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The front of the Amazon Kindle DX

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I’ve been looking into Kindle application development. Considering how many Kindles are out there, there is a huge potential market for a few good applications on the device.

There are some serious limitations to keep in mind when theorizing a Kindle app, specifically two big ones. The black and white, low-refresh, nature of an eInk display is the first one. Apps should be visually slow. The second one is that, at least from the information I’ve found, Amazon holds the creator of any application responsible for data-charges that the application makes on any users’ device. The charges are at 15 cents/megabyte.

Yeah, you read that correctly. If you build a Kindle application it better not poll the internet very often or you have to factor in serious pricing issues. You either need to build an application with infinite amounts of use in its cost or you need to figure out some way to regularly make money off of your application. The only two ways I can think of to make that work is some sort of subscription scheme or advertising.

So with that in mind, let’s brainstorm some applications. I’ve got a few in mind and if you want to contribute, feel free to add ideas into the comments.

The Aggregator

The idea would be to build a Feedly or FlipBook style mix of sources (or even a set of stories from a single source beyond a standard subscription) that you could browse in a summarized multi-story format. The more user input used to create the page, the better of course. This might work better as a website people can visit, because otherwise you’d be responsible for some pretty tremendous data charges, even if you restricted users to a once a day rate. Also, it would have to compete with the mobile Google Reader site, which works decently on the Kindle.

You could mix in some ads to cover costs, but the issue is that the more successful the application, the higher the price would be to deliver content.

I’d love to have this as a configurable application, but in the end, the data costs seem to restrictive. Perhaps it would be easier to set up online? I can imagine that building a custom site with FeedWordPress might do it. A website formatted to act as a Kindle magazine. Something to work on. I’ll put that on a to-do list. A big to do would be to make each summery block act as a link, so Kindle users’ don’t get frustrated with navigation.

What’s the resolution on a Kindle browsing the web anyway?

The Interactive Fiction

The Kindle seems like the optimal platform for Interactive Fiction, especially if it gives you options instead of requiring typing of commands. I know that this might be a cheap pass for IF aficionados, but it would appeal to a larger market and besides, the Kindle’s keyboard is sometimes a bit odd to use.

There are already a few implementations of Kindle IF out there:

  • The most interesting IF I’ve found is Dusk World, a graphic novel-infused adventure IF (via). I haven’t played it yet, but it seems to mix option-based gameplay with some nice imagery for a branched story. The reviews on Amazon are good and I’ll probably try it out. I think it’s a good casual interactive fiction and a very good idea. I’d love to see more, and perhaps something more visual for navigation, the ability to click on objects (linked areas of an image?).
  • There is an excellent web-based implementation of the classic IF tales at KindleQuest. Well worth checking out if you’d like to replay Zork.
  • There are also two standard choose-your-own-adventure-type tales: Choice of the Dragon and Choice of Broadsides. Both seem to also incorporate some RPG elements, but I’m not sure.

I think that Dusk World is probably the most interesting IF application on the Kindle, but there are a lot of possibilities. I wonder what sort of options might be available for non-text navigation. The point is fun while still within the realm of reading, as opposed to just straight up gaming. I’d think that IFs would be more appealing to the Kindle’s user base than checkers.

The Notebook

If you are using the Kindle as a reference on the job or in the classroom, having some sort of note-taking feature outside of annotation would be a logical next step. Despite that, the options I’ve found seem pretty unappealing. Not to mention that, because of the data fees, there’s no way to sync your work to somewhere on the web.

I’ve tried Google docs and it just did not seem to work. The Flash offering at obviously doesn’t work either.

Once again, I think this is a nice opportunity for a web-based application formatted for the Kindle. Something that plugs into gDocs or another platform.

That being said, I do have one solution, which I use regularly. I run a WordPress blog with the P2 theme and though it isn’t exactly well formatted for use on the Kindle, once you zoom in and start typing away, it goes pretty smoothly. I use the site to regularly take notes.

It’s too bad that there are not better options out there. I know that a lot of authors seek a tool for writing that allows them to escape a distraction-prone computer and the Kindle would be a good candidate.

The Smart Map

The Kindle 3G runs on a wireless network, so I assume that geo-location is possible. It would be great (considering it works anywhere in the world and has a huge battery life) to see where you are on a map. Just think about being lost in Paris and having a whole week worth of battery power to figure out where to go.

However, I’m pretty sure the data use would be enormous. Unless people were willing to pay a subscription fee, this goes into the realm of the fantastic.

A Decent Music Player

You can load MP3s on your Kindle and listen to them. It’s a very cool feature and great for podcasts or music. The only problem is that there is no way to navigate. You can play or pause a track and you can skip to the next track. That’s it. It would be great if there was some sort of player application that would give you greater control.


Oh yeah, and of course there are your standard games. Some of the Kindle games seem better then others. I don’t know about you, but I just don’t find this an interesting use of the platform.

That’s all I can think of now. What application would you want for your Kindle?

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