My far too late Kindle Voyage review

I just found my Kindle Paperwhite somewhere in the depths of my apartment and remembered in that exact moment that I forgot to sell it.

That’s a good sign, because as soon as I got my hands on the – quite expensive – Kindle Voyage, I forgot about its predecessor. When I bought the Voyage I didn’t really think I’d experience a huge difference. Okay, it might be a bit thinner and lighter, the display would be better but all in all more of the same. I didn’t need a new Kindle, I just wanted it.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. The new display is a huge improvement and the old one is laughable in comparison. The new design is beautiful, feels a lot thinner and more valuable. All in all it’s the best Kindle, yet.

If you’re still on the verge of buying one, just do it. If you use your Kindle all the time you won’t regret it.

★★★★★

Why Amazon should get into Social Reading

As some of you may know I’m a huge advocate of social reading and the whole topic around how to optimise the reading experience for people who expect just a little bit more than plain old text on a white background.

I had my fair share in trying to build a product around social reading of texts found somewhere on websites with QUOTE.fm. Let’s just say it didn’t work out as I had planned. Several reasons. Not far away, in Berlin, Readmill tried the same for Books and got a lot farther but now got bought by Dropbox and it doesn’t seem like “social reading” will be their main focus anymore.

However, I don’t really care who brings social reading to life, I just want it to happen.

For many people reading is one of the last bastions of peace and calmness, something where you’re on your own, just you a piece of dead tree in your hands, your thoughts and imagination. That’s wonderful, I don’t want to criticise that. I just want to enhance it for the few of us who are interested a bit… more.

Here’s my quick overview of what “social reading” could be. Just at a glance, in its infancy:

Buying

I want to buy a book and I want to see which of my friends bought it, read it, liked it, reviewed it and so on. Reviews by random people are nice but I know whom of my friends I can trust when it comes to recommendations. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a few quotes from the book that that my friends found worth highlighting? Exactly. It would.

Reading

Remember when everyone came to school and talked about the last episode of that one show that was aired the evening before? Yeah, me neither. Since the internet, everybody just always shouts “Shut up, I haven’t seen that one yet!” as soon as you mention anything in that general direction. Books have that and another problem: They’re not finished after 45 minutes. You might be reading for days, even weeks, before you’re done with them.

I want to experience the same story at the same time with other people. I want to read the passage of Dumbledore’s dead (Spoilers!), tap on it and see all the shocked reactions of my friends and maybe even random other people. Yeah, I’m talking about comments, discussions and basically reading circles in and around stories.

This simple addition represents the core of my vision. Books wouldn’t be a static kind of entertainment anymore. They’d live not only in your imagination but also in the “real world” through friends and strangers who are on the same adventure at the same time. Not together with you but somehow connected. I think that might be nice.

Enter: Amazon

The main problem Readmill faced was that they needed the book to add their social voodoo into it. Which means: People have to upload their ebook files into their system so that they can spice it up with all the available meta information I mentioned above. They did a great job, it was basically as good as it could be without being one of the world’s largest digital book stores.

In comes Amazon. If a company has the right pieces to bring social reading to life, it’s them. Here’s a list of assets that are already there and just need to get connected:

  • They bought Shelfari a long time ago. A whole social network around books. Friends, followers, reviews, recommendations, everything is already there.
  • Their Kindle “network” is kind of broken and useless, but it exists. Every Kindle user has a user name and can add friends somewhere in the strange “My Kindle” section of Amazon’s website.
  • They have a shitload of users and books. Everybody buys their ebooks at Amazon and reads them on a Kindle. The one thing you’ll need to make social reading a reality is users, here they are.
  • Amazon already tries to cross reference bits and pieces in books with others. It’s called X-Ray. Not used for much but included in their Kindle hardware and adds nicely to the other things listed above.

Bring all this together, add a nice social reading interface to Amazon’s iOS and Android apps and you’re good to go. Heck, it could even be opt-in, like Readmill has done it, so it doesn’t bother those folks who just want the rare text without distractions/additions from strangers and friends.

