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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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September 2010
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Amazon Launches Kindle for the Web Beta

kindle for the web screenshot

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) recently launched a Kindle for the Web application that allows the reader to preview the first chapter of a book for free.  The application is currently in Beta stage.  If you like to try before you buy you might like the ability to just quickly access the application and preview the book.

Kindle for the Web also allows the reader to share book samples with friends on the web or through social networks.  I think that in order for this feature to be fully utilized, Amazon needs to release the whole book, but I’m sure this feature will come soon with the full release.  Kindle for PC and Mac already allow this option, but just don’t allow the computer to computer mobility that a web browser would.  Installation is required for the Kindle for PC and Mac software and is not for the Web application.

Over the past week I spent a lot of time reading my Kindle, and really enjoyed the break from the glare of the computer screen.  For pleasure reading I definitely think the Kindle itself still has a good foothold.  The Kindle for the Web application will be great for short term reading or to grab samples to share with friends.

After checking out the interface for the application, I was pleased to find that it includes a font enlargement selection, and that all of the navigation and menu options are intuitive and easy to use.

On another note, Amazon has already announced plans to create an application for the new Blackberry Playbook tablet projected to come out in early 2011.  It looks like the tablet market is finally beginning to heat up and competition for the iPad is on the horizon.  I’m sure Amazon will be well equipped to provide Kindle applications for any future devices.

Scrabble for Kindle Released

Recently we have seen the release of the first third party game to actually be sold for the Kindle.  Scrabble, an Electronic Arts release, is available to US customers on their Kindle 2 or Kindle 3 for $4.99 through the Kindle store.  This is not the first game to become available for the popular eReader, of course, but it is the first major production from a big name publisher.

Those who have been following these sorts of things, or who simply like word games and Kindles, will likely remember the release of two free games(Every Word and Shuffled Row) a couple months ago that were quite well executed and demonstrated the potential for development that was present in spite of the lack of a rapidly refreshing screen.  This version of Scrabble operates similarly.  It can be played alone in a solitaire mode for fun and practice, against the Kindle when you want a bit more of a direct challenge, and in a head-to-head competitive mode that involves passing the Kindle around. Sadly, there is no capacity for multiplayer interaction between devices.  While it is understandable that the hardware limitations of the device might make such things difficult, it is certainly a disappointing and difficult to accept shortcoming that will be a major factor in many players’ purchase decisions. Overall, however, it looks at least somewhat promising if you don’t mind that.

These days there are quite a few different activities to be found in the Kindle store, from Crosswords to Sudoku, but this is pretty much the first polished experience to be found since Amazon’s initial offerings.  Reviews so far are favorable in the extreme.  People are finding it to be a fun game, fairly intuitive, and easy to get addicted to.  As always, however, there are going to be problems and it is best to bring them out into the open.

The most common complaints so far are:

Some customers have taken issue with the way shading is used in this application.  Words occasionally become hard to discern due to overly bold board markings(double word/letter scores, etc.) confusing the play area.  There are also passing comments made that there is no major distinction made on the board between a space occupied by no tiles and and a filled one.  Empty spaces and blank tiles are effectively identical, apparently.

While many reviews state that controls were obvious and easy to understand, there are some gamers who wish that the Kindle‘s 5-way controller was more intuitive to use.  Most of those who made these complaints also went out of their way to mention that it was soon something they grew accustomed to as well.  Possibly simply a matter of users trying something besides reading on their Kindle for the first time, but it would be impossible to dismiss this out of hand without more information.

There isn’t much elaboration that can be made on this.  More people claimed that the interface was perfect than complained about it, but that doesn’t mean it’s fine for everybody.  May well be related to the control issue I mentioned above.

One disappointed Canadian user stated that as of this moment the game is not available internationally.  Definitely something to be aware of for many users.

Owners of multiple eReaders sharing one account, and therefore libraries, throughout their household may be disappointed at first here as well.  One reviewer points out for us that it seems to not be possible to share the application among multiple devices as one might expect.  Further reading and comments, however, lead me to believe that this reviewer simply didn’t know what he was doing, as follow-up comments indicate licensing for up to six Kindles.  It might just be a bit more of a pain to manage than usual.

As of the writing of this article, the favorable reviews of this application outweigh the unfavorable by more than two to one(17=4-star+, 8=3-star-), even leaving in those reviews by people misusing the space on the product page to ask questions, complain about unavailability, and generally contribute little to the understanding of the product.

It simply looks like a good deal right now, if you’re like me and enjoy word games.  It’s a gross generalization, but I’d say that likely encompasses the majority of Kindle owners.  Definitely a smart move on the parts of Amazon and EA.  Personally, I’m really looking forward to getting this thing on my DX when I get home.  Any version is likely great, but this just cries out for a larger, crisper screen to me.  If anything happens to alter my favorable outlook on all this, I’ll let you guys know.  Can’t wait to see what apps hit the store in the next few months now that there’s a precedent to work with.

Latest Generation Kindle Update

This is just a quick note for those of you with the latest generation of the Kindle eReader.  Chances are good that that means a lot of you people reading this site, for example! Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has released a preview of update 3.0.2 for download by interested users.  This update should address minor speed concerns, optimize web browsing, and just give your Kindle little a tune-up.  This is a limited time offer from Amazon and there is no guarantee it will still be here for any length of time.  The idea is to solicit feedback from those of you who download the update and see what the general opinion is and perhaps even what’s left to do.

I don’t know how much of a chance you’re going to get, but if you are in time then things like this are always productive.  If you have a chance to submit feedback on an update then you’re expressing a voice in the ongoing state of the device.  Always a precedent worth supporting. I wish you all luck with your downloading, greatly improved web browsing, perhaps even some faster reading, and a fine day in general.  Time for me to go read something for a change.

Kindle in Education

Kindle 3

Amazon Kindle 3

When I was in high school about 10 years ago, the only solution to avoid lugging around super heavy books was to make extra trips to your locker, or use a rolling book bag.  Rolling book bags should have been more adequately named “rolling hazards.”

Clearwater High School students just got their own personalized Kindles Thursday that are set to replace their textbooks.  It is amazing how quickly the Kindle can solve that problem, huh?  Each student got a Kindle that was programmed with their own class schedule.  They can take notes, look up words in the device’s built in dictionary and use the text to speech feature.

As far as cost goes, the Kindles have saved the school money because it has cut the cost of books.  A Kindle is a natural fit for high school students because they are already so technology savvy with texting, Facebook and other technologies.  The Kindle makes reading and education so much more engaging and exciting.

My question is, how well will these students take care of their Kindles?  Regular textbooks are cheaper to replace and often suffer a great deal of wear and tear.  Having a Kindle might just teach the students how to be more responsible because electronics can’t take the amount of wear and tear that regular books can.

I’m surprised that the Kindle DX has not had as much success on college and university campuses so far.  I guess it is because are just not that many textbooks available yet.  There are ways to digitize textbooks, but they can require destroying the book.  It would also not be very cost effective in the end to digitize the book on your own.

It does look promising though that textbooks will soon be available digitally.  For science majors especially, who have to lug around really big, expensive books, that would be a lifesaver.

Kindle Book Fall Preview

For the Fall, check out Amazon’s Fall Reading Preview in the Kindle Book Store.  Many of these books have upcoming release dates in the next few months.  It has a good selection of books to choose from. It also includes a list of recommendations based on your personal reading interests.

