This morning I noticed (via The Digital Reader) that Amazon was going to be hosting a question-and-answer session on the Kindle User Forum today and tomorrow, to allow customers to “provide valuable insight into how we can make our interactions with Kindle customers more meaningful.” The thread is active and has been going for a while, and it turns out that the question-and-answer session is strictly one-way—and the questions are generally geared toward marketing fluff.
So far, the Amazon Kindle representative, Kate C., has been interested in how and why people like to use the Kindle, what they like about Kindle books, how many books are in customers’ libraries, and where people find new books. Kate deflected any questions sent in Amazon’s direction, including asking about potential new features such as all-bold text and better text-to-speech capabilities, with a terse redirection to email.
We appreciate your interest in new Kindle features. For specific feature requests, please reach out at email@example.com. As a reminder, the goal of our discussion today is to learn how to make your experience more meaningful.
Some participants suggested that these softball questions might have been simply warm-up material and that they might get to some deeper discussion later on, but I’m not so sure. This seems like more marketing fluff and fishing for user testimonial quotes than any meaningful two-way discussion. But then, it’s not as if we should really have expected anything different from Amazon, who has a track record of being uncommunicative with the general public.
I don’t think Kate C. deflected questions so much as she just ignored them. I’m disaappointed. I had hoped for some real discussion but it’s just, as you say, fluff.
> As a reminder, the goal of our discussion today is to learn how to make your experience more meaningful.
“How do we make your experience more meaningful?”
“Well, one way would be to add an ‘all-bold’ option”
@Steve: Thank you. My own efforts continue to get an all-bold option. Expect more on this in TeleRead in the future. Meanwhile thanks to Chris for nicely summing up what happened or didn’t happen.
The question shouldn’t be ‘why no all-bold’, the question *should* be ‘why does (just about) every e-reader — or android/ios app — NOT named Kindle allow users to customize ALL the typography features of the book?
For these Kindle alternatives, you can add fonts, change the right-margin characteristics, adjust gamma (boldness), have a (virtually) unlimited font sizes, margin spacing and paragraph spacing. These alternatives know that users have different needs and preferences and don’t presume to tell users how they should read the book.
So why does Amazon NOT have this respect and concern for *their* users? Why doesn’t Amazon care about us?
I wonder if your constant effort to try talking them into a bold option might not have the opposite of the desired effect. Sometimes when you make people feel pressured their resistance increases.
@Barry: But it’s not just Steve or me—you saw the results of the useful poll you can conducted (continued thanks for that!). Amazon needs to stop acting like an immature adolescent, do the adult thing, and respond to customers’ wishes. Why is Amazon, normally customercentric, so stubborn? We’re not talking about a vast expanse or about inconvenience for people who wouldn’t be interested in the option. Not to have it is downright cruel, given the benefits for those needing it. As someone who prefers lighter devices, how would you feel if Amazon refused to make an ereader weighing less than 2 pounds?
I didn’t mean to imply that it’s only you who wants it. That’s obviously not the case. But you’re pushing hard for it every chance you get and people know you so you stand out. I’m suggesting that you’ve done what you can do and anymore shouting will just build resistance.
I wouldn’t like a 2 pound ereader, admitedly. But I’d just read on a phone in that case. There’s always another solution.
Actually there is in your case as well. Kobo gives you the feature you want. It’s a decent device. I have one and use it. I buy books from Amazon and convert them so I can read them on any device I like. I prefer my Voyage but I use all of them.
In fact you can do it on the Kindle. Convert your book to AZW3 with Calibre and give it a darker font and select publisher font in the Kindle. i tried that a few weeks ago because of some group discussion, maybe here, I’m not sure. Anyway it’s trivial to do and works like a charm. Offhand I’d say the entire conversion process took about 30 seconds. Maybe a minute. There was nothing to it. And converting several books at once is almost as fast as doing one.
Granted you shouldn’t have to if we lived in a more perfect world. Anybody got a map to a more perfect world? 🙂
By the way, I think the imperfection here isn’t the lack of a bold font but the fact that Amazon supplies our ereaders. They have no serious incentive to push it so that it’s the very best it can be for everyone. It’s in their best interest to keep it simple and cheap. What would fix this problem and most ereader problems is if booksellers and publishers got out of the device business and let some competition happen. That way all the hardware manufacturers would be pumping every last bit of goodness into their ereader like they do today with phones. Has anyone found that map yet?
@Barry: Alas, your workarounds are not optimal for many and perhaps most readers, especially people with disabilities and those on the wrong side of the digital divide. Furthermore, under US law, it is illegal to circumvent DRM. If the market can’t solve the problem that Amazon’s dominance of the hardware market has created, then we need legal or legislative remedies.
@Michael: Interesting idea, but I don’t think there’s enough cooperation between sites for this to happen.
@berryem. Most people don’t know how to strip drm, embed a font and regenerate an ebook. Nor should they have to in order to make a font darker/heavier, a feature which available on Kobo’s and in several Android ereader apps (alreader, Coolreader) out-of-the-box. I imagine the process you described (in rather simplified terms) must be even harder to do if you have poor vision, for which bold would be very handy.
