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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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October 2010
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Kindle vs Nook Color

The recent announcement of the details for the NOOKcolor has some people cheering it as the future of eReaders and others groaning at it as a premature gimmick doomed to flop.  Obviously, as with most things, where you place it will be based on your needs, desires, and priorities in an eReader.  For a long while, the competition was Kindle vs Nook, but the Kindle had an advantage lately that many were hoping would be done away with in the anticipated upgrade this holiday season.  Instead, we get a variation that changes the dynamic of the comparison entirely.  Still, since the product is here, the comparison must be made!  Here’s a preliminary look at how the features stack up between the two most recent incarnations of the competing eReader lines.

Compatibility:

This point goes to the NOOKcolor.

When you think about it, that was rather inevitable.  If you have a full color Tablet-PC kind of thing with its own app store, eventually people are going to find a way to open pretty much anything you choose to put on there.  I doubt it will do everything well, but eventually everything will be possible at least.  That aside, it also comes out of the box as more openly compatible than the Kindle for two reasons.  First, and most obviously, you do get a color LCD.  That means that the sort of media integration that the Kindle apps boast on other platforms is possible right on the new eReader.  Especially good for kids books and travel guides, I would imagine.  Second, it will come with the same range of supported standard eBook formats that the previous nook offered, which were already superior to the Kindle’s.

Battery Life:

No contest, the Kindle gets it.

This is one of the most telling points for those skeptical of the new Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) device.  In order to power their screen, they lost the ability to go days or weeks at a time without a charge.  The Kindle‘s always had a slight edge over the nook when it comes to battery life, but when you’re talking about seven days without charging instead of ten you’re really just nitpicking.  It doesn’t matter anymore beyond saying that you don’t charge much.  Now, though, the new Nook will require pretty much daily charging if you put it to any sort of regular use.  This could be a pain, and will definitely make the device less fun on vacations and such.

Connectivity:

The Kindle has this one too, at least potentially.

One of the more surprising exclusions from the NOOKcolor announcement is 3G compatibility. This is probably one of the most over-talked and under-used features of either the Kindle or the nook, especially since WiFi coverage is so easily accessible these days, but I’ve found that it can be a real pain to not have it when you need it.  I wouldn’t say it’s an essential feature.  It’s definitely nice to not be paying for it on every new eReader I grab.  To not even have the option, however, is a bit disappointing.

Capacity:

This one’s a draw.

There are too many factors in this consideration to make it a straight Kindle vs nook comparison.  Much as it would be great to say that yes, the NOOKcolor has 8gb of internal storage to the Kindle‘s 4gb and has an expansion slot for more memory, there is the unavoidable fact that with the NOOKcolor you will be concerned with a lot more than how many plain text eBooks you can store.  Color documents, applications, potentially even embedded video, they all come with a much greater cost in terms of storage space that might well mean your average user gets far less out of their Nook’s hard drive than they would out of a Kindle‘s unless they are careful.  You’re left with considering maximum storage space on the one hand against efficient use of said space on the other.  Too close to call.

Display:

Giving it to the Kindle.

This point will cause some debate, but I’m definitely partial to the Kindle‘s eInk display when it comes to reading considerations.  That’s got to be the main focus when you evaluate eReaders, in my opinion.  The fact that the eInk provides amazing contrast, great readability in any situation you could read a normal book in, requires no backlight, and contributes to the impressive battery life all give it the edge. It might be nice to have access to all the little extras and perks that the color LCD provides, but to get it by sacrificing general readability and accepting eye strain isn’t worth it to me.

Price:

Clearly the Kindle.

Not much to say about this.  If we decide to set aside matters of 3G connectivity, we end up with over a hundred dollars saved on the $139 Kindle.

Conclusion:

Point for point, I’ve got to give any Kindle vs NOOKcolor comparison to the Kindle at the moment.  It just seems better suited to do the job as an eReader than any pseudo-tablet will be able to for a while yet.  I have more respect for something that will do its one job extremely well than a compromise that leaves the essential function wanting in favor of extraneous additions. Maybe what you want is something small to use as a cheap iPad replacement and this is exactly what you were hoping for, but as an eReader, the Kindle is by far the better choice.

Room – Kindle Edition

While browsing for good books on the NYT Bestseller list, I came across a unique book called Room.  You can purchase it for the Kindle 3 or Kindle DX for $11.99.  The Kindle version is the best deal available from the format selections.

Room, by Irish author Emma Donoghue, is a “riveting and suspenseful” story that will “absolutely take your breath away” according to reviewers.  One of the factors that makes this book so powerful is that it is from the perspective of a 5 year old who is confined to one room for years with his mother.

Jack’s perception of life outside of the Room is limited to what he watches on TV.  Televion often provides a skewed viewpoint of life.  He and his mother, “Ma” have daily rituals and games they play together, and they form a tight bond.  Old Nick provides them with food and other necessities from the outside.  His character is rather ominous because Jack must hide in the wardrobe when he comes to visit every night.

This book reflects on the idea of being content with situations that are the only ones you’ve known.  Jack is pretty happy living in the Room because he knows nothing about the outside.  Ma on the other hand, was kidnapped and has been trapped in the space for seven years.  She has experienced the freedom of the outside world, and being stuck in the Room has a profound mental effect on her.

When exposed to the world beyond the Room, Jack is overwhelmed by the noise and activity that goes on.  I think this is a really interesting perspective because it is from someone who has to jump head first into something that most of society has had the chance to naturally adapt to.

Room makes me also think of how socially isolated the world has become due to technology and connection via the internet.  We can build a social network and interact through chat, games and even virtual worlds all in the comfort of our own home.  So, I wonder if eventually the outside world will seem just as overwhelming as it did to Jack?

This book has amazing reviews and is definitely worth checking out.

