What features do the e-Ink Kindles still need?

E-inkThere is a new Kindle Paperwhite update making the rounds! It adds some features which have been present in the iOS app for awhile, including the ‘sync to most recent open page’ option and some PDF features.

I really like some of the ‘extras’ eBooks allow me to take advantage of. I love the on-board dictionary, the Wikipedia and Google Translate options, the notes and annotation features (I never used to highlight paper books; I often do with eBooks) and, few bugs notwithstanding, the vocabulary builder. So, what’s left? What features could Amazon still add here?

1) Academic Citation Features. I wonder how hard it would be to implement a paper-edition correspondence for academic citation purposes. The way I envision it working would be that you’d highlight something, as you do now, and select an ‘academic citation’ option from the same ‘more…’ menu that hides the Wikipedia and Google Translate stuff. If you choose the citation option, it will give you the citation, including paper edition page number, for the Kindle location you’ve selected.

2) Series Organizers. I’d like to see a feature, set up in a similar way to the Vocabulary Builder as its own little mini-app, where you can keep track of series books you own. It should have a little browser where you can select from series titles which are loaded onto your device, and when you choose to open one, there should be a list of all titles in the series, with the ones you own highlighted and the ones you don’t own greyed out. You should be able to sort by publication order or reading order (if that’s different from the publication order) and be able to look up at a glance which books feature key characters or events.

3) A Visual Browser for the Store. I’d love to see them try to set up an interface for the Kindle store which mimics the retail store experience, since many people seem to think they are missing out on that. It would be like the way computers use the ‘desktop’ analogy: you open up the store app, and there are virtual table displays you can click on to see more; and a big ‘Stacks’ you can click on to search the vast back catalogue…

What else do you think the e-Ink Kindle can still afford to add as a bonus feature? What would you like to see your eInk reader do to push the envelope further?

18 Comments on What features do the e-Ink Kindles still need?

  1. More than any of that I would love to see them spend the few dollars it would take to add text-to-speech and an earphone jack, no need for a speaker, but a dumb Kindle is a dumb idea.

  2. The store-list & wish-list interface is rather simple minded. A bit more info on each book, (like the price and publication date) would be good.

  3. I really like number 2 on your list but would like to extend it to allow me to purchase books in the series directly from the series listing. It should also have a “Want” “Don’t Want” toggle so I can actually use it to plan my collection.

  4. Name (required) // August 14, 2014 at 12:43 pm //

    They need to:
    – Allow other margin settings than wide, extremely wide and ridiculously wide
    – let the user set any arbitrary font size and not just a small number of fixed sizes
    – let the user set justification – full or left
    – support hyphenation
    – let the user set line spacing other than three arbitrary values
    – let the user switch the light off completely
    – give us nested directories for storing books, or at least nested collections that can be organized from PC and not just clumsy Kindle interface
    – let the user configure screensavers, add dictionaries, redefine user interface, add small programs (that means release Software Development Kit)

    Only when they give us the most basic stuff they should spend time in features like academic citations, xray, social network integration.

    From typographical point of view the text presentation on a typical Kindle is atrocious.

  5. Name (required) // August 14, 2014 at 12:46 pm //

    MY e-ink reader does push the boundaries. It provides all I have listed above and more, like multitasking. I do not have a Kindle but PocketBook.

    And I have my eyes set on an e-ink reader with Android, so I can install ANY reading app I wish.

  6. I’d like to see Amazon re-include a feature my Kindle 3 has, the ability to read text to speech. That’s great for those commuting on bouncy trains or taking a walk. I used it a couple of years back when a sickness left me flat on my back, feeling too bad to get up and do anything. It’d also be great for those with vision impairments.

    Adding it back into the epaper reader line would also remove one reason why I’m not interested in upgrading to a Paperwhite. I can always turn on a light to read. I can’t add text-to-speech when it doesn’t exist.

    Sadly, Amazon missed a host of opportunities when it comes to its epaper readers. When I got a Kindle 1, I immediately thought of all the things that it could be doing, particularly with that cellular data link.

