Kindle ReDesign

While the technology is amazing and the concept of an e-Book reader is great the actual design of the Kindle and it’s second version is still pretty bad.

The core scenario is reading content and the design doesn’t reflect this. The design has too many bells and whistles and not enough elegance to be a truly great device.

  • A keyboard has no business being in a book. It clutters the hardware and it takes away space from your content.  It’s about consuming content not creating it.
  • The device needs to be touchable.  If you’re going to offer any type of interaction with the pages and content you need to be able to touch the screen to turn the page and tap menus.
  • The design should be more anthropomorphic (human-like) both in look and interaction. It needs to feel less mechanical and more natural.
  • It needs to properly render the design intentions of the typographers and publishers that created physical books. Things like hyphenation aren’t just pretty, they help readability. The book content comes first.
  • Black and grey, really?  This is an example of a compromise in the design.  The readability, functionality and user experience suffers because someone decided that it needed to use e-ink. This technology is cool but it’s performance and color contrast is still not as good overall as a color screen. Yes you can use it outside but a design that sucks inside still sucks outside.  Plus you can’t read it at night without a secondary light.

My proposed design:

  • Three buttons, on/off, next page, previous page. Everything else is touch screen (including a touch keyboard when needed)
  • Color screen design allows for better web and book reading
  • Screen takes up 80%
  • Typography and graphics are rendered as the author intended
  • No menu/wifi/battery indicator. It’s a book. Tap the screen to see menu/status info/options.

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66 thoughts on “Kindle ReDesign”

  1. The Kindle is low contrast so it is easier on your eyes while reading. Anything too bright strains your eyes.

    I agree with your idea of making the screen 80%. A larger page area would be nice.

    The touch screen is a good idea. The reason for the keyboard isn’t for creating content, but it is for searching for content if you’d like to find something new to download to your Kindle.

    I have a Kindle v1 and love it! It is not perfect but it feeds the immediacy of being able to find something great to read wherever and whenever. It also reduces the clutter around my house which I appreciate.

    I argue with you that it is not a great device. I am positive if you bought one you would be a convert!

  2. I’ve played with one for several hours and it hasn’t clicked. I never got the ‘desire’ to own one. Compare that with the iPhone where 10 minutes playing with it and I knew I needed to have it.

    Many people work in-front of a PC for 8 hours a day and the brightness is just fine with my eyes. It’s not quite paper but neither is Kindle.

    Also check out this app: http://www.classicsapp.com/
    This is what the Kindle could be only in a larger form factor and with all the content that Amazon has.

  3. Anthropomorphic actually means human shaped. I think I understand what you mean by it though. More adapted to our needs?

    But I really don’t need a little doll with a novel on his chest.

  4. Stickler – In my design I placed the left right pads in a position to resemble eyes. It’s very subtle but just like the headlights in a car it can suggests a more human quality in a design.

  5. Agree 100% — I was having exactly the same thoughts as you’ve highlighted.

    The keyboard on it is the most ridiculous thing. How much time are you going to spend typing compared to how much time you’ll spend reading? Less than 1% probably?. Alright.. they couldn’t get a good touch screen done, but they should have at least made the keyboard slide in.

  6. Have you ever used Kindle 1? The screen is amazingly easy for doing that thing you stress – READING. The color you suggest just isn’t needed – we’re not reading comics or children’s books.

    The keyboard is USEFUL. I use mine every day. With Kindle’s wireless, I can use the web, hit email, etc.

    Not only that, it allows me to search within books, and add notes.

    “The readability, functionality and user experience suffers because someone decided that it needed to use e-ink”

    You could not be more wrong. The e-ink makes readability FABULOUS. I read mine several hours a day. I’ve had PDAs, handheld devices apleenty before – always got eye fatigue. Not with this.

    I’m sick of reading critiques/reviews from people who haven’t TRIED it.

  7. I agree with Lisa. You’ve obviously never used one if you’re complaining about the screen.

  8. Gotta third (or fourth) the color-haters. Less than one percent of my books have color; save the comics page, neither does the newspaper. Utterly irrelevant.