Minesweeper for Kindle

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) recently added Minesweeper to it’s growing list of free Kindle games.  If you’re ready to try something other than Every Word and Shuffled Row, and are looking for a familiar game, check out Minesweeper. Minesweeper is most well known on the Microsoft Windows platform and as a great way to kill time.

Did you know that the Kindle comes with a built in version of Minesweeper?  I discovered this fact when reading the reviews of the new version of Minesweeper and decided to try it out on my Kindle.  Press Alt + Shift + M, and it will take you into the game from your Kindle‘s home screen.

The built in version is minimal and the graphics aren’t that great.  The latest version is much much better and more complex.  The awesome graphics on the third generation of the Kindle give this game a boost I’m sure.

The goal of Minesweeper is to uncover all of the mines hidden under the blocks on the game grid.  You win the game if you correctly identify all of the mines and uncover all of the locations that do not have mines.  If you uncover a mine that you have not identified, you lose.

“I a lot of work to have do this afternoon. Those mines aren’t going to sweep themselves.”  – Jim Halpert, The Office

You have thousands of different puzzles and three levels of difficulty to choose from.  As you get into the more difficult levels, the squares on the grid get smaller.  The small squares are still easy to read, however.  The game is pretty easy to learn, and can get quite addicting.  If you need a little help, turn on the tips.  Minesweeper also comes with a score and play time tracker.

The reviews for the game are great overall.  Some reviewers were pleasantly surprised at how good of quality the game is.  You’d think it would be hard to navigate the grid just using the keyboard and 5 way button, but that is not the case.

Best of all, this app. Is free.  Who doesn’t like free?

Kindle Subscriptions Readability Expanded

On October 22nd, Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) announced that they will be adding a bit of expanded functionality to their Kindle reading platform.  Much as book are currently able to be shared between devices on the same account, regardless of hardware choice, so shall magazine and newspapers be, at least in theory!  So subscribers will simply have access to their periodicals wherever they may be, if all goes well.  There are two sides to this situation, however.

While it greatly expands availability, and therefore saleability, for publications currently lacking an online distribution system, it can mean direct competition for others. Take the New York Times(NYSE:NYT) for example.  They’ve spent a lot of time and man-hours getting their iPad application off the ground, from what I’ve heard.  It seems pretty unlikely that they will be wanting to negate all that effort by simply letting Amazon expand subscriptions purchased for Kindles to iPad owners. Still, Amazon says they will allow publishers to opt-out, so perhaps that will negate the issue.  It is certainly an option that many organizations will have to weigh carefully, since it will almost certainly have bearing on the decision of future customers to purchase Kindle-based subscriptions in hopes of staying up to date on a daily basis.  Regardless of publisher dilemmas, this does clear up an annoying issue with the current subscription setup.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense for your average commuter to be denied the ability to check their morning paper just because today they’re using their Kindle app instead of the device itself.

The first devices to see this new feature will be those running Kindle-for-iOS, but Android users should see it soon as well.  The stated vision of the company, “Buy Once, Read Everywhere”, would be great for readers and we can only hope that it comes soon and works well.  It would be nice to see availability in spite of potential complications with independently developed applications, but only time will tell.

Nook Color Revealed

Well, today Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) has unveiled the newcomer to their nook product line, the NOOKcolor.  What has been generally anticipated as the latest round of one-upsmanship in the Kindle vs nook competition has taken an interesting turn, to say the least.  People following the news have heard rumors about it for the past week and even seen a prematurely posted accessory sales page that only lasted a short while, but now we have some answers to the questions these rumors raised!

How will they pull off the color?

For the past week or so this has been the big one.  Everybody was curious how, if the rumors that there would be a color touchscreen nook were true, B&N would manage things.  There was speculation regarding those amazing Mirasol displays that act like eInk in a lot of ways but won’t be out until 2011.  Sadly, nothing of the sort was in the works. I don’t think anybody really thought it would be, since it would mean missing the 2010 holiday season and the resultant revenue, but there was some hope at least.  Instead, we’re getting an LCD on an eReader. I can only think of two possible reasons that they might have gone this route, ruling out a desire to cash in on the novelty as much as possible before pulling out of the eReader game.

One, their LCD is so altered by the addition of a lamination layer to reduce glare from both the back-light and outside light sources that it will revolutionize portable LCD technology in the short term while better technology becomes available. I honestly wouldn’t mind this much, however unlikely it is.  I don’t like the fact that LCD displays eat up battery life so amazingly fast by comparison with eInk, but my main objection has always been eye strain.  Reading for hours on a normal LCD hurts, especially when you have reason to do it regularly.  That said, this one seems somewhat far-fetched.  Until somebody has had some time with a NOOKcolor of their own though, not much can be said for sure.

Two, and far more likely in my opinion, this is intended to cater far more to the tablet fad that’s taking over the market at the moment than to have much to do with reading.  I’m not going to deny the potential usefulness in grabbing kids books and cookbooks and the like, but does that really justify the extra expense and inferior reading display?  Not really, but an app store just might.  This leads into the next line of speculation answered.

What will it be able to do?

This point is in B&N’s favor, I’m sure, in spite of the loss of 3G access.  Many nook owners have been somewhat disappointed in the lack of app development for the nook so far, given its Android platform and interesting potential.  Short of rooting your eReader, however, the closest we’ve gotten to apps is sudoku and a web browser.  Nice, but not really anything to write home about.  the new NOOKcolor, though, will ship with Facebook and Twitter integration, a request feature for the popular LendMe setup to let your friends know you want their books, a Pandora Radio app, some degree of Microsoft Office compatibility, and even a new crossword puzzle game!  Ok, so the crosswords aren’t a big selling point, the rest is cool.  On top of that, there is to be a nook app store that they are now taking developers on for in order to maximize the potential for users.  This is very cool, and means a lot in terms of long-term viability of the product.

