The Kindle series is among the first consumer uses of a revolutionary display technology called ‘E-ink’. E-ink displays are more akin to digital watch style LCDs than the TV variety, featuring low-powered, uncolored displays that are reputed to be easy to read for long stretches in contrast to computer monitors.
The Kindle 2 succeeded the late 2007 original and Amazon says they used the time to improve the layout, increase the responsiveness, and improve the resolution. Until recently, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. TechCrunch reported recently that the Amazon has sold their 300,000th unit of the Kindle 2 in only 50 days post-release, making the series by far the best-selling of its type. Until earlier this month, the publicÃƒÂs verdict on the Kindle’s no-frills display could be summed up with the phrase: ‘Easy on the eyes.’
Then Wired.com published an article on April 13 titled, ‘Kindle 2’s Fuzzy Fonts Have Users Seeing Red.’ Quoting a ‘user from the Pennsylvania’, the article asserts that the text-display algorithms of the Kindle 2 ‘Do not take into account the human psychology of perception.’ Although the article spares a paragraph to quote AmazonÃƒÂs side of the story – users like the display – it continues on to offers home-remedies in advance of the ‘easy fixes that Amazon can make.’
The widely-linked article certainly had an impact on the online conversation.Ã¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Â The proportion of online conversation on the display characterizing it as ‘hard to read’ more than doubled in the following days ÃƒÂ± from 13% on 4-12 to more than 30% at its peak.
Author Priya Ganapati’s insinuation that the font display is a widely-perceived problem is somewhat curious given that she herself described the Kindle 2 as ‘easy on the eyes’ in an earlier Wired article. Whatever the reason, the post’s impact has waned two weeks on, appearing to spare Amazon’s product from any lasting damage to its reputation. Still, when you’re slinging 6,000 units a day at $360 each, the effects of even a temporary shift in online conversation can be expensive. The lost revenue from even a 1% drop in sales for a fortnight is enough justification for an active social media monitoring and engagement program. Amazon, while by no means the kind of PR horror story we’ve delighted in this year, would do well to remember the occasionally high cost of the digital word.