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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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February 2011
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Can Amazon Sidestep Apple’s App Store Tax?

Given the prominence of the Kindle vs Apple situation in news lately, namely that Apple has decided that all purchases going through their devices via the app store must pay a 30% fee, there’s been some question of whether or not Amazon’s Kindle platform will have much of a future on iOS devices going forward.  Nobody can see Amazon giving up what we all assume to be a significant, even if not a majority, portion of their user base in order to avoid complying with the new terms, but at the same time it seems unlikely that paying the fee on ebooks that must already be selling for very near cost is an option either.  Quite the dilemma.

It occurred to me however, and I’m sure I’m not the only one or even the first, that the solution is already in the works on Amazon’s side.  Around the time of the launch announcement for Google’s eBook store, we had news that the Kindle for the Web service was being expanded into something more than just a means for previewing books pre-purchase.  Not much has been heard since then.  Now, while it is true that Apple can probably manage to enforce a competition reducing policy on their own devices using their app store, in spite of what any rumors about anti-trust investigations might be saying, it is unlikely that they would be audacious enough to start blocking access to Amazon.com on their browsers or those browsers that might be available to users in an app store at any given time.

At last report, the existing Kindle for the Web books read pretty well on the iPad and need only slight tweaks for the iPhone. I do doubt that this was some sort of master plan anticipating the current situation.  Maybe I’m underestimating Amazon’s foresight.  Maybe I’m overestimating Apple’s deviousness.  Whatever the case may be, this seems like a great time to be rolling out a platform independent reading app that just happens to be laying around waiting to be used.

Really, this may well be the way things go in terms of non-dedicated eReaders in the future.  I don’t know how I feel about that.  While it will ensure that no matter what you happen to be holding in your hand at any given time, I can’t imagine that a browser-based solution will bring quite the same immersive reading experience that things like the existing Kindle app manage to provide.  Tablets, and PCs in general, are already at something of a disadvantage compared to the Kindle thanks to the screen differences.  Still, one would have to expect that the ability to avoid app store disputes like this one, added to the already impressive potential ability to run on anything connected to the internet, will make it worth further emphasis for Amazon.  I’m hoping that it doesn’t cause them to give up on their device-specific app line, though. It adds a certain something that gives the Kindle platform an edge over all the rest for many people, even when the comparison doesn’t involve an eReader.

Twilight Series for Kindle: Featuring Eclipse

eclipseThe Edward-Bella-Jacob triangle is in full force in the third installment of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Bella and Edward are applying for college and consider marriage. Bella’s interest in Jacob, the werewolf goes to a new level when she discovers she might be in love with him as well.

A major battle erupts in Seattle that leads to a great deal of fighting and bloodshed, and the army is made up of a bunch of newborn vampires. What an image. The battle is fueled by Victoria’s jealousy over Edward and Bella’s relationship. In efforts to avoid spoiling the plot for those of you who haven’t read the book, I will leave it at that. So, grab a copy of Eclipse for your Kindle and Kindle DX and tell us what you think.

One interesting conclusion from the reviews of Eclipse are how varied the reactions. Eclipse got reviews ranging from “major cheesy” and “disturbing” to “a great love story.”

kim h

“I was very hesitant of reading this series since i am not much into the vampire books but wow!! I was wrong on this one. I loved it and I coulnd’t put the book down. I have 2 kids and i was able to ready this series in a very short time and that is really good for me. I am usually a slow ready but this author really captivated you to want to read more and want more. I got lost in the this world of theirs and really wanted more. I wish she would continue to write more about it. The Characters are fun and it brought back memories of being a teenager and the whole love thing. WOW!! It’s a must read!!”

This review reminds me of my thoughts on Harry Potter.  I usually don’t read fantasy, but somehow those books really sucked me in after I finally sat down to read them.  It is probably because despite the supernatural element of Twilight and Harry Potter, both series contain issues that we deal with in real life.

From the Heart

“I had a great time with this book, mostly because it really twisted everything around in a way I never thought it would go. Edward became so overprotective with the kidnapping and everything, that really stuck with me and made him the villain of this book. I did not see that coming. And the relationship between Bella and Jacob became a great strong-point of the story as well. I loved seeing her stand up for herself.”

A review particularly catered to the Kindle version:

Becs

“Having just finished reading Eclipse on my kindle, and thoroughly enjoying it, I did not encounter any typos or formatting issues, save one minor point; there are no spaces between scene changes within chapters. The lack of spaces that indicate an end of scene did cause me some confusion when reading. I would occassionally come across a paragraph that did not flow as it was not in context with the previous paragraphs, I would then realise that a scene break had just occurred but had not been acknowledged in the spacing. In all other areas I was happy with the formatting of my kindle version of Eclipse.”

Handmade Kindle Covers

Leather Kindle CoverIf you are on a shopping spree and really feeling like dressing up your Kindle, then I’d be pleased to help you out. I find that there is something inexplicably charming, when people dress sup their gadgets in handmade accessories. Perhaps, Etsy really triggered this new fad of getting handmade covers for all sorts of gadgets.

Here are some options for unique handmade Kindle covers available via Etsy.

If you are into fancy-pants, leather covers – here is a beautiful orange Kindle cover, shipped from Hungary for $46 for the cover and $6 for shipping.

Merino Wool Kindle CoverIf soft, floral and quite expensive Kindle cover is your style then here is an option for you. That would cost $65 (holy smokes!) and $4.50 for shipping within USA. The same designer is selling a beautiful giraffe with dreamy eyes for the same (very high) price.

If spending $65 on a Kindle cover seems a bit excessive for you, then there are other fantastic options – such as this clutch style with square leather button Kindle cover for $25 with $4.95 shipping within US.

Also, this completely custom made e-reader cover (you have to specify which e-reader you have) – you can choose a button, the type of fabric on the outside and inside of the cover. This cover goes for $29.99 plus $2.50 for shipping within US.

If floral and giraffe designs is not quite your style, here is a very nice grey Kindle sleeve made from merino wool for $39.99 plus $5.50 for shipping. The same designer has a really nice hand dyed leather Kindle cover for $68.

And if you like to pretend like you are holding a hardcover book, while reading from your Kindle, then you might like this style for Kindle case for $34.99 plus $10 shipping within US.

New Kindle Commercial Seems Rather…Vague?

Kindle advertisements have often been a little odd, in my opinion.  I get that you want to highlight how fun and useful your product is, but when it’s something that facilitates an activity that will almost always take place while the user is immobile and not reacting in any overt fashion, it’s hard to do.  Does that mean that the best course of action is to show people running around and dancing while holding it, in a sort of interpretive dance type representation of the feeling to be achieved through use of a Kindle?

