Amazon Unofficial Errata, Kindle Thoughts

Amazon makes an attempt to be a one-stop shop for information about products. This increases the value of their site to consumers, making it one of the first places many think to go when they are looking to make a purchase.

Cool.

OK, how about this, then. Under any book they could have an

Unofficial Errata

link that takes you to something like a forum, where people give an edition number, a page number, the existing text, and what they think is wrong with it. Maybe a fixed-in-edition field. People could respond to that post saying “no, you got it wrong” or whatever. And Like/Dislike buttons.

The publisher would probably still have their own *official* errata page. But I think Amazon could easily take over *unofficial* errata. Surely the errata forum software would not be that hard to write, given that they already have other forums.

Or heck, maybe publishers would rather Amazon take care of the official errata as well. The publisher/author could log in and “approve” errata.

So now imagine that such forums exist. If you own a Kindle, perhaps you could say that you want errata to be shown inline. The old text would be crossed out, and the errata version would be shown. Perhaps the user could select “show errata those with Likes > Dislikes” or “show only approved errata.”

Kindle Sidekick Mode?

Speaking of Kindles, Amazon’s big Kindle is way more expensive than the little one — probably a reflection of two things: lower volume, and a higher failure rate in larger display sizes. The failure rate is bound to come down, but in the meantime, how about making it possible to use a *pair* of little Kindles together in interesting ways? For example, let’s say I’m reading text that refers to a diagram; can I bring the diagram up in the other Kindle and keep reading? Or it could be a reference to a table, or a picture, or a concept in a previous chapter, or a URL, or errata, or a note I wrote, or a link *I* made to a page in another book, or whatever? Or I could be in the index or table of contents in one Kindle and whatever I selected would show up in the other Kindle? Or maybe I simply want to turn them sideways and show two synchronized pages at once, one above the other. Or maybe I want to zoom into two different spots on the same map. You could imagine a holder that looks like a book, with a Kindle on each side.

The second Kindle could be the cheaper one, at $139, or I might just be using one I borrowed from a spouse or a friend, temporarily displaying text from my book without storing it there. So for significantly less ($139 + $189 = $328) than the cost of the larger Kindle ($379) I could have a *pair* of Kindles which I could use together or separately. And when I used them together, I could do some interesting things with them, with one Kindle driving the other. If one of them broke or the battery died, well, I’d still have the other. And either separately or together they would be more portable than the big one.

I wonder whether they have thought about doing something like that…

The Kindle I Would Like

While we’re on the topic, I haven’t yet bought a Kindle. One of the main reasons for this is that I’ve heard that its support for PDF files isn’t great (as of the Kindle 3), and apparently its conversion PDF-to-Kindle conversion facility only works well with simple documents.  So since much of what I would like the Kindle for is to read PDFs, I’m holding off for now. I’d really want the following for PDF support:

  • accurate rendering
  • good page-turn performance
  • usable navigation on the page
  • the ability to recognize two-column text and flow through it naturally
  • a usable zoom facility
  • search capability
  • the choice between portrait and landscape modes
  • the ability to add annotations (highlights and text notes).

Beyond that, I’d really prefer a Kindle with a slightly larger screen. Seven inches is common for LCD readers, and for technical books with code listings and diagrams that seems like a big advantage.

In fact, one such reader, the Ematic EB101, has no network interface at all; you add books via a memory card or USB, and for that reduced functionality the price drops to $80. For me, that’s a great trade-off: I am on computers a lot, so plugging in a reader once in a while to pick up a new document is no problem.  In fact, for some work documents, I am not allowed to upload them to Amazon, as I would be required to do to read them on the Kindle; direct transfer to the device is essentially the only option.

The reason I haven’t bought that reader is that it lacks the Kindle’s highly readable screen and its battery life.  I’m hoping that the next Kindle will get closer to providing the best of both worlds.

UPDATE

I just discovered the enTourage Pocket eDGe — that’s the idea!

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