Here’s a story that sounds like a 1 April joke, but it really is not.
When Amazon launched the Kindle in 2007, they used a primitive and limited ebook format to sell ebooks in the Kindle Store. (It didn’t even support CSS, much less basic formatting like fonts and word wrapped around images.)
Amazon tried to make up for the shortcomings by adding in 2010 the ability to embed audio and video, improving the formatting in late 2011 (KF8), adding animated covers and page backgrounds last year (Kindle in Motion), and adding advanced typography in 2015 (KFX, which brought with it a whole host of DRM and other problems).
Only the formatting and typography improvements were widely adopted (to be fair, Kindle in Motion is still in beta), but now Amazon has moved on to the next enhancement to the Kindle.
Amazon”s Kindle team is looking for “an innovative and results-oriented Software Development Engineer” who has experience with the one or more of the following:
- Graphics software compositing, video, images with hardware assist.
- Graphical User Interface toolkit with widget libraries adopting the MVC paradigm for event handling.
- Animation and Interactivity software for creating effects.
- Multi platform programming languages for 2D and 3D graphics rendering such as Core Graphics, Skia, OpenGL, Direct3D, Metal, Others.
- Application Execution Framework interfacing to multiple platforms.
- Animation and physics engines like Unity, Turbulenz, Others.
Andrew pointed out, and I agree, that the Kindle team would only need an expert in 3D graphics and physics engines if they were planning to add either
or Virtual Reality to the Kindle platform. (Click the links for more info.)
(Coincidentally, Amazon still hasn’t found the expert they were looking for; the job was initially posted at the beginning of 2016, and then reposted a couple weeks back.)
I’m sure some are wondering how Amazon could add AR or VR to a Kindle with an E-ink screen. The answer is they can’t, and weren’t planning to.
Generally speaking, the Kindle media features only work in the Kindle apps. Kindle Audio/video, for example, was initially released in the Kindle iOS app and then the Android app and Fire tablet.
The Kindle AR and Kindle VR features, if and when they are released, would most likely a require a decent CPU and GPU. The features will be built with Amazon’s own Fire tablets in mind, so they may not be as sophisticated or gee-whiz as what we are now seeing on the Oculus or what Apple has teased with ARkit.
But it would still be better than what we have seen before in ebooks.
Augmented reality and virtual reality have been used in enhanced ebooks several times over the past decade, with little success. In many cases the tech simply wasn’t ready – for example, Wondla relied on AR tech that had to be installed in your web browser and tied to a website, and its features died when the site stopped working.
And a lot of the time creators had trouble finding a use for AR that improved a story rather than gilding a lily. The experience was in fact so frustrating that I am averse to the idea.
That said, I can’t wait to see what Amazon is going to do.
image by WIKITUDE