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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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New Kindle 3 Reading Light Cover

One of the biggest complaints that naysayers seem to be able to come up with about the Kindle, and eReaders in general, is that you can’t read in the dark.  Sure, you could go with something like an iPad or even the superficially similar, if less useful or functional, Pandigital Novel and be able to read in any lighting besides direct sunlight, but chances are good that if you’re the type to be reading with the lights off then you do it enough that staring into a back-lit display is going to get on your nerves after a while.

Fortunately, Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) seems to have come up with a simple and effective solution in the form of a very nice looking, light cover for your eReader that draws on the battery in the device itself to power a small but powerful LED reading light. The Kindle Lighted Leather Cover currently comes in seven colors, doesn’t weigh you down with bulky batteries or annoying cords, and costs about $60.  It’s difficult to say, just yet, whether or not the power drain from the light will be a major concern, but it would seem doubtful given the greatly increased battery life of the newly updated Kindle and the notoriously low power draw of quality LED lights.  This seems like a great idea for anybody who likes to read in bed without disturbing somebody, or even just those of us who don’t do all our reading inside.

Kindle 3 Review

Kindle 3 White And Graphite

Kindle 3 White And Graphite

Update: Since Kindle 3 is released and I got some hands on experience with it, you should check out this Kindle 3 Review and this follow up post for more up to date information.

Since the original Kindle 3 release announcement I had some to carefully examine all of the news and press releases and compile this comprehensive Kindle 3 Review.

Although Kindle 3 rumors  have been circulating for some time, Fall 2010 was the widely anticipated release date. Rumors intensified when Kindle 2 became sold out on Amazon.com one day prior to the official announcement that came on July 28th, 2010.

In a nutshell Kindle 3 (although Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) never used this name) comes with following features:

Kindle 3 Screen

3rd generation Kindle comes with the same next generation eInk Pearl screen that is found in recently released Kindle DX Graphite but in 6″ form factor. The screen features the same 600×800 resolution with 16 shades of gray. Partially due to new screen technology and partially due to a software update, new Kindle will feature 20% faster page turns than the 2nd generation Kindle.

Kindle 3 Fonts

On top of some software improvements that made the default font look crisper, Amazon has introduced 2 additional font options: condensed Caecilia and Sans Serif. But what is more important, finally Kindle will natively support a broader range of characters:

  • Cyrillic used in Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Tajik and dozens of other languages
  • Japanese
  • Traditional and simplified Chinese
  • Korean
  • Greek

This means that I can finally stop updating Kindle Unicode Font Hack that with time and numerous Kindle software and hardware update has become a conundrum of patches, jailbreaks and uninstallers. It also means that I would be able to republish Kindle Russian Dictionary using native Cyrillic characters rather than transliteration. Since it will not be the only book published with non-Latin characters, the updated font will inevitable make their way to all other Kindle versions.

Kindle 3 Size and Weight

Kindle 3 comes 21% smaller and 17% lighter than Kindle 2. You can select multiple eReaders (by holding the Ctrl key and clicking) from the list below to see how they compare by size.

As you can see, Kindle 3 is smaller than Kindle 2 but slightly larger than nook or Sony PRS-600. Both of these readers however lack keyboard that allows them to be more compact. PRS-300 is smaller still but it has a smaller 5″ reading area too so it wouldn’t really be a fair comparison.

This reduction in size didn’t come free though. Paging buttons are much smaller than they used to be and numerical keyboard row is merged with the top letter row the same way as it is on Kindle DX.

Kindle 3 Storage and Connectivity

Starting from 2nd generation Kindle Amazon has eliminated external memory card storage in their eReaders. Kindle 3 is no exception. Internal flash memory size has doubled compared to Kindle 2. Now entire line-up of Kindle readers features 4GB of internal flash memory for storing books. Not that it really matters: even without global 3G connectivity 2 gigabytes of text will take a very-very long while for anyone to read even with 20% faster page turns. 3G connectivity pretty much eliminates the need for large internal storage altogether barring the scenario of solo around the world sailboat trip.

So far WiFi has been a feature exclusive to Barnes&Noble nook until now. New Kindle will automatically take advantage of 3G WiFi hotspots if they are found nearby. This would provide faster download speeds, ability to download books in places without AT&T coverage and save Amazon money. Amazon used to pay $0.15 per megabyte downloaded to Sprint (and probably still pays similar amount to AT&T). I’m almost positive that it would be possible to configure Kindle to connect to any other wireless network – open or encrypted (provided you know the credentials).

