An overview of the different Kindle models that have followed in 10 years. Here's how the design changed in these 15 models.
The Amazon Kindle is 10 years old and has become one of the most ubiquitous electronics pieces in the world since it was launched, but the device has changed so much since its debut that it's almost hard to believe that older models, like the newer ones, are meant to do the same thing.
Kindle turns 10 here is how it changed
Chris Green, VP of Design at Amazon, at his Lab126 hardware laboratory, he narrated the design choices that defined and redefined the device and the reasoning behind it. Green at Lab126 for a long time, even if not since the dawn of the famous ebook reader.
The first Kindle launched on November 19, 2007
"My first day in the Amazon state the day the Kindle was launched on November 19, 2007. I went into the office and everyone was freaking out. I thought it would be like this every day, "he recalled," then the next morning I went in and sold all the Kindle in one day and everyone was in a panic. so they were interesting first 24 hours. "
For the next decade he would work for make the Kindle closer to what it called the "gold standard": paper.
"We can never be better than paper, but we can be compelling"he said. "We absolutely didn't want any ring or button to change the page: all we did in 15 generations was reduce it to practically a piece of paper ".
It may surprise those who remember the first Kindle, which with its angular corners, the plate-like buttons and the strangely ergonomic keyboard.
Although he didn't work on the first generation, Green is very familiar with his design language. There would seem to be a very simple reason behind the choice of angles.
The first Kindle was inspired by the shapes of books
"If you have one in your hands, you will notice that the cross section is actually that of a pocket book, the pages have that angle", Green said. "Even the dimensions are those of a standard paperback. They were doing their best even at this early stage to represent a paperback book. "
This aspect was already abandoned with the second-generation Kindle, which eliminated the visual metaphor of sloping pages and turned back on many bold but unusual choices.
"All the highlights of the original Kindle, including the fact that the keyboard was split, were very logical. He was very ergonomic “, Green said. "So all very logical, but when you take a deep breath and remove your head from the bucket, you remain like wait, it's an easier way to do it. There is no reason why these keys are actually modeled in this way ".
10 years of Kindle: the Kindle 2 project
The redesign was aimed at making it accessible and attractive to a wider audience, one that might not have appreciated the aesthetic severity of the original. In my opinion, it worked: the clean lines and carefully designed proportions made the Kindle 2 a real leader and years later it still retains its primacy.
Some short-lived models
After this model, Amazon introduced the Kindle DX, a large-format e-reader with a short life, which has not caught the attention, partly because the market for reading large formats (articles, magazines) was not so large.
A particularly high-end feature was canceled even before the DX arrived on the market:
"In the first version of the Kindle DX, the back had a completely quilted surface, originally a fabric, but it was too expensive," Green said.
Green also mentioned the focus on features that are less easy to define, basically all the little things that make a device better or worse for reading a text.
"In the first generations we spent a lot of time with customers, we went everywhere with them," he said. "We did a really interesting reading lab in our building where we watched people read to see how quickly people's eyes were bored as they scanned a line of text.
Over time they determined the best spacing, kerning, line length and so on, making sure the device improved readability even when they changed other aspects of it.
THE CHOICE OF THE DARK COLOR on the third generation Kindle
The third generation has made some small changes and a big one. The physical interface continued to shrink with respect to the screen, moving slowly towards the desired standard gold standard; but more importantly, the main color of the device passed from dirty white to dark black, "graphite".
Was it perhaps a response to black smartphones? Are there any complaints about fingerprints on light color? Material shortages? No: as some have suggested, it was intended to deceive the eye.
You see, the e-paper is not really white, a shade of gray, and not even a particularly light one. So when you give it a white frame, the white plastic shows it and makes it look even more gray. But with a black bezel, it works in the opposite direction: it makes the gray lighter and, consequently, the "black" letters, actually only a darker gray, appear even darker.
"This is exactly the reason", said Green. "We opted for graphite to improve the contrast ratio. We wanted the black text to appear sharper on the display. "
Kindle turns 10: the fourth generation
Combined with a new E Ink Pearl display, it actually took a big leap in terms of contrast.
