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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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Good Resources for Free and Discounted Kindle Books

If you’re vigilant about tracking the daily Kindle news, you will find a bunch of good books for free or discounted prices.  They don’t stay discounted for very long, so you have to act fast.

Bookmark Amazon.com’s reader forums.  Overall, these are good resources for anything Kindle related.  Kindle users are the best judges of what works best and what doesn’t.  But, for discounted and free books, check out the forum titled: Discounted / Price Dropped Kindle eBooks.  Put that title in the search box since there’s no way to directly link to the forum itself.  There’s also a Free Kindle book forum that is worth checking as well.  Even if you don’t find a book you like, keep checking.  This forum is updated often.

Don’t forget to check the Top 100 Free Kindle bestsellers list.  A lot of these books are cheesy romance novels or self help books.  Occasionally though, you’ll find a bestseller, or other good book to try out.  About half of the books on my Kindle came from this list.  I was able to discover new favorite authors by finding their books here.  The list also includes Kindle games and active content.

Don’t forget the new Kindle Daily Deals going on.  They include major discounts on bestselling books.  There are some bestsellers that I can’t afford the full price for.  Some are as much as $15!  So, I’ve been keeping track of the Daily Deals to see if they show up there.  One of the most notable ones to show up on the Daily Deals was The Lincoln Lawyer, by Michael Connelly.

Through the forums, I found a great website that provides alerts when prices are dropped on a book.  It is called eReaderIQ.com.   The website lets you track Kindle price drops, search for your favorite books, view the free Kindle book list, and see what books have been recently converted to Kindle.  The recently converted book option is quite handy.  There are a bunch of other discounted Kindle book websites.  You’ll find them recommended by readers on the forums, and pretty much anywhere there are discussions regarding the e-reader and e-books.

Aside from all of the resources here, you can check out the Amazon Kindle Twitter and Facebook page for more news and discount sale information.  The Facebook page has been an excellent resource for both authors and readers alike.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kindle Editions w/ Multimedia: A Failed Experiment?

While eBook sales have been expanding across the board and the Kindle is flourishing with ever-increasing sales each year, very little has been heard about the Kindle Edition eBook / A/V hybrid that was once touted as a potential future for the eBook.  The explanations for this failure to thrive is fairly simple are understand, but do they mean that the format is dead?

Probably the main failing, in my eyes, was the lack of logical transition for the customer.  Books are familiar territory for most people.  Audio and video are separate concerns.  The only place that the average eBook customer is likely to encounter a combination of the two is while browsing the internet.  When the best comparison that a reader can draw is to something they already encounter for free on a daily basis, it would take some fairly strong marketing to increase the perceived value.

It didn’t help anything that the nature of the integration made it impossible to access on the Kindle eReader itself.  The whole platform, while offering a reading experience to anybody with a screen and internet access, is pretty much built around the eReader.  Having content that cannot be accessed through this doesn’t do as much good as one would prefer.

On top of that, you have no Android app access, meaning that the only customers who even have the option of reading their purchases away from the PC are Apple iOS users.  Soon even they won’t be a valid audience.  Given recent issues with the Apple App Store guideline enforcement, Amazon is clearly prodding iOS users in the direction of the new Kindle Cloud Reader which does not yet (and seems unlikely in the near future to) support A/V integration.

Price must also be considered a factor.  While it is true that the integration of extra-textual layers brings some added value to a book, it seems difficult to justify the additional cost for many of the available texts.  The experience is often similar to the special features on a DVD.  It might be worth a small about more than simply the main experience, but not enough to justify a noticeable jump in price.  Of course, without that price you have added investment beyond the core book that is not being compensated for.  A bit of a dilemma.

Does this mean the end of the project?  While it is clear that priorities have to be elsewhere right this minute, I can see this being something Amazon comes back to in the future.  The upcoming Kindle Tablet will have the hardware necessary to allow this sort of integration again and will hopefully be accessible to far more users, in terms of price, than the iPad was at launch.  Assuming that Amazon does not intend to break the Kindle completely away from the app marketplace in favor of browser-based applications, this would also finally result in a working Kindle for Android A/V presence which would further increase the value of the product line.  For now, not really a major factor in the Kindle‘s success.

What To Consider About A Kindle For College

It’s that time of year again and students new and old are heading back to college for the fall.  Now, more than ever, having an eReader just makes sense for anybody serious about their education.  That said, with so many options on the market it can be hard to choose.  Kindle or Nook?  eReader or Tablet?  Skip it all and just get a laptop, since there are eReading apps anyway?  When trying to decide, there are a few factors that are really important.

First, determine what your eBook needs will be.  Students new to college can expect significant introductory coursework.  This often means older, more widely read works of literature and basic textbooks.  Generally this means extended reading of the literature and textbooks only pulled out to work through assignments.  For that combination, I recommend an eReader like the Kindle or Nook combined with a PC app for textbook reading (They’re only going to be opened for a few minutes at a time anyway).  As always, check the list of required texts to make sure this is feasible before buying.  This combination has the added advantage of paying for itself in savings very quickly since a Kindle will only cost you $114 and many commonly used books can be found for free.

In terms of more advanced students, the individual needs will determine whether use of an eReader is feasible.  Many technical texts require both extended study and full color diagrams to make sense.  The current monochrome limitations of the Kindle would make it less than useful for this.  If the program in question requires extensive illustrated textbook reference, you probably don’t need one.  If you will be spending much time using academic text references like JSTOR, or focusing on purely text-based studies, the Kindle makes perfect sense.

Assuming you have an idea what kind of product you need, the next step is choosing the particular model.  Availability is not really a concern with the Amazon Kindle always including free shipping and the Barnes & Noble Nook available in all of their local stores and many of the college book stores they service.  For the most part, this is a matter of personal preference.  Both devices accomplish everything you would expect from a reading device and neither has a clear advantage over the other.  For a hands-on comparison, many Best Buy stores will have both devices side by side.

I do not recommend using nothing but a laptop PC if the goal is to focus on eBooks.  Extended reading on LCD screens can be uncomfortable at best, and the potential for distraction is far higher than on an eReader.

Similarly, there are no circumstances under which I would consider an iPad a valid substitute for either a laptop or an eReader.  In terms of reading, they fall short due to the short battery life and a back-lit display that can be hard on the eyes during long study sessions.  In classes, the potential for distraction is far higher than on something like a Kindle, which has led to many instructors being uncomfortable even having the devices present in the classroom.  They also certainly do not manage to work as well as a laptop for composition or presentation preparation.  Students will be forced to perform necessary tasks elsewhere.

Whatever the needs, make sure to keep in mind both the Kindle eText rental service and public domain titles available through the Kindle Store (or just Project Gutenberg) for free.  Making use of eBooks will save you money, if you are careful, even accounting for the costs of the reading device.

Don’t Miss the Kindle Daily Deal

Amazon revealed a new and really cool feature today: The Kindle Daily Deal.  They will put up bestselling Kindle books for a really big discount.

It started August 25 with Water for Elephants.  Water for Elephants is by bestselling author Sara Gruen, and is told from the perspective of a former circus worker.  I read it a couple of years ago, and thought it was great, but heartbreaking.  It was made into a movie that hit theaters earlier this summer.