    While I agree that the labels are very annoying, I think the placement of the page-turning buttons are vastly better on the “real” Kindle vs your design. The “side” button lends itself to natural “brushes” against the edge of the machine, a motion and sensation that is in its own way as pleasurable as actual page turning. Placing the buttons down below the screen is just gawky and awkward.

    Otherwise an excellent assessment and effort.

  9. Color? Did you not realize that there isn’t really a color e-ink screen out there yet? Did you also not realize that the kindle’s long battery life is a direct consequence of the screen being based on e-ink technology?

    This one change alone would completely ruin the kindle. When a cost-effective color e-ink screen (or something else with similar benefits) is available, then it is a foregone conclusion that Amazon will put one on the kindle. Until then, there is a good reason why the screen is NOT color.

    And I have to echo the comments of other posters. e-ink is crisp, sharp and clear as day even in variable light. If you’re complaining about the contrast of e-ink, you obviously haven’t had much experience with it.

  10. Disagree almost 100%. You should use a Kindle before grading it so harshly. I’ve had mine for nearly and year and use it every day.

    “A keyboard has no business being in a book. It clutters the hardware and it takes away space from your content. It’s about consuming content not creating it.”

    The keyboard is vital to searching the contents of the book and the Amazon store. It is also necessary for taking notes. Lack of keyboard on other readers is probably a big reason for their failure. This is one of the main advantages.

    “The device needs to be touchable. If you’re going to offer any type of interaction with the pages and content you need to be able to touch the screen to turn the page and tap menus.”

    Sure this would be nice but I have never seen e-ink with a touchable interface.

    “Black and grey, really? This is an example of a compromise in the design. The readability, functionality and user experience suffers because someone decided that it needed to use e-ink. This technology is cool but it’s performance and color contrast is still not as good overall as a color screen. Yes you can use it outside but a design that sucks inside still sucks outside.”

    Design is compromise. You know what is a really great design with paper books? You don’t have to charge them. Your prototype looks nice but unless it is 2 inches thick a backlit touchscreen is going to kill the battery in no time. I guarantee as soon as Amazon can keep the battery life and add a color screen they will.

    If you think it ‘sucks’ so badly try making your own. Otherwise this is just armchair quarterbacking.

  11. And what if someone wanted to read comics or children’s books on a kindle?

    And to follow this line: “The color you suggest just isn’t needed – we’re not reading comics or children’s books” with this line: “With Kindle’s wireless, I can use the web, hit email” is simply a logical fallacy. Just because a color screen isn’t needed for most ebook (a premise I concur with) does not mean it’s not needed to service other functions the device attempts to support.

    If the kindle wants to expand into support many kinds of books and even displaying the covers their editions came with, comics, web… then it ought to as far as it can to support these things.

  12. Being able to get as close to the original page-by-page book presentation would be nice, and I actually was not aware that the Kindle didn’t already do this with its typography and hyphenation… but I disagree with everything else here. You need the small keyboard to be able to use the Kindle without a computer to browse and buy content over EVDO (which is one of the coolest things about the Kindle), and the E-ink screen is pretty much the very reason the product even exists; a normal backlit color screen is almost unusable under bright light and very hard on the eyes if you’re staring at it for hours on end, which is why reading E-books on regular laptop screens has never really caught on. E-ink feels no different to your eyes than a printed page or a newspaper. It’s a world of difference. The device in your mockup is basically the same thing as one of those digital picture frame devices.

  13. You just described the best eBook reader out right now. The iPhone. (I’m in love with Stanza.)

  14. fiction is largely black type on white paper. so why bother with color? you don’t need it unless its for kids books, magazines or recipes. and while the keyboard and the not so large screen are butt ugly and small Bezos has said (and I have to agree), “when the book experience is happening the rest of it disappears.”

    the logo problem is easy to fix. you just need some paper and an inch of tape.

  15. Addressing some comments:
    – Yes I have played with a Kindle for several hours. I nearly threw it across the room. Beyond the hardware design it has a number of interface issues.
    – The screen is ok for an e-book reader but not so good overall. Contrast is poor, can’t read in the dark. It reminds me of a 1980 LCD.
    – When I say a keyboard doesn’t belong that just means the hardware keyboard. I would rather see a touch screen keyboard. I agree you need to input text but hardware keys are the wrong approach.
    – Color opens this device up from being just a book reader into a device that can be good for reading the web.

