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Amazon’s Read Anywhere Is a Sad and Unfufilled Promise

Amazon’s Read Anywhere Is a Sad and Unfufilled Promise

Disapprove by striatic

/disapprove by flickr photographer striatic

Amazon is supposedly the leader in ereading technology but from the Kindle devices to the web app to the desktop software, the reading experience is inconsistent and even crude. If not for the one click buy which Amazon had patented in September 1999, Amazon’s apathetic attitude toward the software and user reading experience may have prevented it from coming to dominance.

Amazon wins right now because the buying and reading experience is virtually seamless. Has there been anything more transformative in consumer online spending that the one click buy? I mean, even Apple licenses once click for iTunes. The frictionless method of purchase is the key to device + content interrelationship.

But Amazon, for all its technology capabilities, has allowed its software and reader experience to languish. Witness the launch of the web reader from Amazon after Apple made Amazon pull the KINDLE store link from the Kindle App. The Amazon Cloud reader doesn’t work with every browser. In fact, it doesn’t work on the over 80 million iPhones and iTouches out on the market. Those device owners that can use the Amazon Cloud reader can only bookmark a page. There is no dual column capabilities either. It is one large wall of text.

Screenshot of Kindle Cloud 2011

You can’t highlight, type a note, or even use the social reading aspects offered by kindle.amazon.com.

Worse, the reader experience isn’t consistent from device to app. While I can email content to Kindle device, I can’t email content to the Cloud Reader or the apps. While I can create (albeit in an unweildy and almost unuseable manner) collections on the Kindle device, I cannot do so on the Cloud Reader or the Apps. While I can search on my Kindle device through all the content, I cannot do so on the Cloud Reader or the Apps. (An obvious refrain). But that does not make the Kindle device superior. Because of the tiny keyboard, making notes is a hassle. Because of the low onboard memory, searching for a particular book or author is so time consuming that I often set my Kindle aside and read through a dozen emails before the search is completed.

No Kindle platform allows me to sort my archives by RECENT purchases which is a significant flaw for anyone with over 30 books in their Kindle library. To some extent, as a big Kindle book buyer, I feel punished for my avidity.

Only the Kindle for PC allows for copying and pasting and that wasn’t rolled out until last month (July 2011). Michael Hyatt wrote an entire blogpost about how to copy and paste highlights and notes from a Kindle book.

The Princeton study on its ereader pilot program (PDF) said this:

Battery life, text resolution, internal memory, screen size and physical weight were the most highly rated features, while the Kindle web browser, navigation between books and documents, highlighting text, the keyboard, and annotating text got the lowest rankings

There is no way to mass download titles. You have to go to your Archived section and redownload books one by one. Even though you can sync individual notes and highlights, you can’t sync your entire library so that the Kindle App booklist and archives match your Kindle device booklist and archives.

The inability of readers to be able to sort, search and modify their collections is a huge oversight. The inconsistency of reader experience from platform to platform reduces reading pleasure. While buying is frictionless, the reading experience is not. Only competition, it appears, will push Amazon to provide a better, and unified, reading experience.  Here are three things that Amazon can do to fulfill it’s promise to allow people to read anywhere:

  1. Give every platform the same features.
  2. Allow readers to create collections that are synched with the account and useable no matter the platform whether it is the laptop, the mobile device or the Kindle reader.
  3. Include a “recent purchased” sorting option.
How Good Does a Book Have to Be At 99 cents?

How Good Does a Book Have to Be At 99 cents?

The 99 cent book is becoming a mainstay of the publishing landscape.  Pioneered by self published authors, the 99 cent price may be reshaping customer expectations.  John Locke, the eighth author to achieve Kindle Millionaire status, once famously told the Wall Street Journal in an interview that at $.99, the other authors have to be 10 times (or more) better than he.

“When I saw that highly successful authors were charging $9.99 for an e-book, I thought that if I can make a profit at 99 cents, I no longer have to prove I’m as good as them,” says Mr. Locke. “Rather, they have to prove they are ten times better than me.”

Is that a truism? In other words, does this apply to all books across the board? Does the 99c self published Regency Historical only need to be 1/8th as good as the $7.99 Regency Historical?  I suspect no and here are my two anecdotes.  I would love to hear your own opinions in the comments.

I bought The Heat by Heather Killough-Walden in May (which is no longer for sale in the Kindle store as far as I can see).  There were several problems in the book but there was definitely something compelling in the story that made me wonder about the other characters.  I’ve purchased one other by her but I have yet to read it because, for me, it was just okay.  Instead, I’ve been trying out other authors at $.99 instead, hoping to see if I can find a hidden gem.

Ned finished Joe Ambercrombie’s Last Argument Of Kings: The First Law: Book Three and didn’t know what to buy.  He hasn’t found a fantasy blog that fits his tastes and it is hard for him to find the next book to read.  He decided to buy a $.99 book that was highly rated in the fantasy section: Mageborn: The Blacksmith’s Son by Michael G. Manning.    He reported that he couldn’t get past the first chapter and abandoned the book.  (It’s easier to do when you only pay $.99)  He then decided to re-read the first book in George RR Martin’s series which cost him $7.99 (and he already owns the series in paperback) rather than try another $.99 book. Martin was a sure thing, Ned told me.

The difference between Ned and I is primarily one of volume. I read nearly a book a night. Ned reads one book a month, maybe two at the most.  My conclusion is that for volume readers, the $.99 price point is really important. For the casual reader, price isn’t as important.

What do you think?