There is a Wi-Fi only version. It is $50 cheaper and 0.2oz lighter. Personally I would prefer to pay $50 upfront for the convenience of being able to download books almost anywhere hassle free and automatically getting my periodicals without having to manually power-manage the WiFi or worrying about finding a hotspot. It should be possible to use Kindle WiFi together with Android phone (like Sprint EVO 4G) or any other device that acts as a mobile hotspot. Any way you look at it – WiFi is a welcome and long awaited addition to Kindle feature set.

Kindle 3 Battery Life

It looks like Amazon has pushed the battery life even further. Previous versions of Kindle used to work 7 days with 3G on and “several weeks” with 3G off. In my personal experience “several weeks” was 1 month. Now Amazon officially states 1 month of battery life with wireless off. So perhaps it would be even longer in reality.

Kindle 3 Browser

It was nice to be able to browser Wikipedia via 3G connection for free, but apart from that and running the Amazon Kindle Book store Kindle 2 experimental browser was hardly useful. The newest Kindle comes with new Webkit-based browser that hopefully would be more responsive and usable on websites with complex layouts. I own and actively use B&N nook and I can honestly say that nook browser is excellent. That being said I hardly ever use either Kindle or nook browser. 4″ smartphone screen offers much better browsing experience than 6″ eInk. eBook reader were built for linear reading and in this eInk excels. Web-browsing is a very random non-linear process. In all likelihood 4″ screen despite it’s small size is going to contain less text than you are going to read before navigating to next page via some link.

Another novel feature – is ‘browser article mode’. Kindle browser will use some experimental heuristics to eliminate everything but the main page text, distilling the web-page into something similar to newspaper article.

Kindle 3 File Formats

With new release the list of supported formats didn’t change. AZW, TXT, PDF, PRC, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP are natively supported. DOC, DOCX, RTF and HTML are supported via online conversion tool. This list may not be final since new formats (hopefully someday EPUB too) can be added via software update as was the case with PDF support on Kindle 2.

Kindle 3 PDF Support

The latest Kindle offers the same level of PDF support as Kindle DX Graphite. You can pan and zoom PDF files, annotate them and do dictionary lookups.

Other Kindle 3 Features

On top of all this Kindle 3 gets voice-accessible menus and microphone. Voice accessible menus (Kindle will read aloud all menu items) along with text-to-speech should take make Kindle a fully accessible device that can be used in a classroom.

As for the microphone. It is there but it is not mentioned in official specification. Therefore it’s reserved for a future use. Most likely it will enable adding voice notes or recording classroom sessions. Some reviewers have speculated on voice-activated page turns and hands-free reading but I personally find such scenarios unlikely.

Social features like Facebook and Twitter integration and sharing favorite passages have carried over from previous Kindle versions. Personally I find “favorite passages” to be the most useful feature. It really adds to the book reading experience and is not intrusive. I have to confess that I selfishly use this feature while not highlighting any passages myself.

Final verdict

Should you buy Kindle 3? If you love reading – Hell, yeah! It’s shaping up to be the best eReader as far a features to price ratio is concerned. Amazon has been developing eBook Readers for years now and each product they release is better that the ones before (which were good to begin with). Personally I already pre-ordered mine so you are sure to see a hands on review soon after I receive it.

Kindle 3 Released

Preorders are now available for both the 3G + WiFi Kindle 3 and the much anticipated WiFi-only Kindle 3.  The improvements on both models(the only difference between the two being the exclusion of 3G coverage from the WiFi model and the lower price that that entails) are quite noticeable, if a bit less drastic than many people were likely expecting.

Here’s what we’re going to be looking at:

  • Higher Contrast Display, such as has recently been seen in the Kindle DX Graphite
  • Slightly Streamlined Body: 21% smaller, 17% lighter, but with no sacrifices to screen size
  • Improved Battery and Main Memory Storage, which with the release of Collections a few months ago finally proves incredibly useful
  • Built-in WiFi Connectivity: This is huge.  Connect and download books even in areas where reception is horrible?  You’d better believe I’ll take it
  • 20% Faster Refresh Rate
  • Enhanced PDF Navigation, again much like what we’ve seen in the DX
  • New Kindle Software will support some international characters – Cyrillic (Russian), Chinese, Japanese and Korean

Now, I’ll freely admit that the only thing I was set to care much about was the improved screen.  And, to address that point, it looks like it will be as amazing as could be hoped for. That said, I love the body redesign.  It’s smaller, lighter, easier on the eyes, claims to have quieter page turn buttons, a more pleasantly textured backing, and has done away with the annoyingly protruding navigation stick in favor of a directional navigation pad.  If there were ever a reason not to Kindle, it’s flown right out the window.

So far all pre-orders are due to be shipped on a release date of August 27th.