How will it compare?

This is quite possibly the hardest question to answer.  Mostly because B&N has set themselves up in an odd sort of in-between space.  Yeah, they still want to be an eReader and are clearly highlighting features that match or exceed the Kindle as a selling point.  At the same time, however, they also clearly want the option for some iPad-like functionality and diversity of purpose.  So where do we make the (nook vs. iPad) comparison?  I’d say we’ll have to wait for a chance at some head-to-head functionality tests after the first units ship before a real evaluation can be made.  Right now it feels like a shot in the dark to try to beat Amazon to the punch on color eReaders and address the crowd who still see the iPad as a part of the eReader competition.  The features are all there for books, of course, and the potential seems plentiful for app development, but the compromises in terms of price and technology make me wonder.

In short, it’s an odd situation.  the NOOKcolor looks cool.  It really does.  Is it really an eReader anymore though?  I’ll admit that color touchscreens seem to be the way of the future, but there seems to be a chance that Barnes & Noble jumped the gun here and put out their entry into the market before the available screen technology was ready for it.  eReaders have been characterized by their amazing battery life and easy to read screen.  It’s that combination that has set them apart.  To throw that off is to take a gamble, in my opinion.  I hope it does well as a tablet device, but the Kindle might have lost its biggest competition.  I will, as always, caution people to avoid making too much of early speculation before the product even becomes available, but the indications are there and we can only do our best with the information we have available at the moment.  Give it some thought.  This might fill exactly the niche you’ve been looking forward to, personally, even if it isn’t what we might have expected.

Amazon Announces Lending Feature for Kindle

Kindle 3 vs Barnes and Noble Nook side by side

Kindle 3 vs Barnes and Noble Nook side by side

The moment we have all been waiting for has finally arrived.  Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has finally announced plans to allow Kindle book sharing among Kindle users.  Like the Nook, the Kindle book can only be shared one time, and will have a 14 day lending period.  The book will not be available on your Kindle while it is on loan to another person.  This feature should be available by the end of this year.

I will admit, as much as I love my Kindle, the fact that I couldn’t share books with people was a real disappointment for me.  Part of what makes reading so enjoyable is the ability to share and discuss books with people close to you.  I bought The Help, a bestseller by Kathryn Stockett, and knowing that several others wanted to read it, I had to buy the hardback version.

This new development is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t quite allow the lending freedom we’ve all hoped for. Lending rights will be up to the publishers, or whoever holds the rights to the particular book.  Considering the war over e-book prices, it will be interesting to see how strict publishers are about allowing lending capabilities.

Speaking of lending books, I would like to see more headway in allowing Kindle e-books to be checked out in libraries.  Contrary to popular belief, libraries are at the forefront of emerging technology and digitization trends.  Many libraries are purchasing Kindles to loan to their patrons to use, and that system has shown signs of success.  As of now, since the Kindle has its own copyrighted e-book format, it cannot be used.  Other e-readers have open book formats that allow their e-books to work in libraries.

If Kindle books were available to check out in libraries, I think that would boost sales of the device itself.  It would also reach out to an even wider variety of readers who may not have had the opportunity to learn or explore the idea of using an e-reader.

Beam N Read Light for Kindle & More

This product was brought to my attention a short while ago as being a worthwhile investment in lieu of getting compatible book lights to clip on to every one of my eReaders.

I’ll preface all this by saying that I’m an almost accidental collector of book lights.  I have dozens of the things.  Some have been with me for years, right back to a gigantic plastic contraption suitable for only sturdy hardcovers that I feel like reading near an outlet, and some are pretty much brand new, like the plastic piece of junk that runs off of watch batteries I got as a free gift when I bought some Snuggies as gifts last month.  For the most part, they’re all sitting in a pile on a shelf in the closet and see little use.  I’d rather head to another room where I can turn on a lamp than disturb my partner in bed at night, and even the best of these lights is usually a little awkward.  Still, the travel season is coming upon us quickly and there’s nothing worse than being stuck on a train for 10 hours with nothing to do because it is too dark to read your book.  So, I tried out a Beam N Read.

Keep in mind, all of my comments here are related to the 3-LED model of the brand.  There is a 6-LED version, as well as a Classic version, but they didn’t strike the right balance for me.  I’ll explain why in a bit.

First Impressions:

Initially, the Beam N Read looks more than a little odd.  If you’re used to traditional book lights, it feels more than a bit strange to be strapping this comparatively huge contraption to your neck.  Still, in spite of its requiring four AA batteries, it wasn’t too heavy and went almost unnoticed after a few minutes.  It’s a nice change to get a portable lamp that doesn’t weigh down your book(in this case I was using my Kindle but the field of view seemed wide enough to cover both sides of a hardcover book with little adjustment) and also still does the job well.  The light was fairly bright, though not something I’d want to use for more than a few hours at a time.  Definitely a positive initial experience as far as book lights go.

Evaluation:

Battery Life:

Three LEDs use surprisingly little power, of course, so users can expect about 120 hours of battery life from their Beam N Read.  If you’re keeping up with this site, chances are you’re an eInk device user which also implies, to a certain extent, that you may be interested in minimal charging and/or battery changing, so that works out well.  This number is supposed to be rather dramatically reduced when you’re using the 6-LED model, which is advertised at noticeably less than half the expected life of the 3-LED.  Nothing much is advertised to be used as comparison for the Classic beyond that it is long lasting.