I’m excited that David Sedaris has a new book available.  It is called Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary.  This is a deviation from his usual autobiographical tales, but he still uses a lot of humor and the story still applies to real life situations despite non human characters.  If you aren’t familiar with David Sedaris, you should read Me Talk Pretty One Day, or his previous bestseller, When You Are Engulfed in Flames.  They both had me laughing out loud while reading them.

Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom is on the list and is a popular new novel, however the reviews are all over the place for it.  Oprah just selected it as part of her book club.  It is an intense book that touches on issues such as marriage, infidelity, depression and teenage angst and how the characters deal with them.

If you are looking for a good thriller, you’ll find new titles by familiar authors such as Michael Connelly, David Baldacci and Janet Evanovich.  Baldacci’s Hell’s Corner is a new installment of the Oliver Stone and Camel Club series.  It is set in Washington DC near the White House.  Oliver Stone takes on a high profile case that involves an attack against major world leaders.

Nicholas Sparks came out with a new novel, Safe Haven, on September 14.  Unlike his previous sappy love story themed novels, this book has an element of danger.  So that adds a twist that might bring readers back who are bored with his overused romantic plotline.  I had lost interest in Nicholas Sparks until his novel The Last Song came out last year.  It includes a love story, but that was not the focus of the novel.  The focus was the relationship between an angry teenage girl and her estranged father and it turns out to be a very moving story.  The movie based on The Last Song was good as well.

So that is just a brief glimpse of what to look forward to this Fall.  Time to stock up on the fireside reading material for the upcoming chilly nights!

Civilization 5 Review

Being a hardcore Civilization fan (starting from the Civilization I with CGA graphics) I couldn’t resist posting this slightly off-topic post. The Civilization 5 game is scheduled to release in a few days on the 21st of September. Meanwhile game manual PDF has been made available for download. In case you just want the scoop on the new stuff and don’t want to read the whole thing – here it is: Civilization 5 Review.

Kindle 3 Review Update

This week finds the Kindle 3 back in stock and available for immediate shipping.  As a result there are more reviews than ever from new users and old ones deciding to make the switch.  If you are one of those unfortunate customers who ordered their new Kindle while it was backordered, you have my sympathies for any delay you might be suffering.  Apparently Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) is taking their time catching up on those many orders.  In the meantime, fresh orders are going out immediately even in instances of Super Saver Shipping, by many accounts.

Wondering what this new influx of Kindles will mean for the reputation of the popular eReading device?  I was too.  Here’s what people are saying:

The Positive Experiences

It appears that many people were put off of eReaders as a whole due to public displays of the Nook’s early poor functionality at Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) outlets.  While this is understandable, given the bumps in the road that the Nook had to make it over to be worthy of a place at the top, it’s good to see people giving these things another try.

Chibacat “Chibs” wrote:

“I enjoy reading so much but my home was being overrun with books! I waited, did not let my friend talk me into buying a Nook last December and I’m glad I did. The Kindle 3 has many aspects I like…books download in seconds, so many books to choose from, free books and books self-published authors on Amazon, I can use the Internet, shop the Kindle store, not be carrying around a ton of books and so much more.”

William J. Mcgaffey wrote:

“I almost was completely turned off on purchasing an e-reader from my experience with the Nook, sure it looked pretty, it had the cool color touch screen at the bottom and a few other nice features but it felt so slow, whenever you turn the page it would flash black and a second or two later the next page would show up. Even the touch screen activity at the bottom of the device felt slow and buggy to me.”  As for the Kindle?  “I pre-ordered it, got free shipping and received it the very next day after it was released! I had already purchased some books for it and when I got it and set up the wi-fi the books were instantly downloaded to the device! As for the actual performance of the device and am very happy with, the page turns are extremely fast, hardly even noticeable! Wonderful battery life, have only had to charge once since I have had it! The new Kindle is an amazing e-reader and would suggest it to anyone who is looking for a superb device and experience!”

There are also some words about the potential use of the Kindle as an Academic tool, something that has often been disregarded due to the highly noticeable differences from working with a paper book or pamphlet.

sunshinediva24 wrote:

“As a PhD candidate who travels a lot and has tremendous amounts of reading to do, I gave the Kindle 3 a shot as a way to be more productive. I was hesitant at first, given what other reviewers had said about difficulty with PDF files. However, after trying it myself and tinkering with the features, I am head-over-heels in love with my Kindle.”

There’s plenty more, of course, but what’s the point of simply quoting over and over again things along the lines of “I love it, I love it, I l0ve it”?  I’ll admit to some surprise that the upgraded web browser is not more commonly reviewed.  Personally, I can’t help but take note of how great it performs and how much of an improvement I’ve noticed over the old version.  That’s just me, however.

Of course, if we’re going to highlight the good reviews then it only stands to reason that some of the bad ones might be relevant as well.  This week’s complaints:

The Negative Experiences

There are two distinct categories that I’m not going to touch on here.

First is defective units.  Yes, there are some.  Fortunately, Amazon seems to be doing a great job getting replacements out.  If you don’t panic, chances are that the worst that will come of any damage in transit or malfunction in your unit is a day or two of waiting.

Second are those reviewers who are blindly lashing out against the product by reviewing something they’ve never even seen in person.  There are plenty of these people to be found on the Kindle review page complaining about everything from lack of informative commercials to not being an Amazon version of the iPad, but you can usually pick them out because they don’t list as having “Amazon Verified Purchase” under their name.  If that’s not there, chances are the person has no real right to be reviewing any given thing on Amazon.

So what are the real complaints?  Well, first and without any surprise is the PDF crowd.  PDF conversion is tedious and complicated at the best of times, and the Amazon automated conversion only works well when you’re really lucky.  Naturally there are complaints.

W. Hall wrote:

“Only problem is my existing PDF books. The text is really small. You have to zoom and navigate. Doable, but not ideal. PDF loading is very easy.”

MisLegend wrote:

“I initially looked into getting a Kindle because I wanted a device to read my PDF text books on other than my net book or printing and binding them.”  “First I e-mailed the PDF file to my Kindle e-mail to have it converted to Kindle format. None of the text came over correctly, it was a bunch of mixed up letters. Then I tried downloading a free converter. While this worked better, the text was super small and you couldn’t really enlarge it to a readable size. (Please note that I can read small print.) Finally I transferred my book to my Kindle using the USB cable”

Long Yang “laolang” wrote:

“I received my order happily. I mainly wanted to use it for reading pdf, science/technology papers and books, which usually have a lot of figures and tables and formula.”  “Perhaps I need to revisit my thinking about DX and IPAD to see whichever is better fitting my reading need.”

There are also concerns about the WiFi.  Many users seem to be having trouble grasping the concept that WiFi-only means that you will not be able to access Whispernet except at hotspots or on your home network.  This can hardly be considered a fault in Amazon or the Kindle, but many are trying to cast it in that light.  Other WiFi complaints revolve around network security.  There IS a known issue wherein WPA2 protected mixed-mode routers will be unable to connect to the Kindle.  In general, if this is a concern, switching to a WEP setup or connecting via USB to your computer seem to be the only options available.

Peter C. wrote:

“It’s a great device but it won’t work with my Cisco E1000 wireless router.”  “I had to return this device and spring for the extra $50 to get the 3G version. I love Kindle. This is my second one – I gave the first one to my lovely wife, who is delighted. Pity about the WiFi.”