New Kindle Unveiling Soon?

As anybody who is interested can clearly see, today finds the Kindle sold out!  For some, this may be annoying since it means that you have to wait on your new eReader.  For those who’ve been following the news these last few months, however, this is simply a reinforcement of the good news we’ve been expecting for a while now.  The new and updated Kindle, with a thinner body and better screen(probably the same eInk Pearl display seen on the new Kindle DX Graphite), was announced as an August release a while back.  In the meantime we have seen refurbished Kindles going for close to $100, a major price drop on new Kindles, and a huge push in the Kindle platform across multiple platforms.  Definitely encouraging signs.

Now, will this be the much anticipated Kindle 3?  No idea.  The timing seems right in a lot of ways, but this could just as easily be a minor cosmetic update in the interests of giving Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) a further edge in the eBook market.  Either way, August should be a good month for fans of the device as we can be fairly sure to see something new.  Personally, all I really care about is the new screen.  That Graphite DX model is very nice to read on.

B&N Nook for Android Released

Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) has taken a page out of Amazon’s(NASDAQ:AMZN) book again recently by rebranding their eReader applications under the nook.  This comes at the same time as, and is therefore well illustrated by, the much anticipated release of the nook software for the Android operating system, which is now available in the Apps store as a free download.

By all accounts, this is a solid piece of software.  It seems to have most every feature we’ve come to expect in eReader applications for cellular devices, and an intuitive functionality very similar to that of the popular Kindle for Android application.  I like having multiple font options a lot, and I can see the use for having additional font sizes even if I’m perfectly happy personally with the usual ones available on either app.

The one place that the nook app falls short, and it is kinda a big deal, is the complete lack of brightness and background controls.  While it is obviously likely to be difficult to get something like that to work across a broad range of hardware profiles and other such difficulties, it is almost essential to have these features when reading on most cell phone types of screens.  It’s a neat piece of software and I honestly believe that it is superficially better than anything else I’ve seen so far, short of buying a Kindle or nook or something, but when it comes to regular use you’ll be hurting for more control over the screen rather quickly.

Kindle Sales For Larsson Hit New Milestone

This week we have seen a new standard set for eSook sales, specifically those for Amazon’s(NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle.  Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, which we recently mentioned in a review of the Kindle Editions, has now sold over One Million copies for the Kindle alone.  This comes just weeks after James Patterson’s amazing announcement that he had hit over a million eBooks in general between all formats. All three of Larsson’s books are among the Top 10 Bestselling Kindle Editions of all time, according to Amazon, have places on the New York Times and international Bestsellers Lists, and have met with rave reviews seemingly everywhere they have been encountered.

This only serves to emphasize for us how the shifts in the way the publishing industry operates are going to effect us as time moves on.  First we have Kindle book sales overtaking hardcovers, now we have authors managing to sell in the millions of copies range.  It is becoming increasingly clear that while print is far from dead, there is little chance for the traditional model to reassert itself.  As time goes on and more authors find themselves members of this exclusive group, we can only hope that the achievement will continued to be noted, both for these authors and for the eBook industry in general.  It can’t be seen as anything but truly impressive.

Kindle eBook Sales Exceed Hardcovers

Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has recently released some very interesting news for eBook enthusiasts.  Apparently, in recent months, Kindle eBook sales have begun to exceed those of traditional hardcovers by an average of 40% on the Amazon website with recent weeks showing the difference as high as 80%.

As more and more people weigh in on the topic of eBooks and the eventual state of the market, it’s not unusual to find that most fall into one of two camps.  First, we have those who believe that paper books are a thing of the past and that the publishing industry as it stands is going to collapse under its own weight in the near future.  Then, also, you have those for whom nothing short of a paper book will do and who are convinced that no matter how great the experience with a Kindle or other similar device can get, it will simply not measure up favorably by virtue of being made of plastic and having buttons.  The truth, as usual, is fairly certain to fall well in between these extremes.  That said, this is certainly a sign that more and more people are willing to draw away somewhat from the traditional model and experience a new way of doing things.  The numbers can’t be anything but encouraging.

Amazon’s Kindle Gets Even More Popular

Recent releases from Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) have indicated that the Kindle, proving it deserves its place as Amazon’s #1 Best Selling item, has tripled in sales this year compared to last, in part due to last month’s price slashing.  While many deride that move as the end of the Kindle as a profitable endeavor, there can be no doubt that the greater the availability of the eReader and the platform in general, the healthier the product-line it supports will become.

