Published August 01, 2011
Did you know that you can create book collections on your Kindle? Did you know that your Kindle can read aloud to you if you’re sleepy and don’t feel like using your eyes?
Most people don't know about these features, because Amazon doesn't do a very good job marketing the Kindle as a service as well as a consumer device.
I got to thinking about this while traveling with my Kindle -- and using the software on my iPad, iPhone, and online. I use all of these ways to read Kindle books, but it's a very disjointed means of accessing my digital library. Convenient? Yes. Elegant? No.
When you read a Kindle book on various platforms, it barely feels as though you're in the same system. Shouldn't you be able to do the same things on a Kindle device that you can in the smartphone app or Kindle desktop software? For such a consumer-facing company, Amazon is surprisingly anti-consumer in the design of the Kindle as a personal library.
For instance, I can create collections of books on my Kindle, but those collections won't show up in the Kindle app on a smartphone or on the desktop. And they won't show up if I lose my Kindle and replace it with a new one. My books will show up but my collections are gone. Why create a feature like this that doesn't work as expected, Amazon? It makes no sense.
I recently spent hours grouping my Kindle books into categories -- paranormal, history, romance novels, and so on. Okay, I don't read romance novels yet, but I have a category set up and ready to go if I start. It was a satisfying experience, like when I organized the bookshelves in my office. I love an organized library. So why can't I keep this newly organized e-library across devices?
Another glaring omission is the text-to-speech feature. Sure, the voice sounds robotic and it’s never going to kill the audiobook market, but it’s a wonderful feature I use regularly during car rides or sleepy train jaunts.
And the text-to-speech function is buried, hidden even within the Kindle device itself. Pick the book you want to read, hit the "Aa" symbol key, turn on text-to-speech, pick the reading rate (slow, medium, fast), and finally you’re listening instead of reading.
When I tell people about this feature they’re often floored that they didn’t know about it. They tell me how it changes their opinion of the device. Too bad you can’t use it on the Kindle app for iPad, PC, or smartphone.
The Kindle is still a hot-selling item but it's clear that Amazon wants it to be a bookstore more than a book device. The company want to sell books for all portable gadgets, not just its own. But in order to do so, Amazon has to stop frustrating consumers with this disjointed user experience.
Meanwhile, feel free to organize your Kindle books into collections just for the nerd-satisfaction of it; but don't expect those collections to follow you from Kindle-enabled device to device.
Here's how: Create collections from your Home page by clicking the Menu button and selecting Create New Collection. Type in the name of your collection and hit Save.
Then to organize your books, highlight one and move the controller to the right, where you’ll get a list of organizing options options related to that individual book. Tap the controller to select Add to Collection. Rinse. Repeat.