Recent Thoughts About the Amazon Kindle
Fast Company's Bezos/Amazon Cover Story

A Kindle App I'd Buy

Lightbulb Amazon's tightly closed Kindle ecosystem doesn't offer customers an App Store like Apple does with the iPhone.  That doesn't matter though because the idea I have in mind would reside on your computer, not the Kindle...

How many emails like this do you get each week?: "You need to read this article over on so-and-so.com. I just read it and thought it was terrific/funny/relevant/etc."  I get these all the time.  Sometimes I click the link and read the first sentence or two.  If it's good and I don't have time to read it all now I'll leave that browser tab open and hope I don't forget about it, but I often do.  If the article looks really good and I don't want to miss it I might even print it out and read it later.  None of these approaches are very effective though, especially when I also have a $360 Kindle at my disposal.

OK, if you're a glutton for punishment you'll try to access all those articles on your Kindle via Whispernet.  Good luck with that.  Even if you manage to get the page loaded you'll find the formatting and readability is awful in most cases.  And what if you're out of Whispernet range, say, on a plane?

Someone needs to write a desktop application that lets me grab a url and drag it to my Kindle, which is connected to my Mac via USB.  The app has to do more than just drag the web page to the Kindle though; it needs to convert the contents of that page to mobi format so that it looks nice and clean on the Kindle display.

I'd use this app every day and I'd be more than happy to pay for it.  Let's not stop there though...  Think of the dynamic advertising income opportunity a developer could create with this.  During the conversion process, the app would also apply Google AdSense-type logic to the contents and serve up relevant ads in each piece.

The beauty of this is you don't have to work within the confines of that closed Kindle system Amazon has built.  You're just pulling content off a website and converting the HTML into mobi files (plus the advertising component, if you want).

Does this tool already exist and I've somehow overlooked it?  If so, where is it?  If not, how soon can someone write it?!

P.S. -- I'll ask the question once again: Why isn't Amazon building this sort of thing?

Comments

Andy Rathbone

Sign me up for that app, too! Adding ads during the conversion process raises some red flags, however.

First, some will say the app "republishes and monetizes" the content with no payment to the original author.

More important, perhaps, is that Whispernet's Web navigation is so slow and cumbersome that few readers would bother to click an ad in the first place.

Hopefully a programmer will create the app for him or herself, then share it for sheer karma value.

Steve Bain

There is a free independent web service that pretty much does this and works well. It even delivers via Whispernet if you want. The service is Instapaper and I use it routinely:
http://www.instapaper.com/

Joe Wikert

Hi Steve. I'm familiar with InstaPaper but I thought it was an iPhone app only. Their website only talks about iPhone/iPod/Touch and there's no reference to the Kindle. Are you saying there's a Kindle app? If so, can you post the link for us as a comment?

Also, although having an InstaPaper app for the Kindle would be interesting, I do almost no browsing with my Kindle. I also don't access my email in-box from my Kindle. And since the browsing experience on the Kindle is awful I don't see my habits changing anytime soon. What I need is something that connects my Mac to my Kindle through this sort of service.

Jindo Fox

I'm would not be interested in paying for that, especially if it required tethering rather than using Whispernet.

Calibre does what you're looking for, for free. http://calibre.kovidgoyal.net/

Instapaper's experimental "print" feature would work as well, just print using the one-column format to a PDF, which you could mail to your Kindle (or free conversion account if you prefer).

Combine Calibre and Instapaper's feeds and you have a prerolled automated solution, but it sounds like enough hassle that I'd rather just read it on my desktop computer.

Aaron Pressman

Joe, some months ago I wrote an Applescript to do as much of this as I could figure but it's no longer needed. Go check out the Instapaper site. It emails the articles to your Kindle in batches at intervals you set.

Basically, I have a javascript button on my web browser's bookmarks bar. When I browser to a long web article, I just click the button and Instapaper clips the entire text and emails it to my Kindle whenever there are at least three articles piled up.