Being spread, as it is, between the Kindle device, iOS applications, Android applications, various smart phones, and PC applications, there are surprisingly few people left who cannot, should the choose to do so, access the eBook of their choice in a convenient and comfortable setting.  As some reports indicate that the eBook market has grown by more than 160% in the past year, this increasingly pervasive presence gives Amazon an impressive advantage and even further encouragement to keep the momentum up.  We already know that Kindle Editions are outselling hardcovers by a significant percentage these days, even if you exclude free eBooks from consideration and don’t exclude hardcover sales for books not available on the Kindle.  It’s starting to feel like this is only the beginning of a much larger trend, however, that could truly change the way we enjoy books.

Any thoughts?

Sharp Takes On Kindle

It’s hardly new to anybody that the eReader market is a place where everybody is scrambling to make their mark and stake a claim.  Some successfully nudge their way into the public eye via good marketing and good feature sets, like the nook, and some simply fail in the face of so much pressure.  It remains to be seen how Sharp will do, but they’re clearly interested in finding out!

We know little about their announced eReader besides that it is going to be LCD-based, has presented with a touch-screen in prototypes, and will feature an entirely new format and distribution system, if all goes according to Sharp’s plans.  The basic idea of the design seems to be going along the lines of Amazon’s(NASDAQ:AMZN) recent addition of A/V integration to the Kindle software, but with a format based on an accepted Japanese standard for eBooks and eComics.  This file system, a next-gen XMDF, is said to allow audio and video integration that will be accessible across multiple devices including user PCs and, obviously, their eReader tablets.

Where does this leave the existing market?  Even assuming that this takes off, and the interest garnered by Amazon’s A/V efforts demonstrate that there’s a market for somebody willing to cater to such things, I think that the Kindle has little to worry about.  The traditional LCD, the new format and distribution system starting from scratch, and the fact that they’re facing off against established competition all work against Sharp’s design.  I, however, am intrigued and wish them luck.  I’d like to see where this takes things.

B&N Nook Takes Aim At Students

Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) has announced an August release for their new NOOKstudy software package.  Following in their recent tradition of following up Amazon’s original moves with some further refinement, it appears we’re looking at a few old favorites with a couple new twists.  The Kindle DX has proven to be slightly less than ready for big-time school exposure so far, which leaves the field open to the nook and its related software for the time being.

As anybody might expect, looking at software for students, there will be highlighting, annotation, and in-text note-taking for follow-ups.  In addition, annotations and notes in general will be tagged for easy searching and full-text searching will be, obviously, much faster than the existing search feature native to the nook device. There also appears to be some browser integration to allow for fast look-up of formulas and definitions as you read.  Users will be able to open two texts at once for simultaneous reading/reference on the same screen, a tabbed browser will allow multiple documents to be open for use at any given time, and students will likely find the ability to organize documents based on class and topic quite helpful.

This all comes at the same time as an announcement of integration of the Barnes & Noble eBook Store with the ever-popular Blackboard educational software, which will allow students to download any available texts directly from a list of what is required for their classes.  Basically, B&N is hoping to take the college scene by storm and they seem to have a good idea of how to go about it.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson, dominated the #1 spot on the Kindle bestseller list for a long time, and has maintained a spot in the top 100 for an astounding 630 days.  Dragon Tattoo was just recently unseated from the #1 spot by Daniel Silva’s The Rembrandt Affair.  The others in the Larsson’s much sought out trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest are not far behind with about a year in the top 100.

The trilogy follows financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and brilliant young private investigator Lisbeth Salander as they seek to solve several intense, mind blowing murder mysteries.  In Dragon Tattoo, they get an assignment to solve the mystery of a nearly 40 year old murder case involving 82 year old Henrik Vanger’s beloved great niece, Harriet.  Throughout the process, Blomkvist does his research in exile on Vanger’s vast estate.  The pair uncover a great deal of corruption within Vanger family and about Salander’s own past.

The Girl who Played with Fire follows the duo again as Salandar is accused of murdering a couple in their Stockholm apartment based on her previous violent tendencies, and the presence of her fingerprints on the murder weapon. The trilogy goes out with a bang in Hornet’s Nest as Blomkvist works to figure out who harmed Salander in a previous circumstance and murdered Salander’s father, a longtime asset to the Swedish Secret Police.

The reviews for the whole trilogy are very positive overall.  There are some dissenters who say that Blomkvist’s character is not fully developed, and that the Swedish words are kind of distracting.  I’m currently reading Dragon Tattoo, and I echo what a lot of reviewers and peers have said in that it is a bit boring for the first hundred pages because of financial jargon and other plot set up. After that, it starts to pick up and then you can’t put it down.  I also highly recommend the Kindle version over the paperback because the paperback is bulky, and the print size is tiny.  So be patient, put on your seat belt and get ready for a wild ride.