The funny thing is: Amazon still does this! You’re able to highlight parts of the text and when you decide to make your highlights public this right here happens:

Seems kind of boring, doesn’t it? Nonetheless it comes with two very important insights:

1) I’m not the only one reading this book. Others have been here! I feel strangely connected to other people just by seeing this dotted line.

2) The highlighted part is special, it’s something others found worth highlighting. The fact that Amazon seems to have a threshold of about 40 highlights until the books displays the passage is an interesting addition.

Conclusion

I know, what’s the business value and why should anyone do this? That’s a lot of work for something that doesn’t generate money. Yeah, yeah, I’m aware and don’t care. (Rhymes!)

The one thing Amazon sure has enough of is money and talent. This could be one of the things that are worth to try with an outcome that might be more positive than we can imagine right now.

Everything is social. Who knows, maybe it even brings some kids back to books. Books could be “cool” again.

The whole topic is giant and has a lot of potential. I could go on and on, and there’s a huge chance of me getting back into this area sometime in the future. It’s just too exciting not to try it.

Addendum

I don’t really believe in Amazon going in this direction. It just would be the best thing that could happen to the idea of social reading. Secretly I hope that Dropbox bought Readmill to include something on the lines of social reading into their apps. How awesome would be a folder full of ebook files. That in combination with their recently announced comments on documents (roughly at 17:00) could be a good start. I’d definitely would be a huge fan.

Edit: Seems like Amazon is actually moving! I didn’t know that they also bought Goodreads (Monopoly anyone?) and are going to integrate it more deeply into the Kindle reading experience. Nice. (via)

☰ Marcel, what do you think about the Kindle Paperwhite?

The Paperwhite contains no surprises, is pretty boring and yet the best Kindle ever.

I don’t know if anyone expects a full-fledged review from me and I don’t really care. This isn’t one. Deal with it. Here are some bullet points:

  • It feels more responsive than the Kindle 4.
  • The resolution is visibly better.
  • The light is a great addition it’s more blue than white, though.
  • The device is a bit thicker and heavier than it’s predecessor.
  • I’m kind of surprised about the touch screen. It works really well, especially when you use the onscreen keyboard to write a short note on a highlight.
  • I miss the hardware buttons of the Kindle 4. Yeah, swiping and tapping is nice but it happens all the time that I accidentally :f1 turn :f2 the page.
  • I’m a big fan of the “x mins left in chapter” feature you see in the bottom left corner.
  • One of the best things is the cover view in the main menu. I use my Kindle only for books, so this view is my new bookcase.

Conclusion: If you don’t have a Kindle, buy this one. If you have a Kindle 4 and the money to upgrade: Buy this one. If you’re happy and you know it: Clap your hands.

☰ The Verge's Kindle Paperwhite Review

Joshua Topolsky:

Amazon has pioneered e-readers in ways that few other companies have or could. The Kindle Paperwhite is the successor to a long line of innovative and daring products that seek to move book reading into the new century — and it’s a terrific product. I was truly delighted while using the device, and for a moment at least, actually envisioned a future where something like the Paperwhite was the only way that I read books. That was a weird moment.

I want one. I want one so badly and I’m kind of mad that I have to wait until Amazon decides to sell them in Germany. It’s not even possible to order them on amazon.com, because they won’t ship Kindles to Germany. I’m so looking forward to mine.

☰ Kindles and Typography: Rags Over Rivers

Even though the Kindle lacks a good hyphenation engine, they still justify the text, without giving you the option to left align it. Fully justified text only works when it’s done right, when words are properly hyphenated and when the spaces between letters and words are tweaked ever so slightly to compensate for any space inequalities that still remain. It’s one of the reasons why professionals use expensive software like InDesign to typeset books, and not something standard like Word.

I don’t get it. There obviously  is a hidden option to deactivate the fully justified text, but apparently nobody cared to build a button for it. It’s not like the rag looks worse, or something.

☰ Send to Kindle for Mac

Eine App von Amazon um Dokumente und Bücher direkt auf den Kindle zu senden, ohne, dass man den Umweg über Mail gehen muss. Könnte für einige ganz praktisch sein. (Ich brauch’s nicht.)