Archive for the ‘Future features’ Category

What features DO you want in an EBR (E-Book reader)?

April 18, 2016

What features DO you want in an EBR (E-Book reader)?

Amazon recently announced an 8th generation of Kindle EBRs (E-Book Readers), releasing April 27th.

Customers have expressed a lot of disappointment. I suspect some of that might be that the Amazon CEO (Chief Executive Officer) made a rare tweet ahead of time, raising expectations.

My intuition is that this new device, the Kindle Oasis, won’t be the bestselling Kindle model a year from now.

That doesn’t sour me on Amazon…they take big swings, and those aren’t always going to be home runs.

I also do think that Amazon listens to its customers…eventually. ūüėČ They are undoubtedly already working on the next devices.

When I’ve taught project management, I’ve pointed out that you can have the most influence in the early stages of a project.

At my work, we tend to introduce something in stages…first in one place, then add another, add another, and so on until everywhere has it.

The people in the first pilot location have the most influence. If place #1 likes something, you aren’t going to take it away when you add place #2. If place #1 doesn’t like something, it may be removed.

The last place to “go live” has the least influence…but starts from the best place with the most mature product. If everybody hated an optional function, it probably won’t make it to the last place…

I wanted, then, to give you a chance to indicate what possible new features for Kindle EBRs you would like. That could help influence Amazon’s development plans.

You also e-mail directly to

I’m going to describe some possible features. You can say if you would like them, wouldn’t like them, don’t care, or don’t know. I am grouping some things together: I don’t want to give you poll fatigue by having too many separate ones. ūüėČ

Based on the aggregate votes, that can give some indications for what it might make sense to spend the time and energy on development to implement.

Waterproof/Water resistant

What it is: current Kindle EBRs are not “water resistant”. Adding this hardware change would improve that

Why people want it: reading in the bath or at the beach. Walking in the rain

How likely is it: Kobo and NOOK already have it. It’s clearly possible

What would be the negatives: could cost more, be heavier (this appears to be the case with the Kobo), be thicker

My take: I would want this, although I don’t consider it crucial. I carry a Ziploc in my “utility vest” for my device in case it rains, which I would rather not do. One of the key things, though, is that it really does feel like Amazon is behind the others on this…a feature which was requested before anybody had it, and which has practical benefits


What it is: the ability to play a variety of audio files, and TTS (which isn’t a file, but is streaming)

Why people want it:¬† it’s another way to experience a book. It can be helpful for those with print challenges, but also can just be convenient (in the car, for example). It can be combined with sight reading during “immersion reading”

How likely is it: we had it before…it can be done

What would be the negatives: might cost more, might not fit in a super thin device, could add technical issues, maybe more support calls to Amazon, and some publishers block TTS access…which isn’t apparent if you can’t do it at all, takes more battery charge

My take: not having this on an EBR is a deficit. When Amazon stopped offering any EBR that had it, I was¬†disappointed. In part, that’s for me: I do use it a lot. However, I can listen to it on a tablet (and I do). I feel like it’s more important for those with print challenges

More control over how text is displayed

What it is: more fonts, more font sizes, justification, line spacing…user control over how text displays

Why people want it: in part, it’s aesthetics…but people with different visual capabilities and mental processing can benefit from making choices

How likely is it: this is mostly just a matter of degrees and restoring what we had in the past

What would be the negatives:  possibly take up slightly more storage on the device. Might be confusing for some people to have more options

My take: this is less of a personal concern (I’m not very visual), but I really understand the value to people. It’s amazing how little things can make a difference…putting two spaces after a period, as you may have learned it school, can be difficult for people with dyslexia when they are reading online, for example

Color display

What it is: a non-backlit screen with color

Why people want it: partially esthetics, but it’s also valuable for graphs

How likely is it: Amazon bought Liquavista, which can do this, a while ago. It’s possible

What would be the negatives: more expensive, more battery charge use, might not meet expectations

My take: I have some color vision deficiency, so this would not benefit me as much as it would some people. Just for myself, it wouldn’t be worth sacrificing performance…but I would be curious, and I know other people want it

Active Content

What is it: games and utilities

Why people want it: it’s fun. ūüôā It can also be practical, with things like lists and calendars

How likely is it: we had it for several generations…it can be done

What would be the negatives: most likely takes up more memory than e-books. May not be compatible with different models of Kindles on an account. Might cause technical issues. Some people see them as distractions on a purpose-built reading device.  Comparisons to games and apps now readily available on phones and tablets

My take: I always enjoyed this. ūüôā It was great to see what could be done with such a limited platform…it brought out some real creativity!

Those are some of the main ones I’ve seen mentioned. Bluetooth (with audio capabilities on the device, of course) came up. A flexible device, so you could fold it or roll it up was discussed some time ago, and it is possible. People use to really care about EPUB compatibility, but I don’t hear that as much any more.

What do you think? Other features you’d like to see? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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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.


Future features #1

June 1, 2013

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. ūüôā 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. ūüėČ 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.

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