Today's post is a contribution from John Holdcroft, one of my O'Reilly colleagues. John is also a big fan of the Kindle and offers these likes and dislikes about the platform:
After coveting all sorts of e-reader gizmos from friends and colleagues, I finally bought my first Kindle last summer. Amazon found my sweet spot of $139 (now down to $114 with embedded ‘special offers’) and my excitable fingers did the One-Click dance in a hurry. At first, it was the novelty of having an e-reader device that excited me, no matter what the experience. I imagined stuffing it into my back pocket for a stroll in New York City, or showing it off loudly at a proudly independent Seattle area coffee shop. Now, after buying and downloading everything from popular fiction, cycling histories, and primitive board games for my seven-year-old, I am hooked deep. Some quick thoughts for you about my reading and consuming journey:
Ubiquitous reading experiences. Amazon has done a great job of not just building a great reading device, but building better places and formats to read at any time. I love reading a couple of chapters of Steven Levy’s In The Plex at night, then synching up the next morning as I wait in line at the post office and pull out my iPhone and continue reading exactly where I left off. This seamless connection of reading makes all the difference in the world.
Browsability of content. Amazon is right behind Google as far as mastering search, and I can go to the amazon.com page and type in “Jon Krakauer” and find his latest essay in Singles program. One-click and boom (goes the dynamite), I am ready to read. I also dream about a moment when I am on a beach in Hawaii (I used to do such things before I helped sire two small children), think of an author, topic, or newspaper I want to read, find it on Kindle, and have it instantly. This ‘Eureka!’ moment has not happened yet but I know that when it does it will feel GOOD.
Kindle community and shopping experience. Amazon seems focused on how readers are consuming right now better than other mediums. Front-end early adopters seem to consume bits of data in fits and starts (though I am sure that long, dense novels are not yet forgotten). Kindle Singles speaks to this style directly, and I would hope and expect to see this program mushroom out into new environments soon. Perhaps combining the burgeoning podcast market into a book/audio file experience is also something for the Kindlings to consider.
Social media shackles. Gee, thanks, Amazon, for keeping my highlights, bookmarks, etc., and adding them to my locker of data that you own. Not that my data is particularly interesting, I just want to own it, see it, track it, etc. I am less interested in seeing 63 highlights of the best lines of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom (my choice comes from a description of long suffering heroine Patty, who “tried to make (her son) her Designated Understander”). Also, I should be able to see this data under the Manage My Kindle feature. Right now, Amazon holds it. Let me have it back, or at least joint custody, with weekends visits and every other holiday. Tweeting and Facebooking is suffering right now because of this loss.
Keyboard. Seems pedestrian at best and blocky and unresponsive at worst. Compared to the fetish-loving iPad users, this looks really bad. Is it that hard to bid out this job to a usability lord and get better results?
Page numbers. What titles have pages number references, and what ones do not? Which books, authors, are so lucky to be ‘pagified’ first, and why? Why the murkiness of this process, Amazon? And since one must hold down the MENU button to find the page feature, this is hardly an intuitive process. Make page numbers an Opt-Out feature, not Opt-In.
Overall, I love my Kindle and look forward to seeing the innovations that I assume are on the horizon. It appears that e-readers are a part of the growing digital kudzu that Steven Levy notes in his great new book. Found on Kindle, of course.