Anyway, once again we are given the most obvious, and most Kindle-favorable, visual comparison between the iPad and the Kindle in the form of a situation involving reading in direct sunlight.  Not the whole of the commercial this time, but it’s in there as a reminder in case there’s anybody who missed it the first time.  Maybe this is a bigger problem than I thought, but do people spend a lot of time reading outside in direct sunlight?  I know I enjoy it myself, but it’s just not something I see often.  There are so many other factors that could be gone into if the commercial was to emphasize the favorable differences.  It’s lighter than the iPad, easier to read on then the iPad, doesn’t have to deal with any ridiculous app store politics like the iPad, etc., etc.  I think the whole Kindle vs iPad competition was resolved a while back for the majority of us and the outcome left the iPad unable to live up to its Kindle Killer hype.  Also, while we’re on the subject, what was the point of the text informing us of the ease of reading in direct sunlight when we have several seconds of the already short commercial devoted to demonstrating this fact?

Where I do like the effort was in terms of demonstrating options beyond reading in a corner.  I think it does a fair job of implying utility in terms of accessing reference material on the fly.  At least, that’s all I could come up with when it came to what the actors were doing with their Kindles at any given time as they cavorted. Wouldn’t it have been more effective if that were what was being highlighted in the brief text interjections, though?

That’s all just my rant on the topic though.  Honestly, probably the best ad we’ve gotten for the Kindle in a while.  I know it got the message across a bit better than the old swimming pool scenario or the Kindle hiding in the random drawer from the last couple I recall. Word is that Amazon has purchased some ad time during the upcoming Oscars, so it’s entirely possible that this one will be airing in a great slot.  I only wish that it seemed more likely to get across the features that the Kindle brings to the table.  Then again, maybe I’m completely off base on this one.  Any thoughts on it?

Kindle Piracy Thoughts

The Kindle platform, along with several other similar pushes into the emerging eBook industry, has improved availability of books significantly.  If nothing else, there’s no longer even the possibility of a book going “out of print” and being unavailable to an interested reader.  Even when publishers attempt to create an artificial scarcity, it’s just not going to happen in the face of a truly interested audience.  Of course, not every effect of going digital will be so positive.

The situation I referenced there is an extreme case where most people would find little fault finding your book through alternate channels.  After all, the publisher has chosen to deny you the opportunity to hand over money for the product.  For the most part, when piracy comes up, this isn’t the case at all.  There are two major camps in the dispute, from what I have experienced.  On the side of the piracy objectors, there tends to be an equating of illegal downloads with lost sales.  On the piracy supporting side, people often speak encouragingly about the free press and word of mouth that open distribution can bring.  Both arguments have merit, as far as they go.

Research into music piracy has often tended to consider each download a lost sale.  I’ve heard of similar arguments in eBooks.  I hope we can all see the flaw in this.  While there will be lost sales, the numbers aren’t precisely directly correlated to the number of illegal downloads.  For many people, the entire motivation for piracy seems to be a limited budget that would have prevented the sale anyway, or a limited amount of initial interest in the title that would have made expenditure less than appealing.

That said, excusing piracy based on “I wasn’t going to buy it anyway, so I’m entitled to it for free” is just ridiculous.  I would like to be generous and say that most people who do grab books without paying for them are probably aware of this. While I don’t, however, believe that the college student who downloaded the equivalent of a small lending library to his Kindle would have paid face value for each of the books he read, no matter how interesting or appreciated they were, it’s fairly safe to say that the two or three top picks of the year at least would have been sales under other circumstances.

The main complication in dealing with this situation involves striking the proper balance.  No matter how much effort you put into protecting the items you sell, the internet is a big place full of very crafty people, many of whom will go out of their way to break protection on things even when they have no need of what is being protected, just on principal. There’s always the Baen solution, which involves releasing all sorts of eBooks for free from time to time for the Kindle and any other device you might have handy and hoping that the sample encourages purchases.  Most publishers might find that a little too much of a gamble though.

As much as I’d like to come down squarely on one side of this debate, I can’t.  Piracy is a problem if it gets too big, there’s no denying that.  It can sharply reduce the incentive to produce quality work.  But at what point do the measures taken to protect something make it more of a pain for the legitimate buyer than the illegal downloader?  Already we have some pretty ridiculously restricted platforms to deal with, especially when you don’t want to be locked to one seller.  All I can really hope for is that this doesn’t end up escalating and causing the sort of drama the music industry has had over MP3s.

Borders Bankruptcy Details

I know I mentioned this the other day in passing, when it was just an incredibly probable rumor I believe, but Borders(NYSE:BGP) is officially filing for Bankruptcy.  As one might expect, they’re not about to just disappear, but it seems the Kindle is having its effect on the local book store ever more visibly.

The current plan appears to be a reorganization involving the closing of between 200 and 275 stores, thirty percent or more of the total chain, with the final number being dependent on what sort of concessions are able to be attained from the leaseholders on the 75 stores in limbo at this time.  These 200+ stores are doing poorly enough right now that they are costing the company millions of dollars every week with little chance that number would have been able to turn around in the immediate future.

As much as it’s a bit disconcerting to get a reminder once again that the local book store you can just walk into whenever you want may soon be a memory, there’s a certain amount of irony in the reminder when you consider how recently people lamented the failure of the locally-owned book store in the face of big name megastores springing up all over the country.  Borders was one of the driving forces behind that move and now they can’t keep up either.  Something of a failure to adapt, perhaps.

What this means for your average Kindle fan or user is, perhaps unsurprisingly enough, not much.  Borders has been a retailer for a number of eReader devices over the past few years, including the fairly popular Kobo eReader, and was in fact a big factor for a short time when they brought the Kobo to the US and provided the then-expensive Kindle with a competitively priced counterpart that could be seen right in a store. In spite of this, however, the Kobo is not and has never been a Borders controlled device or platform.

This may be the big factor in the Borders downfall, when it comes right down to it.  Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) hasn’t been doing amazingly in the past few years, but their Nook has been nothing but helpful and the Nook Color has an impressive following.  The Kindle is obviously not so much connected directly to any brick & mortar book store, but its widespread availability and the robust platform behind it has pretty much defined the eBook industry as we see it today.  For Borders to think to get by in this newest stage of the book industry riding on the innovations and productions of other companies while offering little to no cohesive core to bind them all together may have been a bit unrealistic.

If you happen to find yourself near one of the Borders stores being shut down, be on the lookout for fliers and posters because it appears that there will be stock liquidation sales at any number of locations as the restructuring moves forward.  Grab what you can while it’s there and cheap!  Should you find yourself book store free following the closings, hopefully a Nook or Kindle will hold you over until something better comes along in your neighborhood.

Reactions to Free E-books

Lately, I can’t help myself but notice a new emerging movement of free e-books haters. Mind you, I’m not talking about the pirated free e-books haters. That emotional response to copyright infringement is congruent. I mean a group of people, who dislikes the fact that:

1) free e-books exist;

2) free e-books are popular among readers.

direct publishingWhere do I see these people? Well, they tend to hang out around Kindle-related websites leaving vehement anti-free e-books comments here and there. You probably know what I’m talking about.

