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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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April 2009
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Amazon Acquires Lexcycle

Recently Amazon has acquired Lexcycle, a company that created Stanza e-book reader application for iPhone and PC. In official statement Amazon claims that they’ll keep Stanza development independent and this is the best way to allow progress and innovation to thrive. Perhaps…

Or peraphs we’ll see Kindle Desktop edition soon and Amazon will expand it’s eBook reach to PC market as well. Although most likely it’s just my wishful thinking…

Robert A. Heinlein, Good Kindle Books at a Glance #5

Many books by the famous science fiction writer, Robert Anson Heinlein, are available now in Kindle edition.

One of my favorite is “Double Star”, narrating a story about a talented, yet destitute actor Lawrence Smith hired to double for a prominent politician Bonforte, whose views he, by the way, opposes. As the impersonation continues, Lawrence takes not only Bonforte’s appearance, but also his personality traits, which eventually suppresses the actor’s “previous” identity. First published in 1956, the novel  became the Winner of the Hugo Award a year later.

“Glory Road” is a interesting mixture of science fiction and fantasy about a war veteran who has been discharged from the army and, not seeing any better alternative in his own world, embarks on an adventure in another universe. “Heinlein proves himself as adept with sword and sorcery as with rockets and slide rules and the result is exciting, satirical, fast-paced, funny and tremendously readable — a favorite of all who have read it.”

“Red Planet”, originally written as juvenile fiction, may be enjoyable for adults, too.  It is a story about two boys and a Martian pet that help prevent disruption of the relationships between colonists and Martians. “Jim Marlow and his strange-looking Martian friend Willis were allowed to travel only so far. But one day Willis unwittingly tuned into a treacherous plot that threatened all the colonists on Mars, and it set Jim off on a terrifying adventure that could save–or destroy–them all!”

“Podkayne of Mars” can also be considered as fiction both for youth and adults. It is written as a diary of a 17-year-old girl who goes on a journey with her brother and uncle to visit Earth. “Her first space trip – and not just to Venus but to Terra as well,  that most improbable of planets. It was a place where the natives had to go wrapped and protected against their own environment, a place where the gravity was too powerful for her species.”

Kindle - Robert Heinlein

Kindle - Robert Heinlein

Kindle Software 2.0.3 (327610024)

Kindle software update version 2.0.3 is being rolled out over the WhisperNet. I decided not to wait for the automated installation to fail because I have font hack and Savory installed and did a manual update. Uninstallers for both hacks worked just fine and official update installed without any problems. I used Igor’s script to take a peek inside the update packages and copied some files from Kindle before I installed the update. I then sucesfully applied the official patch, made another copy of the files that were updated but didn’t find any exciting changes.

All-in-all, it looks like a collection of bugfixes. It’s possible that TTS change is there.

First thing after the official patch – I’ve reinstalled the Unicode Font Hack and it installed just fine.

Kindle Software Update 2.0.3

Kindle Software Update 2.0.3

Free Kindle 2 Contest Summary

Several folks have asked me what happened to the Free Kindle 2 Contest. I have little excuse other than being lazy but here it goes now:

  • Kindle 2 went to Jeff from USA (this is as much information as I can share). According to the UPS tracking it was delivered. I hope that Jeff is enjoying it and putting it to good use.
  • I received total 279 entries of which 240 were valid. Remaining 14% didn’t have the date in proper format in the subject field.
  • Of those those 240 10 (4.2%) have guessed correctly so I had to flip my favorite 10 sided coin to decide who wins.
  • Dates ranged from 3/20/2008 to 10/9/2009… Since first one is most likely a typo along with some other dates before the contest start, earliest really valid date was 3/14/2009 – the next day after the rules were published.
  • Most people (17) guessed 4/1/2009 and were off by 1 day.
  • Here is a full distribution graph for entries ranging from 3/14/2009 to 4/28/2009. There were several for much later dates that I omitted from the graph.

free-kindle-contest-graph

Thank to everyone for participating and spreading the word and good luck next time! :)

If Amazon Bans Your Account You Lose Access to Kindle Store

Interesting Kindle 2 related story is developing in MobileRead Forums. In a nutshell – Amazon customer had his account banned for allegedly excessive returns of expensive electronics. That would have been the end of the story but he also happened to own a K2. And with his account banned he lost access to Kindle Store, Archived Items and official warranty. Returning the Kindle for a refund is also not possible. So currently he only has books that were present on his Kindle at the moment of Ban and two options of getting new books: 1) ones that are freely available for download and 2) illegal way of getting non-Amazon DRM books.

