Friday, October 25, 2019

The Kindle Is Fine

Dan Frommer:

Amazon’s approach to the Kindle product remains befuddling. Talk about entering a market, quickly achieving dominance, and then coasting with feet up for more than a decade — random, bizarre updates and bracingly mediocre software.

Jason Snell:

But over the years I’ve accumulated all of these other reading items that are simply not available on the Kindle, like newsletters and subscription-only websites (newspapers and others) with their own custom iOS reader apps. First thing in the morning I am reading on my iPad, using those apps to get up to date on the stuff I’m interested in.

The Kindle, meanwhile, is the land that that app revolution forgot. If I want to read a newspaper on the Kindle, I can—but there’s only a daily delivery of static newspaper text, so if something happens after the issue is delivered, I will have to wait a day to see it. I can channel newsletters to my Kindle, but only if I use an email gateway or a third-party forwarding service, and the experience is poor to say the least. I can send articles from webpages to Instapaper and get them on my Kindle, but the reading experience is not particularly great. And as for personalized websites like The Athletic? Forget it.


Even support for library borrowing is hidden, because Amazon really wants you to buy books.

I still like the Kindle, but it feels like it’s still far from reaching its potential. And it’s shocking when you compare the progress Apple’s made with iPhone in the same amount of time.

8 Comments RSS · Twitter

Frommer writes that the Kindle is "boring and has no soul." One wonders what he thinks about books.

The comparison between an E Ink reader and a smartphone are not really apples to apples. The processor and related technology in the Kindle lag quite a bit compared to pretty much any modern phone. While I do believe Amazon could be doing far more with the product, the devices are fundamentally different. Frankly, I am not a huge fan of the iPhone progress. I still feel like iOS is struggling against artificial shackles imposed by Apple marketing. It was not until iOS 13 you could sort of, kind of, choose your own preferred default apps, right? Similarly, witness the Hong Kong situation when it comes to why App Store only installation is a problem. No removable storage chafes me too. Sometimes I really do want to add 64GB+ of additional storage. For instance, my tablet has a 128GB card just to store games. I have to overbuy on iOS or simply not have the storage space. A consumer hostile, greedy design.

Back on topic, I am not a huge fan of the Kindle either. Using an oddball file format (yeah, yeah, yeah, defacto monopoly), is hard to sideload content, and yes, the platform really should become a hub for reading from many sources. Amazon should up the storage in the Kindle, or at least make sure there is microSD support and then make a mini app store (yeah, I know, another app store) or an API for adding content from other sources than the Amazon book store.

Honestly, I think Barnes and Noble should have done all this since the Nook line runs Android under the hood anyway!!!! I think the Kindle has an oddball Linux based OS. Which should be fine, after all, the Roku uses a Linux base to build their content store from, but Amazon has their own vision and I think a lot of people just want all their "books" in one place to read. I have many older customers who enjoy the Kindle as is. However, the Nook had nothing to lose, has been losing ground to the Kindle for years and I truly do not understand why they have not been more aggressive in embracing the "reading hub" role instead of simply following the Kindle playbook.

To reiterate, yes, Kindle has problems, but the comparison to iPhones is misleading given a basic eBook reader has different design goals, such as readable in direct light to reduce eye fatigue and battery life to be measured in weeks instead of a day or two.

@Nathan Yeah, only kinda. You can’t actually tap a link to have it open in a non-default app.

I think most of Kindle’s issues are software, not hardware. And not necessarily software on the device. The services that go along with it could do much better at helping you get content.

Amazon owns the ebook space. They have literally no reason to innovate because they have no effective competition. It makes me scratch my head when people are surprised that a product that’s dominating a market stagnates. There are surely exceptions, but generally that’s what market dominance leads to. One of these days someone will figure out how to eat Kindle’s lunch, and maybe they’ll try innovating at that point (probably too little too late, though).

I do love my Kindle, though. It’s a crying shame e-ink keeps getting stuck with products that fail to advance the tech in any meaningful way because it’s a delightful way to read.

Instead of picking up the latest Kindle, I bought an Android tablet with an e-ink screen. Two disadvantages: no hardware buttons for flipping pages (volume buttons are incredibly convenient on phones, but a tablet really requires dedicated buttons), and battery life isn't as good as the Kindle's (although it is more than good enough). I love everything else about this, including the fact that it comes with a pen and digitizer.

Please share the tablet, I would love to take a gander. Thanks!

True, Amazon could push the software more. 1000% agree!!!!

>Please share the tablet, I would love to take a gander. Thanks!

This one:

Hardware design is really nice, comes with a pen that is super responsive, and a paper-like coating on the screen which feels super good. You can switch between three e-ink modes: normal "Kindle" mode where the part of the screen that is redrawn is blanked, responsive mode where only individual pixels are refreshed (it's fast enough for watching YouTube videos at a somewhat acceptable framerate), and black-and-white mode, which is faster than normal mode, but monochrome. It comes with the regular Google Play store preinstalled.

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