Light Quality:

I can’t say anything against this light when it comes to reading.  It’s bright enough to read by and broad enough to cover pretty much any reading surface.  I would feel fairly safe in saying that you could read a newspaper with little trouble using one of these.  It came with a filter to turn the light red.  This still confuses me slightly, though I get that it’s meant to soften the light and help preserve night vision.  While I appreciate having the option, I suppose, it seems like one of those features that will be useful for such a small percentage of users as to be almost pointless.  Still, better to have more options than needed.  I would imagine that it’s even brighter using the 6-LED model, of course.  One thing related to this with regard to the Classic that I would point out is that reviewers on the Amazon product page claim that the non-LED bulbs are extremely unreliable.

Comfort:

As is almost always the case, there’s an upside and a downside on this one.  The fact that it hangs from your neck makes the Beam N Read an accessory that will take some getting used to, but this also ensures less strain on your wrist compared to a clip-on book light.  You also have to hold your book fairly far away from your face to work with this one.  Yeah, I know it’s better for your eyes, but some people have whole lifetimes of bad habits built up and a bit of nearsightedness to deal with on top of that.  If you’re prone to holding your book right in front of your face, this might be problematic.  The only other complaint that I’ve been able to find is that the light tends to shift with you when you change reading positions. Basically expect to adjust your reading light along with everything else when you’re feeling a bit restless.  Doesn’t sound like too big a deal.

My conclusion would be that if you have need of a reading light, the Beam N Read might well do the job for you.  It’s small, feels pretty durable, and provides a novel solution to the aggravating problem of lights getting in your way that I personally feel is far superior to a head lamp.  Best of all, at $19.95 on Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN), it’s affordable enough for anybody.  Probably useful for more than books too, though why would you want anything more?

Solitaire – Kindle Edition

Solitaire, the game we all love to play when we’re bored is now available on Kindle and Kindle DX for about 4 bucks.  The quality of the game is definitely worth the money.

The game includes twelve versions. Klondike is the most well known. It also includes Pyramid, Yukon, Golf, Freecell, Wasp, Peaks, Canfield, Spiderette, Eliminator, Easthaven, and Baker’s Dozen.  So, there is a great variety to choose from.  I personally favor Freecell.  That game never gets old no matter how many times you play it.

A Couple of Neat Features to Take Note of:

Tutorial Mode – If you aren’t familiar with any of the different versions of Solitaire, you can put them in Tutorial Mode.  This mode teaches you the basics of each game.  If you prefer not to use the tutorial, the “Tips” feature can help you with specific moves or rules while you play an actual game..

Auto Move – This “cheat sheet” helps you out if you’re stuck and can’t figure out what to do next.  Oh, what would we do about our electronics and their built in “helpers”?

My biggest question about the this game on the Kindle is reflected in one reviewer’s comment: “The ONLY thing I wish they could improve on is that it’s somewhat difficult (due to the black and white e-ink display) to discern which cards are “red” or “white”.”  Assuming they mean “black” instead of “white,” this reviewer has a good point.  It appears that the shape on the card (diamond, club, etc) are the key factors in the game rather than the color.  I wonder if future games will rely more on color, and if that would be enough to prompt Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) to create a color e-reader?

Based on the reviews, EA has done an excellent job creating Solitaire for the Kindle platform.  It works well for the small Kindle’s display, as well as for the larger screen on the Kindle DX.  The cards are easy to move with the 5-way toggle or with keyboard shortcuts.

Nook Update 1.5 Announced!

Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) has announced that they will be releasing what they claim is the largest update to their nook device since the eReader hit the market.  While we won’t be seeing this update rolled out until late next month, from what they’ve said, there is the strong implication that they’ve been listening to what their customers have been clamoring for.

Specifically, we have the following to look forward to:

  • Barnes & Noble Library Organization

Let’s be honest, this has been the biggest problem with eReaders in general and the nook in particular since the things started becoming affordable.  Up until the Kindle’s Collections feature, there were all sorts of innovative workarounds for people, including genre specific memory cards, creative file tagging, and even completely limiting what you carry with you to avoid having to scroll through page after page of stuff you don’t want today.  Let’s hope that this organization both improves the process and extends beyond the B&N library into the My Documents list for those of us who like to get our books from various sources.

  • Device Syncing

This one’s been rather a long time in coming, when you think about it.  After all, Amazon’s had it going for a while and it has never made much sense to leave it out.  Anyway, finally we’ll be getting the option to have B&N keep track of our last read pages so that we can put down the nook at home, read a couple pages on the PC on our lunch break at work, maybe a couple more on the cell phone on the train home, and never once lose track of progress.

  • Password Protection

The wording on this is a bit vague, but in the context it was presented, the new password protection seems to go beyond simply being a lock for the device as a whole.  Possible, perhaps, to lock individual books or store access for those with family accounts?  No way to know for sure but this seems like a feature with some promise.  Hell, even if it was just a lock for the device as a whole, it would be useful as a safety measure for those of us who love to take our nooks out with us to random places.  Theft is always a concern!

  • Dramatically Increased Page Turn Speed

Now, “Dramatically” is a fairly subjective term, of course, but nobody is ever going to complain about this one.  As somebody who has been a proponent of eInk-based eReaders from the beginning, I got used to the screen flash a long time ago and really find it far less distracting than the action of turning a physical page, even.  The pages on my nook never stick together.  That said, I know it bugs the hell out of loads of people.  Every time B&N increases their page turn speed, they make their customers happier and their prospective customers that much more likely to venture a purchase.  I am, you can be sure, interested in seeing what they define as “Dramatic”.

  • Improved Search Function

Anybody who’s spent any time trying to get eBooks to work in a classroom in conjunction with people using standard texts knows that the functionality depends on a quick, easy search function.  So far, the nook only has one of those attributes. Since this update is boasting quickened on-device search capabilities, we can hope for a better experience than the current ridiculous waiting game in spite of the limited hardware that one expects on such a device.