Two main conclusions from this story are:

  1. While you can only regular paper books by something like fire, theft or forgetful friends, DRM eBooks can be taken away from you by the service provider – in this particular case Amazon. On the other hand while you maintain a good relationship with them and they are in business – your books are safe from things that threaten paper books
  2. Be careful with your returns. It looks like Amazon doesn’t issue warnings before they ban your account.

ePub and PDF support

To view ePub of PDF files on your Amazon Kindle normally you would need to use Amazon email conversion service (either free of $0.10 per document) or you could convert documents on your PC using Mobipocket Creator. Well, not anymore…

Jesse from “Massively Parallel Procrastination” blog has created a Savory hack that adds almost native support for these formats to your Amazon Kindle. Installing this hack does two things:

  1. It becomes possible to download PDF and ePub files from Kindle browser (normally all unsupported file-types are blocked)
  2. One PDF or ePub file is dropped into /documents folder background conversion process is started automatically and after some time a converted document appears in it’s place.

I installed and tested it and it took just under 2 minutes to convert project Gutenberg version of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. There were some formatting flaws but overall book converted well.

This hack is fully reversible. There is an uninstaller provided. However it should be noted that because of the way uninstaller currently works, if you have other hacks installed (like unicode hack or screensaver hack) it can potentially partially revert these as well if they were installed after Savory. So for now it’s safer to uninstall in the reverse order of how you installed hacks.

As with all other Kindle hacks it should be used with care because although tested by many people (myself included) it can potentially brick your device. Also having this hack installed will prevent official Amazon updates from installing so you’ll need to uninstall it and the install Amazon update manually.

This makes Kindle even more PC-independent than it was to begin with. And this is good. Personally I believe that PC-independent gadgets are the way of the future. Just look at how successful iPhone is (I only need to tether mine to upload new audiobooks and flash new firmware). This is because most people don’t wan’t anymore just to use computers for the sake of using computers but to get done things they need done in their everyday lives and the simpler – the better.

kindle-savory

Unicode Fonts for Kindle 2 v0.1

Patches were tested by several volunteers and all results were positive. The patch works and doesn’t cause any problems. You can now read books on your Amazon Kindle 2 in Russian, Chinese, Japanese and probably number of other languages.

Currently I’m releasing hack with two different fonts: Liberation that comes from RedHat Linux and Droid that comes from Google Android project. Both fonts are open-source and they are the best ones I could find that suit the needs of this hack. Finding good fonts was much harder than creating the hack itself.

Instructions and download links can be found here. Please-please-please-please-please do be very-very-very-very-very careful if you decide to experiment with adding your own fonts to the hack. If you find good free or reasonably priced fonts that work – please let me know – I’ll test them and make more versions of the hack available here and give you proper credit. Please spread the word about this hack as it will increase chances of someone finding better fonts that can be used with it.

Here are some screenshots of what Kindle 2 with hacked fonts looks like:

kindle-ufhack-v01-liberation

kindle-ufhack-v01-droid

I would like to thank John, Ted and some other folks for helping me test this patch. Another big thank you goes to Igor who created the python script that creates Kindle 2 update packages.

I’ll now shift my attention to figuring out creating custom recovery mode updates. Once this is done – I’ll have much more freedom in messing with fonts and other settings without fear of bricking my Kindle 2.

F.Scott Fitzgerald, Good Kindle Books at a Glance #4

If you followed the Academy Awards ceremony this year, you must have heard about The Curious Case of Benjamin Button nominated for Best Picture. The movie was inspired by a short story of the same name written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, another prominent author among American classics.

Now available in Kindle edition, the story was first published in 1921 in Colliers Magazine and then included in F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s anthology, Tales of the Jazz Age, which is sometimes titled The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Jazz Age Stories. They say, the story was written after Mark Twain had remarked that it was a pity that the best part of life came at the beginning and the worst part at the end.

