Kindle 2012: Wish-list features for the next model

Here's a handful of ways Amazon could revolutionize the Kindle.

This post originally appeared on Joe Wikert’s Publishing 2020 Blog (“What Will the Kindle Platform Look Like in 2012?“). It’s republished with permission.

KindleAmazon is well positioned to advance the Kindle platform much faster and further than they have in any 6-12 month period up to now. Here’s where I hope they end up between now and the middle of next year:

An insanely inexpensive entry-level device. Picture the current Kindle, but for $99 or less. How about $49? Better yet, how about free with a customer commitment to buy a minimum of X books in each of the next two years? Sounds a lot like a cell phone plan, doesn’t it?

Of course, if you’re instead looking for something a bit more powerful and extendable, how about…

An Android tablet device with an LCD screen. This one is the worst kept secrets since the iPhone 4. Amazon didn’t launch that Appstore for Android because they want to push more cell phone sales. The only questions here are (1) when?, (2) how much?, and (3) how open? If they’re smart the answers will be (1) any day, (2) $300 max, and (3) wide open.

But if you can’t stand the thought of reading long-form content on an LCD screen, then how about…

That same Android tablet with a hybrid E Ink/LCD screen. That’s right. A single device offering both the bright-light comfort of E Ink with the backlit option of LCD. Unfortunately for Amazon, it seems Apple is the one who’s taking the lead on this front. Just search for the phrase “hybrid E Ink LCD display” and you get nothing but Apple news. That’s a bummer since the first company to offer this solution could own the high end (and my loyalty). A fully open Android tablet with hybrid E Ink/LCD could easily command a $500 price or higher.

That’s all great for the hardware side, but what about the rest of the platform? Will Amazon really stick with the proprietary AZW file format that’s based on mobi, even as the rest of the world embraces EPUB? For backwards compatibility reasons they probably have to stick with mobi. What a shame though. EPUB is where the action is and EPUB3 adds a great deal of functionality to enable much richer content than the Kindle supports.

Expanding into a tablet with LCD display means the Kindle will no longer be hamstrung by the limits of E Ink. What a terrific opportunity Amazon has to offer (and encourage the development of) richer content than just words on the screen. But will they? I’ve been critical of the glacial pace at which Amazon implements Kindle enhancements, but I hope they take advantage of this opportunity early on.

Regarding formats and flexibility, I’d love to see Amazon support mobi and EPUB. Better yet, if they have the confidence to provide an open device, how about letting it run any reader app from the competition? Let me put the Nook app on my Kindle device and may the best content provider win. Now that would be a bold move! After all, if I could own an Amazon device that lets me buy content from any store, why woud I ever consider buying a device from anyone else?


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