It is normally around $6, but with the discount it is over half off.

This is a really good strategy, especially with the high prices on the bestsellers.

So, keep a close eye out everyday.  Who knows, they may have a book you’ve been dying to read.  Follow the deals on Facebook, Twitter, and on the website: www.amazon.com/kindledailydeal

Kobo To Open HTML5 eReading App Similar To Kindle Cloud Reader

Fascinated as we are by the platform here, Kindle users are far from the only group to be inconvenienced by Apple’s in-app purchasing guideline enforcement.  Apple built the popularity of their iPads on the availability and functionality of apps being developed by other parties, only to change their minds once an ownership base was established.  Certainly totally within their rights to do, but more than a little unpleasant for both the app developers and users who are accustomed to better treatment.  Amazon has retaliated by releasing the Kindle Cloud Reader, which completely bypasses the iPad’s App Store, and they aren’t the only ones looking at the options.

Kobo, the leading international Kindle competition, has announced plans to follow in Amazon’s footsteps with an HTML5 Reading app of their own.  When it is complete, users should be able to read their Kobo purchases on any device with a web browser, effectively bypassing Apple’s restrictions.  You should even be able to save the app to your iOS device Home page for seamless integration.  As with the Kindle Cloud Reader, users will be able to sync their collections for offline browsing, which addresses the largest possible shortcoming of a browser-based solution to the problem.

The only major problem with apps like these is the loss of Apple App Store exposure.  To effectively bypass Apple’s fees it is important to already have a substantial user base, since random discovery is far less likely.  Existing Kobo customers will have little problem, and will likely welcome the chance to make use of the store again without the price increases that would have been necessary to profitably continue operation within Apple’s guidelines.  New users will almost certainly be harder to come by.  We can expect to see continued support for the Kobo iOS app as a result, for exposure’s sake if nothing else.

This is not the only obstacle that Kobo has had to face recently.  With the end of Borders, their US distribution partner, exposure will be harder to come by in the current largest eBook market.  Although they remained separate companies, Borders was directly linked to the Kobo eReader in the minds of consumers for having been the first ones to bring to to the US.  Regaining that kind of presence will be a slow process.

Outside the US, the Kobo Store is reported to have perhaps the best selection of eBooks currently available.  Due to ongoing licensing right disputes, the Kindle Store is not yet always able to consistently provide the same level of service that Kobo has managed to over such a large number of markets.  The release of this HTML5 app should do them a great deal of good in expanding their lead, given the number of Tablet PCs hitting the market recently.  This may allow readers to enjoy the service even in countries where localized selections are not currently available and shipping the Kobo eReader itself is problematic.

We can expect the official release of the new Kobo app later this year.

Sony Dumps Old Readers For Rumored New Generation

Fans of the Sony Reader line, the earliest and at one time best eReaders brought to market in the US, may be somewhat disappointed to head that the current generation of Readers has been cut in its entirety.  While they have not been replaced at the Sony online store, all are listed as out of stock and there is a clearance sale going on for the few remaining accessories they have around. Admittedly this most recent Sony eReaders have failed to keep up with more functional competition like the Kindle and Nook, but an abrupt withdrawal from the market like this was unexpected.

The last few Sony eReaders have been comparatively basic models for the asking price.  The PRS-350, otherwise known as the Reader Pocket Edition, boasted a smaller screen (just 5″), shorter battery life, no wireless functionality, and a price $65 higher than the current least expensive Kindle model.  The more impressive Reader, the Daily Edition, actually managed to improve on the Kindle in a few small ways, but still suffered from shorter battery life and a price nearly three times as much as the basic Kindle.  Tie this together with an unimpressive associated store and little in the way of media promotion for the eBooks themselves and it isn’t hard to see why popularity has seemed to taper off.  Still, in large part due to the ability of the Sony Reader line to participate in library eBook lending thanks to its EPUB support, there have been occasional resurgences in interest in these as valid Kindle competition.

What we can look forward to now, hopefully, is a more current and modestly priced Sony Reader.  While there has not been any official word on the future of the product lines, unofficial comments from Sony executives have indicated that a new set of eReaders is in the works, with equivalents intended for the old PRS-350 and PRS-650 models.  Aside from the fact that they will finally have 802.11n WiFi capability and will continue to have touchscreen interfaces, nothing is known.  There is a good chance that we will at least hear announcements by the end of this year.

It would be great to see a Sony Reader able to directly compete with Amazon’s Kindle after all these years.  Their older models went a long way toward setting expectations for customers new to the field.  Sony clearly has at least a pretty good idea how to make a really useful eReading product, so anything that can come in under $150 without sacrificing functionality would gain them some traction.  The same would be true of a higher priced option with color E INK.  If they can come up with an improved store, or make a deal with an alternate eBook vendor, so much the better.

As tight-lipped as the company has been about their plans, we have only speculation, “leaks”, and an FCC filing to go off of for the moment.  With luck, they won’t wait too long to get something back in the stores.

If you are a Sony fan, you can still find the PRS-350 refurbished in stock at the Sony online store for just $152.99 as of the writing of this article.

MS Reader Just Couldn’t Compete With Amazon’s Kindle Anymore

When it comes to deciding who had the biggest impact in the earliest days of eReading, perhaps the only real answer is Microsoft.  Long before the Kindle, or even the first Sony Reader, you could pick up many of your favorite titles and read them on whatever computer or PDA you happened to have handy.  It wasn’t perfect, but it started something big.

Now, after over a decade of usefulness, both the MS Reader application and its associated file format (.lit) are being retired.  According to a notice posted without fanfare on the Microsoft support page, the last day that .lit eBooks will be available anywhere will be November 8, 2011.  The program itself will be usable through August 30, 2012, after which the whole project will be permanently retired.  While it has been a fairly long time since Microsoft was anything resembling a big name in eReading, it’s still almost shocking to see them go.

Yes, you could get electronic books before the year 2000.  I recall several public domain titles floating around my computers as far back as the early 90′s.  The .lit format broke people away from the generic document format or the restrictive PDF and provided a way to just read books.  Reflowable type, bookmarking, text searches, dictionary integration, and more made up a selection of features that improved the whole experience and went on to become the basis for everything that came after.

After the Kindle came around, the game changed significantly.  Microsoft didn’t ever really get the kind of widespread adoption that they needed to compete with such a huge, centralized platform, nor did they offer anything in the way of dedicated reading devices.  While the latter is certainly not essential for general reading, it makes a big difference for the most avid readers.  Combine that with the vastly superior selection of Kindle Edition eBooks and there was no real way to keep up.

While it will be sad to see this old, reliable system fade away, I think it is safe to say that superior alternate options abound and people should not generally be terribly inconvenienced by the announcement.  Should you have an existing library of purchased DRM-enabled .lit books laying around that you want to hold onto, you still have a couple options.

Obviously, you can just hang onto your copy of MS Reader.  They aren’t going to show up and start deleting things from your computer, nor are the countless archived copies around the internet going to disappear.  If you are interested in moving entirely to a new platform, however, there’s no point in cluttering up your system with multiple reading applications.

