In the world of smartphones, notebooks, wearables, and tablets, the Amazon Kindle remains one of the few devices that focus on one thing and line thing only: reading. While every other device is aiming to achieve more with each improvement and sprouts new features, the Kindle’s one main purpose over time has just been, making it easier for people to buy and read books. It has redefined our way of consuming knowledge. No, it was not the first device of its kind (Sony had its famous Readers with e-ink displays) but notwithstanding the emergence of several competitors, it has now become synonymous with e-books, making it easier for avid readers to carry thousands of ebooks without any hassle.
The Kindle recently celebrated ten years of existence – the first Kindle was announced in November 2007. And while the company marked the occasion by launching a new Kindle (the new Oasis, whose review is coming shortly), we think this is the best time for us to look at ten amazing facts about and features of this device:
1. Princess Fiona? Nah, Kindle!
Do you remember Princess Fiona from the “Shrek” series? Yep, the big, green female ogre. While she has nothing really to do with Kindle itself, while in the development process, the device was codenamed Fiona although there was nothing big, green or ogre-ish about it. Work on the device began in 2004, incidentally. Later the name Kindle was coined by branding consultants Michael Cronan and Karin Hibma who suggested the name because it means, “to light a fire” and that is what Kindle was aimed to do, metaphorically. Wonder whether there would have been a Shrek edition if they had gone along with the Fiona name, though.
2. Kindle with a physical QWERTY keyboard?
Most people know Kindle as a tablet-like device with very few physical buttons but this has not always been the case. In 2007, when the first Kindle was announced, the device came with a pretty big physical QWERTY keyboard, with slanted keys as well. The device was not touchscreen and could only be operated by a keyboard. And it just was not for the first Kindle. The Kindle 2, Kindle 3 and the Kindle DX, all came with physical QWERTY keyboards. It was not until 2011 that the company actually removed the entire QWERTY keyboard and introduced just a couple of keys on the device – our Editorial Mentor has still not forgiven Amazon for it.
3. USD 399? Ouch! Still gone in six hours!
Gadgets selling out in a few hours were a rarity a decade ago, but the original Kindle confounded everyone in this regard. When the Kindle first went up for sale, it was priced at a good USD 399, which was considered waaay too expensive, but that did not stop the device from getting sold out in just five and a half hours after it got launched on Amazon.com. It was often out of stock, such was its popularity, leading some to label it the “the iPod of reading.”
4. SD card support, 3.5 mm audio jack…all there
The first Kindle not only had a proper (if somewhat odd shaped) QWERTY keyboard, but also a list of other features that have been since phased out – it had only 250 MB of storage, so had support for an SD card, had a speaker for listening to audiobooks, and if that was not enough, it also had a 3.5 mm audio jack for those who preferred to listen to their books on headphones. Want more? The first Kindle also had a removable back and a removable battery!
5. Free 3G network
Not too many know that Amazon’s 3G Kindles offer free 3G connectivity in over 100 countries and territories for life. Yes, as long as you are using 3G to browse and buy books on the Kindle store, or access Amazon.com or Wikipedia in the Experimental Web Browser, you will never have to pay a penny for using 3G. Ever.
6. Publish that book for free!
If you are an author and are tired of getting rejection slips from publishers, you can just publish your book on Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing and can price it anywhere between $0.99 to $200. The entire process of laying out the book is online and can be done easily. A dream for any author, right? There are some who have done just that and succeeded. Remember “The Martian”, the Hollywood blockbuster? Well, it is based on a book by Andy weir who published the book first on Amazon Kindle where it became a bestseller and then was picked by to be printed and then was made in a movie. Inspiration enough?
7. Get that book “X-Ray”-ed
In 2011, Amazon introduced a new feature called X-ray for Kindle Touch. Through this feature, one can explore the contents of the book in more depth. As per Amazon, this feature lets you explore the “bones of the book”, hence the name X-Ray. The best part? The feature doesn’t require the Internet to get the information. Instead, it accesses small files containing relevant information pre-loaded onto the Kindle device or app. So you can find out where locations and people in books occur. You can also simply press on a word to get its meaning using a dictionary and access further information on Wikipedia, although an Internet connection is required for those.
8. The iPad-like Kindle
Most Kindles have had 6.0-inch e-ink displays, and are known for being compact and easy to carry. But that does not mean Amazon did not try out larger screen sizes. In 2009, in fact, well before the iPad was launched, Amazon launched a Kindle with a large 9.7-inch display, called the Kindle DX. Not only did the device have that large display, but it also featured a full QWERTY keyboard as well, making it a rather bulky device to handle. Interestingly, the DX had an accelerometer, letting you view pages in landscape as well as portrait mode. It had an iPad like price too: USD 489. Not surprisingly, it did not last long in the market and was ultimately discontinued in 2013.
9. Buy on one, read on six…and never lose a copy
Yes! You read it right. As long as all your devices are registered under the same account, you can download a book on one to up to six devices at the same time. This sharing range depends on the number of licenses set by the publisher. But even if you reach the limit, you can simply remove the book from one of the devices and download it on another device if you wish. And even when you remove a book from your Kindle, don’t worry about losing it – all your purchases will always be available in the cloud. And book storage there is unlimited, as long as you have purchased books from the Kindle Store.
10. Making the cover of Newsweek
The first Kindle was deeply divisive, sparking off a debate between those who loved paper books and those who advocated digital ones. Many were cynical about its prospects. However, that did not stop it from featuring on the cover of Newsweek’s November 17, 2007 issue, along with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The cover story was written by Stephen Levy and was titled “Books aren’t dead (they’re just going digital)”