Thursday, September 11, 2008

25 Ways to Improve the Kindle

I have had my Kindle for six months now and I love it. It is my preferred way to read books now as it allows me to go from wanting to reading in 30 seconds rather than 3 days, keep multiple books on tap to best fit my reading mood, easily take notes and transfer them to my computer, and read for hours without strain on my eyes (unlike a computer screen).

The Kindle's wireless connection combined with free access to almost every book that is out of copyright turns the Kindle into my own personal library of all the classics.

Besides books, I also use it to read online newspaper and magazine articles that are over 5 pages in length. Warren Buffet's annual letter to shareholders is a great read, but a bit too long for enjoyable reading on a computer. Downloading it to and then reading it from the Kindle works great.

I would highly recommend the Kindle to anyone who reads frequently.

But, there is still lots of room for improvement. Here are 25 way to improve the Kindle.

1) Make it smaller. Right now it is slightly too big to fit in a pocket which requires you to either carry it in your hand or put it in a backpack, briefcase or bag. If the screen size was kept the same but the stuff that surrounds it was cut back a bit, it would be small enough to place it in your jacket pocket and you could take it with you everywhere.

2) Make it bigger. The Kindle does not do a good job of displaying .pdf files. Increase the screen size to allow for 8.5"x11" .pdf files to be readable. This would also allow you to read a lot more per page and reduce the number of page turnings needed. I am thinking something similar to what Plastic Logic is releasing which would be great for both professionals and students.

3) Add WiFi for when you don't have cellular reception.

4) It has been said a million times, but the buttons are poorly placed. The next and previous page need to be moved so they aren't hit accidentally. The on button and the wireless button should be on the front. The home button should be larger, as this is the button you use most often.

5) 3 standard upgrades for every new release:
 a) Improved e-ink: faster page turning, more contrast.
 b) Longer lasting battery. If I read a couple of hours a day, the battery lasts about 3 days. I would like 2 weeks worth, so you can take it on vacation and not have to worry about recharging. One of the advantages of e-ink is the low power usage, so I don't get why the battery doesn't last longer.
 c) Faster processor. Searching, returning from the screen saver and navigating using the button bar all are a bit sluggish.

6) When you are reading a book, the progress indicator has 50 dots that show your location. To make it easier to tell exactly what dot your are on, every 5th dot should be slightly larger and every 10th dot slightly larger than that. This will allow you to easily tell if you are on dot 30 or dot 33.

7) Replace "locations" with page numbers. The Kindle uses locations rather than page numbers so if you change font sizes, the locations stay constant. But, it just isn't intuitive and if you want to know how many more pages you have to read at the current font size, it is complicated to figure out. Instead of showing "Locations 1998-2006", I would rather it showed "page 25 of 500 (2)", where (2) is the current font size. You could also put the add the percentage read such as "page 25 of 500 (2) 5%", and get rid of the progress indicator. Replace the "Go to location" feature with a "Go to page" where the page # is based on the current font size.

8) Move X pages - Hold down a number and then press the next/prev page button.

9) Show how many pages are left in the chapter. With a regular book, when I am thinking of quitting I look to see how many pages until the next chapter to see if I should try and stick it out. There is no way to tell how far away the next chapter is on the Kindle. I wish somewhere on the bottom of the screen it would say something like "Chapter 10: 5 pages remaining". Or if there is not enough space to display this all the time, make it a keyboard shortcut like how Alt-T currently shows the time.

10) I sometimes accidentally hit the back button (not to be confused with the Prev Page button) and I lose my place. There is no easy way to get back to where you were when this happens. The Kindle should automatically bookmark the last page read, so if this does happen you can easily get back to where you were. Or maybe the back button should be moved to a place you don't accidentally click it, or maybe the whole thing should be designed so you don't need a back button.

11) Tell me how long it will take to read a book. The Kindle could monitor how many words per minute I read (based on how often I turn the page) and then determine how long it will take me to read any given book based on its number of words (possibly adjusted by a ranking of how complexly the book is written). When I am browsing the Kindle store for a new book, display how long it will take me to read each book. Also, when I am in the middle of a book display how many more hours I have until I finish it (possibly only shown on request via a keyboard shortcut).

12) Add a full screen mode when reading. Given how small the screen is, every inch is precious. I would like to have the ability to hide the title/author information at the top and the progress indicator and battery meter at the bottom.

13) Add keyboard shortcuts:
 a) Go to Table of Contents - Alt-C
 b) Full Screen Mode - Alt-F
 c) Launch Web Browser - Alt-W
 d) Move X pages - Hold down a number and then press the next/prev page button
 e) Next article (for blogs, newspapers and magazines) - Alt-N (or maybe replace Alt-Next Page)

14) Single book search. If you hit the Search button while reading a book, just search that book (as opposed to all books). If you hit the Search button from the home page, then search all books.

15) Improve dictionary functionality. The dictionary is great, but it would be even better if you have could have the word spoken for you (since the Kindle has a speaker). I would also like to be able to save words to a vocabulary list and then have the screen saver display these words.

16) The screen savers are cool and it would be even cooler if every month a couple new ones were to arrive.

17) Make the amount of time before the screen saver turns on configurable.

18) Use a smaller indentation for quoted text. There just isn't enough horizontal space for the the large indentation currently used.

19) The rendering of tables needs improvement. The column widths don't always hold and it makes it difficult to comprehend them.

20) Handle sketchy cellular connections better in the browser. I have had the entire Kindle freeze up and require a reboot to enable it to keep browsing the web. Instead give a "connection lost" error and allow the Kindle to keep working.

Web Integration & Other:
21) Allow access to your notes and clippings via a website. Right now you have to connect the Kindle to a PC via a USB cable and copy a .txt file over to get access to the notes. It would be much easier if there was a webpage on the Amazon site with all the clippings where you could copy or delete them.

22) Allow deletion of books from the Kindle via a webpage on the Amazon site. Using the current content manager to delete them is a pain.

23) Improve the conversion of .pdf, .doc and html files. Currently you can email a file to Amazon and they will send it to your Kindle converted into a format the Kindle can display. I would like to be able to set the title and author information. Also, the conversion of .pdf files isn't the best, especially those with tables and charts in them, and is sometimes unreadable. A better online conversion tool, via a webpage on the Amazon site rather than email, with more tweaking options would be good.

24) Add the price of books to the main browsing page of the Kindle store. Having to click an extra page to figure out the price is annoying given how slowly each page loads on the Kindle. If you browse via your computer, the prices are shown, but for some reason not on the Kindle.

25) Add the ability to read Kindle books I have purchased on my PC. The Mobipocket Reader software has the ability to do this, but Amazon has disabled this functionality (Amazon owns Mobipocket).

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