There is a very good chance, as well, that this could mean a lot more than simply a firmware update for the popular device.  It was almost a year ago now that the nook first hit the market.  It had a rocky start and no small number of naysayers, some justified and others less so, but there can be very little doubt that it’s at the top of the charts these days, second only to the Kindle and covering some very important features that the Kindle lacks.

The fact is, however, that the Kindle 3 has a very significant lead at the moment.  It’s more recently updated, has a better screen, faster interface, and just generally slightly more comfortable user experience.  As some of you may recall, there were stories a few months back about the patents being put in place that seemed to be for the nook 2.  If that is to be released this year, it will have to be before the holiday season, and it would only make sense to put out something soon in order to increase interest.  With that in mind, it is easy to believe that this update is meant to pave the way for what could well be a coinciding announcement of, or even release of, the new model.

Whatever the case on that front, nook owners will likely find this to be a major plus.  It’s been a while since the last significant software update and I know that I’m rather excited about it.  While the Kindle still has the slight edge in terms of functionality, it really sounds like this will address all non-hardware based complaints about the nook and that is huge for a device that already offers advantages over the main competition like a full-color mini-screen for web browsing and compatibility with the current standard in eBooks.

Poets & Writers Magazine for Kindle

According to their website, Poets & Writers has grown from its humble beginnings in a New York apartment to its current status as the largest nonprofit organization for writers of poetry, nonfiction and creative fiction.  Galen Williams found funding and started the organization in 1970.

If you are a serious writer, this organization a great resource for tips, literary grants, publishing information, networking opportunities and writing seminars.  Poets & Writers Magazine was formed in 1987. The bi-monthly publication is available for 99 cents on the Kindle and Kindle DX.

In 1996, pw.org was launched, providing an online presence for the magazine along with message board forums and exclusive online content.  In 2007, Poets & Writers Magazine introduced the Jackson Poetry Prize.  This awards  $50,000 to an early to mid career poet.  That is a pretty nice chunk of change.

I found a neat quote on the magazine’s website from E. L. Doctorow who described P&W as:

“a saintly little service organization for writers across the country. It tells them where the jobs are, the reading gigs, the grants, the awards competitions, and it brings them news of each other. Not its least valuable service is the one that comes of all the others – the suggestion of community implicit in this lowliest and most dire of professions.”

Overall, the reviews for the Kindle edition are good.  One suggestion Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) should take note of, is to provide a scan or search feature within the Kindle edition of the magazine.  The reviewer mentioned that it was much quicker to find certain sections in the magazine version.  The reviews overall reflected what the magazine website’s descriptions said about the content in terms of its great insight on many areas of the writing industry.

I took a look at the magazine, and I like that the writers write from a such a deeply personal point of view.  The stories have a lot more meaning that way.  You will also find information on current events such as the Chilean Mine ordeal and reviews on top MFA programs.

With so much information on the web to sort through, this magazine is a great resource to help sort the quality writing from the junk.

Triple Town for Kindle

It’s really been a good stretch here for Kindle games.  Especially considering it isn’t exactly a device that lends itself perfectly to the feature.  There’s been some real innovation.  Word games were obvious, of course, but being well done was a surprise in some ways.  Zork was amazing, to me at least, even more so because it wasn’t an official development.  Now, finally, we get a bit of puzzle game mixed in.  An independent game developer called Spry Fox put out an addictive little way to lose track of your leisure time called Triple Town.

At its heart, it’s a simple mechanic.  You have a grid which you have to build things on to develop your land.  You build items( trees, flowers, houses, cathedrals, etc.) by placing a single freshly drawn tile on the board each turn from what seems to be a fairly randomized set.  You can also run into problems when the tile you have to place turns out to be something unsavory like a Barbarian.  Let’s face it, pro-Barbarian games are hard to find, so this came as no surprise to anybody. It’s a simple little game with an easy to understand interface that it should take you no time at all to learn the basics of.  I would certainly not call it easy, however, and the replay value is enormous.  Definitely worth my $2.99 for hours of enjoyment. 

Still, I’m just some guy writing about Kindle games on a site called BlogKindle.  There’s at least a passing implication, mostly unjustified though I maintain it is, that there’s the potential for bias.  Rather than expect anybody to take my word for it, let’s look at the reviews so far:

Olga Bezhanova said:

First of all, if you have Kindle 2 you can safely purchase the game because it works great on this device. It even loads a bit faster than the other Kindle 2 games I have purchased.

Triple Town is a pretty fun puzzle game. You get a board subdivided in to squares, in which different kinds of objects appear. You need to create groups of similar objects, which will turn them into more valuable things (grass turns into a flower, which, in turn, transforms into a bush after you have accumulated three or more of them.) There are also wild cards (crystals), which can be substituted for any object. Sometimes, marauding barbarians appear and prevent you from placing objects in the cells where you want to place them. They can also move randomly, so make sure you place the barbarian in a space where even if it moves, your entire game will not be too compromised by that. The best thing is that you don’t have to remember all these things because you will keep getting hints as to each object’s value and function throughout the game[...]The graphics are quite nice, the tutorial is very clear and detailed. The game is fun and relaxing and works great on Kindle.

Cheryl “Mama “C”" said:

I was hesitant to try this game because it had just been released and there were not any reviews on it other than some design type technical ones off this site. I downloaded it this afternoon and spent about an hour playing. It is easy to learn and makes me think without overtaxing my brain after working all day. I’m hooked. After reading about the development of this game, I hope Spry Fox will work on making more games just for the Kindle (as long as they are compatible with my Kindle 2.)

Seth Dewey said:

This is the type of game that is very easy to pick up and learn. It is also quite addicting, as I spent a few hours playing it the first day. This is also one of those games that will take a long time to master, as there is a lot of strategy involved, so I expect that I will be coming back to this game again and again. Well worth the inexpensive price!