Then we have those pleasant individuals who seem to be unable to understand the differences between the traditional LCD screen and eInk.  While I do not personally consider the lack of backlighting as anything but a positive, it is important to be aware of.  This is usually a feature, rather than a failing.  It saves on eye strain and it increases battery life significantly.  That said, word is not quite out yet, apparently.

Pam wrote:

“I don’t remember reading anything about the fact that you couldn’t use it in the dark or I never would have gotten it. There is no way to adjust the brightness or contrast at all. I do 99% of my reading indoors, so being able to see the screen in bright sunlight is irrelevant to me. They sell a lighted cover for it for another $50 – it doubles the weight and runs the battery down fast – two of the pluses I liked when purchasing it (light and one month of battery life). I wouldn’t recommend this over a regular book to anyone.”

And so, that’s where we stand at the moment.  Again, the positive reviews outweigh the negative in number, length, and clarity without it even coming close.  There are shortcomings, of course, and no device is perfect.  People sure do seem to like their Kindles though!

Amazon Commercial Pokes Fun at the iPad

Kindle 3 vs Apple iPad

Kindle 3 vs Apple iPad

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) recently released a commercial that pokes fun at the iPad.  The commercial features a nerdy looking iPad user struggling to read under direct sunlight, and a bikini clad Kindle user who has no trouble reading at all.  The Kindle doesn’t have backlighting, and is designed for easy reading under direct sunlight.  The Kindle 3′s sharper e-ink display makes the reading experience even better.

The iPad is a computer.  Its high resolution display renders it difficult to read under bright conditions, just like any other laptop.  When it is dark, the opposite is true.  When I tried the iPad, I immediately noticed how bright the screen was, and can definitely see how it can lead to an uncomfortable reading experience.

The Kindle user in the commercial remarked that the Kindle was only $139, which was less than her sunglasses.  Amazing how something like sunglasses cost more than the Kindle, which seems a lot more useful.

Amazon is definitely getting more aggressive with its advertising, but the Kindle is doing amazingly well.  The Kindle 3 was sold out when released.  Amazon has a great selection of e-books in the Kindle Store that includes most best sellers and new releases.  There are also Kindle applications available for the iPad and iPod Touch, which draws in e-book sales for the Kindle Store.

Comparing the iPad and Kindle is a bit like comparing apples to oranges.  The Kindle is only for reading.  It should be designed to be functional in bright, sunny conditions.  The iPad is a tablet computer.  It is a multipurpose device, and the e-book reader part of the device is simply one of the many functions that the iPad has.  The iPad is great for internet browsing, watching videos, sharing photos and playing games.  None of these actions are what the Kindle is designed for.  The price difference: $499 for the iPad, and $139 for the Kindle Wi-Fi definitely reflects on the nature and function of each device.

The Kindle 3 has a 3G version that is free, whereas on the iPad, 3G connection comes with a monthly cost starting at $15.

So, it just all depends on what you are looking for.  When the iPad drops in price, there might be a wider set of consumers purchasing both the Kindle and the iPad for very different purposes.

Kindle 3G + WiFi no longer sold out

Amazon Kindle 3

Amazon Kindle 3

I’ve just checked Kindle 3G + WiFi product page on amazon.com and Kindle 3 is back in stock. You can order one now and receive it next morning with overnight shipping. Kindle WiFi was no longer on backorder since yesterday evening.

So finally Amazon has caught up with the demand. At least for the time being…

Enjoy!

Kindle 3 vs. Apple iPad Review

A lot has been written on how Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad is not a Kindle-killer and I don’t believe it is either. However with all major eBook stores represented on iPad in the form of apps it would be unfair to say that it is without eReader capabilities. This review aims to measure these capabilities and see compare them against eInk based devices such as Amazon Kindle and Nook.

eBook Selection

Given the fact some eBook selection at any store/device combo is still far from perfect, eBook selection is where iPad really rocks. There are many reading applications available for iPad that give you access to virtually any store that sells eBooks online:

Apple iPad eBook Reader Apps

Apple iPad eBook Reader Apps

  • Apple iBooks – Apple branded book reading application that primarily gets books for Apple iBookstore. It can display ePub and PDF files. The only solid data on number of titles I was able to find was projected 60,000 titles at the time of iPad launch in April 2010.
  • Amazon Kindle for iPad – one of the many Kindle apps (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, PC, Mac) gives you access to the same selection of books Kindle eBook reader does – currently 692,000+ titles plus 1,800,000 public domain books.
  • Barnes & Noble Nook for iPad – B&N app that gives you access to all books (more than a million according to B&N) available to B&N Nook.
  • KOBO for iPad – ePub based application that gives you access books sold at kobobooks.com
  • Stanza for iPad – multipurpose eReader application that can get books from a number of sources and works with a number of formats.
  • GoodReader – it is actually more of a toolset rather than just eReader. I mainly use this app to download PDF, TXT and other files to my iPad directly rather than going via iTunes.
  • eBook Reader – Simple app that gives you access to a limited set of public domain books such as Beowulf, Mark Twain’s works etc. The selection isn’t great but it’s simple and easy to use.

Apple iBooks Review

iBooks was positioned as one of the major features of the iPad. Even before iPad was officially announced it was considered to be Kindle-killer and even a product of the year by some. While iBooks is nice, Kindle-killing didn’t come to pass as of yet.

First thing you see when you launch iBooks is bookshelf with one book on it – Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne. The first thing you see when you open this book is color illustration. The second thing you see as you start paging though the book are nice, pleasant, naturally looking page flipping animations. They are detailed enough that you actually see faint text from the other side of the page. Pretty nice and it immediately conveys in a powerful way a simple point: “LCD is not eInk”. You may substitute “not” with “better” if you like.

Apple iPad iBooks Application

Apple iPad iBooks Application

Apart from its flashiness, Apple iBooks has all the features good eReader application should have: selection of 6 fonts to choose from, multiple font sizes, search within a book, highlights and annotations, dictionary lookup, bookmarks, variable screen brightness and sepia options. When iPad is in landscape mode, iBooks automatically switches to a two page mode that for some irrational and aesthetic reason is very pleasing to my eye. In this mode iPad is just a notch smaller than a common paperback. In any reading mode pictures can be zoomed in to full screen.

Apple iPad iBooks Font Sizes

Apple iPad iBooks Font Sizes

Another thing worth noting are Enhanced versions of some eBooks. These are books enriched with multimedia content such as audio recordings and video clips. A good example would be “Nixonland” by xxx that is enriched by newscasts and other video footage relevant to the book. Another example is “More Brothers Grimm Tales with video commentary. Nice and revolutionary as they are these books are few at the moment. Last time I looked I counted only 35.

Apple iPad iBooks Landscape and Multimedia

Apple iPad iBooks Landscape and Multimedia

Although iBooks lacks text-to-speech functionality of Amazon Kindle it is somewhat replaced by VoiceOver that is generic accessibility feature of iPad. While it does read and provides accessibility I didn’t find this feature too useful because you have to manually click on each line of text in order for iPad to read it which is not convenient at all and punctuation is really messed up because sentence boundaries rarely coincide with line breaks.

Amazon Kindle App Review

Amazon Kindle for iPad was available almost immediately after iPad was released. Though it you can buy and read all books that are available for Kindle eReader. Although Kindle owners are used to seeing black-and-white books on their eInk screens, on iPad books that actually have color in them are shown in color.

