To the Kindle team at Amazon:
I am a very happy recent convert to eBooks, having finally purchased a Kindle when the new generation of your e-Reader product line was announced last Fall. As hoped, I am reading more books now than I have in years, due to my Kindle Touch’s combination of eye-friendly e-ink, great form factor, easy sampling, and frictionless purchasing. (Plus, having a bit more free time at the moment.)
But, after reading a bunch of eBooks in recent weeks, I keep running into parts of the Kindle user experience that clearly fall short of the full potential of a cloud-based digital book service. (See my recent post on creating consumer services that are radically more personalized.) Perhaps the following three features on my wishlist are already in your near-term product pipeline, but if not, please consider adding them. Your customers will be happier and more engaged, and you will sell way more eBooks!
Feature One: Transform all Book Titles into Links. Okay, this one seems obvious (at least to me), but the implications of it are revolutionary. Most of my reading in recent weeks has been non-fiction. I am learning about a bunch of different topics that I’ve been meaning to research. Each book I read makes dozens and dozens (if not hundreds) of references to other books. Oft times, I think, “Oh, I really should read that book next (or soon).” If you rendered all book titles inside Kindle eBooks as links, each reference would give me the chance to order a sample (or make a purchase) on the spot, then continue on with my reading. This would obviously be great for your business. Plus, in the process, you would end up building the strategically potent Web of Books. More on that in a moment…
Feature Two: Embrace the “End of Book” Moment. Getting to the end of a great book is always a magical moment, a time to pause, take a deep breath, and marvel at humanity’s unique ability to capture and transmit learning through the written word. But in the digital domain, it is also a chance to suck the reader deeper into their relationship with the author, the subject, and Amazon itself. You already let people rate and review books (and other products). Why, oh why, is that option not presented to me at the moment of finishing an eBook? After all, I am in a “signed in” state, so it would be pretty low friction for me. And while you’re at it, surely there are a bunch of suggestions you can make for what books I might want to read next (even if I don’t give you any feedback on the one I just finished). Among the lists of suggestions should be “Books referenced in this book” and “Books that reference this book,” leveraging your ever-growing Web of Books.
Feature Three: Connect to the Social Web. Okay, it is 2012. Is there really no social integration on the Kindle? After I finished my last eBook, I really didn’t know what book to buy next. So I posted on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus to see what my friends would suggest I read. The process was fun and engaging, but it could have been so much better. When I finish reading an eBook, make it easy for me to share that out to my social networks (along with a link back into Amazon’s Web of Books). As I’m reading, I might also want to also passively share what book I’m reading to my “intimate social graph” on my new obsession, Path. And, of course, the more you mash up the Social Web and the Web of Books, the better your recommendation engine can be. You can extend it further by mapping between Facebook likes (of books, authors, bands, etc.) and your Web of Books, and automatically suggesting eBooks that I ought to find interesting. This is just the tip of the iceberg for social.
Thanks in advance for listening. And apologies to my relatively new 55″ Samsung TV (purchased via Amazon), who is feeling a bit jealous all of a sudden, as I spend less time watching TV and more time reading eBooks on my Kindle. 🙂
[Oh, and when Joseph Smarr reviewed a draft of this post, he pointed me to this video from Kevin Rose, in which he shares his own feature wishlist for improving e-Readers, including some smart ideas for social integration (in the second half of the video).]
Okay, one last thing…
When I sample an eBook and decide to purchase it at the end of reading the sample, please give me an easy way to jump into the purchased book at the place where the sample ends.
[Update: Amazon PR reached out to me to let me know that some of these features already exist. Specifically, some of the end-of-book options, like rating, sharing to connected social networks, and seeing recommended books. I appreciate the outreach, and am glad that some of this is already “there”. That said, I think that especially for non-fiction books, these features are buried, since I (and most readers), don’t page through every page of notes at the end of the book. So, I didn’t find these features until I went specifically looking for them. Might there be a way to elevate them?]
On point 2 above, other Kindles, namely the keyboard models, do let you rate books, but are lacking in the “you might also like” suggestions category. My $0.02.
Yes, it was a fun discussion of what book you should read next — so what did you end up going with?
It seems to me, reading an eBook should pretty much construct an ad hoc “book club” out of your social graph, looking for people reasonably close in your graph, who have read the book in the reasonable past (or present, or perhaps put it on a wish list).
“reasonably close” would for many books be pretty far-flung, as only very popular books would have close hits in your graph, but you’d still be likely to find people of similar tastes and interests, and be more focused than without the social graph.