    Thanks for reading, even if we don’t agree on the Kindle design.

  16. Already being built check out: http://www.plasticlogic.com Exactly what we have been waiting for.

  17. Color – the issue is battery life. You ignore this in your reply, but the utility of an ebook reader that’s got a dead battery is zero.

    Your experience… gee, that’s nice, but simply because a particular person doesn’t like something does not make it a poor design. People rave about the iPhone’s design… yet there are people who hate that. I guarantee you that there are people who would pick up your design and hurl it across the room too. This is, of course, why we have different vendors. Someone else may well make a tablet sized device that is more elegant than the Kindle and that appeals to different, perhaps more, people. Competition is good. But honestly, until you get a product in front of people all you have is a pretty thought experiment.

    “Being able to get as close to the original page-by-page book presentation would be nice…”
    Not possible unless you define what book size and font size you’re talking about. Quick, what’s the canonical page size that the Kindle shou;d respect – the hardcover, trade paperback or mass market version? What if an ebook reader’s screen isn’t the same size as any of those? What if someone wants to increase or decrease the size of the text (think people with poor eyesight….)?

    I agree hyphenation and typography is vital to a good reading experience… but to say that a reader has to exactly mimic the presentation of a physical artifact is silly.

  18. “…I have never seen e-ink with a touchable interface. ”

    The most recent Sony e-book has a touch-screen interface. (The PRS-700 I beleive) It comes at the price of a loss of contrast. (As others have said, design is compromise.)

  19. Greg, you’re 100% correct on the proposals for the redesign. From comments received on a similar (albeit pictureless) article I wrote, it’s obvious that the current Kindle crowd has bought so much into the prior product that they can’t or don’t want to envision something better. The whole “if you don’t like the screen, you’ve never used it” comment gets trotted out again and again by those who did buy the Kindle, but it tends to be one of several dealbreakers for the larger population that hasn’t – myself included. I absolutely love the concept, want a good eBook reader, and plan to buy one, but like most people, I don’t suffer from the neo-Luddite perspective that books are best when grey and dim, or that the whole of color photography and art should be excluded from (or rendered horribly by) such a device for some purpose. Similarly, as much as battery life is important, the many uses that a more powerful Kindle would have would certainly justify more frequent recharging – or a bigger battery. Hopefully Amazon or one of its competitors takes heed of your rendering; I’d buy one.

  20. I think you want to turn the Kindle into a tablet PC. That’s not what it’s meant for, mostly for issues of battery life.

    If there were hi-resolution color touchscreen backlit e-ink displays that could run for days on a single charge, you’d be making useful design suggestions, perhaps. But what you are really suggesting are engineering and technology changes.

    Let’s skip a step entirely and say I want an e-book reader that just projects the text right into my brain while we are it.

  21. Looks like every one of my points has been said, but here I go anyway!

    * Keyboard: I agree that it’s not a primary function, but to make it a touch screen would mean you can’t use e-ink, killing one of the best features — a very long battery charge. Turning 2 weeks of charge into 8 hours just so I can type on screen is not a good trade-off.

    * I wish you could read it in the dark, but again, the extremely long battery life is more important than this minor issue.

    * Color would be great on the web. It would also decrease battery life even when e-ink can support it. Today, it’s not supported so you’re back to 8 hours of battery life. I believe this is an unacceptable trade off.

    * Your button design is elegant, but again, it relies on a fully touch-screen design.

    * “Typography as the author intended” means you can’t resize fonts, one of the biggest improvements in the Kindle over a traditional book.

    You have some interesting ideas. It’s fun thinking through what works and doesn’t work in a design.

  22. So it would like oh… http://www.plasticlogic.com/ that?

  23. One issue with trying to reproduce the original book typography and presentation is in handling variable font sizes. The Kindle allows changing on the fly to 6 different type sizes. You also run into issues with certain fonts not translating well to the e-ink screen. Amazon compromised on the side of readability and just convert everything to one font.

