Thursday, 5 January 2012

Kindle touch first impressions

The best gift I received on Xmas was a Kindle touch: I will never carry around 4-5 books at a time any more (once I'm finished with the paper book I bought but haven't read yet).
Thanks to my boyf who cares for my back :)

Here it is:

I wanted a Kindle touch. 
Ale's got an old Kindle with keyboard, and I hated both the idea of moving with an arrow-pad similar to a phone control and the fact of having the keyboard always there, even when not needed.

From what I can see (I've been using it for a few days, so please take this as a first impression - yet first impressions count!), all the features which require a lot of moving with the arrow-pad are more easily performed on a touch device (i.e. using the keyboard, checking the meaning of a word, selecting an item from a list, ...). Yet there are a few things I expected to be better addressed:

Page turning
A normal Kindle has 4 buttons (hardware controls) built in the case to turn pages. They are located to the left and right of the screen and perfectly fit your fingers when you hold the device.
I wonder why they had them removed in the touch version. Clicking an hardware button located right under you finger is much, much more comfortable than having to move your hand every time to tap on the screen, not to mention the slow response to tapping.

Having an e-ink display, a Kindle can't scroll smoothly: it has to refresh the entire page anytime the content changes. Yet, against all odds, Amazon decided to keep the paradigm of swiping to scroll.
As you can imagine, a swipe does not scroll, it changes instead the entire page to show new content. A normal Kindle behavior is by far more consistent: to scroll you have to click on the page controls, knowing that "the entire page content will change" as you move forward or backward.

Menu buttons
Quick actions are always nice to have, moreover we are used to quick links on many devices:
  • iPhone and iPad have the TabBar acting as an (almost) always visible menu within apps;
  • Android devices have some controls (search, home and back) always available either on touch screen or as hardware buttons.
The new Kindle has some buttons, why did they chose to eliminate them in the touch version? They could have kept them, using them as shortcuts to features and it would have been even better.

In the end, what I feel is that Amazon decided to opt for the "look&feel" (no one can disregard the similarity between the new Kindle and an Apple device or a Nook) instead of the "design". 
I'm not saying the device is crap, I'm a fan of adding touch capabilities to Kindles, I'm just saying that these capabilities could have worked out much better if they were integrated in the old design instead of replacing it, if they would have taken advantage of the good things that were already there in order to add value instead of throwing all away just for aesthetic sake. 
Aesthetic counts, but only as a way of supporting and highlighting good design.


  1. Very nice review, thanks for sharing!
    I have an "old" Kindle, and I would say I am completely satisfied with that. The real "innovation" in this kind of devices is the e-ink, with all its pros and cons. As you underlined (and as I completely agree) the advantage of e-ink in terms of eye fatigue and power consumption is paid back in mainly scrolling speed.
    I would have been skeptical of implementing touch capabilities in any e-ink device from the very beginning....

  2. I agree on the e-ink: it's a great technology and the best possible option for reading. :)

    I'm not skeptical about touch capabilities, though: I think they could indeed enhance the ux, if properly integrated.
    The only problem I can see is that right now, for how they've been implemented in the product, you have to choose wisely the device depending on how you're gonna use it:

    A. New Kindle touch
    You are a person who read in a foreign language and often searches for meaning of words.
    You often highlight or annotate your books.
    You don't read pdfs (screen does not have a landscape mode).

    B. New Kindle
    You use the device only for reading and are not used to actions mentioned in profile A.
    You read a lot of pdfs.