I don’t think Amazon is as brilliant as they think they are

Last week Woot had the second gen Kindle on sale. It was a refurbished model, and the price was pretty good. I got one.

Last night I picked up my K2 to read before going to bed. I planned to download some random free SF ebook and read it.

Boy, was that a mistake. I spent 20 minutes trying to figure out which ebooks were free before giving up.

The ebookstore on the Kindle is crap. It is so lacking in basic features you’d expect from a retail website that I think you could hire a college student to do a better job. Heck, I know of at least one high school student who could have written a better website.

You cannot sort the ebookstore based on price, nor can you sort by title, author, or any other metadata. That boggles the mind. doesn’t it? What’s worse is that you can’t change the the amount of  book details shown on screen (nor does it show you the price).

The screen real estate is quite limited on the Kindle, so I’d expect that it would offer options to show you the most data in the least amount of space. But it doesn’t.

It would be difficult to list the features I want; it’s missing so many that I cannot possibly think of them all. But do you know the really weird part?

Amazon has been using this ebookstore design for nearly 4 years now. In all that time they’ve never upgraded it to include the basic features of a retail website. This is a tech company that is supposed to be a retail genius, and yet this managed to slip by them for 4 years. I wonder if they ever actually bothered to test it?

This is the first time I ever really used the ebookstore on the Kindle (I prefer the website), and I noticed the problems right away. They’re blindingly obvious to even a half competent developer (or at least they should be). So what does this tell us about Amazon?

They are supposed to be one of the leading companies in this niche, and they are supposed to be one of the major tech companies in the world. But they built and used a crappy ebookstore for nearly 4 years without doing basic usability testing. Look at that ebookstore again, and ask yourself if they are as smart as they think they are.

I’m beginning to think it’s just hype.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Baldur Bjarnason31 May, 2011

    Most people browse and buy for the Kindle on their laptops. I don’t know of a single person who uses the ebookstore on the device itself.

  2. karen wester newton31 May, 2011

    If they were truly brilliant, they would never, ever have eliminated the number row from the keyboard of the Kindle 3.

    I think Amazon is actually pretty savvy about how to make money selling books, and they have put exactly as much effort into fixing up the Kindle store Kindle interface as it’s worth to them. I think they don’t consider it worth very much. The Kindle interface works fine to find a specific book for which you know the author and/or the title. For browsing, it sucks. But since Amazon has the numbers on who buys what where and when, I think they know their customers aren’t using the Kindle interface to buy the books. I know I don’t. Think about it! Would you use that keyboard if you didn’t have to? Also, the free books aren’t even that easy to find on the web unless you have some familiarity with Amazon; Amazon wants you to BUY books! I always send Kindle owners this link:


    Note that the link to “promotional books” is often out of date. Publishers make books free for a while, but they don’t usually stay that way. The classics are free for good, because those authors tend to stay dead. -)

  3. Mike Cane31 May, 2011

    Bulletin: Many people know the book they want and just type in the damn title to see if they can buy it NOW. I’m not surprised the store experience on the Kindle is crap. But, like you, I think they should improve it for serendipitous sales — and even for freeloaders like you (and me!).

    1. Mike Cane31 May, 2011

      Oh, and let me add: The experience isn’t much better on either the Nook or Kobo (when using Borders).

      1. Rich Adin31 May, 2011

        But my experience on my Sony 950 is significantly better.

        I have never found the Amazon bookstore particularly attractive to a browsing buyer. I much prefer B&N’s store for pbooks.

  4. Olympia Press31 May, 2011


    Next you’ll say that their small publisher interface is unsortable crap, and even the archaic mobipocket one is better.

    Burn him!!!!

  5. Andrys31 May, 2011

    I don’t think they want to encourage buying free or low-cost books on the Kindle device book store.

    They understandably minimize low-price book advertising even on webpages via computer, although their Top 100 Paid is shown alongside Top 100 Free.

    As far as searches with low-cost ranges or free books that don’t include classics, including limiting the date range to most current if wanted, I include one or another set of pre-done search links for that at the bottom of blog entries for the reasons you give.

    See the BOTTOM box for the latest blog entry comparing the new-eInk-Nook’s features with the Kindle 3’s (including the cheaper Kindle SO).


    I generally use that footer when talking about free Kindle books or the Kindle device, rather than the somewhat smaller footer that’s used the rest of the time.

  6. Chris31 May, 2011

    This is, in part, why I think the whole wireless thing (or more specifically, a lack of wireless on an ereader) is overblown. I would much rather buy ebooks on my PC, not the least because I can buy from more than one source, and sideload them on my ereader.

    The one, and only, reason I think the 3G Whispernet thing is worth anything came to light in the wake of the recent tornado activity hitting the US. Where no other means of communication was available, folks apparently were able to use their Kindles to communicate. So there’s that.

  7. Tyler31 May, 2011

    In the Nook, just type in 0.0 for the search and it brings up all the free books. Just do that under the category your looking for.

    Of course, why would they want to make it easy to find free books? They make $0 off of it.

    1. Nate Hoffelder31 May, 2011

      I didn’t know that. Thanks!

  8. K H Acton1 June, 2011

    Getting free books from the Kindle store may be a pain, but you can download direct to the Kindle from sites like Manybooks and Feedbooks. I could even do that with my 1st gen, when the Kindle store didn’t have free books, now it’s much easier.

    1. Nate Hoffelder1 June, 2011

      The free ebook aspect is actually irrelevant to my point. i also have an upper limit of $6 or so on ebooks, and the poor bookstore design cripples that as well.

  9. Loonesta2 June, 2011

    I shop for & buy all my Kindle boox thru my computer’s browser, using the full capabilities of Amazon’s search & sort features. I do that w/ my Nook Color, too. Neither of these 2 ereader-based book stores are that great. B&N’s frequently just freezes since the April crash.

  10. Bookeen Launches a New eBookstore - eBookNewser1 August, 2011

    […] the Kindle Store left much to be desired when visited from the Kindle, so perhaps the idea of an on-device eBookstore simply doesn’t […]

  11. […] on the Kindle, and that makes me wonder if very many people used the on-device ebookstore. Given my experience with the ebookstore on the Kindle, I’d say probably not.The iPad, on the other hand, got more […]


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