    I’ll also agree with everyone else on the screen. A color LCD screen would be a disaster. The new Kindle gets 2+ weeks of battery life! Your model would pull down 8 max and probably less. Not too mention the eye strain issues and being unable to use your fancy reading gadget at the beach or in any sunny area…

    The button placement on the current kindle is far superior, the buttons need to be where your fingers naturally rest when you hold the device. I don’t want to move my hand to change the page.

  24. Something no one has mentioned as a problem with your concept design is price. I imagine a nice color touchscreen of that size with good enough resolution and quality to be primarily used for reading would be very expensive, and would probably put the device in the $600 or more range.

    I have not played with the old or new Kindle at all, but from the demonstrations I’ve seen of the new one, it seems like it does what it’s designed for very well.

  25. @ the B&W supporters. My book collection is 80% non-fiction, highly illustrated, and color illustrations by preference. So I wouldn’t even consider a device that is unable to render the vast majority of my reading. It doesn’t matter how wonderful, marvelous, low-powered, high contrast a device is that can’t display what I want to consume.

    And, looking at the market for Manga and graphic novels, what a very large percentage of the up-coming content consumers want.

    Cheers, Liam

  26. Do you also have magic powers to invent the technology for a low-power, thin, touchable color display?

    Industrial design is about understanding and working within technical limitations, not pretending they don’t exist and whining for the moon on a string.

  27. Wow, you old skool b&w zealots are pretty funny. We’d still be staring at green screens and driving horse and buggies if we listened to you folk.

    The Kindle is an early model horseless carriage – it’s important in our journey from books to ebooks – but it’s not the end yet. The screen doesn’t have sufficient resolution, and color depth is important not just to display graphs, images, branding, but also texture. Paper and type have a wonderful relationship that e-Ink screens can’t recreate.

    Just because you perceive it to be fatigue-free reading doesn’t mean it’s true. So the screen has got to get better. These things also have to get better at handling glare and low light. Type on paper has a wider tolerance range for various lighting conditions than current screens.

  28. I too once thought that the Kindle would be so much more worth it if it played video, music and had a color screen. But that’s an iPhone, and reading on an iPhone sucks (so I’ve heard). The best part of the Kindle technology is the low-contrast screen that’s easy on the eyes. If it had a high-contrast, backlit LCD screen like my laptop does I couldn’t read it for hours on end without my eyes suffering fatigue. As for not being able to read in the dark – you can’t read a book in the dark (now that’s realistic!), but you can attach a book-light to the Kindle and have at it. I’m actually pleased with the limited use-case of the Kindle. It’s NOT the kitchen sink of electronic appliances, it’s just an e-reader that is easy to get books on easy to read.

    Although it would be nice with a larger screen, I think the touch screen would be too hard for an older, less technical crowd to get comfortable with (and that’s a huge part of the Kindle’s audience).

    PS: Is it just me, or does the Plastic Logic tablet have “Phantom” written all over it???

  29. I like your design far more than the current Kindle, but you’re gonna need to show that touchscreen interface too.

    I’ll second Phelps love for Stanza on the iPhone. Great customizable app, access to free and paid books, and a nice interface. Oh and FREE.

    As for your redesign of the Kindle, why have the bottom buttons at all? Touch the right edge of the screen to page forward, the left edge to go back, and the bottom to bring up the interface for the other features (which is how Stanza works, BTW).

  30. The people knocking a color screen because of less battery life are wrong. Recharging is not a big deal. What, are you reading a book for more than 12 hours a day? Just put it on a charger by your bed when you go to sleep and it’s ready in the morning. For most people, a device with 8-12 hours of life would last them several days. Keep in mind that unlike an iPhone, an ebook tablet would not have to have wireless radios on all the time, only when connectivity was required. That would greatly improve battery life. 8-12 hours should be diable with todays tech. Remember, a larger size allows for a larger battery, too.

  31. Good book typography doesn’t use hyphenation. Since when does splitting a word in half make a text easier to read…

  32. Touching the left or right of the screen to turn the page is a lousy idea for interface, almost worse than the buttons. But the swipe gesture used by Classics on the iPhone is fantastic. (see the movie on http://www.classicsapp.com/) It is Intuitive, discoverable and hard to do by accident. And why on earth would the device need anything more than a virtual keyboard?

