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Flashback Friday: Amazon Kindle, Generation One

Next Thursday marks the eighth anniversary of the Kindle Store and the original Kindle, and in anticipation of that anniversary I thought it would be fun to look back at how the Kindle has changed in the six generations spanning the original Kindle to the Paperwhite.


Starting with a clunky "so awkwardly ugly it’s cute" design, the Kindle eventually morphed into the minimalist design we know and tolerate today.

And if you’re wondering just how awkward the original design was, check out this video by CNet. Note the massive page turn buttons, the thumb-centric keyboard, the scroll wheel, and the dated menu design.

It really brings back memories, doesn’t it?

eBook Evangelist

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FSkornia November 13, 2015 um 11:46 am

Personally, I really liked much of the design of the first generation Kindle. I liked the wedge shape, the removable rubberized back, the feel of the page turn buttons, the keyboard. I didn’t really like the line selection mechanism, but today that would be replaced with the touch screen.

I feel there was a reason that Amazon spent a bunch of years (my memory is saying 7?) in the initial build and design process for the Kindle and came out with what they did. Unfortunately for the design, it came out about the same time Apple unveiled the iPhone, and everybody went gaga over the Apple design. This is what I felt led Amazon to scrap all their earlier design and go with a more symmetrical "Apple" look for the Kindle 2.

I miss being able to comfortably hold my Kindle (with or without a cover) without my hand cramping.

Nate Hoffelder November 13, 2015 um 1:29 pm

@ Frank

I don’t think that the iPhone influenced the design so much as the original Kindle brought together several distinct design ideas that clashed in a fugly way. Chris is right in that it was designed in the absence of public testing which would have (to name one example) revealed that people would type with their fingers, and not their thumbs or that the large page turn buttons weren’t as useful as they would appear.

Chris Meadows November 13, 2015 um 12:02 pm

The first model of anything is often the most unusual, because it contains things that do work and things that don’t work, without public testing from a predecessor to help sort out which is which. (Just look at the first-generation Nook, which had that little LED screen that entirely vanished from subsequent models.) After that, it gets refined and changed, and after a few years have gone by, the most recent version looks nothing at all like the original.

In a way, it’s sad that one of the biggest ground-breaking principles of the Kindle went by the wayside–the free 3G wireless that you could use for web browsing–but it certainly served the purpose of adding to early adoption. By the time it went away, there was no longer any question that the Kindle was going to catch on in a big way.

Greg Weeks November 13, 2015 um 1:28 pm

It’s still an option to get free Wi-Fi. At least it is on the paperwhite. It costs an extra $70 up front. The first kindle didn’t have an option to NOT pay for it, but you still paid for it upfront.

Chris Meadows November 13, 2015 um 1:45 pm

Greg: You can’t use their free 3G for open web browsing anymore, except to a subset of a very few selected sites, such as Wikipedia. That means it’s no longer the big selling point it might once have been. (Of course, as anyone who fiddled with the current Kindle crop’s browser on Wi-Fi could tell you, it never was very good and still isn’t, but it was still a nifty gimmick that added to the appeal.) But then, by this point, there’s so much demand for the Kindle for other reasons that it’s no longer really needed.

mtzg November 13, 2015 um 3:17 pm

Now that the 6″ Kindle probably won’t see spectacular design changes anymore, it would be nice of Amazon to task its free designers with the preparation of a larger reading device for each anniversary for at least the next five years, starting with an 8″ device for the 8th anniversary.

Nate Hoffelder November 13, 2015 um 3:37 pm

I think it’s a little too late for Amazon to release an 8″ Kindle for the 8th anniversary.

Mary November 14, 2015 um 9:35 am

I can’t even express how excited I was to get the first Kindle, had to wait till almost the end of January 2008. To be able to carry multiple books on one device was spectacular. The first book I read on it was World without End by Ken Follett. I had recently finished lugging around the print version of his Pillars of the Earth, so the difference in weight was meaningful, as both are over 1000 pages. Before the advent of the Kindle, most of my fiction reading was from the library, but afterward there was a gradual shift to actually buying fiction books. Now I need the Kindle (and Kobo) for the larger print. So many people’s lives have been enhanced by the ability to read e-books as their vision changes, making it impossible for them to enjoy regular size print books. With a Kindle, everything can be in large print.

ucfgrad93 November 14, 2015 um 9:46 am

Never owned the original Kindle, however, I did get the second generation. I have to say, the Kindle ereader is one of my all time favorite gadgets that I have owned.

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