back to article Fire burns away the Kindle dream of interactivity

Amazon's new Kindles don't have keyboards, an omission which says more about how the Kindle has evolved than any of the shiny new capabilities which have been added. To understand why the keyboard was so central to the Kindle's aspirations, it is important to remember that Kindle wasn't just supposed to be just an electronic …


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  1. some_haqr

    "You chance to lead a creative wolfpack"

    Shouldn't that be "Your" ?

    1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

      Shouldn't that be...

      see icon

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Electronic dictionary

    But I use my Kindle as an electronic dictionary. I often type words into it for that function.

  3. Rob

    Totally agree...

    "...but in doing so it is also abandoning its Web 2.0 aspirations. Which, all told, is probably a good thing."

    Definately the right thing to do for Amazon, let others try a new angle on the Web2.0 diahorea. Being a strong platform for media distribution (books, audio, video) and making your content available on many platforms is definately going to challenge iTunes current grip on the market. To be honest I'm already sold on Amazon's services, they are convenient and allow me to consume as much media as I want/need on any of the devices I currently own, that's the best type of freedom I'm gonna get with DRM media and to be honest I don't mind it, stops me from being a 100% proof freetard.

  4. banjomike

    Watch the price in the UK ...

    If Amazon can launch the new models in the UK at the same price (allowing for currency complications) then I would buy one to go with my 3 year old Sony and use the Kindle for NEW books and the Sony for, er, acquired epubs. But they won't. The UK will get the traditional excessive price boost. Stuff them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The bottom end new Kindle

      has launched in the UK. It's not ad-supported, so it's equivalent to the second-cheapest version on the US side. And it's a whole ~£6 more expensive, once you take in tax.

  5. Ralph B
    Thumb Down


    The earlier Kindles had a physical keyboard because they had no touch screen. The new Kindles don't have a physical keyboard because they do have a touch screen.

    And it will have to be a very bad virtual keyboard to be worse that the earlier physical keyboards.

    And all this has absolutely nothing to do with whatever customer-author interactions that Amazon may have planned or hoped for but failed to achieve.

    (Of course, you might have argued that the lousy physical keyboards are a factor in this failure, but you didn't, did you?)

    1. Anonymous Coward

      No they don't

      The Fire has a touchscreen, the new model Kindles don't. This article isn't about the Fire, its about the new Kindle. Simple enough for you to understand?

      1. Jamie Kitson

        Re: No they don't

        All but the cheapest ONE has a touch screen. Simple enough for you?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: No they don't

        "The Fire has a touchscreen, the new model Kindles don't. This article isn't about the Fire, its about the new Kindle. Simple enough for you to understand?"

        The new entry-level Kindle doesn't have a touchscreen, the new Kindle Touch does.

    2. Alfred
      Thumb Down

      So why 26 keys plus extra?

      Other eBook readers with no such interactivity pretensions do perfectly well without the complete set of a-z plus gubbins. Someone designing the kindle wanted more than page flipping and menu tripping.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh dear ...

      I agree with this guy. The main thrust of this article is completely negated by the fact that the new Kindles still HAVE KEYBOARDS.

    4. Paul K

      Only one new Kindle has Touch?

      The basic Kindle doesn't even have touch - just for reading books...

      Currently Amazon UK shows:

      - 'Kindle' £89 - D-pad

      - 'Kindle Keyboard' £109

      - 'Kindle Keyboard 3G' £149

      Draw your own conclusion on the translated prices

      Amazon US (with/without offers)

      'Kindle' $79/$109

      'Kindle Touch' $99/$139

      'Kindle Keyboard' $99/$139

      'Kindle Touch 3G' $149/$189

      'Kindle Keyboard 3G' $139/$189

      'Kindle Fire' $199

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Well you know there is 1.something pounds to the dollar.

        Oh wait, no there isn't.

        Thieving bastards

      2. JaimieV

        And for everyone doing the maths

        * The US prices are WITHOUT tax, while the UK is WITH 20% VAT.

        * The $79 Kindle is an ad-supported $109 Kindle, and there is no ad-supported version in the UK.

  6. Jamie Kitson


    > Amazon's new Kindles don't have keyboards

    Are you sure about that? I was assuming that all the touch screen Kindles (ie, all but the cheapest) will have soft keyboards....

    > but the most basic models of Kindle now lack a keyboard or a touch screen

    You've made a mistake there, that should be "model", singular. Only the cheapest doesn't have a touch screen, and that's saying something as they're all cheap:

    tbh the whole article is flawed twice, one, as I've said, only the *cheapest* Kindle is not touch screen, and so can't have a keyboard, and two, I've used a Kindle for input, it was excellent, getting me internet access through Turkey, Iran and the 'stans*, but you would not want to write a wiki article with it, take it from me, I could barely bear to write an email on it. Not just that, but the screen makes it frustrating too. Why not just find a computer?