So what do you think?  If you’ve read any of these books, do you think this trilogy is as good as the hype surrounding it suggests?

The Onion for Kindle

The Onion is a weekly newspaper offered on the Kindle and Kindle DX for $2.49.  The current editor of The Onion is Joe Randazzo, and their website is updated daily.  The Kindle edition is great for portability, and is delivered wirelessly every Thursday. The Onion is also released with its affiliate, The AV Club, a publication that explores the best and worst of books and entertainment.

According to Amazon’s little spiel about the beginnings of the newspaper, The Onion was “founded in 1756, when Friedrich Siegfried Zweibel, an immigrant tuber-farmer from Prussia, shrewdly bartered a sack of yams for a second-hand printing press and named his fledgling newspaper The Mercantile Onion after the only words of English that he knew. Since then, The Onion has expanded into an omnipotent news empire complete with a 24-hour broadcast news division (The Onion News Network) and wildly successful website, TheOnion.com.”

Well, some of that is accurate. There is a wildly popular website called TheOnion.com and a news division called The Onion News Network.  The Onion was founded by two University of Wisconsin – Madison students, Tim Keck and Christopher Johnson in 1988.  The name, The Onion, came from Chris Johnson’s uncle who saw Keck and Johnson eating an onion sandwich on several occasions.  It was literally an onion on two pieces of bread.  That sounds pretty disgusting, huh?

Some regular columns featured in The Onion include: “STATshot”, a spoof on USAToday’s Snapshots, InfoGraphic, a set of bullet points and an image that provides a humorous “map description” of a person or object.  This week’s InfoGraphic is the “Ozzy Genome.” Others include: “Point, Counterpoint,” “The ONION in History,” which comprises of front page newspapers from earlier eras taken from the book Our Dumb Century and “American Voices.”

I regularly follow The Onion Blog’s daily updates, which does not have all of the articles as the newspaper.  A few articles featured on the website recently that appear both in the blog and in the newspaper are: “Wasting Tax Dollars on Something Awesome,” “Ritalin Gummies Unveiled” and “George Steinbrenner Dead after Firing Underperforming Heart.”  These are just a few tidbits of hilarious misinformation The Onion dishes out.

The reviews are very positive overall.  The Onion is such a great source of comic relief in the midst of all of the economic and political turmoil in the world.

Kindle in the Classroom Results

As pilot programs at seven universities around the country wrap up their evaluations of the Kindle DX as a viable teaching tool and textbook alternative, we see pretty much the expected results.  The eReader that has been such a pleasure to use in leisure is perhaps not quite ready for the academic scene.

Humanities classes, especially Literature classes which it would otherwise seem that the Kindle is ideally suited to, tend to involve active reading aids such as highlighting, annotation, page marking, etc.  These habits are built up over years as students work their way through their programs.  Most of these options are present in the Kindle software in some form, of course, and the ability to access your changes and notes on any platform is a major plus, but the device itself has a coupe minor shortcomings in speed and input design that haven’t quite been fully worked out yet.

As development continues and successive versions make the Kindle more responsive, feature-packed, and convenient to annotate, we’re sure to see things change.  For now, those students who are willing to cope with the minor inconveniences are already enjoying savings of sometimes as much as 75% on texts for their classes, a savings which easily pays for the device itself over the course of a college career.

Kindle Patent Finally Goes Through

As many of you will remember, the original Kindle design was a bit heavier, a bit clunkier, and had a small screen next to the main one for utility.  Well, in 2006 Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) filed for a patent on the design.  A mere four years later, it has been granted.  At first glance, given how much the modern Kindle has evolved, this seems like it would be almost worthless.  The text of the patent, however, gives rise to some concerns for the competition.  The exact text includes this section:

“A handheld electronic device comprising: a first display for presenting visible representations of content, the first display comprising an electronic paper display; and a second display positioned alongside the first display, wherein the second display includes a plurality of graphic elements that correspond to portions of the first display, and wherein the second display is responsive to user input to one of the graphic elements to perform at least one action on content shown in a portion of the first display that corresponds to the one graphic element.”

This alone would seem to bode ill for fans of the Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) nook if taken by itself, as many people reporting on this seem to be emphasizing.  I’m admittedly a layman in patent interpretation, but with later sections indicating that “the second display includes a cursor that is positionable alongside the portions of the first display” and “the second display is responsive to tactile commands entered using a scroll wheel.”, it seems to me thatthe functionality is so clearly different that B&N has little to worry about.  Still, will Amazon try to bring it to court and see what happens?  We’ll have to wait and see.

