Kindle Wishlist

I finally caved, and got myself a Kindle. I’ve been travelling enough over the past few years to realize that not having to carry the extra weight of a book or three, whilst having plenty of reading material with you is useful. I still prefer paper books, and would buy paper books in most cases over eBooks.

Anyway… overall I’m impressed. The screen is even better than I thought. I unpacked the thing, and tried to peel off the foil with instructions from the screen until I realized it was the screen I was looking at. It’s that nice.

But of course there’s something left to be desired. Put simply, the Kindle is a great eBook reader, but only a mediocre for working with texts:

  1. You can highlight passages of text, but can’t make notes connected to the highlights.
  2. You can make notes connected to a position within the text, but can’t highlight which range of words the note pertains to. Of course, combining this feature with the above gives you enough flexibility, but it takes two separate steps. A minor niggle.
  3. You can bookmark a page, but can’t add a note on why you bookmarked it. That now is a real tragedy. You’ll have to use this in conjunction with the first feature above to be really useful.
  4. There’s a nicely browsable list of all highlights, notes and bookmarks that you can access from within the book you’re reading.
  5. There’s also a global “My Clippings” document that contains highlights, notes and bookmarks from all books – but the navigation is crude, and you can’t jump to bookmarks from there.

Sounds good, right? It could be a lot better:

  • Make “My Clippings” as nicely browsable as the “Notes & Marks” list within books.
  • Allow adding links to notes, linking to bookmarks, highlights, web URLs or other notes within the same book or in other books. Then you have an index card system.
  • If you have an index card system, allow creating & editing an index card document that’s separate from the “My Clippings” document. Then the Kindle works as a general “making research notes” tool, without adding any major functionality1.
  • Allow adding tags to any of the above things in the index card system. Then let me search/browse the index card document by tags. It’s amazing what such a loose connection between things does for finding things quickly.
  • Make metadata for books editable (in a local copy of the metadata), i.e. the title, author, etc. Some eBooks aren’t that well endowed with metadata.
  • Make all of this available for all documents, not just eBook files — within reason, of course. There’s no reason you can’t search in a PDF file, etc.

And then there are a few navigational issues that could be sorted:

  • The menu from within the book reader doesn’t give easy access to the book metadata page, which in turn allows you to add a book to a collection. You currently have to navigate out of the book in order to move a book to a collection.
  • In said metadata page, the collections the book is already in are oddly absent.
  • Trying to do anything on the web whilst offline pops up a message asking whether you want to go online. Fair enough. But clicking cancel doesn’t close the browser that also opens, leaving you with a blank, unusable browser page. Going back to the previous page would’ve been a lot better.

All in all, it’s frustrating that there are some — to me — obvious things missing from the Kindle when ca. 90% of what I want is already there. Being able to jump to bookmarks, notes or highlights makes it painfully obvious that there is a system in place for addressing not just books, but specific, named places within a book. The “My Clippings” document makes it painfully obvious that there is functionality for extracting all marks from all books. The “Notes & Marks” list in books makes it painfully obvious that there is a system for easily browsing such marks.

Why not hook it all up?

It’d turn the Kindle from a good reader, into a pretty decent study tool.

  1. I love that the Kindle isn’t a generic tablet that lets you do everything. The most important features in the Kindle — long battery life, awesome screen — stem from the fact that it’s not. []

  • Norman Liebold

    Klingt ziemlich gut, mein Lieber und macht mir fast Lust auf einen eBook-Reader. In das Betriebssystem kommst Du, Deinen Ausführungen nach zu schließen, nicht hinein, um es entsprechend abzuändern? In Bezug auf Lektüre: Lust, “Die Höhle” vor Veröffentlichung zu lesen? Lass uns die Tage mal videotelefonieren, bei mir ist es jetzt endlich wieder etwas ruhiger…

    • unwesen

      Ja, bei mir wird’s ueber den Zeitraum der naechsten 1-2 Wochen auch ruhiger. Wird auch vorher klappen mit einem Teflonat :)

      Nein, in das Betriebssystem kommt man nicht hinein – und auch wenn mich das grundsaetzlich eher stoert, in diesem Fall gefaellt mir es eigentlich sehr gut: man merkt dem Ding an, dass es zum Lesen gebaut ist, und nicht als Allzwegsleichtcomputer. Leider ist’s halt, wie gesagt, noch nicht 100%ig zum Arbeiten mit Text gut, da funktioniert’s zwar, aber Papier ist doch noch bequemer.

  • Andy

    Good post. I’ve often thought about a Kindle for the same reasons. There are a few books that I own that are really wayyy to big to carry daily. A Kindle would solve that instantly; but in the end I will always prefer print books over digital. I guess I’m really at that “too old” stage because I’ve loved and coveted print books for 40 years of my life. It’s hard to give something up which you’ve known that long.


    • unwesen

      As I said, in most cases I’d probably still buy paper books, especially since many of the things I like are long out of print and only available in second hand bookshops. Although these things might see a Kindle edition at some point.

      I think at this point in time, I mostly use the Kindle for reading things that, for one reason or another, I got for free :)