I’m a big fan of my Kindle DX. It’s literally my favorite gadget. I love the form factor, the large screen, the relatively good battery life and the keyboard. Amazon could eliminate any of those items and my love would still be just as strong. The Kindle DX is perfect in my eyes. It’s so perfect that just the thought of Amazon ditching the buttons in favor of a touchscreen pains me as deeply as The Road.
That’s the trend now: touchscreen e-ink screens. Within the last 24 hours, Kobo and Barnes & Noble introduced models with new touchscreen e-ink displays. It’s a fantastic step in low-power consuming displays with really quick page refreshes and battery life. The new Nook has a 2-month battery. All good. Even the touchscreen is great technology with good-enough sensitivity. But I don’t want it in my next Kindle.
The beauty of e-ink screens is text looks fantastic. It looks just like text — or it’s the closest thing to paper print as technology gave us yet and the latest Pearl screen is awesome. But I don’t want to touch it. I don’t want to wipe my screen or worry in any fashion about the screen. True, e-ink screens aren’t LCD screens. They don’t have a glossy overlay that naturally sucks the oil out of my fat fingers. E-ink screens are generally finger-friendly. Still, why do I want to control the device with the screen?
In many ways this is BlackBerry versus iPhone. Touchscreen versus keypad. But it’s not the QWERTY keypad that I necessarily I care about. It’s the thought processes involved that are naturally inherent with touchscreens. They need to be cared for differently. Suddenly a screen protector is a must-have accessory. You’re going to be touching and prodding it after all.
Of course companies like Kobo and B&N needed this step. They needed something to make them fundamentally different from the Kindle. Touch control is, well, different for these companies but actually old news for the e-reading market. The Sony Reader Touch came out in 2009, which wasn’t exactly a blockbuster hit.
I just worry that a touchscreen will cause the Kindle to ditch its luddite charm. Even my grandma is comfortable with my Kindle. People understand buttons and I’m not saying the human race as a whole is too dumb to grasp the concept of a touchscreen. But there is certainly a sub-set of users that are hesitant to embrace the technology in their much loved device and I’m a card carrying member.