To my astonishment, I discovered a common trait among the free e-book haters (how about I just call them FEH): they tend to be authors themselves. So, why would the wise writers be so against the fact that their fellow writer decided to offer his/hers work for free?

It appears that FEH perceive readers as ungrateful, evil crocodiles who only want to consume free stuff and never pay for the literary labor. Well, that’s just silly! A thankful reader, who enjoyed a freebie will always go looking for more books by the author he/she enjoyed.

So, I have a theory. You see, FEH usually are recently sprouted authors with one e-published work, with some useless subject matter, say How to Choose Your Paper Mate Pen Wisely: a Very Thorough Guide (sponsored by Paper Mate). So, if they put their sole literary child out there for free, then how would they make their first billion? And that’s how we get “Free e-books spoil people! Let’s close all the public libraries!” (© imaginary FEH).

Of course, this theory relies on a completely hypothetical situation, which is most likely absurdly inaccurate. However, the point is that Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) influenced publishing towards making it more accessible. As a result, the modern literary world not only expanded, but also became more commercialized. There are many emerging authors, who write not for the love of writing, but for the chance to “win” a lottery in publishing business. And the concept of free books is just standing in their way.

I hope I’m wrong about it. Although, if I’m somewhere close to the truth – dear FEH, your chances to make a fortune on a useless guide will come true only in case if a million of e-book shoppers will stumble and fall on “buy this guide” button. Or, it might be one unfortunate shopper – stumbling and falling a million times. Perhaps, you might need to reconsider changing a profession from a pure business person to a business person, who writes well. And very possibly, the hostility toward free e-books will somewhat diminish in its proportions.

Yours truly,

- one (e-)book(/guide) author

More on Apple vs Kindle for iOS devices

So, Apple vs the Amazon Kindle platform.  I brought this topic up a few days ago, I know, but it bears repeating now that representatives from Apple have come out to clarify their position and put an end to the speculation based mainly around the rejection of Sony’s Reader app submission to the Apple app store.

For those who haven’t been following the situation, Apple has apparently decided to start enforcing some of the rules regarding in-app purchasing that they have seemed uninterested in until this point.  As a result of this, Sony was unable to get its iOS Reader app published, and Amazon’s Kindle app, along with all the other eBook readers out there linked to a store, may be in some pretty serious trouble.  Up until now, the way things work has been for the Kindle app to send you to the Amazon.com website whenever you want to pick up something new to read.  It results in convenience for users and neatly bypasses the need to work within the app store infrastructure.  That part, I doubt Apple minds.  What they are objecting to is the fact that these sales, going through the website as they do, fail to make Apple any money.  So, new restrictions. Now, since Apple wants a 30% cut and Amazon is making as little as a 30% cut as it is on many sales (specifically those coming from its self-publishing authors), many people are foreseeing a problem.

Heading off many of the potential solutions that Amazon could have used to address the new restrictions, Apple reps have made clear that there can be no linking to outside stores from inside an app anymore, and definitely no marking up of in-app sales to dissuade their use.  Basically, anything you’re selling to users of your app had better be available through the app so that Apple can get its cut and it must cost the same or less than in any other store you operate.  Not good news for the Kindle platform.

It remains to be seen how Amazon is going to respond to this.  There really seem to be very few options.  The question may come down to a matter of how much of Amazon’s eBook sale numbers comes through Apple devices.  I would imagine it would have to be a large percentage to persuade them to raise prices across the board for eBooks, which is what would have to happen for Apple’s percentage to be accounted for.  But it is also highly unlikely that the numbers could be so low as to make pulling the app completely a viable option.  Simply forgoing their own percentage of the price on a product that many believe is already being sold at cost or below is the least likely scenario of all, in my opinion.  Short of withdrawing the app, it seems like any compromise in favor of Apple will have a negative impact on users of Amazon’s own Kindle owners and that seems like a silly choice to make unless it’s overwhelmingly necessary.

Maybe this is a move intended to bolster Apple’s unimpressive efforts to take over the eBook industry’s distribution network the way they have that of the music industry, but if so then at best this will be an uphill battle that will earn them no small amount of ill will.  With the eReader capabilities of the iPad in particular being a selling point for many people, all Apple may be accomplishing here is diminishing the value of their devices by causing problems with one of the most popular apps they have seen to date.

Thinking about the Kindle Update Features Academically

Something I didn’t consider at first, but probably should have, when I saw the details of the Kindle 3.1 software update this week was that it seems to introduce features highly applicable to improved use in classrooms.  Admittedly, there are a variety of different ways to use all of these things, but this one stands out.  Bear with me for a second.

The most highly publicized feature, the “Real Page Numbers”, isn’t exactly as natural a thing as it seems.  There’s not really such a thing as standardized pagination between editions of a book.  If you grab a paperback and a hardcover of the same title, you can’t exactly expect to see page correlation.  It’s actually more shocking when it’s there.  The same can be true of two paperbacks purchased years apart.  Where you need to have that consistency, though, is in a large group all actively discussing the same book.  Usually that means a classroom.  Besides the occasional book club, there simply aren’t that many non-academic reasons where you would need an actual corresponding page number.  Now, I’m not talking about how nice it is or how enjoyable it is to users.  That’s another discussion.  But this is definitely one place where it will be extremely functional.

The other big point, at least as far as I’m choosing to prioritize the new features, is the Public Notes option.  Now, I love being able to share notes with friends.  It’s even amazing to have the option of such an interesting mode of author/reader interaction.  But where I see the potential is in professional annotation.  One of the biggest problems I’ve heard of over and over again on college campuses, with eReaders in general and the Kindle in particular, was the inability to make use of scholarly editions of popular texts from Norton and the like.  This would open up the ability to do something like that, probably with the option to toggle such notes on and off, and even let it be dynamically updated should the need arise.  Accomodating, to say the least.

Also related, though I doubt it was so much as a consideration in the formation, is the revised magazine formatting.  It’s definitely easier to navigate things now that the quickie snapshot is available for moving around with.  Since the screen doesn’t exactly lend itself to advertising anyway, I’ve always felt that the potential was greater for journal publications than popular magazines anyway.  This just makes it that much better.  Do I see anybody falling all over themselves to adopt the new format?  Not really.  That doesn’t make it a bad idea though, and I’d like more publishers to see the potential.

Now, after looking at it a lot i really don’t think that any of this besides maybe the page numbering could be said to be directed specifically at the usefulness of the Kindle in schools.  That doesn’t make it any less applicable though.  Moves like these will make a lot of progress for Amazon when they try once again to break into the Academic scene.

Kindle Book Recommendations: Science Fiction Staples

This shouldn’t come across as much of a surprise to anybody, given my admitted love of high tech reading and the tools associated with it, but I’m a fan of the SF genre.  Yeah, I know, I’m playing to a stereotype by implying you can make the assumption there, but I don’t care. Now, having made that declaration, on to the Kindle-related stuff.  That’s what we’re here for, right?  Here are a few things I’ve picked up recently on my Kindle that I can honestly suggest you also grab when you get a chance.

Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson

This one won’t come as a surprise for many people.  From what I know, it’s one of the most popular Science Fiction titles ever written.  I finally picked it up, with high hopes after having loved Cryptonomicon for years, and I was not disappointed.

Without giving too much away, it’s an adventure in a dystopic America in the near future after the collapse of the dollar, and the government with it.  You’ve got sword fights, social commentary, impressively nuts religious leaders, an intriguing early view of the potential embodied by the internet as a stage for social interaction, and much more.  Most of all, it’s one of those books that you have so much fun reading that you lose track of time.  To me, that’s the best mark of a great title.  Did I mention that it’s got a main character named “Hiro Protagonist”?

The Kindle Edition is $8.10

Dune – Frank Herbert

You’ve heard of Dune.  Ok, I can’t be 100% sure of that, but let’s face it…you’re heard of Dune.  Between the movie of the same name, the mini-series, and the countless sequels (both those made by the original Herbert and the many horrible new ones his son keeps coming up with), it would be more than a little surprising for somebody to have never at least heard the name.

How many people have read it recently, though, if they ever have at all?  This is a genuinely great SF novel that has held up perfectly.  Besides the story being genuinely interesting in its own right, it’s good food for thought.  On the one hand, I can’t really think of much I could say that isn’t right on the Amazon page without giving away details.  On the other hand, I couldn’t describe it in ten times as much space as I have to work with.  Really, if you like good serious SF reads, grab it.  Heck, even if you’ve read it before, I’ll bet it’s been a while!  Give it another go.

The Kindle Edition is $15.99

You know, I have more that I want to recommend here that I don’t have anything I can usefully say beyond “Here, check these out!”  For the most part they’re so enmeshed in the genre that there’s nothing I could add productively to the discussion anyway.

Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card Kindle Edition: $5.99

The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams Kindle Edition: $9.99

Hyperion – Dan Simmons Kindle Edition: $6.39

Really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, of course.  I hope you all enjoy as much as I do and have.  As always, feel free to send me suggestions for future recommendations.  That’s where this idea came from and it’s always a good time.  It’s times like these, going through what I consider some of the basic components of my library that I most love having made the move to the Kindle.  Never have to worry about finding that paperback you put down ten years ago and haven’t seen since!

Did the Rise of Amazon(and its Kindle) Doom the Brick & Mortar Book Store?

These days there is a lot of talk about how, though it’s great that the Kindle is taking off and eBooks are becoming ubiquitous, it’s really a shame that the local bookseller is becoming a dying breed as a result.  It is definitely a little bit sad to have so few options when you want to go out shopping.  I miss the smaller stores.  What brings all this to mind today is the news that Borders(NYSE:BGP) is filing Bankruptcy this week.

Now, admittedly you can’t call Borders a small retailer anymore, but that is how they started.  The fact is, book stores in general just aren’t doing as well since websites, specifically Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN), became the go-to retailer for all your reading needs.  As much as many stores, Borders in particular but others as well, try to diversify their product in addition to doing everything they can think of to attract readers, it’s hard to maintain the local face of a company in spite of declining sales.  Even Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS), pretty much the big name in books for as long as I can remember, isn’t exactly doing as well for itself as it needs to be in spite of their efforts (and successes) with the Nook.

Given my own enthusiasms, I would like to give credit to the Kindle.  It’s great hardware, has an impressive platform behind it, and the selection that we have available as a result is second to none.  In many ways it’s like you’ve got a book store in your pocket, assuming you prefer garments with slightly over sized pockets.

Much as I’d like to place credit there, though, the trend began before the Kindle was more than a thought and a hope.  Maybe not even that.  This year is the first time the eBook is competing with the paperback on equal terms from the start, and it’s definitely the first time we can expect to see any comparable numbers between Kindle book sales and the print medium as a whole.  eBooks are a big deal, but they’re just now realizing their potential.

What changed the game for the Brick & Mortar crowd, the way I see things, was the convenience and the successful marketing of the Amazon.com website.  It wasn’t the first place to buy books online, but it has had a great selection from the start and the best selection anywhere since fairly soon after it got moving.  Add in the functionality as a used book vendor, the inclusion of other media (and non-media) options besides books in the same purchase without there being any effect on your dedicated book browsing, and the decent review system that lets you improve your chances of getting the most for your money and there are options that no book store, small or large, has been able to keep up with.

So yeah, in a very real way I think that it is Amazon’s work that we see when book stores close down left and right.  But they did it by giving people what they wanted and doing a better job than the stores that closed.  Sure, I’ll miss being able to walk into a Borders when they’re gone (as most of them will be soon), but given the choice I know I’d rather shop through Amazon most of the time anyway.  Apparently most people feel the same way.

Kindle Books Honoring Thomas Edison’s Birthday

Thomas Edison, born on February 11, 1847, was one of the major pioneers of the modern electric world.  There are several good Kindle books that cover his life and his major contributions to society.

For free, you can get a copy of Edison, His Life and Inventions. This book describes Edison’s influence on America in nineteenth and twentieth centuries through his invention of not only the electric light bulb, but the phonograph, batteries and mass communications as a whole.  As for the formatting and text, Edison, His Life and Inventions had some glitches.  But, there’s nothing to lose if its free right?  One reviewer put it well in regards to Edison’s contributions.  Edison not only invented the products, but he also invented the industry founded on electricity.

The Wizard of Menlo Park is a refreshing break from the typical biographies of the famous inventor.  This book brings out the human side of Edison.  Yes, he was very successful and good at creating fascinating new things, but he did not know how to handle the fame and the business side very well.  A good lesson from Wizard is that even though you might fail at most things in life, there maybe one thing you are really good at. You can really take off and run with that good talent or invention, like Edison did.  One thing I thought was interesting about Wizard was its portrayal of Edison as a celebrity, because the concept of “celebrity” is so different today.  Come to think of it, Thomas Edison was a large contributor of making the modern celebrity industry: film, music, etc even possible.

According to Let There Be Light: A Biography of Thomas Edison, the inventor had 1,093 patents in the U.S., as well as many more in France, Germany and England.  The phonograph patent was revolutionary because it was the first device to produce and record sounds, but many of his inventions were developed as improvements on past inventions. more Let there Be Light does not have any reviews yet, so it is hard to tell what readers think of this biography.

The Kindle book selection Edison is surprisingly small, but overall they have great reviews and are certainly worth checking out.

Kindle Books on Linux

As of recently it is possible to run Kindle for PC application via Wine on Linux. I tested it on 64-bit install of Ubuntu 10.10 and put together this step-by-step instructions and a short review. Enjoy!