A simple internet search will find programs available to strip the DRM from your .lit files, provided you are indeed the legal owner (I recommend looking into “ConvertLIT).  They are simple to use, tend to be quite fast, and the product will be simple to plug into Calibre for conversion into MOBI or EPUB format.  Just because you jumped on the eReading trend early doesn’t mean you should be held back by the death of a format.

Kindle Tablet Approaches, Amazon Prepares With Expanded Video Streaming

Amazon has just announced a large increase in the number of titles available through their Instant Video service, giving customers access to over 100,000 Movies and TV Shows.  Amazon Prime members can access over 9,000 of those selections at no extra cost beyond their existing membership fees.  While this is of course a good move in general, it works even better with the knowledge of a video-focused Kindle Tablet right around the corner.

There is some  fairly good evidence to support the theory that Amazon is getting ready to try to do with video what they already accomplished in eBooks with the Kindle.  Even if you leave aside the rumors of the Kindle ‘Hollywood’ Tablet, supposedly being produced for late 2011/early 2012 with lots of processing power and a larger screen than most tablets, the support structure is getting pretty large.  Already you can access Amazon Instant Video via many HDTVs, set-top boxes, BluRay players, TiVos, and more, even if you don’t like to watch video on your PC.  Like with the Kindle, once you purchase something you can access it through any device registered to your account.  For the most part this is even true of the Amazon Prime selections.

Up until now, the video library has been rather thin.  It was clear that Amazon was simply testing the waters and no real threat to any of the more established names in the field.  Now, however, things are getting more impressive.  You have a fairly good movie selection, admittedly heavily weighted to older titles (though not so much as was the case previously), and access to many TV shows within a day of airing.

Does this mean that Amazon is poised to shove Netflix out of the way and step into a well-deserved spot on top?  Not really.  By all accounts Netflix hasn’t even really noticed them enough to consider it real competition yet. Who knows what might change in the future, though, with Netflix customers quite vocally unhappy about the handling of recent price hikes due to a jump in operational costs.  It seems like just about everybody is trying to jump on the video streaming bandwagon right now, which means lots of competition but also lots of potential for a well-planned and well-supported endeavor.

With the upcoming Kindle Tablets, Amazon is in a highly advantageous position.  Not only can they advertise hardware optimized for video streaming and integrated directly into existing Amazon.com services of all sorts, but a simultaneous release of an Instant Video for Android App would earn them sales space on the vast majority of competing Tablet PCs.

Such an app would have to be something of an inevitability both because of the choice of OS for the Kindle Tablets and the fact that Amazon’s main goal seems to be harnessing media distribution rather than sales.  No need to completely close off the competing hardware if you are making your money elsewhere anyway.  The Kindle platform has given them a solid grip on the eReading market by being device-independent.  I think we can count on Amazon to have learned from their own success.

1DollarScan Makes Transition to eBooks Simpler, Kindle Format Coming Soon

Aside from the psychological transition required for new users, perhaps the largest thing standing in the way of Kindle adoption among book lovers is the element of collectability that often goes hand in hand with reading.  Over the years, book lovers are prone to ending up with large numbers of books, which only makes sense.  In a situation where not every book you have can be replaced in the new format, especially for a reasonably cheap price, it can be difficult to justify the move to a medium that seems at a glance to offer few advantages to the well stocked book owner.  A new service, 1DollarScan, makes the transition rather significantly easier.

Their focus is, unsurprisingly, cheap scanning of large quantities of documents.  For just $1 per 10 pages of business document or 100 pages of book, getting anything you have on paper converted into a PDF is no longer particularly troublesome.  Due to the way their pricing scheme is set up, any book you might want to have converted will be done for no more than $6.  Not necessarily the solution for a huge library, for a couple reasons, but I could see it being an amazing value.

The most important thing to keep in mind when considering the value of such a service is that you will not be getting your books back.  This is a full move to digital, with no going back, since they chop off the spine of each book to facilitate scanning.  In many instances this will mean you either want to hang onto your original book or find alternate means of eBook acquisition, but not always.

Take, for example, the obscure reference book shelf.  I’m sure many people have one.  Am I attached enough to each particular title to make keeping them around necessary?  Chances are good they would see more use on a portable device anyway.  If we’re talking about particularly narrow-niche publications then you often get a combination of minimal annotation, impossible to find in inexpensive eBook format, and only occasional usefulness.  If you can remove them from your shelf, while making them more functional by having them always available, for just $2-3, it’s worth it.  Even for larger or more well-loved titles, this is the first simple, cheap method that I have found that will allow for retention of your handwritten notes.

Right now, 1DollarScan is only offering their results in PDF format.  For some things, like heavily annotated books, this is ideal.  For the most part, however, I’m looking forward to Kindle compatibility.  They list both the Kindle and the Nook as soon to be supported, so hopefully this won’t be long in coming.  At the moment all documents include an OCR layer anyway, so it seems like a logical next step once they get some momentum behind them.

I don’t believe that anybody will ever want to completely do away with a well established personal library, but that doesn’t mean that every title has equal value.  Not everything needs to take up shelf space.  Now that there are options like the Kindle that allow users to maintain most of their collections without sacrificing actual space in their home or office, where’s the harm in converting?

Check out 1DollarScan at http://1dollarscan.com/

The Many Advantages of Amazon’s Kindle Store Cleaning

While the focus of Amazon’s new content duplication policy for the Kindle Store is clearly an effort to eliminate the Kindle spam that has become an ongoing problem for customers, it has a couple less obvious effects that work to the advantage of both the company and the customers.  Much of the speculation regarding how the Kindle Store could be cleared of worthlessly repetitive content revolved around the most efficient and advantageous methods that they might have available and clearly an interesting one was found.

The most obvious change, though not entirely new, is to the out of copyright publication.  Perhaps the biggest problem that these have posed many consumers is their variety.  Now, normally variety is always a good thing.  When you know that the content you are acquiring is going to be the same no matter where you get it, however, having ten, twenty, or even fifty versions of the same thing to choose from is simply not helpful.  The in-text annotation and added content that one expects with the many different print editions available to choose from do not translate well to the Kindle experience just yet.  Amazon has done quite well in the past few months at reducing the clutter among these titles, but with the apparent automation of the duplicate-checking that they now have in place it will be that much easier and more reliable.

They have also done a great job of ensuring the most up to date content library available for Kindle customers.  While it would be illegal and quite definitely against all policy to post a stolen work to the Kindle Store, it has not been an unknown occurrence.  Since I started publishing through them, I have personally had three books stolen and attributed to other authors and I know that I am far from the worst affected.  Now, so long as I am the first one to upload my work, there is no need to worry about it.  Not only does this do an excellent job of protecting authors and simplifying the review process for Amazon, since they no longer have to worry about nearly as many theft complaints, it gives further incentive for all self-publishing authors to head to the Kindle Direct Publishing first.

If only to save on the headache of dealing with verifications and lost sales due to delays, authors will likely now feel that much more inclined to give the Kindle priority.  After all, once it is up on the Kindle Store, nobody else should be able to post that content unless the original posting is removed first.  Why risk having to go through the trouble of eliminating an illegal copy made by somebody who downloaded the work elsewhere?

Overall, while I can see specific situations where taking the review process out of human hands could result in over-enforcement, this will do a lot to improve the shopping experience for Kindle owners.  It will do even more to protect authors.  When you take those two groups and keep them happy, it makes life easier for Amazon and makes it even more likely that people new to publishing will choose the KDP.  This would seem to be wins all around.