Bruce Onder said:

This is a fantastic little game that is so easy to play and replay that you might never read another book on your Kindle! Every game you play, you’ll refine your strategy and can get further than last time. So far after 5 hours or play, I’m able to get to Boom Town fairly easily, but I have a new idea on how to get further next time (read: right now!)

So far, not a single review has popped up under four stars and though these here are the most “helpful” according to the review reviewers, they are certainly not the only ones commenting.

What it comes down to would seem to be that if you’re a puzzle game enthusiast you will probably get a kick out of Triple Town.  It’s cheap, easy to learn, hard to master, and will almost certainly be appreciated by those who give it a chance. I suppose if you’re looking for a sure thing and don’t want to try something unusual, there’s always Minesweeper, but I doubt I’m the only one getting sick of looking for mines after all these years.  Grab your Kindle, head to the store, and give it a chance.  Given the asking price, there’s not much room for regrets even if you don’t get hooked.

Political Bestsellers for Kindle

In the spirit of the election season, there is a good variety of political bestsellers floating around on the Amazon Kindle and Kindle DX Top 100 List.  Objectively speaking, I just thought I’d bring some of them to your attention.

Obama’s Wars is an inside look at the Afghanistan War and Obama’s uphill battle to providing an exit strategy.  According to Amazon’s reviews, this book contains firsthand accounts and secret debates between top White House leaders including the President.  The reviews are mixed.  Some say Bob Woodward did a great job portraying the insider information.  Other reviewers say this author is past his prime.

For some rather intense takes on Obama’s administration and policy, check out David Limbaugh’s Crimes Against Liberty and Dinesh D’Souza’s The Roots Against Obama’s Rage.  They both have good reviews.

Robert B. Reich, the Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton and the author of Supercapitalism, recently released a novel called Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future.  The basic message of this novel is that the stimulus package has not led to greater economic recovery because it does not address income inequality.  One reviewer describes Aftershock as one of the best novels to read about the stimulus package because of its critical insight into the issue.  It also addresses the role of automation technology in the crisis.

On another note, Tony Blair wrote a novel about his prime ministership  called A Journey: My Political Life that has great reviews.  It appears to be a deeply revealing personal account.  One reviewer pointed out that Blair’s writing is genuine as opposed to the usual political pompousness that seems to be the norm in many political memoirs or autobiographies.  Blair also provides great insight into his relationships with important world leaders including Presidents Bush, Clinton and Obama.

On November 9th, which I believe is Election Day, George W. Bush’s memoir, Decision Points will be released.  The novel takes an in depth look at the major decisions in his presidency.  These include 9/11, the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, Hurricane Katrina and the financial crisis.  So this should be an interesting and insightful read.

Kindle, Now With Zork!

There was quite a stir recently when the Kindle started offering games up for user consumption.  Even more so because they were actually well done, in general!  I’ve played around with Scrabble and love it, and really nobody has room to complain about the two freebie games that Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) released, seemingly as test cases.  Now, however, things have moved on to a whole new level and it’s amazing.

Now, maybe you’re young, or only a little tech savvy, or just not too into computer games.  I don’t know anything about that.  I grew up playing text based games on various ridiculously outdated(even at the time I was using them) computers.  I remember the frustration of getting eaten by a grue, and wondering why the hell I was shoving a fish into my ear and how they expected a person to guess such a thing(having read an amateur walkthrough of the Hitchhiker’s Guide game years before I acquired my own copy).  So when somebody I know sends me an email telling me to check out PortableQuest.com’s new sister site, KindleQuest.com using the Kindle browser, I get excited.  This reaches a high point when what do I see but:

West of House
You are standing in an open field  west of a white house, with
a boarded front door. You could circle the  house to the north or south.
There is a small mailbox here.

>

I know that for some people this will mean very little, but it’s a chance to relive some amazing old memories.  I give full credit to the designer for doing something amazing for us nostalgia nuts.  If you’ve never tried a Zork game before and have some spare time, some patience, and a sense of humor, I heartily encourage you to grab your Kindle and check it out.  Probably works on a nook too if you try hard enough, for that matter.  You’ll get to map out new areas, discover goals as you go, type strange commands in on the off chance they make sense in a given situation, scratch your head for hours wondering why the little description can’t just tell you what you need to do already, eventually look up a strategy guide, and then brag to all your friends!  Or something like that. This, though I’m admittedly biased, seems like Kindle gaming has finally taken off.

Social Media and Technology Blogs for Kindle

Mashable is a leading social network news blog that was founded in 2005.  You can get it on the Kindle and Kindle DX for 99 cents a month.  By downloading the site to your Kindle, you can read it anytime with or without the wireless capability.  Just keep in mind that the wireless needs to be on in order for the content to be refreshed.

Peter Cashmore founded the site from a small town in Scotland.  The site includes up to date news on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and Web 2.0 trends.  This is a great resources for libraries because libraries are constantly striving to stay on top of the technology curve.  In addition to libraries, this site is popular with entrepreneurs, social media enthusiasts and pretty much anyone who is interested in Web 2.0 trends.

Some recent news topics include the newest iPhone apps.  There is an article about an interesting looking case that makes the iPhone kid friendly.  Another article discusses the ease of using the iPhone to swipe a credit card.  If you are an Android user, there is news for you too.  Of course, you can also find news on the Kindle, Nook and other e-book readers.

Social Media Marketing is a big deal right now, and Mashable is an excellent resource for finding suggestions on how to market yourself on Facebook and Twitter.  Marketing your business on these sites helps get your brand out there and is also a good way to network with people in similar fields of expertise.

Looking beyond social media, another good technology blog to consider is TechCrunch.  TechCrunch was founded in 2005 and profiles start ups, shares the latest technology news and reviews new internet products.  Some of the latest articles include education and e-learning, an interview with the popular movie company, Netflix and thoughts on AT&T’s reaction to the rumored Verizon iPhone.   There is also a section on environmentally friendly technology.

