The Amazon/Apple iBook

by Hadley Stern Nov 18, 2008

The Kindle is everything the original iPod isn't. It is poorly designed with a bizarre clicker interface that is unintuitive and feels like a step backwards. The physical design of the device is awful. If you've never used one anytime you move or shift or try to pick it up you inevitably hit a button that does something. Typically it is the page forwards and backwards buttons that cover both vertical edges of the device.

Unlike the original iPod the design (or lack thereof) gets in the way of using the device. It is as if the designers of the Kindle took the innards and outtards of the iPod's click-wheel and smattered them across every surface of the Kindle.

I think you get the point.

This is all a shame. Because the Kindle, when you remove the design aspects of the thing, is a wonderful device that have elements that are from the future. Wherever there is Sprint coverage, for example, you have access to the internet which means you have access to read an amazing array of words. This is an internet everywhere device that give you access to not only the web (through a funky web-browser) but to books that you can actually read on a device (With all due respect to Bakari's great piece).

What I would like to see is an Apple designed Kindle. Leveraging all the expertise of Apple physical and user-interface design this Apple/Amazon Kindle would not only be a huge seller, it would be the true evolution of the book that the Kindle deserves to be. What does Amazon bring to the table? The relationships with publishers, integration with the Amazon store infrastructure and readers, lots of them.

I can't help but call this thing (as others have before) the iBook. Like the iPhone it would take the word that it prepends "i" to and turn it into the next evolution of a book. Lets look at some possible features:

- super-high resolution screen (possibly color) for reading.
- Minimalist physical design, including touch-screen UI like the iPhone to maximize the size of the screen.
- No ugly Kindle keyboard, keyboard is on-screen.
- Use of accelorometer for tasks like turning pages
- iTunes client integrated with Amazon backbend for purchasing and or renting (yes renting!) of books.

In many ways what would make this device rock is not so much what is in it, or on it, but what isn't. Unlike the Kindle this iBook should aspire to be the next iteration of a reading device, taking design inspiration and cues from our vast history of physical books while incorporating an electronic design aesthetic that is powerful and simple.

I am not so naive to understand that there are so many things in the way for Amazon and Apple to work together. Their business models are different. Amazon probably has a desire to own the Kindle and make it everything I have stated above. I wish them luck. Apple may look at the Kindle and see low margins and a lack of integration with their desire to own the hardware, software, and provisioning of content across a device like they do with the iPod and now, the iPhone (I am referring here to not only the music store, but also the fact that Apple is the distributor of applications on the iPhone).

But this is a case where the sum is more than the parts. Amazon and Apple here have an opportunity to redefine reading the way that Apple redefined music for the digital age. Amazon cannot do it alone, and neither can Apple.


  • What I would like to see, once the text book companies catch up with the rest of the world, is a sturdy device that would take the place of the 75lbs of books that students have to carry around with them. Ideally a player or reader on the laptop they already carry. If that doesn’t work, then okay, a separate device. One separate device to replace the books. Might I suggest iTunes for distribution. It’s not rocket science, git er done.

    Wundryn II had this to say on Nov 18, 2008 Posts: 11
  • You can’t get a colour ‘paper like’ screen yet.
    The Kindle uses B&W;‘paper like’ technology, which is why the screen is so good to use and does not require a backlight.

    Parky had this to say on Nov 19, 2008 Posts: 51
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