Now that Barnes & Noble has unveiled its plans for an e-book reader and an e-book store to take on rivals such as Amazon.com and Sony, we want to get them out the door on the right track.
So here are the top five features we'd love to see them include so that the new Barnes & Noble e-reader doesn't have the same glaring shortcomings that many of us found in Amazon's original Kindle and new Kindle 2.
1) Please include great and easy file handling from the start. Amazon's Kindle 2 still hasn't gotten this right, which is very frustrating. The Kindle 2 still doesn't have integrated PDF reading capabilities. That means it requires a kludgy conversion process where the user has to send a PDF or other document file to themselves to be able to convert it so it can be read on the device. Not cool. Imagine how useful an e-book reader can be (Sony's Digital Reader PRS-700 reader includes this) if it can natively read various common document formats. Eureka! Don't disappoint us, Barnes & Noble.
2) The new Kindle 2 finally added USB support after the original Kindle came without it. Don't put us through that, please. Just give us USB capabilities from the start. It means one less bulky power adapter to have to lug along and less aggravation for users.
3) Get the price lower from the start. Amazon's new lower $299 price for the Kindle 2 is nicer, but it's still probably too high for consumers to wildly embrace these e-readers. Yes, it's $60 less than it was earlier this year, but if you get the price to the right spot from the start, say maybe a loss-leading $99, all the catching-up that would follow would be the Kindle 2 trying to catch up with your new success.
4) Please give us a backlit screen. The Kindle 2 still doesn't have one, which makes it hard to read in dimly lit places. The Sony e-reader has one. We like it. Give us one on your new reader, Barnes & Noble!
5) Be DRM friendly with your new reader. Digital Rights Management is a very emotional issue. Musicians, filmmakers, and authors deserve to be paid and shouldn't have to give up their profits due to illegal distribution of their works without payment. At the same time, a consumer who legally buys such a work should have reasonable rights to use it on any compatible device he or she owns without having to purchase it separately for other devices. If I buy a printed book, I can read it in an airplane or in a car or in my living room, without having to buy separate copies for each. The same should go for my e-reader or computer or other device. Consumers have rights, too.
That's it for now. Thanks, Barnes & Noble, for bringing us more options in the e-reader marketplace. Now get to work and make us all proud.
(Todd R. Weiss is a freelance technology journalist who formerly wrote for Computerworld.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TechManTalking)