Thoughts on the Kindle’s Present and Future


I've been meaning to write about the things I want to see in a new Kindle for awhile. This post has been percolating in my head for so long, in fact, that a new Kindle Oasis was released awhile back.

Thoughts about the new Kindle Oasis

Of course I ordered the new Oasis as soon as it was available (after checking with Marisa, of course!) and I just finished reading a book on it (The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe, which is excellent) so I feel like I can have an opinion about it. This version takes my favorite Kindle ever, the Oasis, and improves it slightly which means it is now my favorite Kindle ever.

This version doesn't add too many new features, but the additons are nice:

  • A few more LEDs for more even lighting, which is the best feature if you ask me.
  • Adjustable screen color temperature so you can make the light warmer or cooler depending on your preference. At the moment you have to set the screen warmth manually which is fine, but I'd rather have an automatic setting that adjusts it based on the light it senses.

If you want to read a more robust review of the Oasis check out my pal Jason Snell's review. I pretty much agree with him on all points, including the fact that most people should just get a Paperwhite.

Features I’d like to see in the next Kindle

Before I share my list of desired features let me say right up front that I have no idea if any of these are feasible (well, I know some are!). That’s the lovely thing about making a list like this: I don’t have to figure out how to do it, I just know I want them!

With that out of the way, here’s my list:

  • No more “Special Offers” – That’s what Amazon calls the ads displayed on locked Kindles. Sure, you can pay $20 to get rid of them, but I can’t imagine they are making much money for Amazon and while they are just a minor annoyance a Kindle sans Special Offers is just nicer. Why? With Special Offers you have to wake your Kindle and then swipe to start reading. Without, you just wake it up and read. Not a big deal, but a slightly nicer experience.
  • Display the current book’s cover as the lock screen – The Kobo already does this, and I assume Amazon doesn’t do it because of the aforementioned Special Offers, but I think it’d be neat. Also, I’d like to see the covers of the books I’m reading a little more often.
  • Built in kick stand ala the Surface Pro/Go – Those members of Microsoft’s Surface lineup sport impressive hardware. One of the best aspects of the design is a very cool, and useful, kickstand on the back of the tablet/laptop. Amazon used to have a cover that would fold into a stand, but it was stuck at one angle. An integrated stand would allow you to adjust the angle to your liking.
  • Ability to lend people ebooks easily – Did you know you can lend people select Kindle books? That selection is rather meager, which I’m going to guess is because of publisher limitations (though I’m sure Amazon would rather you buy all your books). I’d like to see the number of books you can lend increase, and I’d like the process to be as easy as the Family Library feature (which is great! Marisa and I can see all of one another’s books on our Kindles. It is pretty damn sweet).
  • Browse library books from the device – Once again Amazon is in the business of selling you Kindle books, so they probably aren’t too interested in this. However, it would be nice if you could browse/borrow library books directly from the Kindle (you can do this on a Kobo, though that makes sense since Kobos are made by the same company that owns/runs Overdrive which many libraries use to power their ebook lending systems). I will say that if your library is an Overdrive library you should download Libby. It is a much better way to search the catalog and you can send books from Libby to your Kindle with a couple of taps (in the US only).
  • Tap to Wake – When someone comes up with a good feature you should… borrow it. iOS sports “Tap to Wake” which lets you tap on the screen to check notifications. It is something I use all the time, and I’d love to see it on my Kindle with a slight modification: “Tap to unlock.” Just tap on the screen (assuming it is displaying the Kindle lock screen) and you’re taken right to the last thing you were doing on your Kindle.
  • Eye Tracking – This one may be the least feasible, but the one that would improve my life the most. These days I’m using my Kindle more and more with just one hand. The great thing about the Oasis is that I can just keep my thumb on the next page and press it when I need to without disturbing the baby that is sleeping in my arms. But I’m lazy and I’d like to do even less to turn the page. It would be cool if the Kindle could track my eyes and know when I got to the end of the page and automatically turn the page. And if I wanted to turn back a page I could stare at the upper left hand corner of the page and back I go.
  • Faster, higher resolution screen – This is obvious but I feel like I should include it!

Will we see anything like this in the next Kindle? I have no idea! Will I still buy whatever Kindle they come out with? Probably.

Is the Kindle mediocre?

As I was writing this Jason wrote a post lamenting the Kindle’s current status and its boring future (i.e. more of the same).

Usually, I agree with Jason but this time we are in differing schools on one particular point. I would like Amazon to stick to making the Kindle disappear while you’re reading a book. Nothing too flashy is needed when it is just a container for whatever book you might be reading.

Jason suggests that perhaps Amazon missed an opportunity to make the Kindle a hub of all the text people read by offering up apps (from The NY Times and other publishers) from an App Store (I assume). That would make me sad. Several years ago I wrote about how much I liked the fact that the Kindle really one does on thing well: allows you to read a book without distraction.

I can see the allure of adding apps to the Kindle but I think that would be contrary to the entire reason the Kindle exists. Now, a Kindle Fire sporting a color eInk screen is something that I could really get into (which would include the Kindle app, and several other apps).

That’s not to say that there isn’t room for improvement with how the Kindle handles reading books, I’d just hate to see the Kindle lose focus on that (though, admittedly, Amazon doesn’t seem all that focuses on pushing the state of the art with the Kindle which is Jason’s main thesis… and one that brings us back into agreement. Hurrah! I don’t like it when we fight).

2 responses to “Thoughts on the Kindle’s Present and Future”

  1. I’d like some sort of simple voice navigation. I sometimes read while I’m cooking and it would be great to tell my kindle to “go to next page” 😁

  2. “Display the current book’s cover as the lock screen.” Would be neat indeed! This feature has arrived on your Oasis by now, I believe? My 6th generation Paperwhite is too old for that stuff… and it is heavier than the current generation, with lower ppi and not waterproof… Which means that I could upgrade *today*! Or I could wait and see what’s new in the next generation of Kindles. Tap-to-unlock? USB-C? And maybe read a book while I’m waiting.

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