OPINION: The latest update to the Kindle line-up could add some much welcome extra functionality to the e-readers.
Kindle is one of those few products that are so well-known that even its name can function as a by-word for the category of e-readers as a whole. Yet, whilst they are very widespread, and often very well-loved too, it has to be said that the product itself themself is not always particularly dynamic or fast-developing.
While the easy-to-read e-ink display has remained a mainstay, it has even taken until the past year for all of the devices in the range to finally adopt USB-C connectivity, dragging its heels far behind most other comparable mobile devices. While subject to fairly regular updates, the revisions tend to be minimal, and it’s not particularly easy to identify different generations of the devices such is their resemblance.
Now, you could very reasonably argue that there’s no need for big yearly updates like those we see in the smartphone market, since an e-reader is only a simple device with a basic function. However, I think the introduction of stylus note-taking or drawing, with the Kindle Scribe, is exactly the kind of change that can push this range up a gear and grant even more functionality.
In allowing users to take notes, annotate, and doodle, the nature of the device has changed from being one of consumption (reading books) to one of creativity. This change can allow readers not just to take notes on what they are reading in order to aid their understanding, potentially delivering an educational advantage, but it can let them draw or write for themselves directly onto the device, rather than having to take any additional accessories with them.
Whether this new development will be entirely successful does depend on the execution of this concept; previously Kindles have been criticised for the lack of compatibility of the file types they use, and this problem could only get more prominent as you want to share the notes or drawings you have made.
While we’ve been impressed with other e-ink tablets over the years, such as the Remarkable 2, (and it has to be said that writing with e-ink is quite a unique thrill once you’ve tried it) the concept has still only experienced relatively limited success, not fully conquering the mainstream and remaining a niche device. With the IP of Amazon Kindle behind the concept, it’s arguable that it will become more and more tempting for a wider audience.
The Kindle range has long been a reliable and steady – but not particularly flashy – range of products from the retail giants, even though it has conquered its corner of the market very effectively. The Kindle Scribe could well add an extra killer feature, and reinject a bit of verve and creativity to the product line.