Should Amazon come out with a 7.8-inch ereader like Kobo’s Aura One? And what else is on your wish list? Those Kindle discounts vanished, but whether or not they portend new models, we can dream, can’t we?
Here’s my own list. I won’t mention specific models, since it’s hard to say what Amazon is up to. For example, we don’t know if there will be a Voyage 2.
- An all-text boldface option, of course. Improved contrast in E Ink would be great, but even then, I’ll want the bold option.
- More typographical choices, in general. Why does Amazon keep lagging Kobo so badly in this respect? Is it because Jeff Bezos and friends dominate the e-book market in the United States and are just too damn smug? Probably. Or maybe we’re just seeing corporate control freakdom in action. Why must we beg for the basics? More gruel, please. If nothing else, Bezos needs to remember that Amazon is a global company, not just a U.S. one, and that Kobo is the main show in some markets outside the States.
- Backlighting allowing you to change the color for minimal interference with your sleep—a feature I’m enjoying in the Kobo. I’m also finding that the pinkish color can reduce my eyestrain at times. Maybe I just enjoy the additional variety.
- Page-changing buttons. Bring them back in a major way on all readers, not just the upper-end ones. Some people would consider lack of buttons to be a feature. I don’t. That’s especially true if you use just one hand to hold your reader.
- First-rate text to speech—ideally with built-in speakers. If nothing else, give us Bluetooth-enabled text to speech that will be useful to both sighted and blind people.
- Audiobook capabilities.
- Devices so rugged that you can drop them on a hard floor without breakage. I could be wishing the impossible for E Ink machines, but I’ll still keep hoping. I’d actually consider this feature to be even more useful than waterproofing.
- Memory card slots.
- A reduction in the price of the now-$290 Oasis or its successor. Or how about the price of the Voyage? By the way, though you may disagree, I see the Voyage and the Oasis as two different kinds of machines, based on the battery arrangements and physical configurations.
- Last but far from least, ePub 3 support. This is an addition to the original post—it should have been there in the first place. Thanks to @RonMartinez for the reminder. Mike Perry had another good suggestion—truly helpful Bluetooth capabilities; see his comments below.
Good ideas, missing only the need to work with Bluetooth keyboards (for note-taking) and mice (for page turning). Allowing page turns with a BT mouse would give Kindle users buttons at almost no cost to Amazon. It’s also be great for those with mobility issues.
One key factor in this market is competition. Amazon doesn’t feel it has any real competition in the epaper reader market. The same in true with ebooks in general. Amazon doesn’t see any other ebook retailer, including Apple, as real competition, so it doesn’t see any need adopt industry standards or pay authors market rates.
Apple needs to port its iBooks app to Windows and Android if it wants to win any respect. Making iBookstore ebooks only display on Apple devices is as stupid as building Ford cars that will only run on a peculiar variety of Ford gasoline. Both schemes turn off potential customers. Apple carries its “walled garden” idea to ridiculous extremes.
Interestingly, I’m now in the process of releasing my latest book, Embarrass Less: A Practical Guide for Doctors, Nurses, Students and Hospitals. Yesterday, I uploaded the files for the POD version to Amazon’s CreateSpace and Ingram’s Lightning Source, and I was struck by how well-designed and author-friendly both processes have become. There, rather than pay less, as Amazon does with Kindle authors, the printing costs for CreativeSpace are less, so my income per sale is higher. And while for years I’ve been paying a discounted rate for POD uploads to Lightning ($50 per title), uploads are now free (like CreativeSpace). Now if Ingram would only eliminate the ridiculous, left-over-from-IBM-mainframes $12/year fee to keep a book in the Ingram database. No one else does that.
The only remaining hitch with uploads is CreativeSpace’s gosh-awful cover templates. Lightning Source provides me with an well-designed InDesign template that makes creating a cover easy. CreateSpace supplies a mere PNG file as a backdrop to place cover items over. It’s so badly done, when I requested one for my 164-page book, I got one for 170 pages. I went round and round with an CreateSpace executive about that about five years ago and got nowhere.
Much of my cover design is now driven by the need to create one that won’t look awful when printed by CreateSpace. I suspect Amazon’s indifference is due to the fact that the typical independent author doesn’t seem to set high standards for their cover. (Lightning’s clients are commercial publishers and they do care.) Competition only works with the customer/client makes demands. Epaper Kindles don’t do text-to-speech anymore because most Kindle customers don’t insist on that.
My kudge with CreativeSpace is to design the cover with the Lightning template, specifing creme paper, and then send that same cover to CreateSpace, specifying white paper. The spine thickness, which drives the cover size, is only 0.01″ different for this latest book. That doesn’t solve all the other woes with CreateSpace covers (bad print alignment), but it means I go through fewer hassles creating them. You can see the marvelous Lightning Source template here. The CreateSpace alternative is far cruder.
