Don’t you love the euphemisms and excuses about Amazon’s aging ebook infrastructure?
One of the favorite adjectives is “mature.” Smug people often trot it out to justify the shortage of new wrinkles in Kindle devices and the rest.
The M word can pop up amid ebooks-are-dead studies and claims that people are only buying print these days. No more room for exciting innovation in digital realm, right?
Nonsense! I’ve spent the last week binge-reading Kindle books on three different versions of the software (iOS, Android and Windows). And more than ever, I know the M word won’t fit—not when the current Kindle ecosystem needs:
1) Harmonization of features. No cloud collections or personal document access on the Windows version? Why in the world not, Bezos? Pick the software with the best feature set, and replicate it as exactly as possible across the whole ecosystem. There is no reason not to.
2) Greater look-and-feel customization. When I exit a book via the ‘library’ button on Android, it takes me back to the carousel menu. No! I would like to always return to the ‘on my device’ screen with the bookshelf of books. I can’t find any setting that lets me choose this.
3) Better organization features. I’d love to be able to drag and drop books into collections while I’m at a computer. Of course, I can’t do that because the Windows software won’t let me access my collections, but, hey, a lowly customer can dream…
4) The ability to use tags and rules to sort books. How about a system where every new book I purchase automatically gets added to the ‘Unread Books’ collection? Or how about dispensing with collections altogether and being able to browse my books using tags?
5) An integrated reminder system. This would be so cool. What if I could ask Amazon to send me a reminder whenever the next book in a series is out? Or how about being able to set reminders within a book? For instance, I have a pregnancy book with a new chapter every month. What if I could ask the book to send me a reminder when it’s time to read the next one?
6) Reading goals. I love the little countdown timers for time left per chapter and time left per book. But what if I could set a per-reading-session goal and get a time left indicator for that? Hi, Kindle. Today I want to read three chapters…
7) An in-ecosystem incentive system. And what if I could earn points for achieving some of these goals? And use those points to get coupon codes or participate in Amazon promotions of some kind? Surely Amazon benefits by having me read more books. Why wouldn’t they want to encourage this?
Off the top of my head, those are a few things I’d like (and by all means share your own wishlist in the TeleRead comments area!).
So, Amazon, what do you think? Is the market really as ‘mature’ as people say it is, or is there yet room for improvement?
Image credit: Here.
I almost never pass up a chance to critique Amazon, so here goes:
For authors and publishers:
1. Short term: Support Kindle export from InDesign as with ID 5.5.
2. Long term: Dump .mobi and KF8 for epub and work to make going with epub worth the trouble.
For Kindle epaper readers:
1. Add support for Bluetooth keyboards for note taking.
2. Add support for Bluetooth mice for page turning, particularly for those with mobility issues.
3. Add an FM radio for listening while reading.
Last time I checked, the chip used for WiFi can also handle those features, so the hardware cost would be virtually zero.
The ability to override default formatting. It seems like more and more Ebooks have default ragged right margins. IMHO, this make the text look unrefined – like email or the internet – and makes me less inclined to read. It would be be easy for Amazon to have a toggle for margin style.
The same goes for extra wide left indents on text. There is no reason to have extra blink space to the left of the text.
Somebody here will probably want the all bold option too.
Raising my hand for the option to do all bold, or a slider to make text bolder as exists on the Kobo. Also a much wider range of text sizes; the jumps between sizes are in some cases too extreme.
I completely disagree about the justified text thing, and that’s exactly why Bezos needs to provide the choice.
Why confine this to Amazon? Because they are the biggest seller of eBooks, do we think that as Amazon goes so goes the whole eBook market? Maybe so but …
The real problem of readers not having what they’d like to have is rooted in DRM, siloing, the abolition of ownership and the death of eReader competition these factors have engendered. We could also point to the timidity of authors who, by not being a part of the solution, have become a key part of the problem.
DRM shouldn’t be an impediment to anyone.
The purpose of an ereader, as I see it, is for reading. Everything else is peripheral and barely matters. The lack of a few features, even very nice and desirable features, doesn’t mean the platform is mature or not. Everyone wants features to suit their taste, including me, but Amazon is obviously trying to keep things simple and minimize features. This is a business decision and has nothing to do with maturity. I suspect it’s also part of the reason for their success.
As for platforms being consistent I doubt Amazon sees that as particularly important since most people will read on one device. Consistency might be nice for it’s own sake but I suspect most of the audience really doesn’t know or care.
I think the problems with ereaders stem from the fact that they’re made almost exclusively by book sellers. What I’d like to see are ereaders coming from Sony and Lenovo and Dell and a hundred other companies, all designed to read whatever might be the universal book format all the sellers use, and all competing by offering us all the features we really want. Until that happens we’ll only see the incremental improvements we’ve seen so far. And when you look at that it’s really not so bad. Ereaders really are spectactularly nice devices.
For me, it would be ePub support and a microSD card slot. I don’t have a Kindle because they don’t have enough memory for me to keep all my Kindle books on one, let alone all of my ebooks purchased from the ePub retailers and free sites like Project Gutenberg. After that, support for collections with all of my sideloaded content.
I recently posted an eBook on KDP that everywhere else shows as a right-justified margin–but in the Kindle version, parts show as justified and parts do not. Yet the ePub version (example: iBooks) shows correctly throughout. I haven’t been able to get an answer about this and other anomalies on the sales page, too.