The fourth-generation Kindle was the first to get rid of the keyboard, producing a considerably smaller device. I felt like I had lost something of his soul, says Green, with this change; the Kindle 4 and its successors reminded me more of an economic tablet than in the past, rather than a brand new device.
was the Kindle Touchhowever, to mark the future of the device.
"We always wanted the touch," Green explained; the keyboard and other buttons on the first models were largely due to the low refresh rate of the e-paper displays. "The fact that those touch displays are not optically clear. When there was no front light, and you put on this yellowish sepia layer, the contrast ratio really got worse. "
The solution, a network of blasters and infrared sensors that could only indicate approximately where you put your finger: it was an emergency measure.
THE FRONT LIGHT on the Kindle
The front light was already well under way and would have been announced in the form of Kindle Paperwhite. Amazon had silently acquired a company in 2010, called Oy Modilis, which specializes in patinas that drive light, such as those used in Paperwhite.
At the time, having also taken care of lighting, the designers were mostly concerned about color temperature. The heat of a tungsten bulb or a flame that illuminates a creamy page and a black ink very difficult to replicate and at the moment had to settle for something a little colder, in color.
"The white LEDs are enclosed in 3 different temperatures: warm, blue and neutral", explained Green, "and by mixing them you can get a nice solution. So we played with those blends to get where we are now, but there is always room for improvement ".
Although a frontal illumination makes a reading device much more comfortable, the color is not for everyone. Kindle has never, as Kobo has done, taken the road of adding a user-selectable color temperature setting. "The team chose to keep things simple," Green said.
In 2014, the Kindle line was again divided, adding the Voyage to the mix, the waterproof version. In order to rationalize the device, it was decided to add an invisible alternative to the touch of the screen to move the page forward. PagePress used sensors placed inside the body of the device to guess when a user gave a little pressure on the edge, thus allowing the page to advance even more intuitively. To Green's surprise, the function was not particularly popular.
"The page rotation buttons on the Voyage were expensive and very cool and there was something in this shot that was very satisfying," he said. "I was so surprised that people didn't like PagePress technology, because it was quiet and a dome switch was noisy." In the end PagePress didn't become a mainstay of Kindle design.
About six months later, the third generation of Paperwhite appeared; its main improvement was a new high resolution display, but what could not be ignored was typographical improvement. Amazon had commissioned a completely new font, built from scratch for the Kindle display: the Bookerly.
The Bookerly was not a huge step forward in typography, but an important philosophical change, recognizing the strengths and limitations of the characters in the device, designing an ad hoc one, rather than trying to imitate the paper. An e-paper display needs a font and a style just like a newspaper, a textbook or a logotype. The characters of personalized e-readers had appeared elsewhere, so it was time for Amazon to make its own or risk wasting time with its dedication to the platform.
LADDIO AT THE SYMMETRY
The Oasis represented the biggest change in the design of the Kindle, perhaps after the keyboard came out; moreover it has marked a further step towards the e-reader as an entity that not only needs to replicate the printed page in some way, but that exists in its own right with its specifications.
"There are certain things in the world that humans consider beautiful: the Golden Ratio, Fibonacci sequences and, of course, symmetry," he said. "We had entered an awkward position with the symmetrical design, in the sense that we could not go further, so we thought of a daring blow with Oasis."
"When you see people using these devices," he explained, "it becomes very clear that they want the center of gravity in their hands and the button under their thumb. But having physical buttons on both sides would be prohibitive in terms of space. An e-ink device today basically a stack of display components and a stack of battery components, and those technologies are progressing at very different rates. "
Then they isolated the battery on one side, making it asymmetrical (at least in its normal orientation), but also solving the center of gravity, the hand and the problems of changing the page.
The new Oasis is actually a departure from its predecessor, as its screen expanded to fill a larger part of the device: the first Kindle with a 7-inch display, but no bigger than before and this brings it closer to the much-coveted "Gold standard", although the design certainly evolves in the future.
WHAT YOU STILL HAVE NOT SEEN on the Kindle
Asked if among many, many Kindle there is one that would call his child, a sentimental favorite, Green said that "What has not yet been seen."
Green showed himself extremely optimistic about the future of e-readers in general. an excellent example of how a device with a single purpose is often the right tool to do its job.