    * In Iran I was even able to access Facebook and Twitter, the only country it didn't work at all in was Turkmenistan.

    1. Jamie Kitson

      In fact even the cheapest one has a keyboard, you just have to use the cursor to select letters.

  7. Jonjonz

    Total Fanboy Waste of Time

    Give me back the 2 min. I wasted reading this fanboy screed.

  8. Tom Kelsall

    New UK Kindle

    The UK one doesn' have a touch screen OR a keyboard. How does one join it to a password protected WiFi network? :-/

    1. Jamie Kitson

      On-screen keyboard selected with the cursor.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You don't

      I'm assuming you actually mean that you have to authenticate (username/password) rather than enter a key? ie a system using EAP/PEAP.

      I've yet to see the Kindle manage that in any hotel/etc I've visited, although I keep getting told its possible. Never seen it yet though with is why the new UK one is a non-starter without 3G.

      Entering the WPA-PSK obviously does work but its not the way most paid wireless systems work.

  9. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

    Price wars

    I am hoping that this will spark off a price war for e-readers, it will be interesting to see how B&N and sony respond to the lower price of the kindle. Should get interesting in the lead-up to Christmas.

  10. DrXym Silver badge

    They don't need keyboards

    The only reason Kindles had a keyboard and a wealth of other buttons all over the device is because e-ink is so painfully slow that users would go mad with anything less. Imagine navigating a menu where each navigate could take a second for the screen to refresh properly. But with a touchscreen it's easy to just touch the option to use.

    The Sony readers have used a touch screen for a while now, and as long as it's an IR style touchscreen (i.e. not a layer over the screen) it produces a very spartan looking device which is as functional as one with a pile of buttons.

    Though having said that Amazon's bottom end model just has a dpad at the bottom, with no touch and I think people who buy that are going to get very annoyed with it very quickly.

  11. blcollier

    The keyboard on my Kindle 3 gets very little use; if I want to look something up in the dictionary while I'm reading a book, I use the 4-way navigtion button to move the cursor to the word I want to look up. Every other time I want to look a word up, there's always google.

    The only time I do use it is when I'm looking through the store for a specific title. To be honest, I can even live without access to the store on the device. I can buy a book on the website and Whispersync will send it to the Kindle for me. If I want non-Amazon content on there, I hook it up via USB and let Calibre manage the content. Everyone else I know with a Kindle also only uses the keyboard on the store, and they could probably live without it too.

    I like that it's there, it does give a certain flexibility (even though it's atrocious to type on), but I can't say that I'd miss it.

    I didn't even know that Amazon had this whole "publishing revolution" planned out. Collaborative authoring on a Kindle? Have you ever tried typing on the thing? Even if the keyboard wasn't so horrible to use, the refresh rate would kill off any thoughts of typing on it.

  12. Ken Hagan Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Reasons for the keyboard

    "It is sometimes fun to ask Kindle 1.0 users why they think their electronic book has a keyboard."

    Really? I use mine to organise my books in collections with names that make sense to me. I use it when the experimental browser wants a URL. I use it when I'm typing in an access code to a Wifi network. The list goes on.

    I hardly ever use it, but the device would be unusable without one.

  13. Mick 3

    "invited contributions that would allow fans to share book annotations and comments. Eventually the author is reduced to the role of administrator, though how the scribe is to make a living was never fully explored."

    That sounds like a complete pipe-dream--with some pretty powerful stuff in the pipe.I'm amazed that it made it into the design of the hardware.

    The unnecessary and pointless keyboard was one of the main reasons I didn't buy a Kindle, I wanted something that was easy to carry around.

    On the other hand I was powerfully tempted by ubiquitous internet access. So the Fire is one step forward and one back.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Turned off Web 2.0 stuff

    One of the first things I did with my Kindle was to turn off the web 2.0 gubbins. I have absolutely no interest in being told what other people liked or in tweeting what I'm reading.

    The only thing I use the keyboard for is to search for new books to download in the Kindle store, but I wouldn't be disappointed to lose it.

  15. CowardlyAndrew

    Something I've not seen anywhere, what would happen if you bought a Kindle Fire in the US, and brought it to the UK?

    Might make a nice Christmas present.

    If the cloud stops working, then am sure lots of US customers who travel will be less than pleased.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Using Kindles abroad

      I looked into this recently with a view to buying a DX. Amazon will happily sell this US-only model to foreign users and there's a section of their website dedicated to making it easy for you to do this.

      However, they note that because the DX is attached to a US cell network, when you download a book in the UK you may be subject to a charge. My conclusion was that if you buy/import one of their US-only products, then everything you do on it will be hit by roaming charges. That's a breath-takingly bad deal and I'm staggered that they have the cheek to encourage such purchases through their website.

  16. Jamie Kitson

    Re: Really?

    In fact even the cheapest Kindle still has a keyboard, but you have to type using moving cursor.