Amazon Kindle for iPad

Amazon Kindle for iPad

While the Kindle page flip animation is not as fancy as in iBooks, Amazon application offers a few features that Apple does not:

  • Apart from sepia option there is also “night mode” with text being displayed as white-on-black.
  • There is “back” button that allows you to retrace your steps though the book. iBooks can only go back once to the last location after navigating to table of contents.
Amazon Kindle for iPad: Sepia, Black, White Backgrounds

Amazon Kindle for iPad: Sepia, Black, White Backgrounds

Customization options include 5 font sizes, 3 display modes (white, black and sepia) and variable brightness.

Kindle for iPad Font Sizes

Kindle for iPad Font Sizes

You can download any of the books that you’ve already purchased to your Kindle account and you can buy new one through the Amazon store which is loaded in Safari browser.

Amazon has come out with their own equivalent of “Enhanced Versions”  - “Kindle Edition with Audio/Video“. These are books that contain multimedia content that can be viewed on Kindle for iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch. Currently there are 115 such books available.

Nook for iPad Review

Nook also has application for iPad thus making all Barnes&Noble books available on the Apple tablet.

Barnes & Noble Nook for iPad

Barnes & Noble Nook for iPad

The app is a well written eBook reader. It offers more customization options that either iBooks or Kindle for iPad. There are five font sizes and five typefaces, four line spacing options, four margin settings and ability to turn full justification on or off. However what really sets the app apart from the rest is the ability to completely customize color palette and save it as a theme. For every book there are publisher presets that can be used or discarded.

Dictionary, google and wikipedia lookups are supported. So are highlights are annotations.

Kobo for iPad Review

Kobo app allows you to access content you’ve purchased in the Kobo bookstore.

Kobo for iPad

Kobo for iPad

It offers customization options comparable to other eBook reader apps. However it lacks highlight, lookup and annotation support.

For some reason the book that I test purchased had words in ALL CAPS and centered text until I turned off “Kobo styling” option.

Other apps

There are many other smaller eReader apps for iPad that potentially expand book selection even further. I’ll leave it up the reader to explore those.

Apple iPad Ergonomics

Weighing 26 oz, iPad is considerably heavier than Kindle 3 and even Kindle DX. Playing 8 hours of HD video on a single charge on a nice HD screen takes a lot of heavy components. Unfortunatly it makes it extremely uncomfortable to read with one hand or even with two hands for prolonged periods of time.

I’ve tried reading a book on iPad several nights in a row and constantly after about hour and a half of reading my hand would start getting numb.

Conclusion

iPad offers largest eBook selection because all major players in the industry released applications for it. Unfortunately reading these books for longer than 30 minutes is a very unpleasant experience. While it can display rich multimedia content it is dependent on daily battery charges unlike Kindle.

So if you like reading a lot – iPad will not be a substitute for a dedicated eInk-based eReader. I’d still pick Amazon Kindle or Nook to read books inth evening. I didn’t buy iPad for its book reading capability but for accessing web and rich app content on the go. The fact that I can peek into my Kindle books or better yet read a B&N or Kobo book that is not available on Kindle without having to buy the hardware is a major plus for me.

Kindle 3 Stock And Review Update

Amazon Kindle 3

Amazon Kindle 3

The wait is over. As of now Amazon Kindle 3 WiFi is back in stock on Amazon.com – no more backorders.  You can order yours today and receive it within a day or in about 5 days depending on shipping method and where you are located.

Kindle 3 3G+WiFi seems to be more popular and it still remains sold out. Estimated ship date for current orders is September 22nd (1 week delay). The wait time has considerably shortened compared to several weeks when the device was originally released.

Kindle DX (either 2nd generation white or Graphite with a newer screen) are also in stock and available for immediate shipping.

Relatively low demand for Kindle DX is explainable: with Kindle 3 WiFi out it’s inevitable that at some point Kindle DX WiFi will follow (perhaps with a price reduction to boot). Public (me included) are waiting for this moment.

As far as reviews go, Kindle 3 has accumulated 883 reviews so far. 58% of reviewers give it best possible five out of five stars, 18% gave it solid four stars, 7% gave it average three stars, 5% – poor two stars and 12% – slammed it with a one star review.

Best Buy to Sell Kindles This Fall

Amazon Kindle 3

Amazon Kindle 3

Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) is slated to join Staples (NASDAQ: SPLS) and Target (NYSE:TGT) by adding the Kindle to its inventory this fall.  Just in time for the holiday season, the Kindle’s presence in Best Buy is predicted to boost its own sales, as well as the sales of its competitors.

Speaking of competitors, both the iPad and Nook are available at Best Buy.  There are rumors that the iPad might be hitting Target stores on October 3rd.  Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has been trying to distance the Kindle from the iPad by saying that the Kindle is for the more dedicated reader, while the iPad is for more general purposes.  By doing so, this seems to put the Kindle buyer in one group and the iPad buyer in another.  I wonder if there’s a way to make buying both appealing.  After trying an iPad, I would use it more as a computer.  The screen contrast is too great to read comfortably.  Plus, the battery life on the Kindle is way longer than the iPad’s.  With the prices becoming more and more reasonable, I think it is perfectly justifiable to own both a Kindle and an iPad.

The Kindle and Kindle DX’s debut in all three stores allows consumers to “try before they buy.”  Adding Best Buy to the mix will just put the Kindle out there to an even broader set of consumers.  Best Buy is a natural fit for the Kindle because it’s reputation with quality electronics and good customer service.

The Kindle DX has been tested with little success in universities, but there is hope for the future.  It might actually serve as a good replacement for textbooks now that it is a little more mainstream and more readily available in stores.  I think using the Kindle DX as a textbook reader would save a lot of money in the long run.  It would also save a lot of space.  No more bulky, back breaking bookbags to lug around!

Kindle in Stores

There is, and always has been, some confusion for people regarding the nature of eReaders and their place in the market today.  While there are, undoubtedly, quite a few people yet who will refuse to consider them valuable devices for being single purpose or still developing to their full potential, I have come to believe that most now accept the fact that the eReader is here to stay.  New price points for these devices in recent months have made them more accessible than ever, efforts to bring them into classrooms are gaining more steam every day, and the available selection of literature is truly impressive and continues to expand.  Some may yet be unconvinced, and that is of course their prerogative, but for those who find themselves genuinely interested there remains just the one real question:  “Which one is the best for me?”

There have always been reviews to read.  We here have done our best to give some head-to-head comparisons of the most popular devices, be they Kindle, nook, or Sony Reader, but let’s be honest and admit that when you’re thinking about something like this, it is often most helpful to have the thing in your hand and be able to play with it for a moment.  To that end, it’s useful to know where to look for these devices and what you can expect to see what you get there.

Local eReader Stores

Target(NYSE:TGT)

The first major retailer to carry multiple eReader devices, to the best of my knowledge.  There you can find the Kindle side-by-side with one or more of the most recent Sony offerings.  At least in theory. What I, and many others, have found is not quite as useful.  Target does not push their eReader section, so unless you’re lucky and find yourself helped by an enthusiast employee you are likely to be comparing two units that nobody has bothered to charge this month, an outdated model(my local Target still displays the impressive but obsolete Sony PRS-505), or, in many stores, not be able to compare at all since they only made room on the sales floor for a single device.  If you get lucky this can be a goldmine, since many people overlook the Sony brand, but it really is a matter of luck.

