On eBooks and the Original Kindle


By 2009, it was impossible to ignore the Kindle. Released in 2007, its first version was a curiosity. It was unwieldy, with a split keyboard and an asymmetrical layout that favoured only the right hand. It was a strange and strangely compelling object. Its ad-hoc angles and bland beige colour conjured a 1960s sci-fi futurism. It looked exactly like its patent drawing. (Patent drawings are often abstractions of the final product.) It felt like it had arrived both by time machine and worm hole; not of our era but composed of our technology.

I still hold that the original Kindle was the best Kindle, and while they haven’t gone entirely downhill, they’ve utterly failed to make progress.1 Even worse, the internet of that era, Web 2.0 where everyone was making open APIs, didn’t last long enough to take hold of Amazon’s ecosystem. Which is a crying shame: imagine an app ecosystem built around an open Amazon account, where you simply sign in and get access to all the same content, the same store backend, but whatever UI you prefer? It’d be incredible, and it’d drive me to use Amazon’s services more.2

  1. I’ve never gotten over the removal of the large physical page-turn buttons. Plus, Whispernet? That was incredible
  2. Not that I’m trying to convince Amazon that there’s demand that should be met with supply, here, or anything. 

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