  1. You will need to install Wine Windows Emulator 1.3.* or higher. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this version is still in the unstable branch and can’t be installed through default Ubuntu software repositories.  Fortunately, installing the “unstable” branch is quite easy and it is not that unstable. Just type this command in your terminal window and it will all happen automatically. You will only need to accept the EULA for true-type fonts.

    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-wine/ppa && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install wine1.3

  2. Navigate to “Kindle for PC” page in your favorite browser and download the installer.
  3. Start the installer via Wine either by right-clicking on the downloaded file or by changing the folder to downloads in the terminal and typing

    wine ./KindleForPC-installer.exe

  4. The app will install and prompt for registration just like it does on Windows.
  5. You can now enjoy your Kindle books on your Linux machine ;)

Kindle on Linux UbuntuOverall the app runs and works nicely but with minor quirks. Books download, you can read books, highlight passages and annotate. I couldn’t get dictionary lookup to work. On one of the two machines that I’ve tested the application refused to download dictionary claiming that it is not in my archived items and on the other it froze the entire virtual machine when it attempted the download (could have been a VM issue). But aside from this quirk you can totally read Kindle books on your Linux box. You can also use Google and Wikipedia for definition lookup.

Kobo’s Reading Life is Interesting

At a time when the bigger names in eReading like Kindle and Nook are probably a little bit nervous about the future of their place on Apple’s devices, Kobo comes along and introduces an interesting and fun new set of features specifically for them that might be exactly what they need to attract new users.  Reading Life, as they have named the feature, is a combination of social networking and a game-like achievement system that should provide an interesting contrast against other similar platforms and their offerings.

For those who haven’t seen it yet, and I’ll assume that’s most of you, you do have the same ability to share passages from your current read over Facebook that you get with the Kindle and Kindle apps.  You also get to share, in detail, when you start reading a book, when you buy a book, when you annotate a book, etc.  You also get some measure of progress withing the book in terms of progress in the form of both percentage completed and total page turns.

What I found most intriguing, however, were the introduction of “awards” that you earn by reading and discovery of things within the substance of the book.  In Reading Life enabled books (making the untested assumption that you don’t get completely similar experiences from just any book you buy), you can keep track of where the action is taking place, or when you meet a character for the first time, and post these to your Facebook page as you read.  Sometimes this even results in coupons, to judge by what I’ve seen so far.  Coupons are always good, right?

Anyway, I like this as a general trend.  The big problem I see, however, is the heavy insistence on Facebook as the medium of choice.  I get that it’s pretty much the default for everybody wanting to do anything in any way with anybody these days, but that still means that the whole system is reliant on a single service that is completely outside the control of the app developers.  Now, I really don’t think Facebook is going anywhere any time soon(and whether or not that’s a good thing is up to every person to decide for themselves), but this strikes me as limiting. I would prefer to have some degree of linked networking inherent in the Kobo service that just piggybacked on existing Facebook features where applicable.  This would have the added benefit of making it easier, one would assume at least, to integrate the actual Kobo eReader along with any other apps all into a cohesive system.

Depending on how things go in the current Apple vs Amazon/Barnes & Noble/Anybody who sells eBooks situation in the near future, I can definitely see something similar popping up on the Kindle and Kindle apps as well as the Nook line.  If there’s anything that the gaming community has learned over the years, it’s that people love to be able to look at tangible progress and compare notes on who has achieved what and when.  I could honestly see this being used as a teaching tool under the right circumstances.  Let’s hope it takes off in some form.

Kindle Update Adds Real Page Numbers and More

It appears that Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has been doing some customer polling, or at least watching their forums, and came up with a few new features for an upcoming Kindle software update as a result.  While this has not rolled out to the public as an official release just yet, they are offering an Early Preview of the update for manual download through the website at this page.  I’ve got to admit, this addresses a few long standing concerns.

Real Page Numbers

Foremost among user complaints about the Kindle has often been the progress indicator.  Hard to share a passage you like with friends and family when you can’t just suggest that they turn to a specific page in their own copy, right?  Well, now Amazon is adding in corresponding page numbering between print and digital copies of their library, beginning with the top 100 most popular books that offer both formats and moving on from there.

Public Notes

You know how you can annotate and highlight things in your favorite Kindle books?  Well, now you’ll be able to share those markups with anybody who’s interested.  It opens up new avenues of communication for friends, families, reading clubs, authors, and pretty much anybody who spends time seriously thinking about their reading.  Note that this is an optional feature that is not turned on by default, so there is no danger of sharing inadvertently as far as I can tell (if that’s a concern for you).

Post-Reading Interview(aka “Before You Go…”)

Many people have realized the flaw of the user rating system on Amazon and many other sites.  Often users will only make the effort to comment if the book was particularly bad or amazingly good.  Even then, if you can’t get to it right away while it’s fresh in your mind, what’s the point?  Now, when you finish your book you will be given a chance to rate the book, share a note on the book (via the Facebook and such),and get some recommendations on things to read both based on the author you just read and from a selection of more general personalized recommendations.  It’s fairly unobtrusive and shouldn’t negatively affect your reading experience, while at the same time having the chance to improve the reliability of the rating system on the Kindle store.

New Periodical Layout

Magazines and Newspapers are becoming a bigger and bigger thing in the eReader world.  The new layout makes them that much easier to browse.  There’s not much more to say about it than that it makes more sense this way and seems to speed up browsing magazines for the Kindle considerably.

Lots of fun new stuff to play with in this Kindle software update.  Nothing game changing, necessarily, just a bunch of stuff that users have been asking for.  It’s nice to see that Amazon’s still interested in getting the Kindle updates going out even when there aren’t any major problems needing to be addressed in the software.  I’m going to play around with it a bit more and post some impressions in the near future if I get a chance.  Let me know how it’s working for you.

Happy Birthday Jules Verne!

Jules VerneJules Verne was one of the first authors to venture into the Science Fiction genre during the mid to late nineteenth century.  He wrote about underwater, space and air travel years before their time.  Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and Around the World in Eighty Days are all available for free on your Kindle or Kindle DX.

Twenty Thousand Leagues features a submarine called Nautilus that was built to look like a fish.  Smart idea because this way warships are fooled into thinking it is a real fish.  The top fin of the submarine was used to destroy the ships.

As modern readers, some reviewers said that Twenty Thousand Leagues was really entertaining and a surprisingly good depiction of a modern invention.

Around the World in Eighty Days is full of adventure and other crazy shenanigans.  Phileas Fogg and his companion, Passepartout, set off with limited funds to make it around the world in eighty days.  By completing the task, they would win a large wager.  Along the way, they nearly get arrested, get attacked by Indians, and nearly lose each other through missed connections to various part of the journey.  It is crazy what lengths they have to go through to make each leg of the journey.  We have it easy with cars and airplanes!

