Wednesday, April 8, 2015

What Were the Designers Thinking?

Design, as we've seen from the unique and beautiful creations that have come our way thanks to the creativity of designers, is not only pleasing to the eye but, in its best iteration, functional. And that appears to be where the designers of the Kindle readers have fallen down on the job.

Sure, you get that wonderful e-reader that brings you an entire, brain-swelling library of whatever strikes your fancy in literature, science, math, computers, art or a hundred other topics, but where is the problem? I always told my graduate students to look for the problem in any research studies they read because there is always a problem that was unforeseen by the author(s). It may lie in some seemingly small detail, a fact not investigated or which may appear insignificant, but it's there. Therein may lie the key to whether it's a good study or one with a major flaw.

Full disclosure here: I do have a Kindle Fire and I think it's brilliant but I don't use it as much as I might. I bought it before the smaller, lighter Kindles came out, but that's okay with me. I can handle it, but what I can't handle and which the ads fail to disclose is that it's clumsy. Not really heavy initially, it grows in weight as you try to either balance it with one hand or find some position where you can position it on a knee, a book or something else. Then it begins to become annoying and the blush is off the rose, so to speak.

I'd already bought a zippered cover for it to protect the delicate screen and now there was to be more. Not wanting to toss my Kindle Fire aside as just one more piece of techie junk, I decided to try to find something that would free me from this annoyance and allow me to read again. Reading is a passion and I want to read far and wide so my Kindle is packed with too much to mention here. It runs the gamut.

Scouring the Amazon site, I found a few pedestal-type stands that were nice but at almost $20 for a piece of bent aluminum or plastic, I found that really too much. Not that I couldn't fork over that much, but why did it have to cost me anything in the first place? And not all stands fit all the Kindles. Go figure that design goof out.

Not only that, but I don't seem to be alone because most of the stands are out of stock. Does that tell Amazon something important here? And does it present an opportunity for some slick person to come up with a nifty, less expensive solution? Sure it does.

When Steve Jobs worked with Jony Ive did they not look at how people would hold the iPad and how it needed to have something to stabilize it easily? This bit of design had to be integrated into the iPad cover so that it protected, elevated (for typing) and stabilized it for weary hands. They did it and, in the process, also allowed the device to shut down once the cover was closed. Genius! Presently, I've misplaced my cover and that's really annoying because the case with keyboard I bought for it is a clunker that weighs a ton. No genius there.

I did replace the iPad cover with something from a small company here in the USA. The cover is good looking black leather with a built-in stand and works well, but it doesn't shut the iPad off. Bummer.

An Internet hunting trip for a stand was in order and I quickly found that, although there are many stands around, not all fit the Kindle Fire and then there's the catch. What's the catch? The stand may sell for $5.99 but the shipping will add on another $11 or so. Sneaky business, I say. If you want to send it back, there's another shipping charge so it's a complete loss of your money for a product that doesn't make the grade.

One on eBay for sale looks nice, but it's one of those auction things and the stand, when viewed from the side has quite a thin base for its flip stand. It should be wider, guys and gals, to keep from tipping over. Even I, not a designer, know that. And please don't offer me anything that looks like something from the wallpaper in my great-grandmother's living room. All of them look pretty dreadful and unimaginative. Where's Jony Ive when you need his talent for another product?

I'll continue to use my Kindle and grumble, but I'll also see if I can design a stand on my own from materials that are light and have a hinge on them. Who knows, maybe I'll even get a patent on it. That's the ticket.