Monday, February 9, 2009

What surprises does Amazon have in store today?

For Kindle owners, Monday is an exciting day. While perhaps not as monumental as the presidential election or the Super Bowl, the promise of what may be a major upgrade to my favorite gadget is occaison for some wistful hoping. With the market becoming more competitive and Amazon choosing to introduce competition to the Kindle by selling "Kindle editions" for the iphone, the burden, as I've written elsewhere, is on Amazon to produce some significant new features for Kindle 2.0.

What might those feature be? Predictions abound, including this recent PC World article. Well, since Jeff Bezos seems to have lost my cell phone number, I'm not in the loop, but here are my top five hopes:

5) Longer battery life. Even with performance better than most gadgets I own, I'm recharging every couple of days, even with judicial use of the wireless modem. It would be tremendously convenient if the Kindle could be the camel of e-book readers, only needing a drink of the juice every week or so.

4) More Kindle titles. While this isn't a feature of the hardware per-se, the link between the Kindle store and the Kindle is inseparable, like Michael Jackson and his pet monkey. Want to read John Grisham's latest novel, The Associate? You can't. Not available on the Kindle. For the Kindle to become truly popular, Amazon will need to convince publishers to license the rights to high profile titles.

3) A backlight. While accessories like M-Edge's E-Luminator (a video review of which should be on Kindleville by the time you read this) are helpful, why not build in a light, as Sony has for its e-book reader?

2) The ability to read an e-book and listen to an audiobook simultaneously. I love to listen to a well-narrated audio book while reading along; it makes me slow down and relish the language and the details of the book. Currently, of course, you can listen to an Audible book, but you can't read on your Kindle while the audio book is playing. This seems just plain silly, and I hope Amazon fixes it, particularly since they own Audible and could bundle the text and audio versions together for a higher price.

1) Amazon needs to open its formats and drop digital rights management, as they have with music. Digital rights management provides the illusion of security--sort of like those TSA agents at the airports scrutinizing your Ziploc bag full of saline solution and lip balm for signs of Osama bin Laden. Many times--when the technological or economic winds change direction--DRM results in consumers losing access to digital products they've paid for with their hard earned dollars. Ditch the DRM and trust your customers, Amazon!

What are your predictions? What features do you think Amazon will unleash in Kindle 2.0?