Verne uses A Journey to the Centre of the Earth to education readers on life in ancient times such as the Ice Age and when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth.  This book kind of reminds me of the show “Land of the Lost”, where a father and his two kids fall through a crack in the road, and end up in the dinosaur age.  A Journey features Professor von Hardwigg, his nephew Harry, and their guide, Hans.  The professor believe that there were tubes in volcanoes that lead to the center of the Earth.  They come across many geological artifacts and other unexpected adventures.  This book is said to be the most outdated of all of Verne’s books, but it still has some merit in terms of how it looks at the earlier times.

The Collected Works of Jules Verne consists of 36 novels and short stories written by the author, including the three that I just mentioned.  This is a great deal, and the reviews are all really good.  I like that you can have all of Verne’s works in one place.

For a little more background on Jules Verne’s life, take a look at my Kindle Screensaver Blog post.

Apple Issues Kindle an Ultimatum

Since pretty much the start of the Kindle platform, it’s been all about the availability.  Sure, you can get yourself a physical Kindle and it’s amazing, but part of the convenience is knowing that whether you’re at work and have a free moment at the PC or on the subway with nothing but your iPhone, you can pull up your book and pick up right where you left off.  It’s always nicer to read on your Kindle, but the apps are what makes the eBook stand out for many people as a worthwhile purchase.

Unfortunately, and whether that is unfortunate for Amazon or for iOS users remains to be seen, Apple has decided that eReading apps are far too popular for them not to take a cut if they can manage it.  Sony’s Reader app was just denied a place in the App store and others dealers, including Amazon, will have until March 31st to bring themselves into line with the newly enforced policy related to that denial.  Namely, users are no longer going to be allowed to view purchased material from outside sources unless that same material is available for purchase directly through the app that would be used to view it.  Which means, basically, that Apple is wanting a 30% cut of all eBook sales.

What happens next is still up in the air, but the ball is in Amazon’s court, so to speak.  It’s possible that we could see them do nothing.  Judging entirely by the few iPad users I know, many would be outraged by the removal of the Kindle app and bought it for very little besides its capability as a reading device.  Frankly, I gather that iBooks has proven disappointing.

It’s also entirely possible that Amazon could cave in and put a convenient purchase option in their Apps, with a markup for the convenience.  I don’t know how that would square exactly with the Apple rules in the long run, but at least there would be some way to buy besides the Amazon website’s Kindle Store.  Maybe some people would even use it, not knowing better or because it’s quicker than flipping over to a web browser.

The one thing I absolutely cannot see happening is Amazon just letting Apple take a 30% cut out of existing purchase prices.  One of their biggest pushes in the last year has been to attract new authors interested in publishing cheap eBooks directly through the site.  The big push is the 70% royalty option, of course.  Does anybody really believe that Amazon is willing to give up their cut in its entirety?  Or that the attraction for authors would be nearly as great if they knew that they would only be getting 49% instead of their supposed 70% on any iOS purchase(($1 *.7)*.7=$0.49)?  I don’t.

When you sum all this up, it seems like the only people that Apple can hope to hurt with this move will be their own customers.  I get that they feel like they deserve money since it’s their device being used, but it’s a bit late to start pulling that.  Call having the app a value adding opportunity for your hardware sales and leave it at that.  The Kindle vs iPad comparisons and debates are only fun when they both do the same job still!

Twilight Series for Kindle: Featuring New Moon

new moonNew Moon is the second book in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga.  It is a really dark book, which makes it’s title, New Moon, very appropriate.  It is $8.99 on the Kindle and Kindle DX.

New Moon is a bit Romeo and Juliet-esque because it involves similar circumstances and depression.  Bella celebrates her 18th birthday with Edward and his family.  She ends up cutting herself to the point of bleeding and, as vampires, the Cullen family is overwhelmed with the desire to eat her.  When they realize how much of a danger they are to Bella, they decide to move away.

After Edward moves away, Bella suffers from a deep depression and seeks solace from Jacob Black.  He and his tribe are werewolves.  They protect Bella from various threats and revenge attacks.  A bit of miscommunication becomes a matter of life or death for Edward, but will Bella save him in time?

Sometimes I am shocked at the dark nature of young adult novels, but in a sense they do address major issues that teenagers today have to deal with.  That includes depression and struggles relating to romantic relationships.

New Moon didn’t get as good of reviews as it’s predecessor, Twilight, but here are a few I thought were interesting.  Many complain about what a sap and over the top Bella is, but in a sense this is what teenagers can relate to.

Night Wind

I’m glad that there is a popular Native American character and that he is a potential love interest for the main character instead of just in the background. I’m not glad that Jacob’s character is so devoted to someone who repeatedly hurts him (Bella even admits that she’s being selfish by wanting Jacob with her even though she doesn’t return his romantic feelings). This book isn’t for me, but I’m glad other people have enjoyed it. If you enjoy a good love triangle, then you’ll like this book. If you find such drama annoying, then you’ll hate it. Again, it just depends on what you’re looking for.”

From the Heart

“If Stephanie Meyer played on our sympathies by showing us a weak Bella in Twilight, I think she tried to compensate by breaking her out of that mold in New Moon. All of a sudden she starts acting out, being reckless with her motorcycle and cliff-diving. Likewise, we don’t see much of Edward but learn much more about Jacob. Makes me wonder if she felt bad for leaving us in the dark about him in the first book.”

Jamie Wasserman “jamie23”

“kay, so this is a lot of people’s least favorite in the series. The pacing in the book is dreadfully slow. Bella spends a lot of time wallowing and doing harmful things. But it resonates true and it makes the ending in Italy that much more exciting. Finally, Edward and Bella are together for all about 5 minutes. It’s a wonderful prelude to book 3.”

Considering the Future of Kindle Publishing

We can take it for granted today that the future of book publication revolves around the eBook.  Yes, I will acknowledge that it is unlikely to ever be the sole medium available to readers, but I would definitely say that it will be increasingly seen as the standard from here on out.  This was obvious even before Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) announced their recent comparison of paperback and Kindle book sales.  So, where does this leave the publishing industry?

In many ways instances, new authors had come to see the big publishing houses as unapproachable.  They had their big names that they were banking on and the chances of being the one new author in a hundred, or a thousand, to get a positive response was daunting.  People have said that more authors are springing up than ever before.  I don’t buy that.  People write and it’s only now that it’s been possible for even hobbyists to get their work out there.  That is what the move to digital book platforms like Amazon’s means for writers.  A chance to survive, or fail, on your own merits without the need of attracting a patron.  At least in theory.  You’re going from a traditional payment play to some form of micro-payment system where every person with a Kindle is a potential backer of your work.  Sure you lose security in the process, but you’d have only had that if you managed to break in in the first place.

It’s an interesting new environment that emphasizes different values than we might expect.  The downside of self-publishing, no matter how easy the actual process of book creation is, is self-promotion.  Not much of a chance that you’re going to be the next big thing if you can’t let people know that you wrote a book, that your book is about something they might be interested in, and, at a slightly later stage, that there are people who have read your book and enjoyed it. Word of mouth is useful, of course, but really this seems to turn writers into public figures to an unprecedented degree and would seem to cause success or failure to rest on the endurance and adaptability of the author rather than the strength of the work they have produced.

