Kindle canned

I stumbled across a rather poignant editorial–posted this month on—that managed to clearly lay out what many consumers, writers, readers and eBook proponents have been posting comments on popular eBook news sites for months: eBooks appeal to several sets of consumers, not just one… and so in different ways. Drawing fairly solid metaphors betwixt the eBook /consumer matrix and an equation with various variables (dedicated reader audience, tablet audience, phone-reader audience and the ??? device of the future), the article went on to take a musing stab at what Apple’s crew of folks-hired-only-to-think-up-stuff-and-patent-it might be up to with the reported “OMG! Finally e-ink with COLOR!” choice screen:

“If Apple does produce such a device, it’s an obvious call that its marketing genius will be clearly and very deliberately going all out to achieve one particular goal. That would be to blur the line between the very different drawcard features of both the best-selling iPad and its equally successful dedicated e-reader rivals like the Kindle, so positioning a future Apple device to corner both markets. Perhaps this screen switcheroo feature, along with a higher resolution display, will be the key advance in the iPad 3?”

Perhaps iPad 3, most likely in iPad 3, but why oh why didn’t the Kindle folks think of this… even just one year ago? Going back to one of my early comparison articles on the subject of eReaders I pointed out that most polled folks buying/using Kindle had only one common complaint: no color. The other complaints mostly revolved around having to carry two devices, one for reading and the other being either a smart-phone or laptop for work/communication. Enter the iPad… but Kindle remained the same–albeit with upgrades an a few more shades of gray–but still no color.

I admit to feeling a sense of sadness for Amazon apparently missing the boat on this one, but also a few pangs ring out for that small, unknown company that theoretically could have burst through both the monochromatic fog of Kindle and the app chaos of iPad, and marry the greatness of an eInk screen with color pictures/video… and email. Despite the fact that Apple would be gaining yet another billion-dollar device to add to its plethora of such, if they can manage to fit in a USB port somewhere and get Word on the “new” device (might be 3) with the fancy new screen, then I would be temped to retire my trusty laptop and dole out a stack of hard-earned greenbacks to take it home.

As for Amazon, an author-unknown French proverb captures the situation perfectly:“People count the faults of those who keep them waiting.

via Meredith Greene’s Greene Ink blog


  1. First, let me start out in saying that I enjoy apple products. Our household has several mac laptops, an ipad, itouch, and a plethora of older ipods (no iphone since the data rate plans here are just nasty). However, apple does have a problem that would need to be sorted out before this vaporware would work imo – that of a great dedicated ereader software that would be able to read any format asked (with or without DRM) and with a variety of gui options to appease the majority of readers (bookshelves for some, categories for other, lists for even others). Right now, you have to use different programs for each format – I think it is ugly and poor GUI sense to require 3 or 4 programs to read your ebooks. If they were really smart, they would port calibre onto the device.

  2. I’m not sure Amazon necessarily missed the boat here. It’s my understanding that they are using tech provided by another developer, so they’re beholden to them on the one hand. On the other hand, there’s the price point. One of the things that’s made the Kindle so popular is it’s low cost. Apple devotees have proven themselves willing to shell out big bucks for the latest iGadget. Would the Kindle people do the same for color e-ink?

  3. I agree; Calibre has proven itself transcendentally compatible, constantly updated and fairly easy to navigate. Most folks we know have been Apple fans for music storage for some time, and my family is no exception. Hopefully the company will come out with the device we know they are capable of producing, having browsed this board and read all the heartfelt complaints/comments/suggestions posted by actual consumers.

  4. Have you tried reading an entire novel on iPad? I tried, more than once, but couldn’t finish. First the obvious: eyesore. Second, the not-so-obvious: weight. I ended up using my Kindle for heavy reading (novels and such where color almost has no added value) and iPad for email, skimming RSS, tweeter and other stuffs. I still have all the reading apps on the iPad (Kindle, Kobo, Goodreader, iBooks) but rarely use them. Well, maybe Zinio. I love both Kindle and iPad, but they each have their own place. Two devices? No problem since Kindle is so small and lightweight.

  5. I don’t see the need for getting email while reading; it’s a distraction. Color would be nice on the Kindle, but I can’t justify yet another device until the price comes below $100. There is a perceived benefit in having email, phone and reading on one device (fewer to carry around), but as long as the Kindle and it’s sisters/brothers are mostly for reading, why change? Sometimes, more apps don’t necessarily help but hinder reading.

  6. “that of a great dedicated ereader software that would be able to read any format asked (with or without DRM) ”

    Or you could just allow several different apps to run on your great eBook Reader that do all this and are supported by people who sell those formats. Sorta like Apple does now without having to reinvent anything for anyone who does not already know how to do all that.

    The point being the perfect color eBook Reader was always a tablet with a pretty decent display and not a eInk device.

