A Thousand Paper Cuts: The Kindle App

In a recent interview by Lex Fridman, Jeff Bezos explains that at Amazon, they are always working at two different levels of detail:

There are big things that are really important to manage, and then there are small things. Internally into Amazon, we call them paper cuts. So we’re always working on the big things, if you ask me. And most of the energy goes into the big things, as it should, and you can identify the big things.


But in addition to that, there are all these little tiny customer experience deficiencies, and we call those paper cuts. We make long lists of them. And then we have dedicated teams that go fix paper cuts because the teams working on the big issues never get to the paper cuts. They never work their way down the list to get to… They’re working on big things, as they should and as you want them to. And so you need special teams who are charged with fixing paper cuts.

I think it’s a great strategy. However, when I open the Kindle App for MacOS every day I wonder if the app is made by the same Amazon Jeff Bezos is talking about. I’m pretty sure Bezos does not use the app for reading Kindle books1.

From a user-interface point of view, the Kindle App is pretty simple. But now and then, someone at Amazon feels the need to change things that are already solved. For example, in the latest update to the Kindle App, someone felt that the font page number at the bottom left of the screen was way too big… and reduced the font to the point that it’s very hard to read. (There is no option to change that font size on the app.)

There is a whole list of things that, if fixed, could make the Kindle App a great app. A small example: Command-C does not work for copying highlighted text. If you want to copy text, you need to open a contextual menu and choose the copy option from there. Those are the paper cuts that Bezos is referring to.

I still have the illusion the Kindle App deficiencies make it into Amazon’s paper cuts list before the end of 2024.

Photo by Krzysztof Maksimiuk on Unsplash

  1. The Kindle device, on the other hand, provides a very good experience. I’m referring to the Kindle App for MacOS here. ↩︎

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