    One, for instance, would be a notepad shared between those who have the same Amazon account. One spouse could tell the other what needs to be picked up on the way home, with that shared notebook synching in the cloud.

    Another would be a short messaging system that’d only work between those who have Amazon hardware and accounts, either cellular or WiFi. Friends who share common reading interests could keep in touch. It’d be email without the bother of lugging gear along.

    Alas, if you want those sorts of features, you’ll need to get a smartphone or tablet. That’s why I suspect epaper readers will die a slow death. When an epaper reader dies, most will decide to put the money they might have invested in a replacement into a tablet instead.

  7. @Michael, I keep reading that eInk readers will die, and while I’m certain it will happen, I hope it’s a very slow death (like 50 years or more so I won’t be around when it happens). While I do read on my tablets, when I bought a Paperwhite earlier this year I remembered how much I love eInk. Not just for outdoors, either. I’m starting to believe the “reflected light at bedtime keeps you awake” studies. I do think I sleep better when my bedtime reading is on my Paperwhite instead of my iPad or Nook HD.

  8. I cannot go back to read on my iPad after I bought and started to use my Kindle to read as e-ink is much comfortable for my eyes. For features that I like, I would like to set the time before the Kindle starts to sleep (I think it is 10 minutes now). This is not enough for me as I like to read short stories during TV ads break. I cannot use a Kindle to do this as it will go to sleep when I am watching the TV programme and I have to wake it again in the next TV ads break.

  9. I would love to see a paperwhite kindle that could sync to the audible app on your phone via bluetooth or wifi, so you could do immersive reading with the kindle while listening on the phone. I don’t think people realize what an enormous value Amazon adds by synchronizing audio and digital books for this purpose. The publishers aren’t doing this, and they ought to be grateful, because it encourages double purchases.

  10. I would like a new DX sized eink screen; maybe, I’m alone here. I also second the idea of narrower margins and the ability to set justifications.

  11. @Doug, I believe the function you want is already available, as long as the publisher has agreed to Whispersync-enable the book. I’m doing this right now with a book. I listen on my iPhone Audible app, and when I go to my Paperwhite, I pick up where I left off. The reverse works as well.

  12. David Whitbeck // August 15, 2014 at 9:10 am //

    Typography. Typography. Typography.

    All else is irrelevant in comparison. I really wish that Amazon would just pay for those premium fonts already. Palatino is a poor man’s Georgia font. Just saying.

  13. @Juli There’s a difference between Whispersync and “immersive reading”. On tablets one listen to the Audible while following along in the text because it highlights the phrase that it is reading. Immersion reading is good for quite a lot of people.

  14. @Denise, thank you for the clarification. Got it!

    @David, I completely agree with you. I can live with Palatino, but I’d much rather have Georgia like I can on the tablet apps. That’s what I don’t get. If they’ve paid to use Georgia in the apps why not also add them to the Kindles?

  15. EPub 3 support or even true ePub 2 support. I also hate the flash when you turn a page on e ink devices.

  16. A much bigger selection of font sizes. There is way too much of a jump between the third from largest to the next size up. They have much better font selection in the iPad Kindle app.

  17. it needs much, much better pdf support. journal articles and all sorts of stuff I need to read is only in pdf…nearly all of it’s basically unreadable on my kindle 2 (but half decent on my old DX due to size and pdf handling on that device, but that screen, ugh; gray text, gray background, slow, heavy). I understand the marketing fear that “documents they didn’t control/didn’t make much money off” might get on their precious hardware, but the pdfs I need are non commercial and never will be part of their ecosystem. LaTEX generated pdfs by academics, etc. Insofar as the platform simply doesn’t support a key need well it fails to become my “go to” device to the extent it easily could. Bad pdf support means I have to carry other devices just for reading (let alone other uses), and that’s a huge failure imho.

  18. I believe the Kindle only offers Bing translate, not Google translate, which is a pity. You might want to correct this.

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