Teleread might want to lauch a poll of new features that users would like see added to Kindles. One person pushing might not mean as much to them as 1,000 people voting.
You might get other Kindle websites to send people there to increase the number voting.
I reckon Jeff Bozo has got it in his head that the Kindle should not and does not require Bold, so he won’t implement it. It’s stubborn, wrong egoism. You can’t “reach” him because he is always right (i.e. mad).
@Barry. Sorry but I disagree. Amazon are ignoring the calls for Bold, and if people stop asking, it will make it easier for Amazon to ignore. Backing off will not help. It’s not like with your partner where you have to be sneaky. And I think the refusal and denial comes from on-high, probably right to the top. It’s an aesthetic choice, a question of principle, and its fooked up.
First, I’m not saying people should stop asking for what they want from Amazon. Of course you should. My suggestion was that David Rothman, who I’m sure they recognize, has been asking for it at every opportunity, such as yesterdays fluff fest, and that he might be building resistance. If a lot of people ask for a feature that’s a very different thing.
I also agree that people shouldn’t have to use Calibre to accomplish that bolding. But until Amazon does that’s available. Yes it’s illegal to remove DRM but it’s not enforced and Amazon doesn’t care. I commonly buy books from Amazon, remove the DRM and send it to my Kindle via Amazon’s email transfer. I got concerned that I would get in trouble with Amazon so I called and told Kindle support what I was doing and asked if they saw that as a problem. The guy asked around and called me back the next day saying no-one there saw it as a problem including his supervisor and a number of those there did the same thing. He told me not to wory about it. I suspect he verified that I did buy the books from Amazon although he didn’t mention that.
Yes some people don’t know how to do it but I’ve given a description in a number of forums similar to what I gave here and that was always followed by a few people saying they tried it and found it easy.
I don’t think it would be any more difficult for someone with impaired vision. It’s a very simple process.
I agree with you guys that Amazon should make that change in the Kindles but they don’t and people living in the real world can find work arounds. No point sufferent with faint fonts while you’re clammoring for boldness from the Kindle. 🙂
@Barry: The anti-circumvention ban is a farce, but it still is the law. People shouldn’t have to break it to be able to read their books. Furthermore, the technical barriers are more formidable then you’re assuming. What about individuals who don’t even own PCs? Low-income people may enjoy access only to cell phones. And I doubt the public libraries will be that eager to see patrons at any income level use library computers to crack DRM.
As for Jeff and friends recognizing me, who knows? He had better get used to my speaking up, whether on TeleRead or in occasional emails to Jeff@Amazon.com. The thing is, TeleRead’s boldface campaign is actually rather Amazon-friendly. If he listens to me, he’ll sell more Kindles. Which should come first – pride or profits for shareholders? Yes, like Quentin, I believe the problem could be at the top, just as it was in the case of the Fire Phone.
I think what nobody here gets is that I don’t disagree. I’m only wondering if your method is effective. I hope it is and I hope you accomplish your goal.
As for the Calibre work-around, it’s not perfect and it does need a PC but it really is that simple once the software is installed. And there are lots of step by step instructions easily found by google to get it set up.
By the way, if you do get them to include an option to make the fonts a little bolder I’ll probably use it. I’m okay with them as they are but I’d like them a bit bolder.
There is a lot Amazon could do with its Kindle. While the all bold option probably isn’t something I would use, I agree it would be nice for those who want it.
There are common formatting gaffs which I think are worse. Forced ragged right makes the text look unprofessional, IMHO, but others think it’s great. And I’m seeing more and more with forced ragged right.
Other books have an extra indent on the left which is just out right wrong. This has to be a mistake, but there it is.
So why isn’t Amazon fixing these issues? My guess is that the priority is low for theses kinds of changes.
Instead of campaigning just for all bold, maybe it would be better to push for giving users total control of the text formatting so everybody can have what they want.
@Greg: I emphatically agree we should care about much more than all-text bold! But the need for this particular tweak is so, so clear, and Amazon could implement it with a very simple firmware change. The ideal solution would be a Kobo-level choice of typographical options. We all need to keep speaking out, not only here but also on Amazon forums and to firstname.lastname@example.org, so Bezos can’t keep ignoring this issue. As Quentin has speculated, the problem is very likely coming from the top. Just writing the usual Amazon flunkies probably won’t do the trick. No, I’m not calling for a note everyday to Jeff: mercy, please. But if different people can write him occasionally and make the point that Amazon’s stubbornness is hurting Kindle sales—which we want to grow, so new versions of the devices come out!—that won’t hurt. Yes, do mention typographical issues besides bold, without omitting it.
@Barry: I know you yourself would like Kindle customers to have all-text bold as an option, and I remain very very grateful for the poll you put up elsewhere. Furthermore, I appreciate your presence in our comments area. Stick around, whether or not we agree! (I feel the same about Mike Perry and others.) TeleRead needs a variety of viewpoints from smart and well-meaning people. That said, without the least disrespect toward you or other TeleRead community members who think I’ve been too outspoken too often, I may do a post called The Amazon Stockholm Syndrome. Hold off on comment (while remembering that good people can disagree on specific topics). Big thanks!