Amazon’s Kindle: Two Steps Back

Book designer extraordinaire Chip Kidd comments on the design of Amazon’s Kindle:

[…] books were always physical objects, and the printed book as a piece of
technology has yet to be improved upon. And won’t. Certainly not by
something that looks like a prop from Charlie’s Angels and has, are you
ready, a whopping ONE typeface. For everything! Yay! For further
explanation as to why this is doomed, go to Amazon’s own website and
read Kindle’s Customer Reviews. Ouch. Caveat emptor!

Link: A Brief Message, illustration above by Mike Essl.

Valleywag points to a big flaw in Amazon’s Kindle magazine subscriptions: the device can’t display pictures worth crap.  They quote a reviewer:

This is a rather embarrassing electronic version of Time Magazine.
There are NO pictures, no charts, no illustrations. Instead whenever
you run into an article that has these in any decent amount, they’ve
inserted an entry telling you to go get a PDF or print version. The
salvation here is that their MOBILE web site at least has some images
(even if impossibly small) and seems better formatted and organized. It
looks and feels like some cheap RSS reader collected this rather than
being an electronic version of the magazine.

Valleywag continues:

Kindle supporters may be willing to overlook this flaw, but Amazon
cannot afford to. Amazon is depending on subscription revenues derived
mostly from newspapers, magazines, and blogs to subsidize its free
Internet connectivity. If image-rich content, including most magazines,
fail to catch on, it could be a serious blow to Amazon’s plans to make
Kindle profitable.

Link: Kindle e-book reader not a good e-magazine reader.

See also this design dissection by Thibault Sally: Bookishness.

E-ink/e-paper has been hyped for years now and I don’t quite get it.  To my layperson’s eye it’s just a high-resolution LCD without a backlight.  Plus it’s slow to update, and it goes black every time you flip a page.  LCD’s have always been crisp; so now we have a smooth, rounded typeface instead of segmented character displays — big deal.  And I used to have a late 80’s mac portable that had the ‘innovation’ of not having a backlight, and that was just an irritation.  (Kindle’s white plastic design is also reminiscent of the mac portable.)

I think e-books will have their place, especially for commuters and others on the go, but Apple is a lot closer to a usable solution with the iPhone and iPod Touch.  They’ve got beautiful screens and good interfaces.  E-books at the iTunes store can’t be long in coming now.

The Future: Mobile Phones Required for Parking?

The "Mobile (phone) Wallet" trend is big in Japan and elsewhere, and is now making it to the US.  San Francisco, where I live, recently started a pilot program for using your phone to pay for parking meters (San Francisco Sentinel).  The photo here is from Christian Lindholm’s blog and shows parking meters in an area of London.  I can certainly see the convenience of this for parking meters, though what about people who don’t have a cell phone?  That’s a dwindling population, to be sure, especially in Europe, but plenty of people in the US don’t want or need them or can’t afford them.

Aside from parking, using a phone for payment sounds like more trouble than it’s worth.  I’d still have to carry my wallet, so what’s the point?