    All I want from iPad 3 is simply what the game playing public wants from a iPad 3. A quicker display with more details and greater resolution and all that gamer money will get it.

    Something Amazon could never have realized.

  7. The Kindle has been successful because it does what it does very well and at low cost of entry. For people who actually read long-form serial text (aka novels), the $139 Kindle 3 WiFi is a book reader’s dream: inexpensive, delivers a great reading experience, easy to add content to, and represents savings over print.

    Colour would be nice … but that implies different reading habits and needs … like text books, magazines, coffee table type books, etc. And each of those works better with more real estate (12″ for example).

    Video would be nice too … but now we are a long way from the target market for Kindle and perhaps now it is clearer how Amazon did NOT miss the boat.

    As technology evolves, I fully expect a colour Kindle to arrive and, who knows?, someday maybe a video Kindle. But the trade-off will remain between price, weight, battery life and the actual value to the consumer of the additional features.

  8. I agree that multipurpose devices tend to crowd out special purpose devices for most purposes. We no longer have dedicated word processing machines, dedicated PDAs, even, increasingly, dedicated music machines. We do, however, still have dedicated game machines. Will we still have dedicated reading machines a decade from now? I imagine not. Does this mean that Amazon missed the boat? I don’t think so. Of course, there is nothing to stop them from coming out with a color tablet should they believe that doing so would be helpful in achieving their goal of world dominance. And the more Apple is successful keeping Kindle off the iPad, the more likely Amazon will have a captive audience of Kindle users who want to upgrade to something compatible.

    Rob Preece

  9. This mythical dual screen device is just that right now: mythical. As such, it’s free to be all things to all people: easy to read, light, long battery, fast, practically perfect in every way. Were such a device actually to get built, choices would be made, and some things would get sacrificed. Battery life would likely be the first thing to go; changing screens sounds like it would very power intensive. To have any sort of battery life, you’d probably still need a bigger battery, so now weight has to increase. And what’s the impact of the dual screen technology on the crispness of the display?

    So, yes, it would be fantastic if Apple or Amazon were to build so a device, and if it had all the best features of the iPad and the Kindle, but it’s long way from patenting a device to actually building a device. Lamenting that Amazon hasn’t done it yet seems a bit premature. They haven’t produced a flexible device that I can fold up in pocket or stretch out to zoom in on things, either.

  10. There are plenty of us who simply want our ereader to be replacement for the ubiquitous paperback books we carried around for most of our lives. My Kindle is always on, only needs a charge every couple of weeks and is ready to provide simple reading pleasure in seconds.

    Sure, I’d like to see an improved Kindle that is smaller, lighter, faster, better featured and has higher screen resolution. Optimize the reading experience but don’t add a bunch of extra features. We already have phones and pads and computers that can access the web, display dozens of media and connect to a variety of social networks.

    Just make the Kindle the world’s best single-purpose reading device.

  11. This statement had me puzzled:
    “The other complaints mostly revolved around having to carry two devices, one for reading and the other being either a smart-phone or laptop for work/communication.”

    There is a Kindle app for most smartphones, PC/Mac, and the iPad. Some have even opted for the Kindle app without purchasing the Kindle device. I can choose to just carry one device (my phone) and enjoy the best of both worlds because my Kindle 3 and the Kindle phone app has the ability to sync my last place read between the two devices. Most e-reader/apps do not have this function.

    For those who want color that option is already available using the Kindle app on a color device or can purchase a color e-reader. However since most books are just black text anyway color often doesn’t matter for a serious reader. [Note: The color book covers display in color on the Kindle smartphone apps.] Color matters more for photography books, etc. but personally I would prefer to have those in hard copy.

  12. A really puzzling piece. There is zero evidence that Apple is actually working on such a device, patent filing nothwithstanding. It was first filed by Apple in October of 2009 mind you.

    The technology for a color eink device is simply not ready for prime time. Anyway the Kindle is used by Amazon to further the creation of digital libraries for its customers. The device is just a means to that end. Once inside the Kindle ecosystem people are loath to leave it for another, no matter how magical the devices of others.

  13. Bara wrote: “Have you tried reading an entire novel on iPad? I tried, more than once, but couldn’t finish. ”

    Actually I rear regularly on my iPhone 3G and am in the middle of my 4th book one it since the turn of the year. I see no problem reading with it. It is relaxing and very convenient.

    gous wrote:”A really puzzling piece. There is zero evidence that Apple is actually working on such a device, patent filing nothwithstanding. It was first filed by Apple in October of 2009 mind you.”

    I agree fully. There is no evidence whatsoever that Steve has any plans in that direction. Apple’s patent strategy is part of their marketing strategy and has regularly gotten competitors knickers in a twist. This is all vapour driven empty speculation.

  14. I agree with E. most books are in black and white, why do you need color? I think that people who do not use the devices are the ones who are interested in color.

