Nine ways to fix the Amazon Kindle

November 26, 2007, 8:25 am

I panned the Amazon Kindle yesterday, so it’s only fair that I give some constructive ideas in return. Amazon, Jeff Bezos, whoever is reading this, if you want your Kindle to sell like iPods among college students and faculty, do the following:

  • Include native support for reading, annotating, and syncing PDF documents with our computers. Imagine the ability to download a PDF of a homework assignment,  PowerPoint slides, research article, or whatever, from the internet or a course management system; move it to the Kindle; then read and annotate the PDF; then sync your annotations back onto the computer for archiving, later viewing, or presenting. The ability to do this in a lightweight, high-storage capacity device would make it very compelling — possibly irresistible — to faculty and students, those of us who traffic in electronic documents.
  • Make the screen touch sensitive and include some kind of handwriting recognition. This isn’t hard or expensive. Palm has been doing a pretty good job of this for years on relatively inexpensive devices and you can, too.
  • Listen to Scobleizer’s comments about the user interface, particularly button locations and sizes.
  • Did I mention native PDF support?
  • RSS. First of all, learn what RSS really does; unlike what you say on the Kindle main page, RSS provides a lot more than “just headlines”. Kindle can deliver full blog content — but it’s only for select blogs, and for a price. Baloney. Include an RSS reader with the device, and then let users subscribe to whatever RSS feed they want, and as many feeds as they want. What’s it costing you to allow that option?
  • Give the option to have WiFi. The world doesn’t need “Whispernet” or any other new-fangled proprietary system. If you want to charge an extra $100 for WiFi capabilities, fine. But give the option.
  • Make the buttons a little less cheap.
  • Before I forget: Native PDF support.
  • Drop the price — big time. $400 is way too much, particularly when you consider that that’s only the beginning of the expense of owning the thing. You have to pay for subscriptions to blogs, for the ebooks you can read on the thing, even for the privilege of moving a file you created from your computer to the device! With all the above improvements made, I’d consider paying as much as $199 for it — the same price as an 8 GB iPod nano, because I would be equally attracted to both devices. (And let me tell you, that iPod nano is really calling out to me these days.)

You’re welcome, in advance. Email me for where to sent the royalties.

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