Future features #1

Future features #1

Just about a year ago, I polled you about some possible future features:

Now how much would you pay? The cost of new features

Interestingly, every single feature I had in the polls did actually appear…well, if you count using a Bluetooth keyboard as “attaching an external keyboard”…I do. That’s not exactly technically correct, but I was really asking about the functionality (and one could argue that a Bluetooth keyboard is “attached” wirelessly).

That time, I approached it as a cost question…how much would you pay for the features? Well, as we know, we just keeping getting more capability for less, so I think the money isn’t key here. Also, I’ve reached the firm conclusion that Amazon would add new features that actually lost money, if it meant locking more people into Prime and as Amazon customers.

This time, then, I’m still going to poll you, but it won’t be about how much money it would add to the price…just about how much you would want it.

Let me be clear here that I’m not suggesting any of these things will actually come about. 🙂 Some of it is very pie in the sky…pure speculation.  I’m also going to do some that already exist or have existed, to gauge interest in Amazon continuing/reviving the feature.

Color RSK (Reflective Screen Kindle)

An RSK (Reflective Screen Kindle…anything but a Kindle Fire right now) has some real advantages over a backlit screen, like a tablet. The battery life is much longer, and they are easy to read in direct sunlight. If Amazon adds a frontlight, like they did with the Kindle Paperwhite, you can also read it in a dark room. People used to really want a color RSK, but I wonder if that desire may have waned since we now have color in the tablets. What do you think?

Physical keyboards on RSKs

Right now, the only RSK with a physical keyboard available new from Amazon is the 9.7″ $299 Kindle DX, which was recently revived. My guess is that we aren’t likely to see another RSK with a physical keyboard introduced…unless there is some kind of niche luxury model made.

A tablet with a rear facing camera

This one seems like a no-brainer. I really think this is the number one thing that makes people let loose with a disappointed “Oh…” when they ask me about a Fire. With a rear-facing camera, you can take pictures of other things easily, not just Skype with it. Maybe I’m just not egotistical enough. 😉 I do take pictures with my Fire, but it’s a bit of a challenge. My 8.9″ Fire would be great for scanning public domain books…if I could see them to do it (and had a good app for it, of course). When you answer the question, let’s assume that it has a front and a back, and that the rear camera is of good enough quality for pictures.

A “Kindle phone”

The rumor mill is pretty solid about this happening this year (even though that might not be the name). The basic idea is Amazon making  a SmartPhone. I love Amazon, but I’d be a bit hesitant about this myself. I like my Samsung phone, and having my phone tied into Amazon doesn’t seem as important to me as having my media device tied into it. I don’t usually watch videos or read books on my phone…I carry a Fire with me for that.

A flexible screen

Based on what could happen in the near future, let’s describe this as a super-light, super-thin, essentially indestructible screen. You would not have to worry about breaking it, and could easily slide it into a purse or briefcase without fear of damage.

Device specific archives

I’ve been talking about this for years. We’re getting closer, but the key idea here is that different devices on the account would have access to different content. We can sort of do it with Kindle FreeTime, but it’s not anywhere near as easy I would like to see it. Whispercast brings us closer. The idea here is that a kid could have access to one set of content, an adult on the same account a different set (of what has already been purchased).  I think this could also lead to Collections in the Cloud, but let’s leave that out of it for now.

Small, long-lasting text-to-speech

Even on this blog, there has been some real concern since Amazon discontinued the Kindle Keyboard (formerly the Kindle 3). For a while, there was no RSK at all that did text-to-speech (where software can read the book out loud to you). Then, they surprisingly revived the large screen Kindle DX. However, I think there is a real market for a small screen device with a lot of battery charge life for TTS. I could even see something really small…like postage stamp-sized. I’m not quite convinced about that, though…I think some people like to sight-read and listen at the same time (it can be important with some disabilities). Still, I think that an inexpensive device that did TTS could be quite popular…even if we couldn’t also sight-read. I could certainly see that as a Google Glass app…you pick the book, and it reads it out loud to you over the glasses (yes, you would need headphones, too, which might be Bluetooth). Let’s not base the question on it being that small, though…the question here really is do you want a portable (smaller than the DX) device with an RSK-type battery life (certainly days, not hours) for text-to-speech?

