Oasisfeature-kids-tiled._CB317921289_Amazon.ca is finally listing the Kindle Oasis—at a jaw-dropping $400 CAD.

I know you Americans will convert this into US dollars and think it’s probably a bargain, but keep in mind that Amazon.ca is for shopping by Canadians, who earn Canadian dollars and pay with them. This is 400 big ones for me, if I want it. For comparison, the base Kindle is $79.99 CAD and the Paperwhite—the cheapest model with the light on it—is $139.99 CAD.

Also for comparison, an iPad Mini 2 is $329 CAD. The Kindle Oasis is by far the most expensive reading device one can buy.

There is no conceivable way I would pay $400 for an E Ink reader. I can accept that such a device is a niche product and can be a better reading experience than a tablet. I can even accept that people are willing to pay for them. I like my Paperwhite, and if anything happened to it, I probably would buy another one. But $400 is just insane. There is no feature set that could possibly compensate for that high a price point. I love reading books. But…$400?

So, what price point, then? And what feature set? If I were designing an e-ink reader right now, I would go for affordability by the masses, to get people excited about reading again. Here’s how I would tweak the Paperwhite I have right now:

1) Price point just under $100. That’s enough to earn back the cost if you mass-produce it efficiently, but not so high that regular people will be priced out. I appreciate that we’re not going for the Kindle Tablet $50, folks. So, a little price premium is fine. Just not $400!

2) A more robust processor. This is a problem I have had with every Kindle I’ve owned: they can store an awful lot of books, but actually trying to fill it to capacity will slow down the works too much as the Kindle labours to index everything. I’ve never had a Kindle more than a quarter full as a result.

3) The experimental browser needs to be improved. After how many generations, it’s still experimental. Why? I am not saying we need a full tablet experience here, but stuff like Wikipedia lookup needs to be smoother and faster. It is within technical capabilities now to have this working much smoother than it is.

4) Better book organization options. To be honest, I miss the way they used to do collections—I like that you can organize your books, but I also like keeping my cloud and on-device titles separate. You can do this if you list by title or author, but under the current ‘sort by collections’ framework, it mixes them up. I’d like to be able to sort by collection, but still view only titles which are on my device.

5) In-book error reporting features. There has simply got to be a faster and easier way to get typos fixed. I finished a book yesterday which was fabulous, error-free, and had a sequel. So I loaded up the sequel and within the first chapter, found five typos. I was so disappointed! How about adding an option to the highlighting menu where, instead of making a note or looking up on Wikipedia or whatever it is, there is a ‘report this highlight as a typo’ button. Then Amazon could more immediately make actual corrections to their titles for future readers?

So, those are my suggestions. Did I miss anything important?

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"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. Many of these problems would be less serious if Amazon made it easier to add full-featured third-party apps to e-ink Kindles. When the first, and cell-equipped, Kindle came out, I remember thinking how great is would be if there was an app that used the nearest cell tower to get an approximate location and then offered a map listing cafes and the like. No such luck. Amazon intended it to be a reader and little else.

    Most companies know their limits and stay within them but offer others access. Apple knew it could never create a wealth of versatile apps for the iPhone, so it created the App Store. Indeed, if all the iPhone and iPad had were Apple apps, it’s be a fairly poor device. Google has done the same for Android. Indeed, when I recently picked up a Nook Tablet for $10, I was ticked off that virtually the only thing it can do is read B&N ebooks. The company has closed its already anemic app store for Nooks. That means I have to find the time to ‘root’ it to use apps direct from Android.

    Amazon with its ereader and tablets has been odd. It’s neither fish nor fowl. It’s created devices that don’t play well with apps from other sources but on the other hand doesn’t offer that many apps of its own. There’s a reason for that. These devices are intended to drive consumption of other items Amazon sells: ebooks and movies. That’s where its interest ends. Steve Jobs famously said he wanted to ‘make a dent in the world.’ Jeff Bezos seems content to simply take a large monetary bite out of it.

    But that creates problems for those who want Kindles to do more. I’d like an Istapaper reader app. You’d like a better browser. Lots of people have uses that wouldn’t strain e-ink technology, but that Amazon is neither offering nor allowing others to offer. When users are buying an under-$100 device, that may not matter much. At that price, a device can survive as a specialized one. But as you note, for $400 Canadian, you expect much more. You can get a quite good and vastly more versatile iPad for that.
    Much of the problem lies with Amazon’s corporate structure as it impacts new product development. Steve Jobs could be brutal, but for the most part he focused on demanding quality not dictating the specifics. If this Bloomberg story is accurate, new product development at Amazon faces a far worse problem with Jeff Bezos:


    The good news is that, unlike ereader Kindles, it does sound like Amazon intends to open up Echo to outsiders. Apparently the result is popular, although I can think of a host of reasons why any device that can buy online driven only by voice commands is not a good idea.

    This remark from that article is depressing though:

    “Many of the people who helped create the Echo no longer work for Amazon. They gave various reasons for leaving: a sense of closure after finishing a big project; a lucrative job offer from a competitor or the temptation to start something on their own; burnout after the long workdays; bitterness after years of the blood sport of internal politics. None of the former employees interviewed for this story quibbled with Amazon’s reputation as a brutal workplace. When asked whether it was inherently “fun” to work on a product like the Echo, one former employee scoffed that, to describe Amazon, no one had ever used that word with a straight face.”

    I’ve written a book about what bad morale means in a hospital context based on personal experience at a hospital only a few miles from Amazon’s corporate headquarters. I suspect that experience also fits Amazon. Unhappy, put-upon people don’t make good decisions. They’re too driven by fear to be creative. They obsess over avoiding criticism at all costs, burn out, and leave. High turnover is always a bad sign. A few weeks after I left that hospital, some 20% of its nurses quit. Managers at Amazon would do well to read that book and learn.

    –Michael W. Perry, author of Senior Nurse Mentor: Curing What Ails Hospital Nursing Morale

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