    Finally the key to success for an ebook reader has to be the typography. I can read small quantities of junk text in any form, but extended reading requires good typography – people didn’t spend three hundred years discovering the rules of book layout, kerning and the design of book faces because they had nothing better to do. Probably there is a whole lot more learning to do for these new devices, but the Kindle “throw the text on the screen – that will be good enough” approach doesn’t really cut it. Like someone said. Not a bad start, but this device cries out for an iphone type interface.

  33. Yeah, I’m pretty sure a color touchscreen of that size would at least double the price, and the price is already pushing it. I agree that it would be awesome, but I don’t think it’s feasible at the moment.

    Also, I’m not crazy about your button placement. It appears you’re putting the back button directly where I’d be inclined to put my thumb if holding by the lower left-hand corner. I’d hit that sucker by accident near constantly. Even in your mockup, the thumb is covering the screen a bit in order to avoid the button.

    Regardless, thanks for putting your ideas out there and getting us all thinking about it.

  34. I’d propose a hybrid screen. e-ink plus transparent OLED (as demoed by, I think, Samsung, at CES), plus touch.

    it would be much nicer if e-ink were actually black and white though. I’m not keen on the grey either.

    The design should be more anthropomorphic ? er, no. Your design may be so in your eyes (I don’t see it), but it’s completely unnecesary as a design goal.

    I’d say to improve your design, get rid of any front surface buttons (use gestures to turn pages – just a little flick of the thumb will do), get rid of any apparent junction between the display and bezel – it should look like the words are on the thing, no on a display inside the thing.

  35. @RoyalSaltMedia & @Gavin,

    You can point to Plastic Logic’s device when it actually ships. They’re not even planning to sell to customers until a year from now, and that’s assuming there aren’t delays. Until then it’s just vaporware.

  36. Greg, did you not notice that in your mockup the user’s thumb is touching both the back button — and the screen (which in your world is now a touchscreen)? You don’t see problems there?

    As others have pointed out, the feature set you want is impossible today. I really wish my car could fly, but I don’t insist that it “still sucks” because it doesn’t.

  37. I agree with the thrust of your redesign … it should be much simpler. There is all kinds of marketing committee bullshit tacked on to this ugly, ugly box.

    However, if you add a color screen then that is not only more expensive, but you’ll need 2x or 10x the battery also, and if touch were easy or cheap, everyone would be doing it … that is a major expense, if Amazon could even find the engineers and technology.

    If you are truly redesigning the Kindle, you have to keep the price point the same. Otherwise, you’re designing something else entirely. 2 years of iPhone is $2000 while 2 years of Kindle is $350, so you can’t just take features you find on an iPhone and bring them over for free.

    Ultimately, this article is a good argument for Apple to ship an iBook, and points out what an ass-kicking Apple is going to give Amazon when that happens. An iPod touch with a much larger screen could be a book or Web browser when held vertically, or an HDTV when held horizontally, and it can run apps, games, and do a large subset of things that people normally do with a PC, and will have a full-size touch keyboard also, so Apple will be able to charge $700 for it.

  38. Put the left and right buttons on the back, nice and large and under your fingers – get rid of everything else.

  39. @George: Hyphenation has been a part of creating fine, legible book pages since medieval times, and continues to be important through modern times. The second paragraph of Jan Tschischold’s memo on the typesetting of Penguin books–the first paperback series designed for legibility–reads “Wide spaces [between words] should be strictly avoided. Words may be freely broken [hyphenated] whenever necessary to avoid wide spacing, as breaking words is less harmful to the appearance of the page than too much space between words.”

    The screenshot of the Kindle 2 shows surprisingly wide, uneven wordspacing, to the point of introducing distracting “rivers” of white space through the text. This can only be avoided in justified text setting through the use of hyphenation. That Amazon’s designers missed this detail is disconcerting. If you’re going to make something that reads like a book, make sure that the important part–the words on the “page”–are up to snuff.

