PRS-700BC looks much nicer to me.

  • Dan Lynch

    From a new Kindle user (got mine Kindle 2 a little over a week ago) I have a few comments/options. On the positive side I've found it very enjoyable to use and much more "book-like" than I anticipated. I've read more since I received it than in previous weeks, although I still go back to a regular book format as well. I'm testing a blog, paper, book, etc. I've not had the battery go or found myself in a situation where it wasn't easy to use/read. Love that it's easy to read in bright sunlight.

    On the side of what I wish it had… I concur that a larger screen (closer to the actual size of the Kindle) is one key thing. My gut tells me that until this happens AND until it can incorporate more of a "all in one" style device we won't see the book world impacted to the degree the audio is. But when someone (My guess would be Apple sooner than later) comes out with a larger flat screen device that includes the ability to read books both vertically and horizontally, includes an iTunes level MP3 player and an internet browser…then we'll be talking change.

    My guess is no more than 18 months…could be less than 6.

    –Dan

    • http://Generatornetwork.com Mike Rapp

      Dan,

      Question. (First, I am not a Kindle owner):

      What you seem to be describing is a laptop computer…no?

  • http://the-walrus-said.blogspot.com Janet

    The Kindle is missing two very important things that make it a no-go for me. First, as you have mentioned, is a lower price. I don't have a professional need for the gadget so I can't justify the expense.

    Second, it needs greater cold tolerance. For anybody in the northern States (and I'm amazed this hasn't been an issue for you in Colorado) or Canada, a device that loses functionality at temperatures still above freezing is pretty much useless. They apparently can not even be transported in backpacks or briefcases at winter temperatures without going dead for hours or even permanently. Um, no. What's the point of a light-weight device you have to leave at home?

  • http://www.waynehastings.blogs.com/offtheshelf Wayne Hastings

    I love my Kindle. What I'd like to see added is the ability to network – with my Mac and with my friends.

    For the Mac, I'd like some books to reside where can read them on Kindle but use them on my Mac for speaking or teaching presentations. Or, just in Pages for when I need to write using the annotated quote.

    With friends, if we own the same book, I'd like to share comments across a community. For example, I'm reading Tribes right now. I'd love to share comments with others I respect.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Adam_S Adam_S

      That would be a great feature!

  • http://www.rwbooth.com Robert Booth

    I really want one but the price is still holding me back.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/PFNikolai PFNikolai

    All of that plus phone and standard PDA features–which it sounds like the Apple Media Pad may have… One device is enough and it may as well do everything!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JakeSchwein JakeSchwein

    I don't own one, but $359 would be required for me to get one

  • http://www.davidteems.com David Teems

    It was disappointing to read one comment on Kindle's reviews concerning academic books. With all the research I do for one book, I am hoping Kindle will work into that design. My books tend to wind up with tabs all over them, highlights everywhere, but I would guess with Kindle I could have an adequate bookmark system for quick referencing. Anyway, more important than that, you have aroused my appetite for one whatever its strengths or weaknesses. Thanks, Mike.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/emuelle1 emuelle1

    I'm not sure if I want a Kindle or not. I have Kindle for iPhone, but so far I've only downloaded 2 books, and those were free. I'm not sure I want to commit to buying content for the platform yet.

  • Chris

    I was about to buy a Kindle 2 as a birthday treat for myself, but the news that a new Kindle and/or an Apple media pad are around the corner have persuaded me that I can cope with being a laggard for a few months more.

    Shame, as I'm dying to try one out.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Adam_S Adam_S

      Shouldn't have to wait long for the new Kindle rumor has it that it will be released this week. The potential Apple media pad is a bit more unknown.

      • Chris

        Adam,
        Thanks, I'm looking forward to see what the press conference on Wednesday brings.

  • http://www.thischangesnothing.com Michael Covington

    $199 is still going to be high for most Americans to pay for a DEDICATED reading device – the iPhone comparison isn't apples to apples (no pun intended). Amazon should adopt the cell-phone model for this and get people to sign a two-year agreement, publishers could also help subsidize the cost (don't shoot the messenger) in exchange for the ability to pass along exclusive/targeted content that ships with the device. The only way to kill all competition and own the market is for Amazon to give the thing away as well as to gain adoption in the primary and higher ed markets. Once schools adopt the technology, they will be raising up a generation of e-readers and have the first crack at them as e-content subscribers. Finally, for those who think the Kindle will be the iPod of e-readers, I simply don't think that will ever be true. The tech market is much quicker to adapt and fill a void today. Consumers are addicted to choice, and less likely to find brand affinity with a company that has such a broad and diverse product offering and has not built it's reputation based on things that create emotional appeal such as Apple (again no pun intended). The Kindle will play no small role in e-reading, it's their content store that makes them the best option right now. But you can believe the competition is not far behind. With Apple and Sony soon to launch products with large content stores it's only a matter of time.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/John_Gallagher John_Gallagher