I release books through both POD companies because 99.9% of the labor of creating a book lies in the writing, editing and layout. The tiny amount of trouble to release it to CreateSpace, for Amazon customers, and Lightning Source, for most bookstores, is almost nothing. Ingram also has agreements around the world for distribution and, in some cases, printing. Being able to have a POD book print in Australia and the UK is a major plus in those parts of the world. I just wish they’d add Hong Kong (for China) and Bangalore (for India).
Today, I must deal with any hitches with those POD uploads and do ebook file uploads to Kindle, the iBookstore, and Smashwords. All are different, all are clumsy, and all are fraught with woes because none of the three really see themselves as competing with the others. Kindle uses their own proprietary format. Rather than use a sensible, web-based upload scheme like everyone else, Apple requires a Mac-only app that has a reputation for being buggy. And Smashwords thinks every author should be sending in files done in Word for Windows. They only grudging accept ePubs.
And I won’t go into the horrors of dealing with Bowker and ISBNs. I own a 1,000 ISBNs, bought before the company reorganized itself as a robber baron with monopoly rates. The database UI for entering book data was so horrid a few years, I quit entering my new books as a protest. For example, entering the age range for books was literally a long scrolling list that started with “2 Months.” Does Bowker really think the book market is dominated by books for two-month olds? No, they just don’t care that publishers have to scroll down and down and down to get to a legitimate age. My time matters not.
Bowker is an excellent illustration of what a market is like when it is a monopoly. Bowker doesn’t have to try because, if you dislike their service or prices, where else can you go if you live in the U.S.? They have no competition. Compared to them, the rest of publishing is a dream.
Today—or tomorrow if I procrastinate—I’ll need to deal with the Bowker. I’ve been boycotting them so long. I must have half-a-dozen books that aren’t listed there and all with multiple ISBN assignments for print and various digital formats. I’ll see if Bowker has finally come up with a way to enter the book data once and merely specify the ISBNs for each format. And respectable company would have done that years ago.
The cynic in me says they haven’t, that Bowker expects me to enter data like the age range for books separately for each of about five formats and for every market around the world. Does Bowker really think that a YA novel like my Lily’s Ride is suitable for 10-year-olds in print but not for those under 12 on a Kindle? Does it think that the age range for a book published in Australia is different from that in New Zealand? That’s what the world’s worse database UI they had a few years back had. I’ll see if that’s changed.
At least, with those 1,000 ISBNs I bought, I’m not having to give them any more money. The $600 I paid back then wouldn’t even buy five ISBNs purchased separately today. I pity today’s authors forced to pay those robbery prices. Equally foul, large publishers who buy in bulk get huge discounts. And they probably use ONIX or some other scheme to avoid that horrid UI.
Note that the author of that aricle is a Bowker product manager.
–Mike Perry, Inkling Books
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@Mike: Good stuff. Your BlueTooth suggestions are excellent.
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You pretty much nailed them all, except perhaps being able to download our own system-wide fonts. For example, Google’s NOTA fonts are nice enough, but you can’t afford the space to embed them in every book you copy to your reader.
Expandable storage is a must for me.
The whole point of ebooks is that I’m no longer limited to what I can carry with me, and I don’t need to worry about whether a particular book is on my ereader or not. There is no ereader on the market that has enough internal storage to hold my library, so expandable storage is a dealbreaker.
Expandable storage is a must for me.
The whole point of ebooks is that they don’t take up space and you aren’t limited to what you can carry. I’m not going to manage multiple collections of books, that’s just a waste of time and energy. No ereader on the market has enough storage for to hold my library, so a micro SD card slot is a deal-breaker feature.
I’d love a tiny Kindle like the old Kobo Mini.
There’s actually only one thing I want: the ability to sort/show books by reading progress. I don’t always finish books because I get distracted or I’m in the mood for another genre, and that means that those books can end up several pages back in my listings. It would be nice to just be able to show those, so I can pick up where I left and finally finish them, or mark them as not worth finishing.
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Concur on all the suggestions above–especially buttons for page turns over swiping (one reason I’m still using my old Kindle while my paperwhite gathers dust), and I’d never even thought of a blue tooth keyboard, but that would be a really great addition.
Three other ideas that would get me to finally upgrade from my 2nd Gen Kindle Keyboard:
1. A one-touch interface for bookmarking–just a slider button (so you don’t hit it by mistake) to drop a bookmark in place without having to stop reading or go through a menu. It should be as easy as putting a physical bookmark into a physical book!!!!!
2. A software upgrade that uses the cover of the book currently being read as the screensaver. I miss having the book beckon to me when I’m NOT reading it. I know this sounds weird, but I feel like having the cover art (even B/w art), title, and author name staring at me from the coffee table was sort of a part of my relationship with the book. And honestly, sometimes I forget the title or author of whatever I’m reading (there are no running headers in kindle books) and that kind of bothers me.
3. Better proofreading. Many kindle books are riddled with proofing errors, which probably got caught in the final round of corrections in the printed book. I don’t know if this is a publishers’ issue or an Amazon issue, but it’s distracting and irritating and, in a digital product, it should be totally fixable.