  17. JDX Gold badge

    Lack of keyboard a big deal

    If you want to buy content through the Amazon store... typing in a book name or whatever. This is really convenient with a proper keyboard.

  18. Lxbr

    The keyboard on the 3G Kindle is pretty much useless even for the two main uses anyone ever has for it - entering WiFi passwords, and going to a specific location in a book - because the keyboard *has no buttons for numbers*, which have to be entered using a soft keyboard navigated using the 4-way rocker control.

    The 1G and 2G Kindle keyboards at least had buttons for numbers, but I can't see anyone typing out anything significant on them.

    1. Snark

      @Lxbr - kindle number entry

      Just as a FYI, you can type numbers directly on the Kindle (Keyboard) 3/3G. Hold down the alt key and the appropriate top letter of the keyboard. Hitting alt+q gets you a 1, alt+w gets you a 2, etc. Not as easy as having real number keys, but a lot easier than the sym popup one.

    2. Darren Barratt

      Do you have one?

      If you hold the ALT key, the top row of keys (QWERTYUIOP) function as number keys. The numbers aren't marked on them, but as long as you can count to 10, you should manage.

  19. Alan 6 Bronze badge

    The only thing I've ever used the keyboard for on my kindle is entering the wi-fi password and the odd web address.

    It's by a long chalk the best e-book reader, and that's all it is.

  20. Steve Dulieu

    To those saying that the cheapest kindle doesn't have a keyboard, err, yes it does. It's shown on the page for the new kindle on Amazon UK. Admittedly navigating a keyboard using up/down/left/right/enter is going to be a pain in the arse, but it does have a keyboard. Second button from the left calls and dismisses the keyboard, centre d-pad to select letters.

    Cheers, Steve.

    1. Old Handle

      It's the cheapest US model they're talking about.

  21. Pat 4


    Yeah... yesterday Web 2.0

    Today... Cloud.


  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No keyboard...

    Marketing innit.

    Its just so that it looks more like an iPad.

  23. Tony 34


    I use the keyboard on my kindle all the time, searches, annotations, notes, e-mails, you name it - texty type stuff. It is perfect for that.

    Very useful device for me.

    My gf I would buy one of the new cheapies for christmas because that is what she would choose.

    Personally I turn off all the collaboration stuff, but that is because I am not collaborating, not because the feature is at all broken. Shame the way it is going with consumer rather than creator focused products. It could have been so different - I thought it would be back in the '80s

    I applaud Bezos' attempt to appeal to the more creative.

    Hope the choice remains for those of us that want it.

    Ho hum.

  24. geeyore

    To search the Amazon catalog

    I use the keyboard to search the Amazon catalog and sometimes to enter UID/pass (e.g., WiFi). Given how little I use it, I'd have no problem using a virtual keyboard, just as I do on my Android phone. I honestly didn't know there was a "social" or "interactive" angle to Kindle, it's certainly not the reason I've bought two over the years. I bought them to read books, period.

  25. Michael Wojcik Silver badge


    I have to agree with Tony 34 and other posters who say they like the Kindle's physical keyboard. Most of the Kindle owners I know use the keyboard frequently, for annotations and the like.

    I don't own an e-reader myself, but the only sort I'd consider would be one like the original Kindle - e-ink screen and physical keyboard. I don't need or want a color screen (that's what I have a laptop for), and I loathe touchscreens.

    This article's thesis is rather vapid. Amazon's interactivity aspirations are neither here nor there. Some users want a physical keyboard; others don't. It doesn't really matter whether they want one for the reason Amazon execs dreamed up a few years ago.

  26. Paul RND*1000

    So they've proved that most people really can't be arsed being "producers" even if you make it ridiculously easy.

    That's probably a good thing overall.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Author is completely wrong!

    All of the new Kindle have build in Soft Keyboards!


    Even the kindle Fire!

    How could somebody wrote such a long article based completely at a fact that's wrong?

    Is that the new style of journalism's?

  28. AReader

    The Author is completely wrong!

    All of the new Kindle have build in Soft Keyboards!


    Even the kindle Fire!

    How could somebody wrote such a long article based completely at a fact that's wrong?

    Is that the new style of journalism's?

  29. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


    I figure these aspirations of interactivity were more a hype-building exercise, to gain initial interest. What was going to get a tech reviewer interested when Kindle was being released? An EBook reader? Feh. An interactive Web2.0rhea connected EDevice that also happens to read books? Oh yeah, that's some exciting stuff! (This isn't a jab at El Reg, who as I recall did not hype up these non-book functionalities...)

    And yes, although touchscreen keyboards are virtually unusable, the physical keyboard on the older Kindle was the worst physical keyboard I've ever had to use.

  30. Your Retarded

    Keyboard using a D-pad

    Is what many users of consoles have become accustomed to, so maybe for many won't be such a big deal?

    Personally I find soft keyboards on the whole extremely frustrating. I was pleased to find my wireless keyboard worked with the PS3!

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