What makes the Kindle awesome, isn’t Amazon.

by John Wilker in eBooks, I am a Consumer, Kindle, Technology

It’s funny I was reading Joe Wikert’s post on the death of the Kindle, when Amazon released it’s long, long, long awaited firmware update 2.3, adding a few, but not enough of the things Joe mentions being conspicuously missing from the Kindle.

Joe has some really good points, and sadly, 2.3 doesn’t negate many if any at all.

Then I got to thinking, what makes me still recommend my Kindle? It’s not the Kindle itself, it’s only a little bit Amazon itself, though I do almost all my buying on amazon, and really like the whispernet service.

it’s the incredible third party ecosystem that has grown around the Kindle to make it a truly kick ass device.IMG_0889_rotated

Enter the hacks. My Kindle now shows images I like to look at, when it’s asleep. The font is now darker, easier to see, a much improved way to read. Why couldn’t Amazon provide that functionality? It doesn’t impact performance that I can tell, it doesn’t cause system instability, no crashes, etc.

This thought came to me when I was reinstalling my screensaver hack, because even after months of no new firmware updates, years of the same three “experimental” features never getting an ounce of love from Amazon, i still couldn’t pick my own images for the screensaver. I was still stuck with the dead authors Amazon thinks I should see.

I still couldn’t pick the font I wanted to read in, stuck with a terribly light, hard on the eyes font. Why?

Now look at services like instapaper, kindlefeeder, and Calibre. While I’d never want those great ideas and awesome entrepreneurs to be thwarted, i’d love Amazon to show them some love, buy their services, buy their code, hire them, something.

Screen shot 2009-11-29 at 2.42.08 PMKindlefeeder delivers a mobi formatted newsfeed every morning, it’s there when I get home from the gym. 20+ of the blogs I read daily, are right there, the most recent posts since the last morning, ready for my reading. Why can’t amazon offer that? Oh wait, I can pay $ for every blog I like for Amazon to send it to me.

Then there’s Calibre, which I’ve used off and on for 360|Whisperings, but now also has a nice new feature I love. I love the Harvard Business Review. Sadly it’s STILL not available on Amazon, but Calibre allows me to plug my credentials in and receive a mobi magazine formatted article. It looks just like any magazine you’d pay Amazon for. I’m already paying for HBR, but it’s nice to be able to get it in the format I want it to be in.

The last feature that Amazon should have included but didn’t is Instapaper, which I’ve long used in my surfing of the internet. Find a site I like, mark it to read later. Now when I mark it to read later, I get a weekly mobi formatted new feed on my Kindle. Where I can save it and read at my leisure.

Where’s Amazon?

All these hacks and services are what make the Kindle a kick ass device. It’s software is lackluster, it’s feature set dated (Folders? Tags? Desktop organization? Hello Amazon), it’s hardware uninspired to say the least. Thank god for smart ingenious people who work to make up for Amazon’s failings.

Maybe Joe is right, maybe Amazon won’t stick with hardware. if they won’t step up, I think it’s for the best. I think they’ve done great things for the eBook marketplace, I think they can again if they actually put some effort into it, but to pull a move like they’ve pulled…? Weak sauce.

Make an effort Amazon, it won’t take much, and you stand SO MUCH TO GAIN.

The effort isn’t really that much. More frequent firmware updates for sure.

A hardware refresh yearly at least, or look at Apple, small changes between the larger updates.

Both of these things are a must for Amazon to remain relevant in the eReader hardware space, for the Kindle to be more than a footnote in the eReader story.

What do you think?

5 Responses to “What makes the Kindle awesome, isn’t Amazon.”

  1. Kevin Hoyt says:

    Despite being a skeptic initially, I used to love my (1st generation) Kindle. Then my wife picked it up, and despite being an even bigger skeptic, it's now rarely more than a few steps away from her – hundreds of books ready to go. And while as a hardware geek, I can appreciate that there are flaws, she really doesn't care. She's never complained about update, font darkness, or even the pictures of dead authors.

    The one that surfaces regularly is about the content. The first problem here is that while overall book selection is good, it could be much better. I know this isn't Amazon's fault per se, but that's how my wife, the non-techie, views it. She just bought a "box set" of all four Twilight saga books, but there's only a few of the (13) Artemis Fowl books available.

    The other problem is in managing all that content she has purchased. It was my Kindle. It's assigned to my account. My wife has purchased hundreds of books for it. That all went through my account, so technically all those books belong to me. I want to upgrade her Kindle for Christmas, and assign it to her account, but then none of those books will be there – and there's no way to transfer ownership.

    That to me could very well be the death of the Kindle – there needs to be a way to manage/share ownership. I really don't care that the platform isn't open and I can't develop applications for it, or that there's newer, better hardware on the way. I just want to really own the content I've bought. It's mine. Get your grubby DRM off it.

    • John Wilker says:

      I completely agree on the management. Amazon needs to release an iTunes like app that allows you to manage your library. I hope as the Kindle matures they realize that expecting owners to manage hundreds and thousands of books on their own, is a terrible idea. Especially given the UI of the Kindle.

      I seem to recall there being a way to have 1 kindle across several accounts, no? I haven't looked into it, so not sure. But you're right, any book I buy for my wife to read, if/when she gets a Kindle, will be stuck with me.

      I'l admit the hacks are more the customizer in me. I can read the original font fine, but the darker one is easier on my eyes I've noticed. The pictures are totally a "me" thing, I like to customize.

  2. Peter says:

    Amazon hasn't really seen any competition for Kindle before Nook got announced. Sony didn't get the convenience factor right due to lack of built-in 3G network support.

    I think that they will start moving faster now that B&N is in the game. After all, Kindle is their "#1 best selling, #1 wished for" item (which is hard to believe, but they said it themselves). Depending upon how much they make from every device, they probably won't let go of that revenue stream easily.

    This will be an interesting fight. Meanwhile, I'm hanging on to my Kindle 1st gen, which I love.

  3. John Wilker says:

    Yeah I hope the Nook is awesome, if nothing else to be the kick Amazon needs to get their act together. They seem to think they can neglect the Kindle and it'll be #1 everything every month.

    Sure wish they'd actually give numbers. It's easy to be the #1 whatever when you don't have to back the claim up. :(

    Yeah The Nook had my interest but my K2 need not worry it's place in my laptop bag is secure for a while more. LOL

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