William Rainbird

Australian based in London. Founder of Giraffic Themes. Addicted to travelling.

Kindle screensaver: potential for community-driven custom book covers

3rd May 2011

About a month ago I posted a review of the Amazon Kindle - after I had been using the device for a few weeks. One of the main points I discussed was the Kindle’s screensaver.
Just to reiterate - when you switch the Kindle to standby mode - the screen is replaced by a screensaver - which will stay on until you take your Kindle off standby mode. Think of it like an “Etch O Sketch”. Whatever is last drawn on the screen, stays on the screen.

You can’t choose what gets displayed as the screensaver. By default, the Kindle will display a screensaver of an author (it randomly cycles through a collection) and also a couple of other images - such as a reminder that you can shop online or a message asking you to give feedback about the device.

I found the authors to be a bit disturbing, so I usually ended up placing my kindle face down when I’m finished with it. Hence why I said in my review that it would be a great idea to show the cover of the current book you’re reading as the screensaver instead - this makes much more metaphorical sense as it would appear as though you’re “closing the book”.

Amazon aren’t stupid - they know how important the screensaver is. That’s why they’ve released a cheaper model of the Kindle that uses advertisements for the screensaver as opposed to the default collection of famous authors.

What I’d like to see? I’d like to see some sort of community/application where artists from across the globe can all contribute screensavers for any book. Therefore, if I’m reading the book ‘1984’ on my Kindle, when I switch the device on to standby I’d get a bookcover that was designed by someone from the community (maybe the screensaver would also include their name/website/twitter etc).

Why would this community work?
- People love redesigning covers, posters and other items from popular culture
- With Amazon likely to sell more than 8 million Kindles this year - that’s a lot of exposure.
- Book covers aren’t as personal to the book as movie posters are to film and album covers are to music, therefore I believe publishers would be open to the community

There’s obviously a few problems involved. You’d have to look at quality control as you wouldn’t want the equivalent of the Deviant Art search term for “1984” to be basically thrown on to your Kindle device. One way to do it could be that artists would have to be invited to contribute to the collection (e.g. Dribbble), or maybe covers have to be submitted for approval (e.g. Threadless).

You’d also have to think of how you’ll get the screensavers on to your Kindle. I’d imagine that if you’re connected to WiFi and you load up a book - the app would ask you if it would like to download screensavers for the book. Or if you had a desktop application, when you connect your Kindle it would sync custom covers to your device (similar to how iTunes seeks album covers).

In conclusion, this is all just a bit of dreaming. But it’s an area of the Kindle that I believe is important (I’m sure that the advertisers on board for the cheaper Kindle would agree with me). I’m sure there are many artists and designers who would leap at the opportunity to design custom screensavers for many of their favourite books - it’s just if a future application can support this is the question.

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