Best Buy(NYSE:BBY)

This is the really exciting one, especially with recent developments.  Starting at the end of September, Best Buy claims they will be carrying the newest generation of the Kindle(And soon after, the Kindle DX) alongside their already displayed stock of nooks and Sony Readers.  Some users will also find the ability to look at smartphones and Tablet PCs such as the iPad to be of value in their decision.  I might not personally think they hold a candle to an eReader but that doesn’t mean you won’t!  This one brings things close to home and adds a convenience that many people will welcome and value greatly.  You can’t say they push the eReaders actively, but in my experience there is almost always a moderately knowledgeable employee nearby when you have a question about them or need some help getting things working.  That cannot but help new users; especially those who might find themselves slightly out of their element when they find reading to be ever so slightly less intuitive than opening the cover and turning the page.

Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS)

Obviously, this is pretty much a place to check out the nook.  This isn’t nearly as good for an active comparison, but they do a good job of making sure you know what accessories are available and what the device can do.  B&N actively pushed their product, so you WILL walk away knowing everything you can think to ask about.  This is also the only store I could recommend purchasing an eReader at on the spot.  In most cases, especially when talking about the Kindle, it just has a chance to complicate things immensely as far as returns or servicing when your original receipts don’t come from the manufacturer.  Better safe than sorry.

Borders(NYSE:BGP)

Borders is a latecomer to the eBook game, but like anybody else they are trying to get their devices to as many people as possible in hopes of locking a percentage of the market into their store and its DRM.  I don’t say this to be critical, it’s simply what everybody is trying to do here.  You won’t find the Kindle or the nook at Borders.  Instead they present their customers with an increasingly wide variety of slightly less well known brands in hopes that the one you’ve not heard much about will happen to surprise you.  This is where you’ll find the Kobo, the Libre, some of the Sony Readers, and more, depending on how well handled your local store is.  Supposedly, by the end of this year we’ll be seeing an area set aside dealing with nothing BUT eReaders in pretty much every one of their locations.

There are more places to check out your potential new toy.  These are just the ones that stand out because they allow you to compare directly or, in the case of Barnes & Noble, do such a good job helping people understand their device that it’s worth the trip.  I would still recommend buying your Kindle online for ease of support.  The same might be best of the others as well.  It’s never a good idea to jump into something like this uninformed, however, and the ability to run in and look at eReaders for yourself might end up being your deciding factor.  I certainly recommend it.

New vs. Refurbished Kindle: Which is the Better Deal?

Kindle 3 and Kindle 2 size comparison

Kindle 3 and Kindle 2 size comparison

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) is offering refurbished 2nd Generation Kindle 2 and Kindle DX for $159.99 and $289.99 respectively through its Warehouse Deals section.  For the smaller Kindle, I don’t see any point in going with the refurbished model because the Kindle 3 3G is only $30 more, and it has improved features such as better screen contrast, better web browser and is more lightweight.  I have heard that the web browser is much better, which is good because the Kindle 2 web browser is slow and clunky.  The Kindle 3 Wi-Fi is an even cheaper option if you are looking for one.

The refurbished models are probably just left over Kindles that didn’t get sold before the new release or returns that were not used.  Amazon Warehouse Deals has a lot of other electronics for sale at a discount as well.  However, you never know what whether there is something wrong on the inside. Apple (NASDAQ: APPL) provides refurbished iPods as replacements for ones that have been broken as long as they are under warranty.  They appear to be brand new, although I’m not sure it is fair to replace a fairly new product with a refurbished one.

I think getting a refurbished Kindle DX might be worth checking out, but the latest generation Kindle DX has much better screen contrast.  It is hard to believe that a refurbished Kindle DX is not much more than the Kindle 2 was just nine months ago.  At $289, it would be almost half the price of the iPad.  Who knows, we might see another price drop for the latest generation of the DX in the near future.

With the Kindle 3′s improvement on the web browser, comes the ability to read newspapers via Google Reader.  Google Reader is news site that allows you to add clusters of news sources for whatever topics you like.  It also serves as an RSS feed for blogs of your choice.  I really like it because you can put everything in one place.  I have topics ranging from Science and Technology to Recipe blogs on my Google Reader page.

To navigate Google Reader on the Kindle, use the cursor to find the desired feed, then click the right cursor to navigate to the articles.  After that, press “f” on the Kindle’s keyboard to enter full screen mode and you are set to go.

Kindle 3 Review Update

Even now, weeks after the initial release of the Amazon’s(NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle 3 began to arrive on peoples’ doorsteps, there is certainly no unanimous opinion on the quality of the release.  It’s worth taking a closer look at what precisely is being said, in both the highly positive and highly negative reviews, to determine how much they are likely to effect you.  As is my habit when shopping for new products on my own, I’ll start with the negatives.  After all, it’s always nice to know the potential pitfalls in any device, no matter how unlikely!

Kindle 3 Negative Reviews

Beginning at the bottom and working our way up, there are clearly some trends.  One-Star reviews on the Kindle page seem to center on just about three areas, assuming that we’re safe in skipping the complainers who write negative reviews for a product based on it taking too long to get to their house or the fact that they forgot to check to see how much international importation would cost in customs.

1.  Defective Units

As with any product launch, we can expect some problems.  The most vocal will always be those who were the most disappointed.  In this case, it is definitely true that dozens of people received their Kindles in only semi-functional condition due to broken antennae, battery issues, and even broken screens.  What seems to be universally true, however, is that reviewers who have taken the time to follow up have confirmed that Amazon gladly took the bad units back for either refunds or replacements after walking through a small number of steps to troubleshoot and confirm the problems.

2.  Korean Font Issues

It seems that Amazon didn’t choose the best possible option in its default Korean font.  It has been described as blocky, childish, hard on the eyes, difficult to read for any length of time, and just plain ugly.  To the best of my knowledge, this complaint has gone unaddressed as of yet.  It seems likely that it will take at least until the next software patch to get any work done here, so Korean users might be sadly out of luck for the moment as far as default Kindle software goes at the moment.

3.  Software Shortcomings

I’ll be honest, most of this could well come under the category of defective units.  There are a number of users, though by no means a majority, who have been experiencing issues with frequent locking and rebooting for no apparent reason.  These are likely unit failures, given how many reviewers have been offered exchanges, but it’s a pattern to be aware of just in case.  Also, many seem to feel that the PDF support remains insufficient.  Long load times of image-heavy and/or large files have been reported, as well as unwieldy navigation of zoomed documents.  My personal experience does not bear this out, but different people have different expectations or even perhaps still more malfunctioning units given that many of these reviewers simultaneously complain of frequent reboots being required.

Kindle 3 Positive Reviews

In spite of these issues, there is no shortage of praise to be found.  Even without filtering out the many people who have marked down the product for simply not shipping fast enough, the Kindle‘s favorable(4-5 Star) reviews stand at just short of four times the number of all the rest put together as of my writing this.  We’ve already touched on some of these here on the site in our earlier “Kindle 3 Positive Reviews Summary“, but there are a few things to add that really bring it home for a lot of people.

1.  Advertised Features

Yeah, I know, they were right on the packaging.  What did we expect?  The fact is, however, that many people have been taken aback by how much better things like the new screens and WebKit experimental browser are than were originally expected.  I won’t go into this, there are enough ads floating around to find out many details and we’ve certainly talked about new features here enough so far, but these reviews bear out the idea that exaggeration was not a problem on the new Kindle.

