The next big thing in EBRs?
When Barnes & Noble announced their new NOOK, the Simple Touch, my reaction was mostly (as my offspring would say), “Meh.” That doesn’t mean it was bad and doesn’t mean it was good. It just was.
The E Ink touchscreen is new to the NOOK…but Sony has had one for months and Kobo announced one the day before.
The battery life of two months was a new record…but it seems like it was mostly a recalculation (by basing it on reading one half hour a day). The next day, poof! Amazon recalculated to two months, too. That’s not just math, it’s magic math…or “mathic”, to coin a phrase.
What else did they tout? They took stuff away.
Yep, they say one button (which isn’t actually true), and point out how many more buttons the Kindle has.
No music, no audiobooks, no web browsing…woo hoo, lucky us!
Actually, some people may see that as an advantage…some parents might.
There had been a rumor that the new NOOK was going to be “entry level”…the first EBR (E-Book Reader) somebody would buy if they weren’t sure about the prospect or couldn’t afford the one they wanted.
Fewer features make sense in that case…but only if it also means a lower price, and this not a particularly low-priced major E Ink EBR.
People mentioned a couple of things that they thought might be in a new EBR that would really set it apart…that would be the “next big thing”.
That got me thinking.
What would be something that would set apart a new EBR? What would make people say, “I want that one!” It has to stand-out enough to make somebody change a buying decision…buy that one instead of another, or instead of none.
Here is some speculation:
Reflective Screen Color
This one is coming, and probably before too long. EBRs (E-Book Readers) like the Kindle, NOOK Simple Touch, Sonys, and Kobo, use a type of screen that you read the same way you read a paperbook…by light bouncing off it. A tablet (like the iPad, Xoom, or NOOK Color) uses a backlit screen. Backlit screens take a lot more battery charge, but they do have some advantages at the current state of technology. One of them is color. Color is used in books: children’s books; art books; cookbooks; non-fiction with graphs; and more. The first EBR that has the long battery charge life of a reflective screen and color will be a draw. Potential negatives? Cost, performance, and how good the colors look, mostly.
While this clearly doesn’t exist in paperbooks, the Kindle store already sells books with animation. They only work on iDevices (iPads, iPhones, iPod touches) currently…at least, the animation only works on those. There are clear applications for this: a how to book with instructional videos, a famous historical speech being delivered, a book about a TV show with clips of important scenes…even author interviews. Many people would say they wouldn’t want it, but it would attract others. The holdback currently is refresh rate…you need to get something on the order of thirty frames a second (higher is better), and flashing to black between each one makes it not work as well. I think we’ll see this…and they’ll need some whiz bang video to make it attractive at first.
This is the ability to tell the EBR what to do with your voice. That would be great for accessibility…some conditions make it hard to push buttons and hold the device. If it managed to avoid the menus to get to more obscure functions, that would be a plus for everybody. For example, you could say, “Open Moby Dick”, or “Open last book read”. You could say, “Get my magazines”, “bookmark this”, “restart”, and so on. The Kindle 3 already has a microphone for…future functionality.
Speech to text
The Kindle currently has text-to-speech, which allows it to read materials out loud to you (if that access isn’t blocked by the publisher). This is the opposite: you would speak to the EBR, and it would convert your speech into text That’s actually becoming pretty common: I have it on my desktop at home (using Dragon) and on my Android SmartPhone. This would solve the problem of a keyboard for entering notes. I think it could be done now…but it would take more memory and more battery charge.
People use EBRs for audio…audiobooks and music, mostly. Bluetooth is a short-range wireless protocol. It could be used for wireless headphones, but also in cars with Bluetooth. The name has some cachet…that would attract some folks, even if it wasn’t used all that much. I think once somebody had it, they’d miss it on another model.
Computer-based content management
Rename your books and create your “folders” on your computer, and sync it to your EBR. This moves away from the “you don’t need a computer” thing, but it would be a plus to many. Calibre does this already…that’s why I speculated about Amazon buying it.
Read your books on the web
Amazon has announced this. It’s going to be a plus, because you’ll be able to read your book on any device with a browser….like a SmartPhone, or a tablet, or another EBR with an open browser
One of the big things here is a keyboard. I assume the current USB can’t power a keyboard, but people would use it an EBR to write if they could. Teachers could use a projector capability…and even a printer might work well. Yes, the latter might be a concern for publishers, but it could be used for personal documents.
I don’t know how this could be done, but if your store’s e-books could be read on any EBR, people would love it. It might be a question of licensing.
Again, this one is similar to the last one. I don’t know how you would do it, but it would be about licensing. It would let you (probably for a fee…and possibly a substantial one) get an e-book for a pbook you own. Lots of people think they should be able to do that for free, which I don’t see happening soon. This would be one of those PR (Public Relations) things…if this was marketed properly, it would be a draw…even if it cost the same as buying it from the store. You scan (or punch in) your book’s ISBN, it shows up on your EBR.
If this was streaming, I think you’d avoid the copyright issue of a derivative work (in a similar manner to how text-to-speech isn’t a copyright issue). I personally think this would be hugely attractive, and would seem magical. Even if it was only at the level of Google translation. Compensation could be arranged: you could have a charge show up for each translation you did (but allow a small amount to be translated).
This technology is out there, but I don’t think it’s going to be immediately commercially available for home use (it might be too expensive). I think will be common for magazines and other large image publications. You’ll roll it up or fold it, and flip it open to read on it.
This would be solved by having device-specific archives (as would many other issues), but no question, it would be a draw. The NOOK Simple Touch doesn’t have a web browser, which solves some of the problems, but I don’t think they want to promote that. :) Being able to control which books your kids can get from the archives would be huge for many buyers.
Rugged and waterproof EBRs
People worry about them breaking their EBRs. If somebody could come up with one that was still light, but solid enough for a four-year old, hey, presto…major sales. :) The same thing goes for a waterproof model…people regularly ask about that, partially for tub reading, partially for the beach.
Installable character sets
I don’t need one hundred character sets on mine, but it would nice to be able to install Hindi or Farsi as needed.
All-you-can-read buying plan
This is another one where it is hard to figure out how it would work, but it is something people want. You pay a monthly (or annual) fee, and you can read all the books you want. A publisher could do that…Harlequin is likely. If it was tied into an EBR, though, that would help those sales.
The Clokey Device
This would let you walk into any book and interact with the characters…and you could bring your pony pal Pokey, too. ;) Okay, I’m kidding on this one (Art Clokey was the creator of Gumby).
Do I think I’ve covered everything? Nope…I’m guessing I’m missing social networking features. How about 3D? You could see the letters as solid objects. :) What are your suggestions? Am I missing something obvious? Feel free to let me know.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.