Kindle and OverDrive Bringing Library Lending This September?

One of the biggest flaws in the idea of a Kindle purchase for a lot of people has been the complete lack of library lending support.  This isn’t a new problem.  It stems from Amazon’s refusal to open up compatibility with the industry standard EPUB format.  While Amazon may not have been willing to concede on that point, however, library lending is a must have for customers so they have worked with OverDrive Library, the most popular library lending management tool available today, to bring the capability to the Kindle.  Several months back we heard that it was due before the end of the year and little has come up since then, until now.

Toward the end of OverDrive’s Digipalooze conference, one of the biggest unanswered questions was that of Kindle support.  When would it be coming, what would it include, how hard would it be to use, and all the other little details.  Though many of the specifics are still up in the air, the major points of the final presentation’s focus tell us a lot.  Specifically, the final summary:

Streamlining (both downloading and ordering)
Explosion (we have gone from two reading devices to 85 and more are coming)
Premium (the library catalog as the most premium, value-added site on the Web)
Traffic (enormous growth coming by year’s end)

Naturally no specific dates were given, but I’m catching a rather obvious hint hidden in there as to when we can expect results.

This software update will not just include Kindle support.  It will also mean an improvement to the experience for all library patrons.  The acquisition process will be simplified significantly, for example.  While the Kindle will be the only device that maintains persistent notes (meaning that anything you annotate in your library rental will still be there next time you rent or buy the text) , everybody will benefit in some way.  There will also be an emphasis on allowing readers to express their preferences when it comes to library ownership.  Not every library can keep every title in stock, especially with some publishers disliking the idea of eBook rentals enough to force libraries to keep repurchasing their books constantly, but now users will be able to point out their desired titles to the library or even go directly from the library rentals page to a purchasing option if they don’t feel like waiting.

From the sound of things, this is going to be the biggest thing to hit libraries in a long time.  OverDrive is reportedly putting systems in place to handle demand a hundred times more intense than this past year.  Kindle support will certainly do a lot to contribute to those numbers, but this may end up being the beginning of a whole new way to view libraries.  If everything goes as planned and September is indeed the month of release, it is going to be a big one.  Having a library card has never been such a good investment for the eReading enthusiast.

Amazon Cracks Down On Kindle Store Spam

After a few weeks of rather vocal complaints regarding the state of the Kindle Store and the increasing difficulty in finding worthwhile content, Amazon has come up with a response.  Despite the potential for it to cause discomfort for a certain number of Kindle Direct Publishing users, it looks like significant measures are underway to address the problems.  The days when searching for a Kindle Edition would bring up hundreds of nearly worthless, nearly identical eBooks are coming to an end.

The origin of the problem stems from the nature of these spam offerings.  While in the main they are useless and nothing anybody would want to buy, very few of them are deliberately malicious aside from their failing to provide value to customers.  You can’t risk cracking down on authors who are just not good at their job.  The deliberately malign options are, of course, policed rather strongly.  Somewhat legitimate titles, built using content from Private Label Rights authors who sell their work to others for a small fee can be harder to track down.  These are titles that the purchaser can pay once for and have legal use of, including author credit and editing privileges.  Some of these works have the potential to be at least somewhat useful, and there is nothing illegal about the process, but once the idea caught on with internet marketing enthusiasts it was bound to result in exploitation.

Amazon’s solution is to remove titles that are filled with “undifferentiated or barely differentiated” content.  Since the whole point of PLR is to sell the same thing to many people and make your money off of the bulk, only allowing a single person to make use of the work effectively removes it from circulation.  Those “publishers” who have chosen to exploit the system are receiving email warnings that inform them of the removal of their less than useful Kindle eBooks and the consequences of continuing the practice:

Hello,

We’re contacting you regarding books you recently submitted via Kindle Direct Publishing.

Certain of these books are either undifferentiated or barely differentiated from an existing title in the Kindle store. We remove such duplicate (or near duplicate) versions of the same book because they diminish the experience for customers. We notify you each time a book is removed, along with the specific book(s) and reason for removal.

In addition to removing duplicate books from the Kindle store, please note that if you attempt to sell multiple copies or undifferentiated versions of the same book from your account, we may terminate your account.

If you have any questions regarding the review process, you can write to [email protected].

To be fair, you have to give a great deal of credit to the community involved in this practice for their reaction.  While there have been a few people recommending the move from Kindle to Nook platforms as a short-term solution, overall it seems that the end of PLR exploitation was anticipated.  There will probably be no major outcry regarding this policy change, even among the people most affected by it.  They knew they were exploiting a loophole that would eventually be closed.

Class Action Lawsuit Seeks To Bring Value Back To Kindle eBooks

For those who have been paying attention, it doesn’t come as much of a shock to hear that people are unhappy about the rise in price of Kindle eBooks caused by the Agency Model pricing forced on Amazon by the largest publishing houses in the business.  Apple came out with iBooks as a means of adding value to the iPad’s initial launch, and in doing so arranged things to prevent Amazon from having an advantage.  They went to the publishers, worked out an industry-wide deal, and ended the era of the affordably priced eBook.  Now, finally, somebody is calling them on it.

The basis for the suit is a number of early indications that Apple knew ahead of time that all of the major publishers would be turning on Amazon at the same time.  A much publicized Wall Street Journal article from early 2010 had Steve Jobs clearly aware of the impending changes and certain not only of his company’s ability to price match but of the publishers’ willingness to boycott Amazon in order to change the state of the market.  While Amazon did make every attempt to keep the Kindle Store free of such manipulation and price hiking, in the end each publisher is the controller of its own works and they were forced to concede defeat in order to keep the content available to Kindle readers.

The suit charges Apple and the five largest publishing companies with antitrust violations, among other things, and would seek to represent anybody who has purchased an eBook since the prices jumped over 30% practically overnight last year.  If successful, the Agency Model would be completely overturned, as would the arrangements currently in place preventing price discrepancies between retailers.

There is every reason to believe that this has at least a chance of success.  It is not even the first legal obstacle that publishers have faced since they turned on the Kindle.  In 2010 both Amazon and Apple were brought to talks with the Attorney General of Connecticut, who had concerns that the abrupt change would lead to a situation where competition between companies would be impossible.  Such anti-competitive behavior would of course be a dangerous thing to be involved in, but the companies being looked at at the time were clearly not colluding.  This time, looking at Apple and the publishers, it might not pass quite so easily.

Though it will be months, at best, before there is even an indication of which way this is likely to turn out, it is possible that there will be some change in the meantime.  eBooks are the only area where the publishing industry seems to be growing lately, and the Kindle platform is the driving force behind eBook sales in the US.  Anything that publishers can do to improve sales will be to their advantage, and they have shown at least some small interest in the potential from reduced pricing.  Will it be enough to change the face of eBook publishing without legal intervention?  Time will tell.  It seems inevitable that publishers will come to their senses eventually and drive their numbers up any way that works, though, and the success of the lawsuit is still just speculation.