Both Mashable and TechCrunch are rated as top technology blogs.  The reviews for the Kindle edition are great overall.  Reading them on the Kindle makes them much more portable.

Kindle at College

One of the advantages to being in a town with a large college presence, let alone spending large amounts of time on the campuses, is the opportunity to informally poll students and get a first-hand account of the happenings in whatever field you happen to be curious about in the field of your choice.  I figured this would be useful for all you college students stuck in the Kindle vs nook vs iPad debate.  Depending on who I manage to run into, I’ll update this list from as more students from more fields become available!

Today’s accounts are taken entirely from a university satellite campus in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.  Everybody I talked to was an active user of at least one device in academic settings.

Kindle vs nook:

Kelli, an English Undergrad, said:

I was basically looking at what would save me money on everything I had to use.  I knew I was going to get whichever one I wanted from my parents to help me out, but for books and things I was stuck with student loans.  I narrowed it down to either the nook or the Kindle 3.  They both looked good, but I got the Kindle because they had a thing where you could get ebooks from other places sent to your Kindle by emailing them.  That made things really easy.  It’s a little annoying to have to have to carry around a notebook inside my Kindle case(It looked to me like she had this one), but I doubt any of the others make note taking any easier and I saved a load by getting mostly free kindle books in all my Lit classes.

Kindle DX PDF Reading:

Markus, a Biology Undergrad, said:

My girlfriend got me one of these because she knows I love to read, but I would rather just pick up a book.  It’s just more fun to feel the paper and smell the book.  Last semester, though, I picked it up off the shelf when my printer broke in the middle of printing off articles for class.  One of my profs had the bright idea that sending us lots of articles would save on our book costs.  Apparently cheap laser printers don’t like printing hundreds of pages per hour.  Anyway, I loaded everything I had left onto the DX and decided to make the best of it until they sent the printer back to me.  By the time it finally showed up, I didn’t really case anymore.  This thing is the perfect size for reading pretty much anything, it zooms in on charts and photos, and you never have to worry about where you set down the paper you were halfway through last night.  I still do all my pleasure reading on dead trees, but I tell everybody to try a large screen Kindle.

Kindle for PC and Mac:

John, a Professional Studies Undergrad, said:

I haven’t quite talked myself into getting the physical Kindle yet, though it looks really cool.  Right now I’m doing pretty well using the software Amazon put out for my Macbook.  It’s easy to use and I can save what I was doing and all the notes I took.  Hell, I even go home for the weekend and know where I stopped reading when I use my parents’ computer and can get some homework done.  I tried out the nookStudy software and it was really nice, but I felt like it was just too bulky and tried to do too much all at once.  Plus it kept trying to redownload my books every time I wanted to read them.  What if I want to save some battery life and turn off the wireless connection?!

Kindle DX vs iPad:

Taquisha, an Early Childhood Ed Undergrad, said:

People in the program tried to get me hooked on the Kindle DX for like an entire semester.  It’s cool, the page turning isn’t nearly as horrible as I thought it would be at first, but even when I got one of my own I ended up sending the thing back.  You can’t use something like that when you’re working with little kids.  It’s durable, but they just don’t care.  All it’s good for is hitting stuff with, as far as they’re concerned.  I finally saved up the extra money and upgraded to an iPad and it works much better.  I can play games with them, show little movies, make slide shows, and still be able to just load the Kindle iPad app when I want to read a book.  Everybody was telling me it’d be bad for my eyes, but I just turn it off for a little while when mine get sore and I’m fine.  I’d definitely say to only go for the Kindle if you want to read on it alone.  It doesn’t help at all when you’re working with kids or in groups.

Well, believe me, there’s plenty more.  Kindles, nooks, iPads, netbooks, and even the occasional less popular eReader are becoming staples of the modern college classroom and it’s not likely to change.  The convenience, especially for students with dozens of online articles to read or several huge textbooks to carry from class to class without a chance to set things down, cannot be beaten. I’ll try to come up with some fresh reviews from another campus some time soon.  It’ll be interesting to have some first hand accounts of how these devices stack up as midterms and such put the pressure on their owners.

The Big Short Kindle Edition

Many of you are probably familiar with the hit movie, “The Blind Side.”  It is based on a novel of the same name by Michael Lewis.  The Blind Side is the story of a black high school boy named Michael Oher who has nothing but a gift for playing football to his credit.  He is taken in by the Tuohy’s, a wealthy white Christian family who put him in a good high school and nurtures his talent for football.  This book takes a glimpse at the personal bond between people from polar opposite ends of the spectrum in society.

In addition to covering Michael’s personal experiences, the novel takes a look at the game of football as a whole.  It provides details on the history of the game and how it has evolved over the past 40 years.

Lewis is well known for writing sports themed novels, as well as ones that provide inside accounts on the business and financial market on Wall Street.

Lewis’s latest novel, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, really gets into the nitty gritty of the Wall Street melt down of 2007-2008.  This novel is on the Kindle and Kindle DX Top 100 list.  Based on one review, Lewis takes a unique perspective on the meltdown by using a group of obscure hedge fund managers as his cast of characters instead of the big names of Wall Street.  The characters in this novel provide a lot of wisdom and insight on the crisis.  They saw it coming before it actually began. I think it is neat to get the viewpoint of the people who are hidden from the public spotlight.  They are easier to relate to and often are much more honest about the state of affairs.

The Big Short is a sequel in a sense to Liar’s Poker, a similar inside look at the recession of the 1980’s.  Lewis worked as a bond salesman for a company called Salomon Brothers that pays him well despite little effort on his part.  The reader gets a real glimpse of how Wall Street was run in the 1980′s, which reveals a shocking amount of treachery and deception.  The novel describes the history of “junk bonds” and chronicles the events in the years that led to the stock market crash of 1987.  Anyone who is interested in learning more about how Wall Street works or learning more about business terminology should read both books.