    That said, the ability to scale the text means that you won’t see precise replications of the book designer’s intent. Instead, hyphenation like that provided by CSS3 (where rules can be set for consecutive hyphens) is in order. You don’t know where the line breaks will be, so you simply have to specify some hints so that the line breaks will happen in the right place.

    (Greg–it’s always good to run across your name in Daring Fireball.)

  40. your rendering makes the object look prettier but it doesnt make it work any better (i hate typing on the iphone keyboard for instance) and probably adds a couple hundred to the price. the biggest improvement to the kindle would be to make it cheaper so i would actually think it was worth it to buy one. you know how many actual books you can buy for 360 bucks?

  41. Anthropomorphic actually means human shaped. I think I understand what you mean by it though. More adapted to our needs?

    Ergonomic.

  42. @perrycollective – of course the Kindle isn’t the final word. Who said it was? Some people like the screen because the feel it’s easy to read for hours. Unlike the person above whose colleciton is mostly illustrated books most books are merely words on paper which don’t need a full color screen to reproduce. It will be the desire to seamlessly read web content which often DOES have color that will drive the move that way. All in all, I’d prefer a color screen, but not if it takes battery life from weeks to hours and not if it raises the price to 2 or 3x the current price.

    Oh and to the person above who says a few hours of life is fine… no. It’s not. The nice thing about very long battery life is that you eliminate that as a barrier… you don’t think “Oh, did I charge this before I left??” you just toss it in your bag. Now, for people who mostly read at home, it’s not a huge issue… but for people who want to download a bunch of books onto a device and be able to pull it out on the bus, train, plane or their lunch hour it is.

    The Kindle’s not at all perfect, but v2 is better than v1 and it’s establishing credibility in the market for that class of device.

  43. You don’t need a physical keyboard, just an onscreen one. I bet kindle owners don’t use the keyboard the majority of the time they use the kindle – when reading.

  44. Also, I think the previous / forward buttons should be closer to the centre to avoid accidentily pressing them with your thumbs?

  45. Thanks God it is black and white! You avoid all those hard to read pages wih gray text on colour background which are so common in web today. Just black on white, as it is normal in typography for 500 years.

  46. IMHO you got it partially right – a few suggestions are dead on, a few are misses and one doesn’t go far enough.

    Let me preface by saying I use my kindle as a book replacement. 90% of what I do on it is exactly what I would have done with a paperback or occasionally a magazine. I suspect based on the flood of Kibdke buyers post Oprah, that many others are like me.

    The screen needs to be bigger and there are too many buttons. The keyboard needs to be virtual – why waste space on something that is used 10% of the time.

    A touch screen would be ideal and should be amazon’s number one priority.

    The industrial design is clunky – I accidentally hit the back I’d next page buttons way too often. Moving them in is a partial solution, if you want to maximize screen real estate and assume a touch screen, why have more than an on button. To flip your analogy, your suggestion is like adding arrows to the bottom of every page of a printed book that say forward or back.

    A color screen is a nice to have, but is secondary to clarity, battery life and eye strain relief. When technology allows an easy to read, power efficient color screen at a reasonable price, it should be included, until them its a nice wish.

    I don’t get the need to read in the dark. Yesit would make the Kindle better than a printed book. However, before we start requiring the Kindle to be more than a book replacement, it needs to first be as good as a book. Sacrificing readability so it can glow in the dark makes little sense to me.

    C

  47. Its amazing the number of people that justify why the clutter or “feature” is required in order to support something it does. Maybe the problem is it is trying to be more than it should be! Why are iPods the most popular music player when there have been many competing devices with more “features”? Its the ease-of-use and lack of features that can’t deliver what an end-user expects. Browsing the web-in greyscale is a perfect example of how the kindle fails with that.

  48. I hope to goodness that Amazon pays no attention to your redesign.

    I think it should be a requirement that a person use a Kindle for at least week before describing all of its faults.

    You notice most of the people disagreeing with you are people that actually use the device… people that have been quite vocal about its problems for the last year and absolutely don’t see the Kindle with rose-colored glasses.

    The screen is fine, the keys are fine, what we needed was better button placement and a more durable housing, both of which we seem to have gotten with Kindle 2.