    I think there will still be a market for ereader specific devices, just as there is one for high end audio equipment. The market may be a smaller one, but I believe it will still be there.

    @Gary I find touch screen navigation to be annoying, especially on ereaders. I am perfectly happy with the buttons on the side of the device for page turning. I do not want to have to move my hand across the screen to change the page. I found the touch screen navigation on the nook to be rather annoying, I would rather have better designed menus and access than a touch screen.

    I think that the comments show that there is a wide range in what the end user actually wants in a ereader. So there will be a market for a variety for a variety of devices for a while yet.

  15. The lack of color on the Kindle matters little. Printed books have been able to provide color for longer than any of us have been alive, and yet color books are still a small slice of the market. For text-centric reading, people are more than happy with B&W. Digital gadgets won’t change that.

    Speaking as someone who lays out books professionally, I believe that color adds little to the usefulness of textual material. There’s only a small range of darker colors that have enough contrast to be as easily legible as black on white. Even in good light, you wouldn’t want to read much pink or yellow text. And while dark blue is certainly very legible, it’s so little different from black that it offers little benefit.

    Also, in most cases color highlighting (say a bright yellow background) only provides the sort of emphasis that can also be done with a careful use of slightly increased font size, bold, italics and small caps. Color highlighting of text also has a major negative. It often draws too much attention to what’s highlighted. It’s a bit like listening to a speaker who thinks he has to shout every time he reaches another major point in his speech. That’s why when we were in school we hated to get used textbooks that’d be highlighted by someone else.

    Kindles and Kindle-like devices will be with us for a long, long time. Like the printed, bound book, which rapidly became very useful once the printing press was invented, by the third generation the Kindle has become marvelous for its primary purpose. With battery life approaching a month, is any longer life needed? Hardly. Do the screens need to be more legible for difficult lighting situations? No, unlike iPads, ePaper screens work perfectly in bright sunlight and even my aging Kindle 1 is quite readable in bed lit on by a dim 3-LED lamp. The experience is so good, I shifted my bedtime reading from an iPhone to a Kindle.

    Kindles only have two major problems.

    1. INPUT. User input on the latest Kindles is vastly better than my Kindle 1. But it still clumsy, particularly for those who like to make notes and need a full set of keys. My iPhone’s tiny touch keyboard is infinitely better. I tried a Kindle 3 at a store and found my big, clumsy fingers wouldn’t work with that tiny scrolling button. The Kindle’s existing keyboard still needs improvement.

    Also, since the same chips that handle WiFi can also do Bluetooth. Amazon needs to add a Bluetooth keyboard driver to the next Kindle. That’d make typing book notes a dream and a wise use of cursor and function keys would let users escape from the misery of all those modal menus. Imagine being able to cursor in a flash to a word and hit the space bar once to look it up in the dictionary.

    2. APPS. The Kindle doesn’t need tens of thousands of apps, most of them useless, silly or repetitive like those on the iPad. It just needs apps other than word and number games. The excitement that greeted that first primitive note-taking Kindle app shows there’s a market for get-things-done apps on Kindles. And Amazon needs to make synching those apps with our computers easy via WiFi for everyone and perhaps via cellular for Prime members. Why not allow family members using the same or linked Amazon accounts to message one another? That’d encourage multi-Kindle households and make more people carry their Kindles with them, meaning that they read more Kindle books on the go.

    I was initially a Kindle skeptic. The first generation was too pricey and too clumsy. I only got my Kindle 1 because it came used for $20. But I’ve been impressed with how fast Amazon’s Cupertino Kindle team has improved it and the entire ebook experience. If that pace keeps up, the Kindle isn’t going to fade away in a year or two as all too many pundits seem to be claiming.

  16. The reason Amazon has never done this is simple – there is no translucent e-ink screen available. There might be in the future, but not with the current tech, it would have to be something new. I also suspect that a translucent e-ink might well turn out to washout in bright light more than the current opaque ones.

    So why did Apple file this patent (over a year ago)? So that if one does become available, they can stop anybody else from using it (without paying a fee to Apple)

    If it did become available, I don’t think it would be used to make “a better e-reader”. It would be to make a tablet optionally more reader like. If you happen to be using it for something were rapid updates and colour were not important, then you could switch to the e-ink mode to get the crisper look and longer battery life.

  17. E – the Kindle app is not a separate device. I’ve read and received numerous complaints from fellow writers, reviewers and readers that while the Kindle is preferred, it is not efficient to carry 2 devices about. Even Walt Mossberg wrote that while out and about he reads on his iPhone, simply because 2 devices, for him, was inconvenient. Marketing wars have been launched, waged and lost over the “little” idea of convenience.

    Kindle could indeed make itself the best single purpose device of all time, as a poster above pointed out. They simply need to do it before someone else does.

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