.99 Cent Learning Sale

Until August 29, there is a huge back to school sale going on for learning tools on the Kindle.  Pick from a variety of fun games that help kids with spelling, math, and Shakespeare Trivia.  Some of these games are $3 and up, so grab them while they’re cheap!

One game I was particularly intrigued by is Letter Landers.  It is a matching game.  The player matches pairs until all of the tiles are gone.  Once everything is matched up, letter shaped aliens come in and spell words based on your matches.  What a creative way to get kids interested in learning about their letters.

Do you have young, elementary age children, who would love to try out your Kindle, but they’re just not to the age where reading is natural for them?  DigiRonin games has a growing collection of spelling and math games for the e-reader.  your children can learn their food and animal names while improving on their letters and spelling skills.  This whole collection include quizzes that can tet your child’s mastery of the subjects.  I hope that this company will add science and social studies trivia at some point.

If you want to challenge yourself in foreign languages, try the Spelling Star Spanish Edition.  It has anagrams and other word challenges.  Kind of makes my brain hurt to think about it.  But, this is a great idea and is very interactive.  I hope they’ll add other languages soon.

You can’t go wrong with the Scripps Spelling Bee’s Kindle game.  It includes many of the words that were featured in the National Bee.  You also have a number of challenges to choose from.  For more information about Scripps Spelling Bee, check out the Scripps Spelling Bee post that I wrote a couple months ago.

I am really excited about the fact that the Kindle is being used in elementary schools.  It has been slow to catch on in schools, but Kindles in classrooms are becoming a little more common.  Games like these featured in the sale are good ways to make learning interesting.  Not to mention the excitement that a cool new gadget brings!

 

 

 

Kindle Book Recommendations: Classics

One of the biggest advantages of something like a Kindle is supposed to be the amazing savings that one can expect from owning such a device.  Books should be cheaper, according to the vision that many had of what eReading was going to be.  Obviously we have not quite realized that dream, with publishers keeping eBooks at prices similar to hardcover books, but all is not lost!  There are hundreds of authors releasing free or nearly free books every day through the Kindle Direct Publishing system.  So many, in fact, that it is all but impossible to even keep up with a list, let alone read them all. There are plenty of established successes to draw on even now, though, while I try to come up with a decent list of newer authors to pass along to you.  (I would welcome suggestions at [email protected])

The often overlooked, or at least undervalued, source of cheap literature is older titles that have fallen out of copyright.  Sometimes they’ve fallen very far out of copyright.  For a while, it was pretty obnoxious to even try looking through these books in the Kindle Store since anybody who felt like going through the effort could post their own copy in hopes of making a few dollars.  In the past several months they have made a major effort to clean things up and remove duplicate copies.  It’s a mixed blessing since some of the approved ones remaining seem to be bad OCR copies rather than something a person has actually looked over, but suddenly it is a lot easier to find interesting things to read.

Now, a lot of people definitely seem to think that the so-called ‘classics’ are by definition dry and hard to get through.  I certainly wouldn’t recommend Bleak House to a Harlequin fan, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of perfectly approachable titles out there to take a look at.  Here’s a few that I hope you’ll find enjoyable.  Not all are free, mainly in cases where free copies were poorly formatted to the point of being hard to read, but all are under $3.

She by H. Rider Haggard

You’ve got an ancient family mystery dating back thousands of years, a secret society hidden in the heart of the unknown, supernatural powers, and near immortality.  This would be an amazing movie, if only the reaction to certain scenes involving the treatment of death wouldn’t be so extreme.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Everybody knows the broad outlines of the story, from movies if nothing else, but you miss a lot without reading the book.  Some of the most hilariously flawed ‘heroes’ that you are ever likely to read about.  You may be surprised by how off base your expectations are, if you’ve never read it before

Sherlock Holmes Collection by Arthur Conan Doyle

Another selection that a surprising number of people have never given a chance to.  This particular collection contains all four of the novels and 46 short stories, which I believe make up the whole out-of-copyright collection.  It’s been said that what fascinates people about Holmes is not the process he uses, but how much fun it is to watch him do it.  Give it a try for yourself.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

This book is a great suspense/mystery book with just a little bit of the fantastic thrown in.  It is really a fun time overall and has quite possibly the best villain ever(who was, coincidentally, modeled physically on the author himself according to many accounts!)  This one would be worth it for that character alone.

Is Now The Right Time To Buy A Nook?

With the knowledge that a new Kindle is on the horizon there are reasons that it might seem to be worth holding back on your new Nook purchase to see what is coming, but is it worth the wait?  At present there are a lot of great products on the market and as tempting as it is to wait for the next big thing, there comes a point when holding off gets silly.  With that in mind, is it worth the risk, however slight, of picking up what may soon be an inferior product?

The biggest thing to decide right off the bat is what you are looking for in your eReader.  Right now, the Nook Simple Touch and Kindle 3 (no matter which type you choose) offer very similar experiences.  The best E INK screens available, page refresh far faster than you could reliably turn pages in a paper book, light and comfortable to hold, literally months of battery life, and a direct connection into each’s respective amazingly comprehensive eBook store.  Aside from a couple very small particulars, neither one is physically superior to the other.

If you have to choose right now, based on nothing but the hardware, then you’re essentially on even ground with these two.  The Nook Simple Touch is newer, slightly faster, has a touchscreen display, and is a couple inches shorter.  The Kindle has the option of 3G coverage, a physical keyboard, and external contacts that can power a book light should you be inclined to use such an accessory.  None of these factor in much when it comes right down to reading a book under normal circumstances.

There is always the fact that the new Kindle is coming out soon and will certainly have upgrades that make it stand out, but what real point of superiority is going to put it over the top right now?  Short of having a non-backlit color screen to make color eBooks a better choice, there isn’t much room to grow.  The Kindle 3 is perfect for reading on, in that once you get started you can forget how you’re reading and just concentrate on the book.  The new Nook does the same thing just as well.  Chances are, the new Kindle will accomplish it again.  As much as I’m looking forward to picking up the new model, and would recommend avoiding any Kindle purchases until it comes out since it is only a couple months away at this point, it does not factor into a Kindle vs Nook decision.

The most important thing in deciding is going to be who you want to do business with.  As I pointed out recently, it is definitely possible to jump from one platform to another if you have the patience to deal with file conversion.  Nobody really wants to bother with that, though.  Since pricing and selection are pretty similar no matter where you buy your eBooks right now, there isn’t a compelling reason to go back and forth between them.  It is likely that wherever you amass your first collection of eBooks is where you’re going to stay.  If Barnes & Noble is the eReader provider for you, don’t let speculation about new Kindles scare you off.  There might be some room for the Kindle to advance right now, but to think that it will be enough in the near future to completely knock competition out of the ballpark is a bit far fetched.

Refurbished Kindles Cause Customer Dilemma

I am unable to really express how often over the last year or two I have heard from people the idea that the Kindle will never hit it big until they get their pricing under the hundred dollar mark.  This has not stopped the Kindle from becoming overwhelmingly popular, but it makes a great talking point for people who want to argue for discounts or claim Tablet PC superiority in eReading.  Finally, however, we can have an end to the idea’s repetition.  There is now a Refurbished Kindle available for just $99. There are other factors involved that might make this a deal worth waiting on, though.

