Saturday, July 12, 2014

Amazon: please make a pocket-sized Kindle

Open Letter To Amazon: Please make a Pocket Kindle Fire

I recently bought a Windows Phone with a 6-inch screen, with HD resolution. Even before I got it, I was more excited than the situation seemed to warrent, especially given that the number of Kindles and Kindle-compatible devices I have, including Android devices of similar size, makes me look like a spoiled brat. 
But really, I only got them in my relentless search for the ideal portable ereader.

And to my surprise, I think I have found it, in form at least. This phone ("phablet") is in most aspects giving me the best ereading experience I've ever had! 

The screen of this device is six inches (measured diagonally as usual), meaning a little smaller than the Kindle Fire 7-inch device (which I really like). But the outer form is significantly lighter and rather smaller, especially less wide, than the Kindle Fire, and this suddenly makes it significantly more pocketable. 

... As well as much more comfortable to hold in one hand when reading. 
And this is surely even more important. 

I am actually a bit shocked (Shocked, I tell you!) that this area, pocketable ereaders, has virtually been ignored by almost everybody, for some odd reason. Admittedly one maker has a nice 5-inch e-ink device, but it has no frontlight, so my interest in that one is low. 

Thinking more about it, I actually think that it's more important than we have realised. When did reading really take off? With the invention of the pocket book. A cheap book which you could stick in your pocket and take up and read on the bus, in your lunch hour, waiting in line, and so on. And I suspect that the current slowdown in the expansion of the ebook market is partly due to this un-noticed hole in the device lineup. 

Lacking this device, many people are reading on their smartphones. And for people with good eyesight this may seem sufficient. But for average eyesight and general purposes, we need a device of the "phablet" size, with a high-resolution 5.5-6 inch screen. And obviously it needs to be as light, cheap, and compact as possible. Current technology clearly allows this to a high degree. 

Why don't I just use the aforementioned phone, or one of the other Phablets on the market? Two reasons: A) Because they are phones, and as such, too expensive. B) I find Windows Phone and Android to be buggy and far from user-friendly. Amazon clearly has tamed Android though in their walled-garden version, which works well. 

Amazon is the most likely source of such a device. It could go two ways: it could be a high-end, phablet-sized Fire Phone. That could work well for those who would anyway use it as a phone and all-round device, but it would be more expensive than the second option: a smaller Kindle Fire. 

It does not have to be all that much smaller, just an inch smaller screen-wise. And I see no reason why Amazon couldn't emulate what others have done, and whittle such a device down to under 200 grams, and a size which lets it sit comfortable across any adult palm, thus enabling reading sessions of any length without hand discomfort. 

I really believe that a pocket-sized Kindle Fire would open up a new market which few seem to have imagined was even there. And even more important: make reading more comfortable and more attractive than ever before, including the years since the first Kindle, incredible as it sounds. 

Sincerely yours, Eolake Stobblehouse, July 2014

This one may make it looks not-so-huge,
as I have very large hands indeed. 

Kindle Fire HDX and the 6-inch phablet.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Windows in your pocket?!

I bought a Nokia Lumia 1520, when I found out it has a six-inch display!

It's like a Kindle Fire you can hold in one hand! 

(OK, you can hold a KF 7-inch in one hand, but not comfortably, and it's the rare pocket which will take it. The size difference in screen is small, but the size different on the whole is large.)

And the Kindle app seems to work fine on it, though the interface (phone based) is a bit confusing, at least at first (you click to download a book from your archive, it downloads... and disappears! Where did it go? How do I get at it?! So far I have been rebooting the app to find the local archive, but there must be a better way).

Sadly it is not just rumors that apps are really lacking in the Windows (Phone) OS 8. There doesn't even seem to be versions or equivalents of Flipboard, or worse, no versions of the Read-Later apps, Instapaper and my current fave, Pocket (oh, I found a compatible app, $2, called Read Later). These are important apps if you want to use your 'phablet' for what it is so incredibly well fitted: a pocket ereader.
(I'm still astounded that Amazon has never yet made a pocket-sized ereader, either in e-ink or in color. Such a huge missed opportunity.)

This 6-inch screen is colossal. It makes an iPhone look like a toy.
A perception I'm sure many share, and which I hope will soon shame Apple into action.

Oh, by the way, of course it's great for video also. But so far I've found no way to buy video and download it to to keep for offline viewing. Netflix does not seem to support that, and there does not seem to be any Amazon Video player, nor, of course, iTunes for Windows Phone 8 (different from Windows 8). Any tips?

I still haven't found out why phones are that much more expensive than tablets. But at least the Lumia 1520 is cheaper than most, possibly because of their small market share.

Sadly, but predictably, Windows Phone is not significantly less buggy or easy to use than Android. Sigh. I'm almost beginning to see merit in Steve Jobs' dictator mentality.

I found this cheap and (I think) beautiful faux-leather case for it:
(Link leads to Amazon UK. I've been banned on Am US for dirty pictures, oddly.)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Keep It Simple, Silly

I just wrote to D. Cutler, inventor of the Flote tablet stand:

I always say “K.I.S.S.”. In a reasonable world, you wouldn’t have to.
For example, I almost never see anything like your wonderfully simple tablet grabber, which can hold tablets of almost any size. The others I see have very limited size options, or other downsides (like a suction cup I don’t trust).

The Flote family: One stand fits almost any tablet. A simple "jaw" grip with very wide variation.

The rest: One stand, one tablet: 
(This one can also hold the Mini if it's in a case... but then you have to adjust it with screws!)

Why is it so hard for humans to think simple?