2. Setting a New Standard

For many eBook enthusiasts, especially among the early adopter crowd, the Sony PRS-505 set the standard for eReaders until this time.  In terms of weight, durability, screen quality, software, etc, it was simply the best to be had.  Ignore later Sony models, seriously.  According to many reviews, including at least one very well written direct comparison, the only remaining point of shortcoming for the Kindle is the lack of ePub compatibility.  These sorts of comparisons are amazingly valuable for both eBook fanatics and newcomers since they tend to pare down the block of seemingly new and amazing features to what is really going to end up being important over the course of years of use.  If a functional Kindle is now noticeably better than the device that has long been the fallback for users “in the know”, it’s impressive.

3.  The Feel

Now that it’s shrunk down, in terms of size and weight, the Kindle is even more like your average paperback in terms of size and experience.  People are noticing.  If you’ve been on the fence because you’d miss the feel of your favorite book too much, it might finally be time to give it a try.  No more wrist strain, page turn delay that is far less than turning an actual page would be, and a screen that is no longer significantly distinguishable from a paper book in terms of contrast?  Little room for complaint.

Final Verdict

Honestly, I’ll leave that to you.  It is definitely possible to say that this is the best time yet to be buying an eBook reader.  Is the new Kindle sufficiently great to be worth upgrading from the previous generation or your Nook?  Dunno.  Is it good enough for a first eReader?  I’d say it’s an obvious yes, but I’m writing a blog about eReaders so there’s an implied partiality in what I have to say anyway.  Click a link, check the reviews for yourself, maybe ask a few questions if you need to.  I think most people will be pleased.

Last Night at Chateau Marmont Kindle Edition

While looking through the latest book releases in the amazon.com kindle top 100 list, I came across one from Lauren Weisberger called Last Night at Chateau Marmont.  Weisberger is best known her bestseller, The Devil Wears Prada, and for Everyone Worth KnowingThe Devil Wears Prada was made into a hit movie.  I don’t think the movie does the book justice because it makes Miranda Priestly, played by Meryl Streep, look a lot tamer than she is in the book.  Chateau Marmont is #35 on the Kindle and Kindle DX top 100 list.

Chateau Marmont has received good reviews so far.  I was surprised to find that even a guy posted a positive review for the novel, which is generally considered chick lit.  It deals with the stress of new celebrity status.  Julian is a budding musician who gets discovered by Sony, and his wife Brooke is a nutritionist. She has to work two jobs to support them.  The story is told from the eyes of Brooke and her struggle with managing her jobs and Julian’s concert tours.  Julian goes from laid back to fashion conscious with new designer clothes.  He also gets chased by paparazzi and is caught in questionable circumstances with other women.

Many of you probably are the most familiar with The Devil Wears Prada. Weisberger worked for a tough boss at Vogue magazine, and turned her experience into a book.  The Devil Wears Prada features Andrea Sachs, who gets a job at Runway magazine as an assistant to Miranda Priestly.  Miranda’s demanding behavior is incredibly over the top, and literally ruins Andrea’s relationship with her boyfriend, family and friends.

Everyone Worth Knowing targets the PR market when  the protagonist Bette Robinson scores a job as a gossip columnist.  Her job involves staying up late, partying with celebrities and writing scandalous information about her friends.

All of Weisberger’s novels, including Chasing Harry Winston, are great beach reads.  Chasing Harry Winston was not as strong as the others, but is still fun reading material.  She writes with a lot of wit and humor in all of her novels, but her themes are very real.  Having enough money to buy what you want comes at a great cost.  Celebrity status can ruin even the strongest of marriages.  Highly demanding jobs are common in the modern society, and often the employee’s relationship with family and friends suffer because of it.

Mangle: Manga Meets the Kindle

For anyone interested in manga, there is a free, open source software available called Mangle.  Manga is a series of Japanese cartoons or comics that cover all genres such as action, comedy, romance, sports, science fiction, fantasy and others.  Manga has become a huge hit in Japan and worldwide.  Usually the comics are printed in black and white, but there are a few color versions floating around.

Mangle was created by Alex Yatskov several years ago for the older generation version of the Kindle.  This software works really well with the Kindle 3.  Click here for downloading instructions, and for images of software demonstrations.

The Kindle 3’s improved screen makes graphics much easier to read.  Graphics have been a common complaint among Kindle users, but that seems to be improving.  You can zoom in or out and rotate the images as desired.  Manga pages in the physical books are small, but there are a lot of them.  More pages take up space, so transferring them to a digital format solves that issue.

The other cool thing about providing manga in a digital format is that it attracts an audience who might not like to read regular books.  Some people just enjoy reading a story through graphics rather than words.  It would be awesome if this option could be provided on all of the Kindle platforms: PC, Mac, Android, iPhone and iPad.  When I think about it though, the black and white aspect of manga might just be a better fit for the Kindle device itself.

There is a good selection of manga available in the Kindle Books section on Amazon.  A lot of them seem to be either in the romance or horror category.   Anyone know of any particularly good novels they would recommend?  I have been introduced to the world of manga, but would like to hear about what great titles are out there to check out.

Kindle will Soon be Available at Staples

The Kindle 3 and Kindle DX will soon be offered at Staples (NASDAQ: STPS), an office supply chain.  Staples joins Target as the second retail store to sell the e-reader.  This is a good marketing strategy for Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) because they don’t have their own store to let customers try before they buy.  Both Target and Staples offer in store options to try out the Kindle before purchase.  Apple (NASDAQ: APPL) and Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) previously had the edge with the iPad and Nook on this strategy because they have their own stores.

“Staples is not just bringing this incredible product to our 1,550+ US stores, but we are offering customers a chance to discover first-hand Amazon’s revolutionary reading device,” said Jevin Eagle, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing at Staples. “As part of our efforts to offer customers a wide range of top technology products and services at amazing values, the new Kindle is a natural fit.”

The new Kindle has had rave reviews.  The screen is 50% better, has twice as much battery life as its predecessor, is about 20% smaller and has faster page turns.  The quicker page turns is one thing that I’m glad to see improved.

Staples is a great store.  They sell really good quality products for good prices.  I bought a desk there a few years ago and love it.  This is a good place for the Kindle to be sold, considering the store’s technology focus and their commitment to good customer service.

Staples will offer:

Kindle Wi-Fi – $139

Kindle 3G – $189

Kindle DX -$379 (Will be available late Fall, 2010)

I haven’t been able to find much information on how well the Kindle has been doing at Target.  By putting the e-reader in stores, Amazon is reaching out to the casual readers and cautious consumers not willing to risk purchasing anything online.  Target is a major chain in the United States, but Staples has a global presence.  For now, Amazon is targeting U.S. readers, but the international avenue is open to pursue if they decide to do so in the future.  In terms of sales strategy, Staples is at an advantage because it will be putting the Kindle in its store just in time for the 2010 holiday season.  For Amazon, having the Kindle in two major retail stores instead of one will be a big sales boost.

Hunger Games Trilogy Kindle Edition

Mockingjay, the final book in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series has been all the rage recently.  At the moment it holds the #5 spot on Amazon.com’s Kindle and Kindle DX bestseller list.