    The price point would have to be much lower. I would prefer to do it off my current laptop and it sounds like that reader technology is not that far off, so with a 3-year payback, I have to believe the technology would change must faster than my payback…

  • Todd Hoyt

    The Kindle is a great device, very practical in many ways. However, it is not the killer product just yet, some of the ideas mentioned in upcoming competitors products will be helpful. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB12413955712488181… Traveling overseas with it allows more content at my fingertips than before, and Amazon is smart in making the book purchasing so easy. Amazon wants to control content, and this is their way to do it.

  • http://simplyali.blogspot.com Ali

    I just bought my new kindle 2 last month and love it. There isn't much that I dislike, except for the folder you mentioned, that I've wished they had since the beginning.
    My thoughts on your other points:
    *A color screen- I don't mind too much that it's not in color… I like the fact that it looks like a paperback page and doesn't hurt my eyes.
    *A larger screen- I'd like that… as long as they didn't have to make the kindle much larger.
    *A touch screen- yeah, I've actually had people try to touch the screen on my kindle, lol. I think that would be awesome *bg*
    *Faster processing speed- something I'd like, too, but I'm okay with the way it works now.
    *A Folder System- Yes!! Omg, I so wish they had this! I've wanted this from the beginning, lol.
    *A lower price point- Heck yeah, I'm all for that, lol…
    *An open API- hm, hadn't really thought about it…

  • Morgan

    For students who want to use it for text books, they need an ability to highlight and make notes (like you would in the margins) and then allow you to distill those notes (with bookmarked pages) into a single document for reference in your studies. Now that is a tool I wish I had back in college!!

  • http://robert.epictales.org Robert Treskillard

    Mike, a little unrelated, but I just read some rumors that Apple might buy Twitter. Sounds like it could bring some financial stability to the company.

    Any thoughts on that merger?

  • Jonathan Nori

    I have to disagree with your suggestion that Amazon get out of the hardware business.

    Amazon is inspiring other companies to get involved in ebooks, after many abortive starts.

    Apple, before the Kindle, hasn't had an interest in the ebook segment. Rumor says that Apple is working on one now, though, because of Amazon.

    Enter Sony, who was an early proponent of ebooks, whose hardware has been lacking–at best–since they began to build readers. They hadn't made any significant improvements to their hardware for more than 5 years when the Kindle showed up.

    Competition is good. And the future is digital content, there's no getting away from it. It's just a question of who is going to have a hit with the general consumer market first. After all, if other publishers shut down, and Thomas Nelson was the only one left, how long would it be before you became apathetic from lack of competition?

    Incidentally, I'm looking forward to Kindle DX. I have one on order to supplement my Kindle 1. I have high hopes that I will finally be able to get manga in a digital format for a Kindle device.

  • http://jennicatron.tv Jenni Catron

    I'm still "on the bubble" about the Kindle2. I think the touch screen feature and folder system would be huge benefits for me.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/christopherbmac christopherbmac

    With the possible impending announcement from Apple concerning the rumoured 'Media Pad' device, one has to wonder how long before they start to offer books via iTunes. With the "Media Pad" device and the vast array of people who already own iPhones and iPods they are well suited to wade into the market with ease, not to mention the billions of dollars they have in reserve.

    I believe that it would be the next logical step for Apple to take; they have already conquered television, movie, and audio download markets. It only makes sense for them to start going after traditional media such as books, television, and other print media. And there are now rumours with regards to Apple buying gaming giant EA for iPhone/iPod Touch gaming.

    Not sure how Jeff Bezos would like this though.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/stevenpatton stevenpatton

    I'm personally enjoying the Kindle app on my iPod. Saved myself almost $400 and I get the same features.

    One thing that I thought would be a great feature for them to add would be a community type set up. Like how Youversion.com allows you to comment and see other comments on scripture, I would like ot read a book, comment on it and discuss my comments as well as other people's comments on a particular passage of a book.

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