I’m going to admit that when I started writing this, I was taking a negative view on that.  It seems to cheapen the experience and draw value away from what I really believe to be the only thing that should matter when you’re deciding what to read: the Book.  But really, what’s new there?  The only difference now is that readers really have a chance to vote with their wallets.

If you have a nearly unlimited field of books to choose from, it can’t be worse than an industry that seems to have basically coasted along on a couple dozen big names for as long as anybody can remember, can it?  Yes, we’ll lose some great authors at the side of the road because they didn’t have the drive, personality, time, skills, or whatever, to be their own publicists, but there’s not much doubt in my mind that we’ve been losing far more than that before now than ever will be the case again.  So…gonna go with the Kindle platform and its attached self-publishing options as being a good thing in my opinion. The draw away from the big publishing houses should help more than it hurts, I hope.

Any thoughts from you guys?

Is the Kindle a Money Maker for Amazon?

Ever since Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) released their 2010 4th Quarter Financial Report on Thursday, I’ve been seeing a lot of speculation on the profitability of the Kindle eReader itself.  Mainly, I think, owing to the language of the report itself, which is definitely open to closer examination.

The language used avoids commenting on the success or failure of the device itself beyond reiterating the previous announcement that the Kindle has sold millions of units this quarter.  Nothing really to object to there, just no real useful information.  There is the implied connection between their sales of the third generation Kindle and the eBook pushing past paperbacks in sales numbers in the declaration that “after selling millions of third-generation Kindles with the new Pearl e-ink display during the quarter, Kindle books have now overtaken paperback books as the most popular format on Amazon.com”, but we all know that correlation does not necessarily imply causation.

We know that the Kindle units are selling pretty impressively and that Kindle books are doing the same, but only Amazon has solid information on whether the Kindle device is really responsible for the prosperity of the Kindle platform as a whole.  When you can access your purchases on pretty much any device with a screen you might own, as in this case, there is some question as to whether or not a single purpose device like the Kindle can have a huge impact in the eyes of many.

A few even take their speculation a step further and claim that due to discrepancies between the reported increase in net sales(up 11%) and a decrease in projected profit(down 2%), there is reason to believe that Amazon is taking a loss on every Kindle unit sold.  Now, I’m not a financial guy at all.  I am not going to claim to be, so I can’t directly address this argument.  What I can do is look at it coupled with the language that I mentioned before and draw some potential conclusions.

Again, don’t trust my numbers or anything about them.  I’m drawing more from people making a big deal about them than I am making use of any primary information.  That said, if it is true that profits slightly lessened in spite of sales numbers on Amazon’s eBook distribution system hitting new and impressive milestones, it is definitely possible that there is some degree of subsidization of Kindles going on.  The implication that goes along with that, however, is that the Kindle device is a primary, or more likely the primary, source of users for the Platform as a whole.

Can we assume that we’re actually getting the hardware for less than it’s worth?  Sure, nothing’s stopping you.  Amazon is unlikely to ever release hard numbers on the topic anyway.  If they are, though, then I think that they know something we can’t be sure of.  Namely, that the Kindle apps don’t play quite as large a part in the success of the venture as many people like to think.  Then again, maybe the differences in the numbers have nothing to do with the Kindle and Amazon is just expecting somewhat lower than usual dishwasher sales this quarter.  Again, I’m just a layman trying to apply my own reasoning to the situation and even then I don’t know what side I come down on, but it’s interesting to consider.

Kindle 4 Thoughts & Hopes

Color eReaders are getting more and more press as time goes on.  Now that we have the Hanvon release just months away, there’s not really much room left to say that non-LCD color displays aren’t ready for release into the market yet.  As such, it’s pretty reasonable to expect that 2011 will see the release of a new Kindle.  Call it the Kindle Color, Kindle 4, or whatever you want…we already had a number of excellent ideas from readers about that in another post…it’s all but to be taken for granted at this point.  What will we be getting along with it though?

Here are the major things I’m hoping to see when the time comes:

6″ Display w/ Higher Resolution

Yes, I know some people are clamoring for an increase in screen size and this isn’t really any different from what we have now.  To me, the screen is the right size already, we just need better resolution.  Also, it helps keep the Kindle distinct from your average 7″ Tablet, which I can’t help but feel is important.  eReaders have got to continue to stay their own category if we’re going to avoid major compromise in quality in favor of more tablet/phone type features.

More User Customization

User-defined nested folders, personalized screen savers, more sorting options, an improves search function, basically anything that will make the process of using the Kindle move faster and more pleasantly so I can get back to reading on it.

EPUB Support

I know, fat chance, but we can dream, right?  It would save some people, myself included, loads of trouble on eBook conversion and it would make library usage finally possible.

Optional Color and/or Media Integration

One of the things that worries me about the new release is the potential for intrusive advertising.  I’ve already said that I think WOWIO does a pretty great job of avoiding that, but they’re not the only ones out there.  Definitely wanting to avoid talking ads, horribly blatant product placement mid-text, and other such distracting things.  A setting to switch things to the classic Kindle monochrome would be great, just in case.

Restored Memory Card Slot

Much as this doesn’t come up for me personally, I used to work for a company that was trying to use Kindles to help visually impaired kids get their reading done using Text to Speech and Audiobooks.  It worked pretty well, but you could only have so many Audiobooks at a time.  What if I wanted to load a whole school year’s worth of audio books on for my kid or something?  I feel like that should be an option.  Which leads into the next point…

Improved Audio Controls

Let’s face it, what we have now is a little sparse.  I’d like to see some improvements, perhaps even when it comes to song selection while reading?

That’s all I’ve got for the moment.  Some of these are long shots, others might be already in the works for all I know.  There’s some good discussion going on over in the Kindle web forum about exactly this topic.  Check it out and chime in with your opinions, if you have any.  The way I figure it, the more input Amazon gets on what its customers want, the better the product will be in the end.

Kindle Applications

iPhone Kindle Application

Kindle for iPhone or iPod touch gives you about all of the features you can get on a regular Kindle or Kindle DX.  You can download any of the books from the Kindle Store, sync to pages and adjust the font.  Kindle for iPhone or iPod touch uses a backlit screen so you can read your book in the dark if you want to.  The home screen allows you to sort your books by recently added, author, or title.

Additional features include the ability to download the book in the background for IOS 4.0 devices, read free and out of copyright books from Project Gutenberg and other similar sources.  For a more comprehensive list of features go check out the Kindle for iPhone page on Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).

Software requirement: IOS 3.0

To install: Search for Kindle for iPhone in the iTunes App Store on your computer or on your iPhone or iPod touch.  Get the latest version: 2.5.1.