Check out the Full Text of the Patent

Kindle Ownership: Personal Reflections

I’ve used eReaders for a long time now, and enjoyed them since the start, but the overall pattern of my reading didn’t really change much until I got my Kindle. To this day I have at least several hundred paperbacks in my collection. Since getting the Kindle, I’ve added perhaps a dozen to the pile and gotten rid of quite a few that were falling apart.  Employees at bookstores often make jokes about paperback “collections” since, as most heavy readers already know, the Mass Market Paperback format simply isn’t designed to last very long.  Grabbing a Kindle helped with that a bit since it lets me reread my favorites endlessly, pick up new things on a whim without worrying about how much space I have available, and simply change my mind and read something else on a given day.  I’m one of those people who reads several books concurrently, but who wants to carry around four books at once, on the chance that you’ll be in the mood for the wrong one?  I’ll always love hardcover books, and my buying habits haven’t changed where those are concerned, but when it comes to variety, reuse, convenience, and portability(something that is extremely important if you move a lot given that paper is surprisingly heavy), I’m not likely to go back.  It’s not a sales pitch, not an argument against those who don’t want to make the switch yet, just what I’ve experienced and I feel that I’ve gained.

iRiver Launches New E-reader device

iRiver has announced a new e-book reader that looks a whole lot like the Kindle 2 with its white cover, grayscale screen and keyboard.  It is called the iRiver Wi-Fi Story and is available in the UK for 250 pounds.  That equals to about $376 USD.

Wi-Fi Story users can download books from the WHSmith e-book store via the wi-fi connection.  The device is compatible with many file types: ePub, PDF, Microsoft Office, and images such as JPG, GIF and BIMP.  I wonder if the images work better for the iRiver device than they do for the Kindle?  Kindle readers have complained about the quality of graphics on the e-reader for awhile now, especially for magazines.

The iRiver Wi-Fi Story also includes the ability to play music.  Considering that iRiver is known for awesome media players, the ability to play music would allow the e-reader to fit in with the other media players made by the company.  Amazon recently released audio for Kindle, but it isn’t compatible with the Kindle itself.  Hopefully, that will be available in a future release.  The  iRiver e-reader definitely has an advantage with the media feature for now.

The iRiver e-reader doesn’t hold a candle to the Kindle price wise.  The Kindle is available for $189, which is almost $200 less than the price of the Wi-Fi Story in US dollars.  The battery life for the Wi-Fi Story is 900 pages.  The Kindle’s battery life is two weeks with wireless connection off.  I’m not sure how they get the 900 pages figure because reading speed depends on the individual.

Kindle Under Attack From Discovery

On Wednesday, Discovery Patent Holdings LLC filed a lawsuit against Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) over the use of technology related to the distribution of, and securing of, digital texts that Discovery feels falls under their patents.  It is worth pointing out, at this juncture, that this is not, precisely, a new lawsuit.  In March of 2009, Discovery Communications filed a similar suit against Amazon (with Amazon suing Discovery back shortly after) with regard to these patents and the more recent one is simply a reflection of Discovery’s choice to move the patents to a separate corporate entity as they continue proceedings.  The main question on peoples’ minds, of course, is what this will mean for the future of the Kindle platform.

While I’m not intricately familiar with patent law, it would seem from an intuitive standpoint that the Kindle is safe.  As far as I, or seemingly anybody else covering the topic for that matter, recall, there was no effort made previous to these suits(at least that managed to achieve public recognition) by Discovery to defend their rights in the matter. Given that the patents in question were assigned in 1999 and 2007, it would seem rather late in the game to expect results on this front.  Again, I’m no expert and don’t claim to have the only, or even the best, interpretation of what the outcome will be.  All I can say is that I’m not terribly concerned for my Kindle.

Best of the Beatles and more Guitar Books for Kindle

To all of you Beatles fans out there, there is acoustic guitar lesson book available for Kindle with the new audio feature enabled.  It is called Best of the Beatles for Acoustic Guitar by Wolf Marshall.  The Kindle version is $9.99, which is the same as most bestsellers.  Since the audio and video feature is so new, there aren’t any reviews on it yet.  However, the paperback version has gotten great reviews with a few exceptions.

The reviewers note that this book is great for players who already know how to play the guitar, but the explanations and demonstrations included are very well documented.  The songs listed in the book are popular Beatles hits such as “Hey Jude,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Till There Was You” and more. The CD included with the paperback version has a demonstration played at a normal speed and slow speed which helps with understanding how to play the songs.  The Kindle audio feature should include the same demonstrations.