Access to Google Play

Barnes & Noble recently put direct access on their tablets to Google Play. That’s a complex topic, but I do think it sounds good to a lot of people.

Selling “used” e-books

Amazon has patented something that might create a “used e-book” market. When I wrote about that:

Patent suggests Amazon could create used e-book market

my take was that it could be a benefit to consumers, publishers, and authors.

Eye-tracking (or other hands-free advance)

I recently asked:

Why do we read?

My main conclusion is that anything that immerses our minds in the words on the page/screen is good…anything that takes away from that is probably not attractive to serious readers. One thing right now that disturbs my reading rhythm? Tapping the screen (or using a button…or it used to be turning a paper page) to get to the next set of words. That seems very natural to most of us now, but I would love it if my book just knew when to move on to the next thing. Yes, it would have to be smart…I might have to stare at a spot for a second to get t to change (people don’t always read a “page” in a linear fashion…they skip around). While brain-computer interfaces may happen eventually, we should see eye-tracking much sooner. This could even be done with a continuous scroll rather than a screen/screen/screen style…but it would probably still need to redraw the screen periodically (if it wasn’t a backlit device, based on current technology).

Certainly, I haven’t hit all of the possibilities (Kindle watches, anyone?). If you’d like to suggest some more, or want to flesh out your responses, feel free to do so by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

4 Responses to “Future features #1”

  1. Lady Galaxy Says:

    If they do add eye tracking, I hope they have the option to turn it off for those of us who have eye muscle problems that cause our eyes not to track so well.

    You mention the return of the Kindle DX as a hopeful sign, but I have a feeling that one of those robots found a case of unsold DXK’s sitting in the dark, dusty corner of warehouse 13! I ordered one, and it arrived yesterday. It seems more like the K2 than the K3. Instead of the 5 way controller with the frame like I have on my K3, it uses the toggle button that you have to push to the right or left or up or down or push in to enter like the ones on the K2. The software includes only one font. The condensed and sans serif is not available. Even though some of my favorite games claim they work on the DX, when I tried to go to the archives to download some of them, none of them showed up in the archives. I tried to download a free game just to see what would happen, and it wouldn’t download.

    It’s heavier than I had anticipated, and it doesn’t balance in the hands as well as the smaller Kindles. It has a keyboard, but my hands are not strong enough to use the keyboard while holding the DX. I have to set it down on a flat surface. You can only turn pages forward or back with the right hand. Even though I’m right handed, I tend to use my left hand to turn pages.

    On the plus side, it does not default to full justification like the most recent versions of the Kindle software. Since I have to use the larger font sizes, full justification leaves too many huge gaps in the middle of sentences and makes it harder for my eye muscles to track. Some of the charts and graphs that are totally unreadable on the smaller Kindles were easier to read on the DX. You can also operate it from the plug in cord if the battery dies, like you can with the original Kindle. Those three features alone are enough for me to keep it.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      Oh, I think eye-tracking would always be optional…I don’t think people would have to use it. Of course, people have to use touchscreens now on several devices, and that’s not dissimilar.

      What makes me think that it wasn’t just a case of having “fallen behind the shelf” is that they put the Kindle DX back in the family stripe. If you just found 100 of them, I don’t think you’d make the effort to change that…they’d be gone to quickly. Could they have found ten thousand of them? A million? Maybe…but I do think this suggests an ongoing commitment, at least for a few months.

      • Lady Galaxy Says:

        I’m still playing around with it. I’ve discovered that I can turn it upside down to use the page forward and back levers, but I have to remember they are reversed. I find them harder to press than the ones on my K3, but it could just be that it’s because the DX is newer. I’m wondering if it connects to the same whisper net as the Kindle 1 because I get a much better 3G connection with it than I do with the K3. Or maybe it’s just because the DX does not have the competition with the wi-fi. I get so annoyed when the K3 drops the 3G connection and then tries to hook on to my neighbor’s wi-fi network instead of trying to reconnect through 3G.

  2. Tweakquests #1 | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] they would all be easily achievable. There are some other bigger things I’d like to see (this earlier post has me polling my readers about some possible big things from Amazon, but these are just minor […]

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