Kindle Publishing Made Easy By Adobe

A while back, Amazon’s(NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle publishing platform made headlines for its remarkable offer of 70% royalties, under the right circumstances, to self-publishing authors wanting to make their products available through the Amazon.com site.  Although authors are often confronted with a Kindle vs nook debate when it comes to where to move their stuff, since Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) launched a similar program, Amazon is making further moves to ensure that they remain the main source for all your independent author needs.

In the past week or so, Adobe(NASDAQ:ADBE) launched the beta for a plugin for their popular InDesign software that allows users to create documents specifically for the Kindle.  It can currently be downloaded directly through the Amazon Kindle’s Publishing Program site.  Previous to this, InDesign users would usually be faced with the annoyance of converting from EPUB to an acceptable upload format.

Users of this tool will enjoy several useful features:

  • Expanded & refined font styling and text placement
  • Easier placement of in-text links, including Table of Contents
  • Smooth transition of images
  • Easy content preview using the Kindle Previewer

The Previewer mentioned there is a neat little tool Amazon released early this year that will allow users on practically any OS to check out what their book will look like on the physical Kindle right down to font resizing and orientation changes.  It’s something of a must for anybody really interested in getting things right, from what I hear, and it has been updated recently to account for the Kindle 3 release and the minor screen changes that that entails.

Since the Kindle is clearly taking the lead for the foreseeable future as far as eBook distribution platforms go, this will be a big help for all you aspiring authors and long-time fans of Adobe products.  It would be nice if Amazon came around and started supporting more widely used formats, but since that doesn’t seem to be happening this makes accommodating their peculiarities that much easier.

Kindle Still Facing Kobo Competition

Borders has recently announced their plans to carry the newly updated Kobo eReader when it is released.  Some of you may remember a few months back when the Kobo created quite a stir among the eReader competitors by being priced in the ludicrously low $150 range.  It was light weight, had a decent screen and expandable memory, and if the page turns were a bit slow at least the price made up for it!  Then, of course, both the nook and the Kindle matched or beat that price a couple weeks later and the Kobo seemingly dropped off the radar as anything significant.

Well, apparently the company is hoping to turn things around this time.  Their newly updated release will be focusing on two things. Namely, fixing the page turn delay that was really the bane of every eReader when it first started out and adding a way to grab books for your device without looking for a wire.  The faster processor being boasted about should increase page turn speed noticeably, while the WiFi antenna(WiFi only, not cellular) will allow users to connect to their digital library easily.  While there is no indication that the screen has been upgraded to the newest eInk configuration(the demo video on the site would seem to indicate that it has not been), we’re still in pre-order stages and nobody actually has on in hand to say for sure.  They have followed Amazon’s(NASDAQ:AMZN) example and released a dark-cased choice as well as a version with a pinkish backing on a white case.  I’m sure that’s important to some people.

So, why would somebody want the new Kobo, especially with it being priced to match the much more functional Kindle WiFi?  In spite of the many places where Kobo comes up short, there are some redeeming factors.  The most important of these to many people will be international availability.  The Kindle has traditionally been a little bit harder to get your hands on in some areas, but the Kobo will be marketed directly at Australia, New Zealand, the UK, etc.  The use of an open eBook format rather than Amazon’s proprietary setup is also rather important, as is the expandable memory.  Will that outweigh better battery life, larger selection, a thinner form, better screen, greater functionality, etc.?  Probably not for many, but you never know.  This might be just what some people are looking for.

Kindle Books on a Budget

If you look beyond the major, well known bestsellers, you will find a wide selection of free or inexpensive books for the Kindle and Kindle DX that are really good.  Many have outstanding reviews.  They are also great for a tight budget.

While browsing the Amazon Kindle Top 100 Free list, I came across Raising Jake, by Charlie Carillo. Raising Jake is a story about father-son bonding and is a nice break from the sea of sappy romance novels that seem to take over the whole Top 100 list.  Keep an eye on that list, there are often some really good books on there for a limited time.

Sammy Sullivan gets fired from his job at a New York tabloid, and his son Jake gets expelled from school all on the same day.  Sammy revisits his troublesome past, while Jake gets to know his family roots.

Allison Grambs sums up the novel very well:

“In the tradition of Tom Perotta, Carillo explores the strength of the family bond, the power of forgiveness, and the hope that comes from embracing second chances. . .truthful, and hilarious.”–Alison Grambs, author of The Smart Girls Guide to Getting Even

Carillo’s newest novel, One Hit Wonder was released today, and is a tale of lost love and missed opportunities.  Like Raising Jake, One Hit Wonder follows a middle aged man who must face past issues and grow up. After getting dumped by his girlfriend at 18, Mickey DeFalco wrote a love song that became a huge hit, but luck dwindles as the years pass.  DeFalco struggles to find a foothold in life and mows lawns for a living twenty years later.  His lost love resurfaces, uncovering lies and secrets that demonstrate how unpredictable life can be.

Karen McQuestion’s A Scattered Life is in the top 25 on the Kindle 100 list, and is only $2.99.  A Scattered Life is about the importance of family and friends.  Skyla Plinka, the lead character in the novel, learns how to let go of her tragic past, and embrace the present, as well as the the people who care for her.  The novel really gets into the heart of family issues.  McQuestion also wrote Life on Hold, the story of 15 year old Rae and her struggles with having to move constantly with her flaky mother.  McQuestion manages to take real life issues and provide us with a light, easy reading experience.

I even saw some books for less than two dollars in a variety of genres including romance, mystery and thrillers.  Happy reading!