  49. I have to agree with the author: (1) the B&W screen limits the device more than it helps (re battery longevity), and (2) that keyboard needs to DISAPPEAR when it is not in use. Presumably (this IS designed mainly for ‘passive reading’, correct?) that keyboard is NOT used, most of the time.

    The graphics-centric Apple instinctively gets it: Put on a bigger, brighter display than your competitors, eliminate interface ‘noise’, and people will come. There’s not much more to it, at a basic level, than that. Simple and obvious, and yet 90% of the competition remains absolutely clueless.

  50. Now that redesign would be worth $360!
    -Carrie

  51. Most of your issues with the Kindle were absent in the eBook Reader (the 3rd edition version of the SoftBook Reader), almost 10 years ago. Color screen, minimum of buttons with a screen keyboard, etc. Alas for the device, since if it still existed today, we would undoubtedly have PDF support, WiFi, multi-touch, and various other things which are commonplace today but not viable then.

    That’s my real issue with the Kindle. Other than the low-power eInk and the WiFi, why are the features no further along than a decade ago, and why is the hardware design *worse*?

    (Disclosure: I bought one of the first SoftBook Readers and then worked for the company. Note the order of those two items.)

  52. I agree with Greg all points. I bought a Kindle 1.0 when it first came out in Nov’07 and I used it a lot during my train commute. There are many problems with it besides the button layout — the key problem is the eInk screen, it’s so SLOW, which dictates most of the limitations. Putting a touchscreen on eInk was not possible until recently, so the keyboard and roller interface were necessary. Furthermore the contrast is okay but still not good enough — it’s like reading newsprint under cheap plastic.

    I’d rather that they drop the eInk screen and use a larger, higher resolution, backlit, color LCD that’s responsive to page flipping… so what if you have to charge the battery everyday. That’s an acceptable compromise over all the limitations of the eInk screen now.

    I hardly use my Kindle nowadays. I read on my iPhone, which has a much more user-friendly and responsive interface. I just can’t stand how awfully slow the Kindle is. I’m putting my Kindle up for sale.

  53. Don’t you mean you prefer a nettop to read a book? Asus is planning on bringing an Eee PC with touchscreen very soon.

  54. You raised some interesting points but I think you got it completely wrong with the button layout. One of the most useful things about the Kindle 1 is that I can hold it with one hand and be able to press the previous and next buttons with one hand.

    With the first Kindle, I can hold it with my left hand and press prev/next but when I hold it with my right hand I can only go forward. The Kindle 2 solves that problem by putting prev/next on both sides. Plus the easiest position to hold the device isn’t where the hand model’s fingers are in that picture, it’s in the center (vertically).

    This is invaluable on a crowded subway train in NY (or even if I want to lie on my side in bed and not be forced to use two hands), and a huge advantage over paper books, where I would often choose not to take a book out of my bag because of how annoying it is to turn a single page while keeping my hand on the rail.

  55. Without E-Ink, Kindle has no purpose for me. I can read E-Books on my laptop, thank you. Or I can buy a Tablet PC. The E-Ink display, with its paper-like qualities that make long-term reading reasonable, is what makes Kindle actually functional as a reading device.

    No, it’s not bright. Neither is PAPER. And Kindle is trying to function like paper. Which means it needs to work like paper: producing pigment via reflecting light, not by staring into a lightbulb.

  56. “The design has too many bells and whistles”

    I can’t understand why you complain about “bells and whistles” but want to use the device for the web.

  57. No way! The e-ink is what makes this device desirable. If you want colors and light, go read on a cell-phone. You missed the concept completely.

  58. Your design concept is, like most design concepts, not based in technical/economic reality. The resolution and size limits for an almost reasonably priced reader are currently going to look like the 40% contrast eink devices today. Invoking the need for color and fidelity to a book designers vision isn’t a novel or unique desire, but it does express an ignorance of affordable contemporary technology.

  59. Your redesign is good. I am interested in the kindle, but don’t find the interface compelling. The hypothetical design you show would be very compelling.

  60. Your concept is great and I think it could work with few modifications.

    keyboard: Get rid of it.

    The device needs to be touchable. ( Absolutely)

    The design could be simpler, as mentioned before just get rid of the keyboard,keep the rest of the keys as it is, make the screen bigger and the shutdown button looks great at the top left.

    hyphenation is important.