In your case, you could click on the link in emails, which would open your browser to that page, then just hit the Instapaper bookmarklet and it would be sent to your Kindle. It's very, very cool. I blogged more about this in March http://gravitationalpull.net/wp/?p=775

Joe Wikert

Jindo, there's no reason a wireless delivery option couldn't be offered as well. I'm just trying to avoid Amazon's 15-cent/conversion charge. If you're happy paying that then you could use that delivery method for this hypothetical app we're talking about.

Aaron, your solution sounds interesting. I'm looking for something that literally is a drag-and-drop (or single-click) interface. I'll stop by your blog post later to check out. If this app we're discussing actually existed today I could simply drop that url you provided into it! :-)

Steve Bain

Unfortunately, you need to get a free login at Instapaper before the nifty buried Kindle functionality is revealed. They provide a javascript bookmarklet named Read Later. When you are in your browser at a long web page that you don't currently have time to read, you click the bookmarklet and the text of the web page is queued into an ebook with a linked table of contents. The service lets you specify how often you want the current book automatically sent to your Kindle. Since the content is created by screen-scraping web pages, the result isn't always perfect, but it is surprisingly smart about filtering out the non-article contents. Instapaper is not well known in the Kindle community, but it is a darn neat service that deserves more visibility. As you mention, Instapaper has a related app for iPhone/iTouch. This is great for Kindle users because Instapaper now has a business model.

The wireless delivery is in a gray area as to whether it violates Amazon's terms of service for Whispernet personal documents. Like you, I hope Amazon will offer official sanction for nicely executed services like this, and/or offer similar services with an Amazon brand.

Steve Bain

I failed to mention that for Instapaper, the Whispernet delivery charge doesn't amount to much because multiple (up to 20, I think) web articles are delivered in each "book".

Jason Wilson

Joe,

I second and third the Instapaper set up. I use Instapaper all the time, and love the fact that I can get it on my iPhone and my Kindle and have it all sync'd.

Michael S. Hyatt

I would definitely buy this app. I am definitely going to give Instapaper a look-see. Thanks.

Joe Wikert

I've been tinkering with Instapaper tonight and while it offers some of the functionality I've described it's not the app I'm looking for. First, a nit to pick: Why in the world won't they let me specify my @free.kindle.com email address?! The service apparently only accepts the @kindle.com ones, which delivers content wirelessly and invokes Amazon's 15 cents/meg charge. Geez, that should be an easy one to fix!

Secondly, there's not enough customization. The most granular delivery option is once a day, but I have no idea when. As I mentioned earlier, I want the option of getting that content immediately, not batching it up for delivery later.

I do like the "Read Later" button that's now docked in my browser but there should be enough customization choices to let me set that up as follows: Any time I click on it, if my Kindle is connected via USB it converts the current page and moves it to the Kindle. If the Kindle isn't connected, store the conversions up till the next time it is connected and move all of them over then. (And yes, it's fine to leave the existing delivery options in place...I just want these other ones added.)

I didn't check the quality of the conversions because I didn't want to pay Amazon for the service. It sounds like others have had success with this though, so if I could get the developer to add the functionality described above I'd jump on it. I'm going to send them an email tonight...

Lucas

Look at the firefox plug-in "Plain text to link". It takes any highlighted text and sends to to a predefient folder as a text file which is a folder in my kindle when connected via USB. I use this to read my articles later on my commute home...

Luke

Joe Wikert

Lucas, that plug-in is nice but still doesn't offer the one-click simplicity I'm after. First of all, it looks like you have to select the text you want with your mouse before it's available as a menu option. Why not just let me right-click on a page and have it grab all the text it sees, organize it in top-to-bottom fashion and save it? Secondly, what about all those multi-page articles? I don't want to have to go to the first page, select all the text, save it off with PTTL, click to the next page, grab all that text, etc., etc. I want something that's going to quickly let me click and forget about it. Also, I don't always have my Kindle connected to my Mac, so the app would need to be smart enough to sync the Mac file contents with the Kindle every time I connect it. Again, this is a nice little plug-in but it doesn't do what I'm looking for.

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