The $99 pricing seems appealing and probably will sway a few people.  I seem to recall that discounted refurbs toward the end of the Kindle 2′s life cycle did the same.  Still, before you jump on it, it is important to keep in mind what this move is likely to imply.  Rumors abound, both substantial and completely speculative, about the upcoming next generation of Kindle products.  We can be almost 100% sure that they will be showing up in the next three months, but beyond that there is little total certainty due to the expected overlapping release of the first Kindle Tablet and the difficulties inherent in trying to pick through the bits of information we have to determine which bit goes to which device.  Given competition in the eReader marketplace alongside some business moves that Amazon has made lately, though, we can make some pretty solid assumptions.

Amazon will, it can be assumed, be releasing a new touchscreen Kindle.  It is very, very likely that it will run Android in some form.  There are certain to be several incarnations of it to allow for choice between WiFi, 3G, ad support, and the combinations thereof that we have become accustomed to.  It is very unlikely that the new Kindle baseline model will cost more than the $114 currently being asked for the cheapest brand new Kindle on sale right this minute.

The question potential customers have to ask, then, is what factors matter in their choice.  If this is meant to show Amazon that you will not support Kindles over $100, then it is a good way to put your money into making your point while still getting a great product.  If you are in a hurry and don’t feel like waiting to get the new Kindle, then it makes sense to pick up one of these.  Never any harm in grabbing a refurbished product from a company that is known to have excellent customer service.  If you don’t have a point to make and aren’t in a rush, however, I can’t see that holding back to see how well the Kindle 4/Kindle Touch/Kindle Whatevertheycallit stacks up compared to the competition.  There’s no reason to believe that there won’t still be Kindle 3 refurbs and back stock sitting around by then anyway, probably discounted even further or sold through Woot.com.  While there are rumors going around that many customers will be getting brand new Kindles labeled as refurbished in order to be sneaky about their official new product announcement, it is hard to see Amazon running out completely in the next couple weeks.

KlearKase For Kindle Hands-On Review

After a recent survey of the options for Kindle waterproof cases, I was given the opportunity to try out one of the selections I mentioned hands-on.  Since then, I’ve spent about three solid days using and testing the KlearKase for Kindle 3 and I think I have to revise a few things that I initially said about the product.  For the sake of thoroughness, I think it might help to lay things out point by point here.

The Pros

Usability:

In spite of being a full coverage case, there is nothing that you technically cannot do with a KlearKase on your Kindle.  Not only are the page turn buttons accessible, but you can easily handle the QWERTY keyboard and pop out silicon plugs to get at the power slider and headphone jack.  Even the volume control is responsive.

Reading Experience:

Barring certain specific needs and circumstances, most of the time it is easy to forget you even have a case on the Kindle.  This is pretty much the best compliment I can think of for something like this.  The pattern on the back of the case makes it easy to grip, the page turn toggles aren’t hard to get used to, and the keyboard might even be slightly more comfortable to type on than it normally is.

Protection:

The protection on this case is impressive, as it was meant to be.  With one of these, your Kindle will not be scratched, dirty, or damp in any way.  With the port plugs jammed in, pretty much nothing makes it through.  While the KlearKase is advertised as splash-proof rather than waterproof, I jammed the thing full of paper towels and held it under water for a good 10 minutes without anything inside getting wet.

The Cons

Usability:

There are two minor inconveniences to be aware of, neither of which take much getting used to.  First, the directional control is slightly harder to use than normal.  Because it is such a low profile button to begin with, it can be a bit difficult to feel clearly through the silicon screen.  Not a big deal.  The other is the page turn toggles.  When using this case, turning a page becomes a matter of pushing a button straight down.  If you are like me and usually hold your Kindle in such a way as to make page turns a matter of just rolling your thumb a bit to squeeze the button, it might take a couple hours use before it feels natural.

Reading Experience:

The only downside I can think of here is glare.  You can’t really have full screen protection without that becoming more of an issue.  Outside of direct lighting like a book lamp or something, it probably won’t bother anybody much.

Protection:

Like I said, the protection is great.  It would take far more of a fall or crush to damage a Kindle inside one of these things than it would in most other cases.  As I mentioned, water is a non-issue.

The Big Picture

This is a case I can see becoming a regular use thing.  Having had one to try out, I don’t think I would consider giving a Kindle to a kid without a KlearKase(alliteration not intended).  It protects, but most importantly it doesn’t get in the way.  While it will never pass for a personal statement or fashion accessory, don’t overlook this one.

Futoshiki

Sudoku lovers and even those who aren’t can have a lot of fun with Futoshiki for Kindle. Braintonik Games has done it again with another cool game for Kindle. The twist that makes this game so much better than Sudoku is that it includes signs in different points on the 5×5 or 7×7 grid. As one who avoids math at all costs, this is a little intimidating for me, but I know there are many who will see it as a rewarding challenge.

The structure of the game is pretty much the same as it is for most Kindle games. There are four levels: easy, medium, hard and expert. All levels have 5×5 grids except for expert, which has a 7×7 grid. You also have hints that can get you out of a tough move.

So the object of the game is to fill the grid with unique numbers, but remember, you must factor in the signs to complete the puzzle.

Navigation seems to be well done, and these grid type games are a good fit for the black and white, linear Kindle platform.

Ratqueen

“I’m not a huge fan of standard Sudoku — I like it, but find it somewhat difficult, repetitive, and kind of boring. Futoshiki is a whole lot better and I absolutely love it. While the signs on the board may appear as additional requirements/restrictions at first, they in fact act as clues and make the game a bit easier (less trials and errors) and more interesting than Sudoku, at least to me. That opens a whole new way of thinking that I find most satisfying. ”

Make good use of the annotations feature, but careful about your input because sometimes you can get offline. Making notations is especially helpful for expert levels.

A. Kaplan

“I find it quite helpful — essential at higher levels — to use the notation option, and love how easy it is to do so. Like a previous reviewer, I do sometimes use the wrong row of keys and make an entry instead of a note. This costs a few points, but so what? The points are pretty meaningless, anyway. ”

The only major complaint about Futoshiki is that there aren’t enough levels. But, I’m sure that issue will be resolved at some point. Great game overall with mostly 5 star reviews, and is only a buck.

Pottermore Brings Books To Kindle, But Leaves Fans Open To Scams

As most of you will almost certainly be aware by now, the ever popular Harry Potter series is on its way to the Kindle.  The author, J.K. Rowling, is keeping control over the distribution of the books by attaching her sales platform to the Pottermore companion web site that will be opening this coming October.  While the combination of extra content and fan loyalty will certainly make the site and eBook sales even more of a success than we expect, in the meantime the anticipation building around the site has left over-zealous fans open to scams built around the pre-release proceedings.

You see, a lucky few have managed to secure invitations to experience the Pottermore site well ahead of time.  There was a contest of sorts that allowed the truly interested to get their names in, but it was arranged in such a way as to technically allow somebody to get multiple invites.  This, of course, opens to door to eBay sales even if they are technically against the site’s Terms & Conditions.  Sadly as we all know by now, I hope, where there are electronic invitation sales, there are scams.

