What do we want from the Kindle platform?

I thought it might be an interesting exercise to brainstorm a list of things developers, designers, and readers need from the Kindle platform (or any ebook platform, I just started with the most dominant one).

What follows is a quick, rough, unedited, off the top of my head, list.

What do book developers need from the Kindle platform?

  • Firebug or Webkit Inspector in the Kindle Previewer and, preferably, on the devices as well.
  • Design capabilities that match and are compatible with existing web tech. Including full bleed backgrounds, support for background-color: transparent (which doesn’t seem to work for DIVs in Kindle Previewer at least) and RGBA/HSLA colours.
  • Unify the media, video, and audio requirements. Try and support all the same formats as the other guys. Bonus points for enabling youtube video embeds in some way.
  • Better support for links. That includes linear=’no’ support and support for epub:types to enable things like popup windows, definitions, etc.
  • You should also be able to mark any non-linear page as fixed layout.
  • Steal an idea from Apple. No-code widgets to simplify the development of interactive books. The six built-in widgets that iBooks Author offers are a good start. (Do it in an ePub3 compatible way, preferrably.)
  • Covers should be multi-resolution icons. Separate bitmaps for each context.
  • An empowered ecosystem of toolmakers
  • Display:none support of some kind for older versions of mobi. Even if it’s just using a preprocessor in kindlegen.
  • Does the KF8 support IDPF font embed obfuscation?

What do toolmakers need from the Kindle platform?

  • Kindlegen as a brew recipe would empower command line tools. http://mxcl.github.com/homebrew/
  • Kindlegen as an API or through an embedded library, or even a bundle, would empower apps like Scrivener. Let apps that want to integrate mobi file export ship with an integrated kindlegen.
  • Kindle Previewer as an library with an API would help them even more. It should be powerful enough for people to be able to write plugins for their text editors to quickly generate a preview of the HTML file they’re editing.
  • Barring that, enable the previewer to watch a directory or file and quickly generate a new preview when it changes.
  • Document everything.
  • The best path to tools is compatibility with epub.

What do readers need from the Kindle platform?

  • kindle.amazon.com as an API. People should be able to have all of their book notes and quotes synced to their note-taking apps, like Evernote, Simplenote, or even as a directory of text files for the Dropbox-based note apps. Developers of writing and note-taking apps should be able to add kindle notes syncing with no more effort or paperwork (as in no paperwork to speak of) than it would take them to add Simplenote syncing, for example.
  • Give publishers the opportunity to deliver alternate covers and alternate themes that the reader can choose instead of the defaults.

All APIs, libraries, etc. need to be self-serve. That is, something a single programmer can sort out in a few minutes without talking to another human being. Nobody is going to create a plugin for a $50 text editor if they have to ask permission or sign a legal document.