On the Amazon Kindle, Model Numbers, and The Bezos Big Block Graphic

Posted by on Aug 2, 2010 in gadgets, Geekery, Observations, rants, usability | 8 Comments

I just ordered a Kindle. I’d tell you the model number, but it doesn’t seem to have one.

My confirmation email tells me that I’ve ordered the “Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 6″ Display, Graphite, 3G Works Globally — Latest Generation”.

Just trips off the tongue, doesn’t it?

There’s a lot of strange things about the way the Kindle is sold. When it first came to the UK, it didn’t really feel like a UK product. The announcement on Amazon’s front page was a big graphic full of text from Jeff Bezos — not plain, easy-to-read, scalable, screen-reader and search engine-friendly text, but a single big block graphic. Which was a bit odd. And if you clicked through this announcement on the Amazon.co.uk front page, you got taken to the US store, where you could buy a Kindle in US dollars only, and had to make sure you selected a UK mains charger to go with it.

The latest announcement is also a big block graphic. A Bezos Big Block Graphic, as I’m starting to think of them. Click through for the full thing.

Sample of The Bezos Big Block Graphic

The Bezos Big Block Graphic

Amazon are often pointed out as a market leader in e‑commerce web design and usability. Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think! — probably the best usability book ever — cites Amazon as a good example all over the place, so I’m a little bemused as to why they’re doing this.

I mean, this thing is actually an imagemap, just to allow the four things in it that look like links to be clicked on. Remember imagemaps? Probably not, unless you were a web developer back in the 1990s…

If this were a little website I’d never heard of, I’d just think, “oh, these people must have really, really wanted to use that particular font, and don’t know much about all the different ways you could do that better in this millennium.” But with Amazon I just sit here with a little quizzical expression on my face and wonder why. Anybody got a clue?

I have a similar problem with the name. Companies agonise over product names, trying to make them search-engine friendly. There’s a lot of speculation that Apple’s apparent quick-change from “iPhone 3G S” to “iPhone 3GS” (note the now-missing space) was done to make it easier for customers to find information about that particular model of phone.

So, for example, I can Google “iPhone 3GS leather case” and what I get back is mostly a helpful bunch of shopping results that show cases that are compatible with my particular model of iPhone.

But what if I want to find out if anyone other than Amazon is selling cases for this new Kindle? (Not an unlikely desire, when you see that Amazon’s price for their own basic leather case is £29.99 — more than a quarter of the cost of the new entry-level Kindle it’s meant to wrap!)

What do I search for? Googling “Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 6” Display, Graphite, 3G Works Globally — Latest Generation leather case” doesn’t do much good. And Googling “Kindle leather case” just brings back a ton of cases that won’t fit, because they’re all for the previous Kindle incarnations.

Please, Amazon, give your products model numbers. You’ll be saving people an awful lot of search pain for years to come. It really doesn’t matter if it’s a snappy, well-thought out progression, or a goofy random number like digital cameras always seem to get. At least I can search for accessories for my Sony CyberSomething DSC48-TX1A, even if I have to look at the front of the camera to remember which model I’ve got every single time…

Still, at least you can now actually buy the latest Kindle in UK currency. And apparently there will be a new UK Kindle Store, which sounds promising. I’d tell you more about it, but I can’t copy and paste the information from the latest Bezos Big Block Graphic, of course, and I’m buggered if I’m typing it all in again.

More on the Kindle when mine arrives. Amazon haven’t given me a shipping date yet, so I can’t be sure when that’ll be.

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  1. talkie_tim
    August 2, 2010

    I’ll be looking forward to your review, Matt. 

    I’ve been pondering a Kindle for a while, but it only makes sense to me if I can get easy access to UK news and / or magazine subs on there.

    • Matt
      August 2, 2010

      I’ve been pondering for ages. It doesn’t help that I’ve still never actually seen a Kindle. But the price drop made it worth a punt, basically, even though I went for the slightly more expensive 3G.

      Well, the price drop combined with lugging around some books on holiday, and then finding a payment for some work I’d done had arrived while I was away :)

      I’ll try to throw a review up pretty sharpish after I get the thing, which should be in late August or early September, if I’m lucky.

  2. Andrew
    August 2, 2010

    I’ve just been sucked in by the new 3G one, after finding that it works as a USB mass storage device so you can plonk PDF files directly on to it via a cable (my main use for it, I suspect), and it seems to have at least rudimentary web browsing (certainly access to Wikipedia which is enough for when you want to know roughly when and where the Hittites lived or what the relationship was between a couple of eighteenth century politicians).

    • Matt
      August 2, 2010

      PDF will be very handy. I’ve got a lot of existing, free e‑books in both PDF and other (mobi and PRC, I think) formats, many of them giveaways from the run-up to the tor.com site relaunch. I’ve tried them on the iPhone, but the display is just too small to be comfortable for me, and definitely sucks on sunny days.

      The other thing I want to do is send my Instapaper stuff to it, as I don’t seem to get enough time to sit down and read the longer articles I throw at it at the moment. It’ll be perfect for reading on the ferry on the way to work…

  3. Arline
    August 3, 2010

    Ooh, imagemaps. *shudder*

    I have a copy of “Don’t Make Me Think” (currently in a box in the bomb shelter-come-cellar storage area) which I haven’t read for ages. Maybe the Kindle team/marketing people haven’t read it. 

    I bought various eBooks while in Germany due to lack of reasonably priced and stocked bookshops there, but haven’t yet found an eReader that will handle all or most of the formats and doesn’t fail on some other criteria (such as Mac compatibility). Plus I’m just nervous about such things after wrecking PalmPilots. 

    I think I’ll forget about it for another 6 months or so and then look around again. But would be very interested to know what you think of the Kindle!

    • Matt
      August 4, 2010

      Yes, I’m hoping it’ll be good. I’ll be using tools like Calibre and Stanza on the Mac to move stuff between formats; I’ve got a bunch of existing stuff that seemed to convert okay to various formats for reading in both Stanza and iBooks on the iPhone, so hopefully it’ll also work for the Kindle.

      As for wrecking it, yes, that’s one worry. Although I’ve managed to keep an iPhone safe for a year now, and I’m guessing they’re rather more fragile. But I’ve not felt much need to read the iPhone in the bath :)

      • Arline
        August 8, 2010

        Aha — thanks for the links to the converters! They look like they could be very useful indeed. I can read books on my phone (HTC G1) if I’m insanely bored but definitely want an eReader in future. 

        You could always come over here to show it off. Hint! ^_^

        • Matt
          August 19, 2010

          Incidentally, just came across this, too: http://www.retroread.com/ — online service for converting already-available public domain ePub-format books to Kindle…