Windows PC Kindle Application

The Windows PC Kindle Application allows you to read your Kindle books on your computer.  It includes full screen color and brightness adjustments, the ability to sync annotations and last page read, and you can search for all books available in the Kindle Store.

Requirements for the Windows PC Kindle Application:

Windows XP Service Pack 2, Vista and 7.

At Least 128 MB of RAM

Screen Resolution of 800 by 600 or greater

500MHz Intel or AMD processor or faster

100MB of disk space

Most PC’s nowadays fill these requirements easily.

To install: Click “Download Now” on the Kindle for PC product page and the installation should begin automatically.  If it doesn’t, Amazon provides you with a page that gives you a link to try installing it again.

Mac Kindle Application

Kindle for MacKindle for the Mac does has most of the same features as Kindle for PC except that the Kindle for the Mac just allows font adjustments.

Requirements for Kindle Mac Application:

A Mac with a 500MHz Intel processor or faster

512 MB of RAM

Leopard or Snow Leopard OS

800 by 600 or greater screen resolution

100MB of Disk Space

To install: You can install directly from the Kindle Mac Application Product Page, or you can install from the Mac App Store.

Blackberry Kindle Application

Kindle for BlackberryThe Blackberry Kindle Application is available for:

Bold 9000 and 9700

Curve 8520 and 8900

Storm 9530 and 9550

Tour 9639

Torch 9800

To install: Sign into your Amazon account and send an email to your Blackberry or download directly from your browser at “amazon.com/kindlebb”.

This is the only app that is available to just U.S. customers.

iPad Kindle Application

The Kindle for iPad Application is the same as the application for the iPhone, but on a larger device.  It also includes Kindle Audio and Video.

Software requirements: iPhone/iPad 3.2 OS software update.

To install: Download Kindle for iPad from the iPad App Store.

Android Kindle Application

Kindle for Android users can share reading progress, read in landscape or portrait mode, zoom in with a double tap and read over 100 magazines and newspapers in addition to the 810,000 books in the Kindle Store.

Software Requirements: Android 1.6 or greater

To install: Search for “kindle” in the Android Market or use your phone’s sensor to capture the Kindle for Android Application barcode on the product page.

Windows Phone 7 Kindle Application

Windows Phone 7The Windows Phone 7 Kindle application has 5 different font sizes and 3 background colors to choose from. You can also email a link to a book you are currently reading or one from your library to a friend.

To install: Download the Windows Phone 7 Kindle application from the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace.

Twilight Series for Kindle: Featuring Twilight

Twilight SeriesI’m sure many of you are familiar with the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer that has been a huge book and movie box office success. You can get the whole Twilight saga on your Kindle or Kindle DX for $36.99. This is a great deal considering individual Kindle Bestsellers usually run about $9.99 or up each.

The first book in the Twilight series: Twilight, introduces Bella Swan, who moves from Arizona to Washington State. There, she falls in love with Edward Cullen, a vampire. After showing up out of nowhere to save Bella from getting hit by a bus, Bella and Edward form a deep bond. Jacob Black, a Native American who gains the powers to morph into a wolf, competes with Edward for Bella’s love. He only had a minor role in Twilight, but takes on a much larger one in the later books in the series.

Meyer on Jacob’s character:

“Jacob was my first experience with a character taking over—a minor character developing such roundness and life that I couldn’t keep him locked inside a tiny role….From the very beginning, even when Jacob only appeared in chapter six of Twilight, he was so alive. I liked him. More than I should for such a small part

The Twilight series has captured the attention of teenagers and adults alike, and has rivaled the success of Harry Potter. Vampires have been a really popular theme in recent years due to the success of the Twilight series. The romance element, particularly the love triangle going on between Bella, Edward and Jacob, adds another twist that readers of many ages can relate to.

A few helpful reviews about the series as a whole:

H.K. Sidhu “reading goddess”

“The story arc draws you in and captures you to the point where you can not put the books down wanting to know what is going to happen next and whether Bella and Edward make it together as a couple and to see how they get through all the hurtles that are thrown their way by the antagonists within the story (who by the way are so interesting on their own that you want to know more about them and the world of Stephanie Meyer’s vampires and their evolution). Suffice it to say, by the time I finished reading this series I felt bereft that there was no more books and that the series and come to its end…”

K. Foster “K. Foster, M. Msc” provides a good list of the themes in the series:

“Besides the obvious romantic theme in this series there are many other messages. Such as: acceptance of others, family relationships, getting over prejudices, spirituality, and following your dream.”

John

“The story of Edward and Bella is the story of true love. a story I can relate to… she writes of the love they have for one another in such a way that it grabs you by the hand as she takes you for a walk thru Forks, WA and the humor, jealously, anger, heartbreak, and extreme love of two young kids looking for what all people around the world are looking for…”

So, question: Are you Team Edward, or Team Jacob?

Hanvon Color eInk Reader Revealed

One of the things that I failed to mention in my previous post on CES Goodies was the announcement and demonstration of the first ever Color E Ink eReader.  I’d like to say that this is the beginning of a trend that will eventually lead to a Kindle with color of some sort, but there are concerns to be addressed yet.  Here’s where things stand so far.

Hanvon, a company primarily focused on handwriting recognition and OCR software, known in the eReader marketplace for their WISEreader line of eReading devices, had a demo model for their new 9.7″ color eReader.  There are any number of videos of it floating around the net.  This new eReader is expected to be released in May to a Chinese audience at around $500.  For what is effectively a first generation device, not a bad price, I suppose.

The device will have a resolution of 1200×1600, the usual E Ink lack of constant screen refresh (this being what makes the battery life so much better than your typical screen options), and a resistive touchscreen capable of handling handwritten annotation and sketching.  On paper, looks pretty good, right? The problems that I see at this point are two-fold.

First, the screen is badly washed out compared to what users will be accustomed to.  The lack of back lighting makes this somewhat inevitable, of course, but it’s more of an impediment to new users than it is a selling point right now.  It could just be that Hanvon was not able to display the device to show off its best side, but you almost get the impression that the color will only be noticeable either up close or under truly bright light.

The second problem is the refresh rate.  I know I’ve been the first to tell people that complaining about that on an eReader is silly, but this seems to take it a little far.  Average page turn time comes in noticeably over 2 seconds for every push of the button, including navigating the simple black and white menu.  I do not get the impression that this is a product of the screen, from what I’ve been able to find, but rather a product of the GPU that Hanvon chose to go with for this model. I get that it’s a big screen and they’re trying to conserve as much battery life as possible and all that, but consumers have just started getting used to E Ink screens in their products now that the refresh rate is comparable to a page turn in a book.  Nobody really wants to go back this far.

Basically, I don’t see this one being competition for even the existing Kindle devices, and I can kinda see where Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) is coming from in not jumping on the color bandwagon the second a viable screen comes along. Sure, I’d love to be able to get color on a Kindle, or whatever they decide to call the new one when it comes out, but quality should take precedence over speeding to the release date. This will only be cool if it’s done right.