Harry Potter fans hoping to get in have been singled out for everything from hundred dollar fake early access accounts to total identity theft from some fairly convincing dummy sites asking people for far too much information in order to gain entry.  Pottermore admins have, naturally, warned people against falling for these scams and have pointed out that even if people do manage to find a legitimate account transfer they will still be banned for breaking the rules, but when people are trying this desperately to get around existing restrictions and rules there is little chance of such advise from the people creating the barriers being heeded.

If you are one of the millions looking forward to the Pottermore site, whether for access to Kindle versions of the books or to enjoy the content, your best bet is to just wait it out.  The only worthwhile avenues at this point are the official ones, so if you don’t see what seems to be your way in written about on the Pottermore placeholder like ‘The Magical Quill’ contest has been then you are inviting trouble by pursuing them.

When the site does open up, Pottermore will be completely free to the public.  Users will be able to access it in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish, with more options coming within the year.  There will be over 18,000 words of new material for you to read through, a shop to purchase things like eBooks from, a number of simple games that go along with events in the books, and a generally social experience through which to share your enjoyment of the Harry Potter series.

There is a lot there to get excited about, and if you are a big enough fan to be interested in paying large amounts of money just to get into a soon-to-be-free site then you’re probably very excited indeed, but wait it out.  Rowling, Harry Potter, and the Pottermore site will all come together in just a couple more months.  No book is important enough to risk identity theft or large sums of wasted money.

Kindle Cloud Reader Frees The eBook From The App

Kindle Cloud Reader

Kindle Cloud Reader

Following the recent move by Apple to cripple any iBooks competition via billing requirements, it really isn’t much of a surprise to see Amazon pushing the Kindle Cloud Reader to what seems like it might be an early release.  What is surprising is how functional it is at launch and how familiar it will feel to many people.  Now users can read their Kindle eBooks on any device they happen to have a browser on, at least theoretically, with no need to even think about downloaded Apps.

Right now users can only access the Kindle Cloud Reader through either Apple’s Safari browser or Google Chrome, which is what leads me to believe that this is an early release.  The fact that users will be able to pull this up on iPads but not on Android based Tablets would not make much sense otherwise.  If you attempt to access the service through an alternative browser, you will see nothing but a splash screen for it with a bit of the basic information and links to currently supported choices.  Since Android users still have access to a fully functional Kindle for Android app, however, it makes sense to prioritize elsewhere.  The ads for the service have definitely been making a big deal about the integrated shopping experience for iPad users, which is what distinguishes it from the iOS app.  Without something to make it at least equal to the existing Android Kindle app, not many people should feel the lack.  Support for Firefox, Internet Explorer, the Blackberry Playbook browser, and more have been promised in the months to come.  Given how excellent this early version is already, it’s something to look forward to.

To get started, head to https://read.amazon.com in either of the supported browsers (if you do not have either Chrome or Safari, they are both freely available and linked at the end of this posting). When asked to log into the service, simply enter your usual Amazon.com store account.  Should you like to have your Kindle content available locally even when you are not connected to the internet, which I strongly recommend since it seems to speed things up a bit so far on my end, you will be given the option.  All of your Kindle Edition purchases will be immediately available in a familiar layout, either way.

The Library view is easy to use and will be quite familiar to anybody who has used the Kindle apps before.  You have a couple sorting and arrangement options in the upper-left corner and a size slider when you’re in grid view.  Assuming you decided to enable offline reading via downloaded texts, you should see a Cloud/Downloaded toggle at the top of the screen.  By default, you will not have all of your eBooks downloaded.

Any book that you want to save a local copy of will have to be acquired manually.  Simply find it in the Cloud view, right-click on the cover art, and select “Download and Pin Book”.  Each one takes perhaps ten to thirty seconds on an average internet connection.  According to the Amazon help page for this app, you can store 50MB locally on your iPad.  There are no posted restrictions for people using PC browsers.

When it comes to the actual reading experience, you have pretty much everything you can expect from an eReading application.  On the PC browsing is achieved using the mouse, arrow keys, PgUp/Down buttons, or space bar.  Nothing standard is left out, even if you can’t necessarily map your own keys yet.  There are five font sizes to choose from, adjustable margins that do a good job of accommodating most screen sizes and orientations, and three color schemes.  While there isn’t any finely tuned personalization included, the setup makes the best of the fact that you’ll be reading on an LCD while keeping everything as simple as possible.

The only really major shortcoming right now, aside from the already mentioned lack of universal browser compatibility, is the limited integration of extra features.  For example, there does not seem to be any real way to perform a text search, which rules it out as an app substitute right now for a number of uses.  Also, while you can sync all of your annotations and highlighting, you can’t make any new changes to any of it at this time.  All that really seems included right now is bookmarking and syncing of last pages read.  Given that the whole Whispernet setup makes up a core feature set of the Kindle experience it seems pretty likely that fixing these shortcomings will be happening in the very near future, but this is something to be aware of.

Overall, this is a great offering.  The idea is clearly to stick it to Apple for bringing things to the point of conflict with their App Store purchasing rules, and I would say that even if things never went beyond their present state it would still be enough to be attractive for the majority of iOS Kindle users.  There is literally nothing that Apple can reasonably do to block out Amazon’s control of the platform when it goes through something like this, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot that the browser based nature of the Kindle Cloud Reader would force the company to leave out.

As the application develops, it would not be surprising at all to learn that Amazon intended to replace their entire app presence with Cloud solutions.  The Amazon Cloud Drive and Cloud Player, both of which obviously precede the Kindle Cloud Reader, do a pretty good job of demonstrating the potential.  Perhaps after the success of those it was only a matter of time.  Stay tuned for any updates to the browser app as the feature set and browser compatibility are improved.  We’ll do our best here to keep you abreast of any changes and improvements.

Get Google Chrome Browser

Get Apple’s Safari Browser

In case you have missed it, here’s a post by Andrei with some speculations about where Kindle Cloud Reader came from and where it might be headed.

 

 

 

Blossom

Blossom is an interesting puzzle game. You connect pipes and rotate tiles so that you can water your flowers. The Kindle platform works well for this kind of puzzle game because it is on a grid. Your goal is to connect all pipes to the watering can so that your garden can be irrigated.

There are 120 puzzles to choose from and you can choose levels of difficulty ranging from easy to expert. Blossom is the classic computer puzzle game. You’ll be navigating through twists and turns all over the “garden.” The flowers bloom when you connect them to the water supply. Watch how they bloom differently depending on what end you connect them to.

Gotta love those addictive games that don’t require too much brain power…

Jody

“Connecting the pipes and flowers to the watering can in Blossom is a nice balance between easy and challenging. It’s involving without requiring too much brain power and it’s possible to spend way too much time playing without realizing it. The five-way button on the Kindle is a satisfactory game control, though it’s easy to hit the wrong button and pause the game. That’s OK. I love this game!

Pluses: The game keeps track of time elapsed. A hopelessly fouled up game can be reset, and once all 120 games are played it’s possible to go back and replay.

Minuses: Color would be nice, but we’ll have to wait for the Color Kindle for that. ”

The following review is a good suggestion for future updates to Blossom.

Anniepoo

“The game only uses the 5 way pad and the space bar to continue after completing a puzzle. I suggest to the developers that the game would be improved by combining the game time screen with the completed puzzle … maybe just add the total time under the flower field … and ask the player to click the 5 way to continue instead of the space bar … it is just soooo much effort to move my thumb ;-)”

So, great game, and quite reasonable at around two bucks. The Kindle game collection has certainly grown over the the last year or so. I love seeing old computer game favorites being added to the Kindle so that they can be enjoyed on the go.