If you’re willing to read or re-read Mr. Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, The Great Gatsby, you may download it in the Cambridge edition from Amazon. First published in 1925, the novel found success only twenty years later; now it is ranked second in the Modern Library’s list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century, yielding only to Ulysses by James Joyce. “A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology.”

Tender is the Night is ranked #28 on the same list. In the story a young bright psychoanalyst married his patient to help her overcome her illness; while his wife gets stronger, he is eventually destroyed by the marriage – emotionally and professionally. The book seems very personal and tragic – when the author was working on the book, Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda was diagnosed and hospitalized with schizophrenia. As the writer himself said, “Gatsby was a tour de force, but this is a confession of faith.”

Genius is the ability to put into effect what is on your mind.
-F. Scott Fitzgerald

kindle-f-scott-fitzgerald

Cyrillic Kindle – Beta testers needed!

Update: Testing is completed. You can download release version of the hack here: Kindle Fonts Hack.

After quite a bit of tweaking I was able to create a patch that replaces default Kindle 2 fonts with ones that support wider range of Unicode characters. I was able to test it on Cyrillic texts in particular. I believe that any characters can be displayed – it’s just a matter of picking correct TTF fonts. The patch works in books and in web-browser as you can see from the screenshots. Patch is also fully reversible. I’ve tried installing and removing it several times and my Kindle is working fine.

I plan to make this patch available here on this website for anyone to download. However before I do so I would like to have it properly tested by volunteers. If you would like to be on the front-line of Kindle hacking – drop a comment here and I’ll email you the patch and the instructions. Volunteers will be honorably mentioned in the post containing the final patch. Although I’ve tested this patch to the best of my abilities and as you can see from the screenshots – it works, I can’t guarantee anything and if your device ends up being bricked – I’ll try my best to advise you on fixing it but in no way I should be held responsible – responsibility is all yours. So again – if you are interested – drop a comment on this post and I’ll email you.

kindle-russian-home-screen

kindle-russian-text

kindle-russian-wikipedia

Airplane Bricked My Kindle 2

Recently I had to take a couple of long trips on airplanes. And supposedly Amazon Kindle is just perfect for such occasions. I stuffed mine with tons of books and even more samples so that I could browse though them on the first leg of my trip and then buy the books that I’ve liked while I waited for a connection flight. WhisperNet rocks!

However this wasn’t meant to be. As the airplane started to gain altitude and I paged though “The Waste Lands [The Dark Tower III]” I noticed that some lines didn’t update as I turned the pages. At first I thought that it was some weird software glitch and rebooted my K2. However the stubborn lines persisted. As I kept paging though the book more and more lines got stuck. Until soon enough it wasn’t possible to read anymore and my Kindle 2 looked like this:

kindle-broken

My speculation is that eInk display has a lot of wires connected to it from the “motherboard”. It’s usually done by gluing a sticky plastic band with metallic wires on it to the display that has metallic contacts. Most likely during the production of my particular unit an air bubble was caught under the plastic band. However it wasn’t big enough to cause trouble during quality assurance. However when airplane gained altitude and cabin air pressure dropped a bit, the bubble expanded and gradually ripping more and more of  the contacts apart. Oh, well. No big loss because I ended up having a very interesting chat with a guy in the next seat. As I arrived I had several hours until my next flight so I phoned Amazon support and let them know what had happened. I initiated an RMA so that at least there would be a working Kindle 2 waiting for me at home when I arrived.Once again: Kindle warranty rocks!

What really struck me as odd is that Amazon confirmed my suspicion that the only way you can buy Kindle is from Amazon.com website. I realize that Amazon is an online business but wouldn’t they make a killing in sales if they had kiosks selling Kindles in the airports? Imagine an automated kiosk that allows you to get a Kindle device just by swiping a credit card and create an Amazon.com account in case you don’t have one yet. And then you can immediately start buying your reads right from the device. What also struck me as odd is that there were Sony eBook readers readily available for sale in several airport stores. I guess that they may be useful if you have a notebook computer with WiFi ready to fill it with books. I didn’t though so they were as useful to me as my bricked K2…

Oh, and BTW – no problems with TSA whatsoever.