    Color E-Ink is already developed, it’s rather expensive but it was there 5 years ago so why is it taking so long to be commercialized.

    http://www.electronista.com/articles/08/12/08/hp.flexible.tft.displays/

    http://www.inkinmotion.com/press/releases/pr86.html

  61. The Kindle is good for kindling. No more.

  62. It doesn’t have a touch screen for a reason: The e-ink screen loses its paperlike texture with a touch screen layer. There are other ebooks that have tried touch screens and there are reviews out there of them.

  63. I won’t comment on your concept, except to gently suggest that you try using Amazon’s version before trying to propose improvements (using = reading 5,000 pages on it).

  64. My comments (I’m a Kindle 2 user and have read thousands of pages on it):

    — If it could have color with absolutely no side effect fine, but that’s not possible at this time. Think of printers: If you have a business, do you use a black and white laser printer or a color ink jet printer? Every once in a while the color would be nice, but speed, pigment cost, moisture resistance, crisp printing, etc., makes a laser the better choice. The Kindle is a single-purpose device to read (textual) books. Color would add to maybe 1 in 1,000 pages read and subtract (in contrast, added cost, etc.) from the other 999.

    — Touch screen: The e-ink does not respond fast enough for this, so the effect would be like virtual reality glasses where the computer is overtaxed and slow: frustrating. And most people don’t want fingerprints on their pages. Finally, contrast would be (slightly) compromised (it’s already a bit low with e-ink).

    — The power switch in your mock-up is there your thumb is when you’re reading on your back in bed. You’d know this if you’d ever used a Kindle. The power switch should not be somewhere where it could inadvertently be pushed.

    — Most Kindlers want more Next Page buttons, not fewer. I’d like one on the top left. At any rate, the way you read a book on the Kindle is to hold it with your thumb over the Next Page button (which pivots at the *outside edge*) and when you are close to the end of a page, slightly press and rotate your thumb to click it down, then when you are about to end the page (with about a line left), let it up (it pages on click release). So you don’t actually reach and push the button. It needs to be in the natural place where your thumb would be while holding the Kindle, so the subtle press-rotate will activate it. Again, you need to have actually used one to know this. On the Kindle, if you expect to be paging back and forth, holding it on the left side is best, since you also have a Previous Page button, and you can put your thumb over both buttons.

    — Without touch screen, the other buttons are useful and well thought out.

    — At first glance you’d think the wide bezel is not a classy design. Why not a thinner bezel like yours (or Sony’s)? Or no bezel, like the iPhone? Well, I’ll be glad to answer that: The Kindle is about as heavy as a trade paperback, but in a thin, stiff form factor. You need a good chunk of real estate to grab it securely. You don’t want to grab or touch the display. Again, actually using something before passing judgment is recommended.

    — Keyboard: I think the keyboard could be gotten rid of if some small software fixes were done (which I won’t go into). The keyboard is used mostly for looking up character names who you’ve forgotten, and also for looking up multi word words in the dictionary. You can do all this without the keyboard even now, but it takes too many clicks. But another problem would present itself if you got rid of the keyboard: When you read on your back on the bed, sofa, or at the beach the extra height given by the keyboard positions the Kindle perfectly. With an iPhone type device you’d either need to hold the device up, or put some sort of spacer (like a book?!?) on your chest. In addition to the keyboard, the volume switch and speakers could also be dumped.

  65. I don’t know why people are whining so much about the Kindle 2. This is the first digital reader I have purchased and I absolutely love it. Wants the big deal about the SD memory slot anyway???? Who wants to have to keep 2500 books that you have already read on hand at all times anyway! I like the fact that Amazon keeps my already read book in a library for me so I don’t have to worry about loosing my SD card thus loosing my E-books.
    As far as storing pictures and music; I think you people have ordered the wrong device try an I-Pod or a digital picture frame instead of a DIGITAL READER; HELLO!! You might have better luck. Good job Amazon this is a far better reader than the Sony reader my friend bought he wishes he would have purchased the Kindle 2 reader instead after seeing mine.

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