Kindle Cloud Reader brings Kindle books to the Web, iPad, Chromebooks

 

Kindle Cloud Reader

Kindle Cloud Reader

Kindle for the Web has been around for almost a year and it seemed as it wasn’t going anywhere at all. Seemingly nothing happened even when Google came out with their online eBook offering. Then some more time passed and Apple started pressing eReader apps into selling eBooks via Apple app store. This would mean 30% commission for Apple but it would also cause eBook sellers like B&N, Sony and Amazon to loose (even more) money on eBook sales. Moving to the web seemed like a logical choice. Eventually Apple backed out and thing returned to status quo. However a few days ago Kindle did significantly expand their Web presence by releasing Kindle Cloud Reader (https://read.amazon.com/).

Kindle Cloud Reader is named in the same fashion as Amazon Cloud Player since “cloud” seems to be the most recent “magic buzz word”. It enables Kindle users to read their Kindle books in the browser almost without having to install anything on their devices. I put “almost” because Chrome users are asked to install optional browser extension that enables offline reading and Safari users are asked to extend 50 megabytes of browser database storage to the web-app for the same purposes. The reader is based on HTML5

Currently only it only works in Google Chrome (on Windows, Mac, Linux and Chromebook) and Apple Safari (on Mac and iPad, but not iPhone and iPod Touch) browsers. It accomplishes a whole lot and really nothing at the same time. Lets take a closer look:

  • Kindle is now safe from Apple app store assaults since using the web application is a viable option. Apple blocking or otherwise preventing users from using the web application will open doors to so much legal and PR trouble that even billions of the cash that Apple stashed so far might not be enough to get them out of it. However as we’ve already seen, Apple wouldn’t go as far as removing a popular eReader apps from their app store anyway since it would accomplish nothing and hurt everyone (including Apple). The fact that Kindle Cloud Reader comes with book store “optimized for tablets” it seems very likely to me that one of the original goals behind the project was to bypass Apple app store if need be.
  • Linux users now have official access to Kindle books. However you could get Kindle on Linux in the past as well though the virtue of Wine Windows emulator. But even if it wasn’t the case, Linux market share is still so small that most companies just choose to ignore it altogether without noticeable effect on the bottom line. No disrespect towards Linux and it’s users intended – just stating the facts as they stand
  • Chromebook users can now access Kindle eBooks. Nice, but given their current market share you can’t call this anything but future investment and hedging the risks of the emerging tablet market.
  • While all platforms (except Linux and Chromebook) had official support for Kindle via apps it is nice to have the option to forgo app installation altogether. I’ve worked in the software industry for about 15 years already and my strong belief is that every application or feature is a bug waiting to happen. This is especially true in modern fast paced “release early, release often” environment in which even my TV and receiver want a firmware update (that always includes bug fixes) on a monthly basis (not to mention all apps that I have installed on either iPad or Android. So having fewer apps is better. So far browser has been the best way of isolating apps from the OS and from one another.
  • Kindle Cloud Reader will fully match what Google Books has to offer once all popular browsers are supported. However it’s not like Google Books is currently a serious player in the eBook market anyway.
  • Another benefit of not having an app is the fact that it is easier for users to get their foot into the Kindle door since you don’t even need to install an app (never mind having a Kindle device as was the case a few years back) to start reading. Instant gratification is only one click away… However Amazon Cloud Reader is not fully integrated into Amazon Kindle Store yet. Although there is “Read now in Kindle Cloud Reader” button on the thank you page after the purchase, that button is nowhere to be found on the book product page. More importantly browsers that hold the largest market share (Internet Explorer, Firefox) on the most popular operating system (Windows) are not supported! 80% of users are left out. This may be the reason for the lack of book store integration. Users are more likely to install eBook reading app than a new browser and change their year old habits.
  • While you can read the books in the browser (if your browser is supported), some features are missing such as:
    • taking new notes and highlighting (though previous annotations are visible
    • searching within the book (or your book collection). You can however search within the page using browser search function (Ctrl-F)
    • Text-to-speech is not there. Given how complex the HTML document structure is (iframes within iframes and a lot of nested tags) I’m not sure if screen reader software will be able to handle it.
  • There is only so much DRM one can put into browser app. With offline storage, pirating Kindle books would become a breeze. However it’s not like it wasn’t done before. Kindle DRM was broken in the past and even if it wasn’t there plenty of books circulating in torrents and shady websites anyway. You can find most of the books you would want with minimal effort. So not pirating is a conscious choice based on good nature and availability of legitimate purchase options rather than result of DRM.

Although it may seem that I’m overall critical and negative towards Kindle Cloud Reader, I’m not. For all it’s current shortcomings it has a great potential and these shortcomings can be easily overcome. Developing web apps is cheap if you have the right infrastructure (which Amazon certainly does) so Amazon can add all of the missing features even if there will be little demand for the Cloud Reader. They will do it just because they can or “just in case”.

Well written AJAX web application is truly cross-platform: I’ve seen the same app run on all Windows browsers, Mac browsers, iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch, Windows Phone 7, all kinds of Android devices, Linux, and even Kindle 3 browser. Not being bound by acceptance gates by numerous isolated app stores – that’s true freedom. Web app that doesn’t need to be installed and opens with a single click is also the ultimate instant gratification that will help many users get their first taste of Kindle.

All in all Kindle Cloud Reader is mostly about potential now. Whether this potential will be fully realized is up to Amazon.

Inheritance

One of the recent new additions to the Kindle game collection is Inheritance from Gang of Penguins.  Cool name! The cool part about this game, is that it is a text based adventure game. The bestselling e-reader began exclusively as a reading device, and is designed for text. So, Inheritance fits into the flow of what the Kindle was originally designed for.

Text adventure games have been around for years, this is just a new means of playing them. The gist of Inheritance is: you are locked into your recently deceased uncle’s house. You unlock clues through letters so get your inheritance. It is a short, but somewhat challenging game fit for all ages. One of the reviewers noted how they found the clues humorous, making the game more enjoyable.

Another tidbit from a reviewer that I particularly liked was that Inheritance got a child who does not like to read, to enjoy this game. So, Inheritance and other interactive games for the Kindle can reach out to readers and nonreaders alike.

L. Logan

“It was a simple game, but it was quite a lot of fun.
The game is purely text-based. There are no pictures, but the descriptions are more than adequate. The hints are obvious. The hardest part is remembering where one saw which item and how to get there. The text is also very humorous, which, in my opinion, makes the game more enjoyable.”

Overall, good reviews. There were some complaints about getting stuck. But, for me at least, getting stuck makes me work that much harder to solve the problem. Which in turn makes it much more satisfying when I find that answer.

I can see a whole set of text adventure games come out of this one.  Many others would agree with me on that. It leaves room for variety and more complex adventures to satisfy everyone.

Website performance

On the 12th of August I did some tweaking to my web hosting. Here’s a question for those of you who visit blogkindle.com on a regular basis. Would you say that website loads faster than usual, slower or no change?