So, for a little background, the Hunger Games Trilogy consists of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay.  The setting of the trilogy is a futuristic country called Panem that is separated into 12 different districts. Two young teenagers from each district are drafted to participate in The Hunger Games each year.  Out of the 24 contestants, only one will live.  This country is a result of the collapse of the United States, and plays off of reality show culture.

The first book in the series, The Hunger Games, introduces Katniss, the main character of the series.  She takes her sister Prim’s place in the Games along with Peeta, the other representative in District 12.  They are out to woo their audience while outlasting their competitors, literally.  One reviewer quoted the movie “Jaws” when describing the nature of the torture this book:

“you don’t actually need to SEE the shark in order for it to be terrifying. Sometimes not seeing the shark is even worse.”

Catching Fire explores Panem’s political structure, and the rebellion that comes from the results of the previous year’s Hunger Games.  Katniss takes on more of a leadership role and the novel provides a great lead in for the final book in the series.

Mockingjay is a war story.  Panem is at war, and Katniss has to fight the battles while facing the ghosts that have cropped up after three years of relentless brutality.  The lives of her family and friends are at stake.  All of this has come from the government and the evil President Snow.  I have friends who have said that this book is a real thriller, and that they couldn’t put it down.

There is a bit of romance in this trilogy and physical violence of course, considering it is about fighting for survival. The mind torture is what makes the trilogy a hit with adults in what appears to be strictly young adult reading material.  The reviews are awesome.  Collins manages to take an idea that is not so new and adds a fresh spin to it.  She also adds a bit of humor to provide comic relief.  One Amazon.com book reviewer claims this is the first series that they’ve had such a strong connection with since Harry Potter.

Kindle 3 vs Sony PRS-650 Review

The eInk has hardly dried on Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle 3 Review (link) as Sony (NYSE:SNE) has announced long expected and overdue update of PRS eReaders.

  • Sony PRS-650 is an upgrade of older Sony PRS-600 Touch Edition, featuring same 6″ 600×800 eInk Pearl screen as Kindle 3 but with touch layer. It is available in Black and Red colors. Expected price is $229.00
  • Sony PRS–350 SC Pocket Edition is an upgrade of Sony PRS-300 Pocket Edition. It features 5″ 600×800 eInk Pearl screen with touch. Because of transition to touchscreen controls, PRS-350 reduced size and number of buttons and became noticeably smaller. PRS-350 comes in Pink and Silver colors. It’s going to be prices at $179.00
  • Sony PRS-950 SC Daily Edition is an upgraded version of PRS-900. Currently there is little information about it even on official Sony website. It is knows that it will feature 7″ latest generation Pearl eInk with touch, 3G and WiFi wireless. Judging by the photos it will be roughly 7.7 x 5.0 x 0.42 inches large which makes it slightly shorter and thinner than its predecessor. I assume it’s also going to be somewhat lighter. Its estimated release date is November 2010 with price point of $299.00. It’s unclear what body color selection will be. For now only silver color seems to be available.

I’ve added new Sony readers to the interactive size comparison tool so you can get an idea how large are these devices relatively to one another.

Kindle 3 vs Sony PRS-650/350/950 Specifications

Spec / Device Kindle 3 Sony PRS-650 Sony PRS-350 Sony PRS-950*
Price WiFi – $139 / 3G + WiFi – $189 $229 $189 $299
Size 7.50″ x 4.80″ x 0.335″ 6.62″ x 4.75″ x 0.406″ 5.75″ x 4.13″ x 0.343″ 7.70″ x 5.00″ x 0.420″
Weight WiFi 7.8oz / 3G + WiFi – 8.2oz** 7.58 oz 5.47 oz ???
Screen 6″ 600×800 6″ 600×800 w/ touch 5″ 600×800 w/ touch 7″ 600×1024 w/ touch
Battery life no wireless – 1 month

WiFi – 3 weeks

3G – 10 days

2 weeks 2 weeks ???
Wireless WiFi only or 3G + WiFi None None 3G + WiFi
Storage 3.3GB user accessible 1.4GB user accessible

expandable up to 32GB

1.4Gb user accessible ???
Formats AZW

PDF, TXT

MOBI, PRC (no-DRM)

JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF

MP3, AAX, AA

HTML, DOC (via conversion)

ePub

PDF (DRM), TXT, RTF

JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF

MP3, AAC

DOC(X) (via conversion)

ePub

PDF (DRM), TXT, RTF

JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF

ePub

PDF (DRM), TXT, RTF

JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF

MP3, AAC

DOC(X) (via conversion)

Notes:

* Little information is available about Sony PRS-950 at this point so this data is based on estimates and may be incorrect or incomplete

** Although official specifications state 8.7 oz weight for Kindle, it actually weights 8.2 oz. Although I don’t have any of the new Sony eReaders to weigh, PRS-600 that I have weighs exactly as per specification – 10.1 oz.

Sony PRS-350/650/950

Sony PRS-350/650/950

Entire lineup of Sony PRS devices will feature touchscreen. In previous models Sony used resistive touchscreen that was overlayed on top of eInk. This resulted in significantly lower screen contrast than any other eReader (see Kindle 3 screen contrast comparison). This time around Sony is using infrared touchscreen technology. In a nutshell it consists of pairs of infrared LEDs and photosensors located around the edge of the screen. LEDs continuously shoot invisible beams into sensors (like in James Bond movies). Microcontroller analyzes which LED-sensor pairs are blocked and computes touch coordinates based on that. Needless to say that such system consumes a lot of power compared to other touchscreen technologies or good old buttons. This will translate into shorter battery life. The upside is having convenience of a touchscreen and excellent contrast that newest generation of eInk displays provide.

Sony devices became smaller and thinner than their predecessors:

  • PRS-650 is noticeably shorter than Kindle 3 because since it lacks keyboard but it’s just a notch thicker. It’s also lighter either of Kindle models. 6″ eInk Pearl screen provides the same reading area, resolution and contrast as Kindle 3.
  • PRS-350 is smaller and lighter still. This however comes at a cost of smaller 5″ screen. The screen has the same pixel resolution though is the same. So if you eyes are keen enough you will get the same amount of detail on it.
  • PRS-950 is going to be only slightly larger and thicker than Kindle 3 while featuring larger 7″ screen. In absence of other data I will guess that it will have the same 600 x1024 pixel resolution as PRS-900. At the moment it’s unclear how much will it weigh.

Because of size reduction, all Sony devices transitioned from mini-USB to micro-USB connectors (same as Kindle) and got rid of separate non-standard charging connectors altogether. Perhaps with some luck you would be able to charge via USB cable and read at the same time (unlike PRS-600).

Reader software that wasn’t updated for more than a year (as opposed to Kindle software that received updates and features on a regular basis) got an overhaul with some features added:

  • Number of available font sizes increased from 5 to 6
  • One more English look-up dictionary was added along with 10 translation dictionaries. It’s unclear at the moment which languages are supported for translation or how will it work.

I will use my Sony PRS-600 review from last November as a baseline to gauge improvements in different areas.

Kindle 3 Weight

Kindle 3 Weight

My largest complaint about PRS-600 back then was extremely poor screen contrast. Since PRS-650 will use exactly same display as Amazon Kindle 3 with nothing on top of it, Sony and Kindle 3 are tied in this department. The end result will only depend on the font handling in the software. It can make a huge difference as shown by Nook vs. Kindle 2 comparison example.

