Being around the new iPad a lot recently (though not owning one), aiding my wife in the procurement of her own iPhone (which I do own) and having my beloved Kindle crap out and then get replaced very quickly by Amazon, I’ve thought a lot about the intersection of these devices’ functionalities, and what might improve one or the other to make one or the other less necessary — or at least less lust-worthy.
I think I know. I adore my Kindle, and I do not at all wish it were a better Web browsing device or email device. I mean, those things would be fine, but I want my Kindle specifically for reading things longer than Tumblr posts. The rest is gravy. So the question is what is Kindle missing that would aid in that particular function?
Let’s presume for now that its basic book-reading functions are essentially unimpeachable. It has a high-contrast E-ink screen that has no glare problems, no backlighting to cause eye fatigue, and refreshes at an acceptably quick rate.
On top of that, one can read and subscribe to periodicals. (We’ll set aside for the moment that the Kindle iPhone app does not support those subscriptions, and concentrate on the device itself.) Among those most valuable to me is the self-curated Instapaper, a service that allows one to collect long-form reading from across the Web, and have it packaged in a highly-readable format in one central location, be it the iPhone app, on the Web, or sent to one’s Kindle (my favorite option).
The problem for me, I’ve discovered, is that Instapaper collections must be sent to the Kindle, as opposed to the iPhone app, which updates in real time. I send an article in my browser to Instapaper, and seconds later it’s in the app. But for Kindle, it must be e-mailed, and it must travel with one’s entire Instapaper collection at that. So no more than once per day, the Instapaper service automatically sends your Kindle everything in your collection (presuming you have new material in it). Add something to the collection minutes later, and you have to wait until tomorrow to see it on your Kindle, unless you log in on the Web and manually send it yourself.
What the Kindle needs, then, is live updating of online content. Not a daily digest, but a real-time reflection of one’s collection. This could happen either by new functionality of the Kindle device itself, or via an Instapaper-specific app native to the Kindle (thus ending the need to e-mail oneself one’s content, a means which feels more and more antiquated with every passing day).
This added functionality would of course not only serve Instapaper well, but all sorts of periodicals and blogs that people would rather read on their Kindles instead of on backlit screens. I don’t pretend to know what kind of pressure this would put on the blessedly-free 3G Internet connection the Kindle provides, but even if it were a Wi-Fi-only feature, it would make the Kindle far more valuable than it already is.