If you are interested in learning how to play the acoustic guitar elements for other bands such as Eric Clapton, Indigo Girls, John Mellencamp, the Rolling Stones and others in the same genre, then you should check out Acoustic Guitar, by Chad Johnson.  It also comes with the new Kindle audio feature.  The reviewers stressed that this book is not meant for beginners, but that it does include background on techniques and chords.

If you are a beginner who is interested in learning how to play the guitar, you should try Guitar 1 or Guitar Method Book 1 2nd Ed by Greg Koch.  Guitar Method has awesome reviews and includes clear, well paced instructions for beginners  The book included traditional songs such as “Amazing Grace” and “Greensleeves.”  As a piano and violin player who started out on simple books like these, I know they can get boring really fast, but its good to know the basics before you go for the challenging stuff.

For those of you who are interested in playing songs in other genres, there are several other books available for the Kindle with audio.  If you enjoy classical guitar music, check out Classical Guitar, or for country music fans, Country Guitar… by Greg Koch.

Kindle HTML5 Previewer

Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has recently announced the Kindle Previewer, a feature that will allow users to sample the texts of interesting eBooks directly through the main Amazon web site without recourse to any sort of special software.  Users will simply be able to open the site from within any HTML5-compatible browser and view a bit of the book in question.  Should it be what they’re looking for, these same users can click on a conveniently placed “Buy” type of button that will put through the purchase and send your new book to your Kindle, Cell Phone, Computer, iPad, or whatever you happen to be Kindle-ing on these days!

This announcement only emphasizes the often-overlooked fact that the Kindle platform is about a lot more than the Kindle device.  Whether the hardware continues to do well or not, and I sincerely believe that it will be even better than ever with the upcoming release and a fairly steady stream of firmware updates adding new features all the time, Amazon isn’t going to be letting go of their grip on the eBook marketplace any time soon.  Paper books are here to stay, as many people have said since the eReader concept began to become popular, but never again are they likely to be the exclusive medium for their content.

Musicals for Kindle

There are a lot of music books with sheet music available on Kindle now with the audio and video feature enabled.  If you are interested in musicals and play the piano, you should check out the Wicked book. It includes sheet music and a piano play along audio piece.  Wicked is about the unlikely friendship between the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch as young girls.  One was born with green skin and was a misfit in society. The other was charming, beautiful and popular.  It takes place long before Dorothy even landed in the Wizard of Oz.

The book includes songs from the popular Wicked musical such as “Dancing through Life,” “The Wizard and I,” “Defying Gravity” and more.  The audio includes a full performance and a “play along” performance that allows the pianist to play the melody.

I’ve read part of the book Wicked, but I hear the musical is a lot better.  I have also heard that the soundtrack is amazing.  So this book should be a great addition to the collection.  The reviews are good overall.

Mama Mia, the popular movie musical with Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried is also available on Kindle audio. This is a great movie set on a Greek island that is about a bride to be who searches for her father.  The music is from the popular 70’s band ABBA.  Some of the songs are: “Dancing Queen,” “Gimme Gimme Gimme” and “Honey Honey.”

Amazon does not include a very good description of this book and there are no reviews, but based on my own observations from the movie and from listening to the music associated with it, this book should be a fun, lighthearted one to play along with.

Since these books have sheet music in them, I would assume they would work best on the iPad since it is a larger device.  The iPhone and IPod Touch are fairly small.  However, the audio included should work well with all of these devices.

Kindle Reading Speed Study: Badly Misunderstood

For the past week or so, blogs like ours here have been buzzing with thoughts about a study done of relative reading speeds between the Kindle, iPad, PC Monitor and Paperback Book.  The general consensus seems to have been anything from “See, eReaders are bad!” to “Look, it proves the iPad is better than the Kindle!”  This leads me to believe that a large number of people have only a very vague understanding of what this study actually means.  Let me explain.

In the actual text of the reading speed study, we are given the details of their methods.  The sample size is actually quite small, with only 32 people involved total of whom a mere 24 were included in the final data set.  Putting aside that flaw, the data gathered provided no useful information at all besides that reading on anything but a computer monitor is preferred.  For those who are talking up the slight difference in reading speed between the iPad and the Kindle, there is a note in the results that “the difference between the two devices was not statistically significant”.  For those who do not have any statistics/science background, this means that no difference can be said to exist, with any reasonable accuracy, that stem from anything but random chance.

Basically, if you were hoping for scientific evidence of which device is better, even if you judge “better” in terms of how fast you can read, there’s nothing in this recent study to help you out.  Maybe next time.

