As a bibliophile, I’ve long simmered with literary lust. I have to have a book around me at all times – when I’m eating, working out, in the car, at work, anywhere. Dog-eared, battered and swathed in gravy, many of my tomes became unreadable by the time I reach the end page. Those messy interactions almost left me on the verge of book divorce. Then, enter the Amazon Kindle.
I jumped on board during the first generation and haven’t looked back. It doesn’t get tattered, it wipes off clean, and it’s ultra portable.
Still, despite all this and the recent price drop and upgrades to Kindle 2.0 (now just $299), I have had a few lover’s spats with this device. I don’t want to leave my Kindle and I’m hoping we can remain committed to one another and work this out. To that end, I’ve compiled a list of 5 things I’d change about Amazon Kindle to make my romance with this digital library extraordinaire completely break-up proof.
What I love about the Amazon Kindle is that it makes reading utterly convenient and fun. I carry my Kindle constantly. A five-minute wait somewhere translates into a quick descent into some character’s world. I literally read a book a week now. Before, I tried to read a book a month. However, finding the time and carrying the book was so cumbersome that the reality was I finished a book every two months. Kindle, which fits in my purse, automatically marks the last page you read, enabling you to quickly resume reading as soon as you turn the device on. You’d be surprised how much that helps you progress through the book little by little.
I’m a sucker for digital toys. Pushing buttons for features makes everything more fun. Admit it; computerized versions of anything end up being addictive. As true as that is with games, I found it even truer for me with books.
Normally with a hard copy book, if I come across a word I don’t know, I won’t interrupt myself to go get a dictionary. With Kindle, I don’t have to. I just push a button and it tells me definitions. It takes me shopping for new books at the push of button – even paying for its own internet use (in the hefty upfront price tag). It then delivers those new books to me in less than 60 seconds. It keeps my notes in a file for me. It highlights my favorite passages. It plays classical music in the background while we waltz through the pages together. Plus, it talks back to me! Well, it plays audio books. Same thing, right? Anyway, how could I not be love?
It is true; however, that familiarity can breed contempt. Amazon had better change the following annoying deficiencies fast so that this doesn’t dissolve into a love-hate relationship:
1. Better Organization for Notes and Highlights needed.
You know those notes I told you about – Kindle mixes all the notes together. I have my commentary on “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand mixed in with notes on “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. A few highlighted passages from the vampiric “Twilight” get interrupted with favorite passages I save from “The Bible.” Forget being blasphemous – it’s disorganized. Surely Amazon can find a way for all the notes and highlights from one book to coalesce and stay separate from those of other books. The note-keeping system for Kindle is definitely one I would change allowing separate and distinct note files for each book.
An audio note-taking system that makes use of a voice recorder wouldn’t hurt either.
2. Multiple Libraries and Privacy options needed.
Speaking of disorganization – which is Kindle’s main transgression, the new, improved generation of Kindle does away with the add-in memory card and by doing so takes away my ability to keep secret libraries and libraries organized by theme or subject matter.
In the first generation of Kindle, I could keep my fiction on one memory card, non-fiction stored on the Kindle built-in memory, and files I didn’t want anyone to see on yet another removable memory card.
The latter is really important. Why? Because as soon as your friends or relatives see you reading the Kindle they will want to see it and explore it. In the past, I slid out my memory card with my personal journals, sexy romance books, the Kinsey Report, dating books, and stuff that might make people think I’m crazy (like astrology books). However, this new allegedly improved Kindle won’t let you add a memory card and you can’t hide books in the index system. So, anyone wanting to glance at your Kindle can see all your private reading from the home page. Yes, they will see the Kama Sutra. It’s a bit intrusive.
I propose that Amazon create a way to categorize books on Kindle instead of listing all books together in the index on the home page. Furthermore, the owner should have the option of hiding a category – like say a category on sex.
3. Replaceable battery
The 2.0 version of Kindle doesn’t give users access to the battery pack like the original version. That means if you are on a long trip and don’t have a power source for recharging, you can’t take a second battery as backup. This needs to be changed — especially since when the battery grows too weak after a couple years of use, you’ll have to buy a brand new Kindle in order to replace it.
4. Support for all formats needed.
The new version of Kindle won’t support all books created for the first generation of Kindle. That means owners from the first generation lose money, memories, and access by upgrading. If Kindle refuses to offer the first generation for sale, they should at least offer the option of that old format on any new Kindles.
Also, it is still not possible to read all .pdf files from Kindle 2.0, despite misleading advertisements. Many books purchased and downloaded online are in .pdf form – such as “The DaVinci Method” which I recently bought from the publisher’s website and cannot read on my Kindle because it doesn’t support it. Kindle needs a built-in universal .pdf reader that will read everything – including locked .pdfs that require passwords (provided the owner enters the password once on upload or first reading).
5. Lastly, it is still a sore point that Kindle 2.0 lacks page numbers.
Surely, Amazon realizes that if Kindles are used in class and in book clubs people inevitably discuss with references to pages. However, the Kindle loser, I mean owner, will be looking at “location numbers” which coincide with nothing on the hard copy version of the book. Amazon received complaints about the lack of page numbers on the first model. It’s a mystery that this problem remains unsolved.
I recently used my Kindle in a college literature course. Writing essays and following discussions proved problematic. In the essays, I couldn’t give proper citations with page numbers as required. Instead I had to note to the professor that I was using “location number ranges” and had to create special unorthodox citations. In class, while everyone else turned to page 200, I had to listen and do a search for keyword they mentioned. By the time, Kindle found the keyword and the page, the class had moved on to something else.
I understand that page numbers are tricky because the size of the page on the Kindle can be adjusted depending on the font chosen. Still, Amazon must find a genius who can craft a way to coordinate digital pages with hard copy.
Despite these inconveniences, I likely will never break up with Kindle. Sure, I still maintain my leather bound library and a small paperback collection, but I much prefer digital books and intend to shift to all-digital eventually.