The introduction of eReaders into the portable electronics world immediately led to prophetic statements declaring them irrelevant in a world that already had access to tablets. The Kindle vs iPad debate was long and monotonous, but over time people have generally come to accept that there is a distinction between the two types of device. While most tablet functions would be more or less ridiculous to add to a dedicated reading device like the Kindle, however, Microsoft’s upcoming Surface tablet has introduced a useful concept that may have important implications for the future of electronic reading devices.
The Surface will incorporate technology that separates general touch recognition from stylus recognition, making it possible to take notes conveniently on the screen of the tablet without having to worry about where your fingers are positioned. As anybody who tries to write naturally on a tablet for the first time will likely be immediately aware, it can be quite difficult to manage without either setting the device down or letting a thumb wrap around onto the screen.
Amazon has already done something great for Kindle users with Whispernet. Having all of your annotations saved, along with bookmarks, page position, and so on, regardless of where you are loading your content from allows the Kindle platform to be device independent and convenient for just about anybody. Unfortunately, taking notes on an actual Kindle eReader is a huge inconvenience. Even with the keyboard provided by the Kindle Keyboard (or the virtual one on the Kindle Touch), it’s a slow and annoying process that will usually result in there being few such notes taken.
While it would definitely mean a slightly higher production cost, and would probably require a greater expense as far as data transfer and storage in concerned due to the increase in use, Amazon would be wise to adopt a similar option in their next Kindle upgrade.
The last remaining hurdle for eReaders at this point is their inability to match the convenience of paper books when it comes to direct interaction. Annotation is part of that. This would not make it any easier to flip rapidly from place to place in your favorite book, but that is not a sensation that can be replicated on a screen. The pleasure of making one’s own contribution to a personal copy of a book is far simpler to bring to the new medium.
There is no indication that Amazon is going to make this sort of change. This is merely speculation about what could eventually become a major selling point. Until color E Ink style screens advance to the point where they are worth integrating, there isn’t a lot that can be done to make the Kindle a better reading tool. The screen is already offering basically the same reading experience that you get from paper. It’s not easy to find ways to make paper replication an exciting new thing once you reach this level of sophistication. Improved writing inputs could be just what the Kindle needs in that respect.