Has Kindle e-book development stagnated?
Thanks to a reader (if you’d like to be credited in the blog, just let me know) who alerted me in a private e-mail to this intriguing essay in Aeon:
It’s well written, and both deeply researched in some areas and based on personal experience. I recommend reading it.
That said, I don’t have the same assessment of the situation that the author does.
The basic premise is this:
” As our hardware has grown more powerful and our screens more capable, our book-reading software has largely stagnated.”
One explanation given:
“It seems as though Amazon has been disincentivised to stake out bold explorations by effectively winning a monopoly (deservedly, in many ways) on the market.”
I think the first question we have to ask is if this is limited just to EBRs (E-Book Readers)…that is, not tablets like the Fire. We are continuing to see development on the tablets, including Amazon’s new Word Runner featured. That’s even available on the
It shows you a book one word at a time, in the middle of the screen. There’s a lot more to it than that, but it should greatly increase your reading speed. You can read more about that here:
That’s a recent innovation which Amazon arguably didn’t have to do…and it certainly isn’t stagnant.
It was, perhaps, to respond to the competition of Spritz, which does a similar thing.
The fact that there is competition, though, tends to refute the premise of Mod’s essay.
What about those EBRs? Does there continue to be development there? I do want to say that I assume the author is only talking about EBRs. The article mentions “backlit” Kindles, but I think that may be confusion with the Paperwhite’s (and later the Voyage’s) frontlighting…many people confuse those two.
We’ve gotten some typography changes recently, and we got Page Flip (a way to look ahead in the book without losing your place) not that long ago.
Those don’t feel as amazing as some of the earlier things we got…but should we expect that?
One reason why some people consider paper books one of the greatest technological innovations is how little they have had to change since our basic form factor came into being.
Sure, paperbacks were a change, starting in the 1930s…but they weren’t radically different from hardbacks. They certainly weren’t more different from hardbacks than the Voyage is from the first generation (2007) model.
For more on the history of books, see the
Maybe Kindle books have changed that much in the past few years…because they already do pretty much what we want them to do.
That’s not to say that the system can’t be improved!
We continue to make progress…but I do think, for example, that we could still have much better management of the books on the Amazon website. It would be nice to be able to see which books are on which devices, for example.
The author of the essay has a couple of suggestions, and I do think they are intriguing.
However, I also suspect the author’s desires aren’t the same as those of the majority readers.
Look, I’m weird…and I know it. ;)
My Significant Other got me one of my favorite t-shirts. It says, “Nobody’s Target Market”.
I’m not sure, though, that Craig Mod has quite that same sense of self awareness.
Mod is very into book design. So into it that a great story in the article is about Mod buying a travel guidebook because of the way it was constructed…even with no intent to use it.
I don’t think most people care that much.
That doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate a great design, but my guess is that the majority of people are happy to be able to get right into the text of a book…they don’t need the sensual experience of drawing a beautifully crafted volume being drawn from an equally painstakingly designed slipcase.
Now, would I rather have my Kindle books start at the cover, rather than Chapter 1? Yes, I’d like that option.
I don’t miss the physicality of a p-book (paperbook), though.
I love owning 100 year old books, sure…I have several of those. I feel like I am in a special presence when I see a vintage book.
For my day to day reading? Give me an invulnerable digital file with increasable text, please.
I was a bit amused to be reading the article through the medium of text-to-speech in my car, after using the “Send to Kindle” extension for Google Chrome (which then let me use my Kindle Fire HDX 7).
That’s a big improvement for me.
Do I think that e-books wipeout p-books?
Nope…vinyl is still around for records, despite its relative inefficiency.
My best guess is that it is not an unreasonable model for the future for publishing: the vast majority of reading being done on e-books, with p-books being what they were before mass manufacturing: luxury items.
We aren’t close to that, yet.
Craig Mod and I have different ideas about what people tend to value in books, and what the future will bring.
That’s a good thing. :)
Again, I recommend the piece as evocative, thoughtful, and well-written.
Thanks again to my reader for the heads-up!
What do you think? Has Amazon diverted resources from Kindle book development to other things? If they have, is that an opening for someone else to take part of the market? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.
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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help! By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.