After that comes complicated and unintuitive software both on the device and PC. Getting 3 autoplay pop-ups (4 if you use both expansion cards) is ridiculous. Especially since one of the drives contains installation files for PC that you only need once. Wouldn’t it have been better to mount a single drive on PC and map memory cards and installer files there as folders? PRS-650 features page mentions “Intuitive Reader Library software makes it easy to download eBooks, manage your collection, and transfer titles to your Reader Touch Edition™. Reader Library software works with both PC and Mac.” Unfortunately for Sony so did PRS-600 feature page. Unless their software has improved much more dramatically than it’s description this round will definitely go to Kindle 3. It would be next to impossible to improve already easy and seamless download process on Amazon Kindle. It wouldn’t have been hard for Sony to match it but it doesn’t look like it happened. The only product in Sony eReader line that can offer the same ease getting books is PRS-900/950.

There were also smaller things like, changing the font size taking forever on Sony and the fact that after gathering dust on my shelf for one week I would find PRS-600 with completely drained battery and therefore unusable for 3 hours while it recharges.

My largest complaint against Kindle 3 is small paging buttons and uncomfortable position of the 5-way controller. As I now hold Sony PRS-600 and Kindle 3 in my hands I actually find turning pages on Sony more comfortable than Kindle 3 despite (or maybe because) of Sony’s larger size.

PDF support was one of the areas where PRS-600 clearly outdid Amazon Kindle. Since there is little room for improvement for Sony for the sake of this review we’ll assume that PRS-650 will have same PDF viewing features as PRS-600. Although Kindle has greatly improved in this department, table of contents and document links still don’t work. Perhaps it will get addressed in some future software update but for now this round goes to Sony.

As far a music goes, each device has it’s strengths and weaknesses:

  • Amazon Kindle has built-in speakers, while Sony does not
  • Sony has a fully functional MP3 player software while Kindle can only sequentially cycle though audio tracks
  • Kindle can read your content out loud with text-to-speech while Sony can not
  • Kindle fully supports DRM-audio books from Audible.com while Sony is limited to DRM-free audio content

So it really depends on what you intend to do with the device. If you are an audio book fan – definitely go with Kindle since it can play DRMed audio books and turn almost any text book into audiobook. If you want your eBook reader to also be your MP3 player – go with Sony. If you already have MP3 player that supports audiobooks and prefer to use that then apart from text-to-speech support on Kindle, it doesn’t really matter.

Because of built-in speakers and “Voice guide” menus Kindle is now a fully accessible device for blind readers.

While it’s easy to scribble notes on PRS-600, when it came to typing on on-screen keyboard, it was a much worse experience than typing on Kindle keyboard. So unless this aspect improved greatly, Kindle will win the note-taking round. With recent software update Kindle also allows you to share your highlights and annotations via Twitter and Facebook.

Since none of the Sony readers have web-browsers (with only a slight chance of PRS-950 getting one) and Kindle 3 got an excellent WebKit-based browser that can load even complex AJAX websites such as desktop version of Gmail and said browser works over free 3G connection compliments of Amazon, this round clearly goes to Amazon Kindle.

While Kindle case is made of plastic, Sony devices feature aluminum bodies and come in different colors.

This being said 99% of readers spend 99% of their time reading books rather than browsing the web, annotating or listening to music. So reading experience is what eReaders should be judged on. With identical screens and comparable (though slightly better in Sony) ergonomics reading thought he book should be very comfortable on either device.

However getting books to read is a separate story. While both devices can store thousands of books, there are millions of books out there and I never know which one I’m will want to read next or if I’ll finish reading another Dark Tower book series and would want to read the next one or will quit reading it in the middle and would want to read something else. This is why I consider  global 3G wireless connectivity as a “must have” feature of good eReader. WiFi may be also acceptable for people who don’t travel much or have smartphones that can serve as mobile hotspots.

Of Sony readers only PRS-950 will have wireless connectivity. And while it maybe comparable in some features to Kindle 3, it will cost $110 more which is significant given the fact that eReader prices are flirting wit $99 threshold right now.

In the matter of book selection, it’s hard to tell a clear leader. Amazon, Sony and B&N book selections largely overlap but there are some exceptions so before buying an eReader, check out Amazon Kindle Store, B&N and Sony Book store to make sure that the books you care about are available on the device that you are buying.

With Sony PRS-650 you can the option of library eBooks in DRM-ed PDF. While it may sound nice, my local library doesn’t have a great selection of eBooks available to be checked out. I don’t know if it’s just my library or general state of things.

Amazon.com Books For Kindle Count

Today I decided to take a break from Kindle 3 Reviews and do something I didn’t do for a long time – crunch some dry Amazon Kindle Store numbers.

I’ve been tracking number of amazon.com books and blogs for Kindle since March 2009. Previously I published these numbers on a monthly basis. With Kindle 3 released and getting great reviews it’s time I did so again.

Amazon.com Books for Kindle Count

Amazon.com Books for Kindle Count

There were 242,488 Kindle books when I started keeping track back in March 2009. Since then this number almost tripled to become 685,380. By looking at the graph you can see that apart from bump here and there the number of Kindle books still grows in a linear fashion. Largest spike to date (roughly 70K books) was in May 2010.

Amazon.com books by Genre

Amazon.com books by Genre

As you can see the majority of growth happened in non-fiction and history genres. Now lets dig deeper into smaller categories.

Amazon.com Book For Kindle By Genre

Amazon.com Book For Kindle By Genre

If you look at this graph carefully you will see that back in 2009 “Comics & Graphic Novels” and “Cooking, Food & Wine” categories didn’t exist at all. They first appeared in October 2009 and May 2009 respectively.

Amazon.com Blogs For Kindle Count

Amazon.com Blogs For Kindle Count

Number of blogs more than doubled since I started keeping track and just crossed 10,000 mark several days ago. Although you can only subscribe to blogs that published themselves on Amazon Marketplace, you can still read the rest in the browser. Although this is not as convenient.

Amazon.com Blogs For Kindle By Category

Amazon.com Blogs For Kindle By Category

As you can see, most of the growth can be attributed to “Lifestyle & Culture” category.

So effectively the amount of content available for Kindle more than doubled over last 18 months. Impressive, isn’t it? But if we look past raw numbers, the picture can definitely be better. eBook industry right now is where digital music industry was years ago. Publishers are still wary of the new technology and sometimes don’t want to deal with it. While Amazon as a store works hard to get the most bang for the buck by signing on books from bestseller lists (and I have to admit they do a good job at it too) many great by not so currently popular books stay overboard.

Try searching for Robert Heinlein books on Kindle for example. You’ll find only six. But don’t rush to trade your Kindle in for Nook, Sony eReader or even iPad – you will find exactly the same selection there – I’ve checked. However if you head over to pretty much any torrent tracker you will find full Heinlein bibliography floating around in zipped PDF files. So while publishers cling to their old business models or argue who is going to charge whom and how much, books are being pirated because there is absolutely no way to get these and other works of literature in digital form. Hopefully it will get better just as it did with music industry.

I’ll wrap up with the usual daily Kindle 3 checkup. There are 264 (up 44 from yesterday) Kindle 3 reviews so far on amazon.com with the following breakdown: 179 – 5 positive star, 42 – 4 star, 10 – 3 star, 10 – 2 star, 23 – 1 negative star. Kindle 3 is still backordered until September 17th.