Sony Slashes Prices, Shocks Nobody

Sony(NYSE:SNE) has recently announced price cuts on all their eReader devices.  The Pocket Edition, their 5″ compact display, is now $150, the Touch Edition has come down to $169, and the Daily Edition, with its 7″ touchscreen display, is now at $299.  With all this competition how are Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) and Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) going to cope?  Really well.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Sony Reader line.  My first eReader was a PRS-500 and I still have it and my PRS-505.  Up until the Kindle 2 came out, they were by far the best product on the market in my opinion.  Lately, however, they’ve just failed to stand out.  I still love the interface and the menu system, but it isn’t significantly better than anybody else’s.  I still find the Sony devices to be the most durable-feeling of the bunch as well.  The reading experience in the recent offerings, however, has suffered.  The touch-screen on the two higher-end models blurs the text, drains the battery, and has a tendency to smudge with frequent use.  The screen on the Pocket Edition is great, but the screen is smaller than anything else on the market at the same price.  The only one of the bunch to have any sort of wireless connectivity is the Daily Edition with its 3G coverage, but that’s not really worthy of a $300 investment anymore on its own.

Basically, I’d be really surprised if these cuts have any significant bearing on their market share at this point.  They’re going to either have to dig deeper in terms of discounts or come up with some stunning hardware improvements to impress, these days.

Color Kindle Rumour

There’s a great deal of talk floating around lately about the potential for a color Kindle device by the end of this year.  It’s always been something of a given that a color display with the positive attributes of eInk would be developed and put into production at some point, but few believed it could realistically happen before the end of the year.  Now, however, Mirasol Displays is claiming to have a working 5.7″ color eInk-like display in production and on order to a number of clients with delivery expected toward the end of this year and the beginning of next. Further comments revealed that while the earliest adopters will be eReader producers, the fact that these new screens can display 30 frames per second, operate in full sunlight, and and support touchscreens makes them perfect for cellphones and other portable technologies.  If these screens live up to their potential and affordable production is already beginning, this could well breathe even greater life into products like the Kindle, allowing them to retain all their current usability and address naysayer complaints about refresh rate and monochrome displays all at once.  All that remains to be seen is where things go from here in terms of price, availability, and whether or not Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) is among the early adopters.

Amazon Incentivizes Digital Discounts

As things come to a head between publishers and providers, and as Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) and Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) compete over the digital self-publishing market, Amazon is attempting to place themselves firmly in the forefront of publisher attention by offering the potential for doubled royalties to users of their DTP self-publishing platform.  The gist of the announcement is simple; If you publish a book through their service and the digital copy is at least 20% cheaper than the print copy, listed between $2.99 and $9.99, and have Text-to-Speech enabled, you will get 70% royalties on all your eBook sales instead of the standard 35%.

Let’s face it, this gives Amazon a huge advantage when it comes to providing content for the Kindle and all related software readers.  As much as the traditional publishing industry balks at the concept, independents are coming out of the woodwork these days and some of them are making big names for themselves in the eBook marketplace(J.A. Konrath makes a good example).  By keeping them happy and coming back for more, money in this case, Amazon has a chance to gain fairly exclusive rights to loads of great talent.  It’ll be interesting to see what the response is both from the industry and the competition!

Knitting for Dummies 2nd Edition for Kindle Video

Amazon just started offering a sound and video feature for the Kindle.  Right now there are only 13 books available with this feature enabled, but hopefully more will be added soon.  The video and audio versions are only available for Kindle for iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch.  Will Amazon incorporate this capability into its next generation of the Kindle, or market it through its software outlets?  It will be an interesting trend to watch.

Knitting for Dummies 2nd Edition is a great book for beginners who want to learn the basics of knitting.  It is also great for intermediate knitters who are looking for a guide to perfecting certain stitches, or ways to correct mistakes.  There are a wide variety of projects from basic dish cloths to sweaters to choose from.   This book comes with 6 knitting technique videos.  The authors are Pam Allen, who is the author of the 1st edition of Knitting for Dummies, Tracy L. Barr, a writer/editor and avid knitter and Shannon Okey, an author of dozens of knitting books and a columnist for knit.1 magazine.

I am a knitter and I’ve been looking for a good book to use as a guide for learning more advanced stitches since getting to a class is difficult due to none being nearby.  So, the video idea is perfect for someone who doesn’t have the time, money or transportation necessary to get to a knitting class.

The reviews for Knitting for Dummies 2nd Edition are overwhelmingly positive.  The reviewers rave over the how easy to understand the instructions are, and how fast they were able to pick up knitting.  It even includes instructions for left handed knitters like myself!  One reviewer said that they had to have a live demonstration to go along with the directions from the book, but this issue might be resolved with the new video demonstrations.  Overall, this book is a great reference guide and the video addition will definitely be a very helpful tool for new and veteran knitters alike.