The Amazon Kindle 2 is a good device. No question about it. Almost everyone who has one seems to love it, and indeed, there's a lot to love. But no device is perfect, and that's what keeps us members of the tech media in business. So, I thought I'd start a semi-regular series in which I attempt to give friendly suggestions to companies about how to make their products that much better--how to take it to the next level, if you will. And I'm starting with the Kindle 2. These suggestions aren't all the same issues that our expert reviewers point out in "the bad" section of our official CNET review, but just assume those are in there, too. And yes, some of these ideas depend on widespread adoption of the Kindle or any e-book reader: but they'll also help it get to that widespread adoption in the first place. Win-win! Let's begin.
Make it better with sharing The Kindle 2, or any electronic book reader, marks a dramatic change from the way we normally read books. Sure, the reading is solitary, but books are fundamentally social in nature. You share books. You recommend them, you loan them out, you pass them around, you mark pages for each other. The Kindle 2 takes all of that away: sure, someone can come along and look at everything you're currently reading (which has its own set of issues), but you can't lend anyone a book, you can't share a subscription, and you can't even tell someone you loved a passage on a certain page, since the Kindle doesn't use standard page sizes. OK, Amazon. What can we do here?
Learn from iTunes and allow authorizations. Let me authorize multiple Kindles on a single account so that I can share subscriptions and purchases between them. At minimum, allow two authorizations, which would cover several households; better yet, allow up to four or five. This lets me share a book with a friend, a spouse, a roommate, a parent. This is just a no-brainer. There's no reason to undo the tradition of sharing the Sunday newspaper by tying a subscription to a single device. Let's hurry up with that one, shall we?
Learn from the Microsoft Zune and allow one-time content sharing. Let me use the Whispernet to send another Kindle user an entire book that will expire after two or three days, as a sample. Or, heck, if you want to be stingy, just let me send a chapter. Similarly, let me send bookmarked sections, either Kindle-to-Kindle or via e-mail. I'd love to be able to select a block of text and choose, "e-mail this passage," so I can send particularly poignant text to a friend. This could be a great feature of the Kindle DX: allow limited sharing of helpful textbook passages, or let me play the age-old game of sending newspaper clippings to someone!… Read more