Kindling Innovation

Just before I started my business as a creativity and innovation specialist some 17 years ago, I had a brief moment dabbling with an invention in 1994.  Recently someone pointed out that I effectively invented the idea for what became the Amazon Kindle, so I took a look back down memory lane for the original concept that sparked the innovation.

In 1994 I developed ‘The Virtual Bookreader’ – yes I know it’s not a snappy title! 🙂  An extract from the patent document reveals the purpose:

The virtual bookreader offers a user friendly way to read books using computer based technology.  This will be of particular use to frequent travellers who wish to save on luggage space, libraries for multiple book loans and book publishers wishing to enter electronic book distribution.

I registered the design for a year, to enable me to have commercial discussions with a number of large companies about the concept. Unsurprisingly, I got many rejection letters.  Even the computer giant IBM even sent me a letter telling me that they did not think it had much commercial potential.  Oh dear – how wrong could they be! 🙂

I did not sufficient money to develop the idea at the time, so I decided to let the patent lapse and publish the idea in my 1st book ‘Best Practice Creativity’, in the hope that someone would take the idea further.  It seems they did.  Take a look at the original drawing and the modern day Kindle:

The Virtual Bookreader and the Kindle - Extracted from the book 'Best Practice Creativity' - given a personal affiliation by Professor Charles Handy

What are the innovation lessons we can learn from this?

  1. Since the Kindle only came out in 2007, it is fair to say that my concept was ahead of a market demand.  This serves to demonstrate the importance of timing in innovation.  Doh! 🙂
  2. The concept was rejected by many serious companies.  This points to the fact that new ideas are inconceivable before they have entered the market.  Double Doh! :-))
  3. Whilst creativity and invention is relatively easy, innovation takes blood, sweat, tears and money.  Without sufficient cash to drive the innovation train, it is often better to sell your idea.  Even then one needs the skills to crack the corporate hierarchy and persistence / resilience to continue after many tries.  In my case, I had a startup business to run, so made the decision not to pursue the invention.  Focus matters when running a business.  But for a different time …. Doh ! 🙂

Feel free to check out Best Practice Creativity – we have a few copies for sale directly.  Or mail us ( for a free copy of the new book ‘Punk Rock People Management‘.  Our previous books are acclaimed by Professor Charles Handy and Tom Peters and, oh yes, the book is available on Kindle at a very attractive price.

Buy Two, get One FREE 🙂


4 responses to “Kindling Innovation

  1. I guess one other point to bear in mind is, even if you do all the hard work and get your product to market, it doesn’t mean your product with be the next iPod or Kindle. There were MP3 players before the iPod and ebook readers before the Kindle…


  2. Hey Peter,
    I like the twin screens. More than that your before and after photos scream volumes. I laugh whenever I look. Music is everywhere in the Pacific. I read your mail; thank you. Rock on: Cathy


  3. In some ways the real Kindle is more innovative – my design made the product feel like a book, with the ability to have one page on the left and another page altogether on the right – this would have been good for books where making a comparison was important rather than reading page to page. Anyway Cathy, thanks for your comment – hope all is well with you on the other side of the globe.



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