Monday, September 29, 2008

If I Were Designing Kindle 2.0...

So, I've had my Kindle for a while now and I still love it.I find I read a lot more, and better books (classics are so cheap!! 99 cents for most, and some free content as well). I've only bought one bestseller so far (9.99 for those...currently reading Brisingr by Christopher Paolini, which is right now average to good). Anyway, as awesome as the Kindle is, I think it has amazing potential in the next few versions. I anticipate that a lot of the products we use now will ultimately consolidate into fewer, more powerful tools that are easily adaptable for our needs (i.e. I've been advocating the "e-machine" for a long time...a transportable device that will serve as an iPod, phone, eReader, laptop, etc. that can dock into a more permanent station at home with more memory and space and all that...I really cannot wait until this day--I'm sure it is to come :)). So yes, the Kindle--unlimited possibilities, and I've been playing around with ideas of what could be improved, how the product could really be defined, etc. for a few weeks. Originally I was planning to ramp up my skills in Google SketchUp to make an illustration of my own, but after poking around on BlogKindle and other sites, I found a few illustrations that together formed my vision of Kindle 2.0. So, first, my inspiration!

In order for the Kindle to be successful in the academic market, it needs a bigger screen. Charts and diagrams in textbooks are vital to understanding the material, and making them into microscopic images destroys most of their value. Thus, you want a screen big enough to display textbooks, but small enough that it's not overwhelming for the everyday reader on the bus. I really like the idea of a 360 degree folding device where you can open it up to show large pages in Portrait or Landscape, as well as two smaller portrait pages when the device is held horizontally. It should also be possible to fold the Kindle back onto itself, so you can read only one smaller portrait page, similar to the current format of the Kindle. After reading on it for a few books, I find that things are much simpler, and that one page is less overwhelming than all of the text of two pages side by side. I'd like the option of keeping this format. I also think the Kindle should be able to fold the other way, so that both sides of the screen face each other for safe storing. In general I find the next page and previous page buttons to be really useful. I am not bothered at all that they are easy to hit, and it makes one-handed, snuggled-up-in-bed reading both possible and enjoyable :) In terms of other smaller changes, it'd be nice if the keypad was part of a touch screen, similar to the iPhone, and it might be useful to include a stylus to more directly underline or choose words to look up in the dictionary. It'd also be nice to access the dictionary from the home screen, and search for words directly instead of first looking them up in a book, and then looking them up in the dictionary. I find that while I do look up definitions while reading, sometimes I later remember the word I "learned" but not the definition, so it'd be useful to double check more easily.

So all of these things would be awesome changes and could really make a superb eReader. But what would really be revolutionary would be to force the Kindle into a screen component of a DDM PC. I find the concept of DDM computers fascinating, and it would be a really cool way to tap into a completely new market. I kind of view it more like this, where the Kindle would be part of the laptop screen at home, and then could be taken wherever to read/listen to music/watch DVDs on the go (I know the scope of the Kindle is currently only books, but seriously, I wholeheartedly believe that we'll eventually have one device to do it all). This would be great for families who have several Kindles, and could add/subtract to the main display of the family computer at home. But more realistically, I think increasingly family members each have their own laptop, so they would only add/take away from their own computer, which may actually work better for standard screen sizes and all).

So, what do you think? Is the Kindle the next iPhone? I say yes!

Edit: I also think it will be important to solve the following issue: now that people will buy fewer paper books, their libraries at home will be smaller, and it will be harder to show off what they've read to others. I also get a lot of comfort from being surrounded by all of the books I love, so that is lost as well. It'd be nice to allow some sort of "cover" that would display what you're reading on the Kindle, though this isn't a perfect solution. I can't decide whether iPod-esque anonymity or public displays would be better...maybe the option to do either. Hmm...

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