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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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Apps and games that run on Kindle 4

While majority of Active Content for Kindle currently doesn’t run on new Kindle 4 device without the keyboard. Some apps do run. Here’s a full list:

This list will expand as new apps are released and Amazon certifies existing ones for use without keyboard. The list will be updated here: Kindle 4 Apps.

Amazon to Collect Sales Tax in California and Beyond

For as long as eReaders have been around, it seems at times, people have complained that they aren’t available for under $100.  They’re finally getting there, with the Kindle available for as little as $114 new.  We might even see a $99 Kindle by the end of the year.  An important question to ask the people who came up with this number might soon be “Is that before or after tax?”

There is obvious competition between online retailers and the brick & mortar set over taxes.  While it is technically true that somebody buying a Kindle on Amazon.com should be paying the same taxes as somebody grabbing the same product from the local Best Buy, it isn’t surprising that most customers somehow forget to file the forms to pay those taxes at the end of the year.  These stores aren’t the only ones affected, of course.

Most states have begun to take notice of the problem, with some targeting Amazon directly due to its prominent status and high sales figures.  It’s a matter of hundreds of millions of dollars per year in revenue that the state governments rightly feel they should have access to.  Amazon’s response, which is either due to the inconvenience of keeping up with unendingly complex local sales tax interactions and iterations or due to the fact that it makes their store more appealing to customers to be able to avoid sales tax (depending on your current level of cynicism and trust of a major corporation’s word on the matter), has been to withdraw their physical presence from nearly any state that has tried to enforce collection requirements on them.

Now, in an arrangement with the California government, not only will Amazon not be pulling their presence from the state, they will be working openly to resolve the issue of sales tax on inter-state commerce due to the rise of the internet.  There’s a bit of back story to the arrangement, with both the state government and Amazon making threats over the issue, but essentially it seems that a compromise was reached.  Amazon, and online companies in general, will be given until July of 2012 to persuade Congress to adopt some form of nationwide measure for the collection of internet sales tax.  Should this not come to pass, there are fallbacks to allow for California to collect beginning in 2013.

While it would seem at first glance to be not in the company’s best interest to cooperate, they have simply gotten too large to avoid notice at this point.  Increasingly, Amazon will be singled out as iconic of the problem with online retailers.  The only safe path for them will be to seek a system that can catch their competition on all levels in the same net, to keep anybody from getting a major advantage.

The knowledge that this was coming could be one pressure that has pushed Amazon to focus on digital media distribution recently, giving them products that cannot be conveniently purchased locally.  Whether or not that is the case, however, it seems a safe bet that Amazon won’t be driven out of business by the inconvenience of it all or the price bump that customers should be paying for already anyway.

Kindle 4 Tips

I’ll periodically update this post with helpful tips on using your Kindle 4.

Kindle 4 on-screen software keyboard

  • You can use “prev page”/”next page” buttons to cycle between 5 character tabs on the keyboard (symbols, lowercase, uppercase, etc) . This way you don’t need to go all the way up each time you want to switch upper or lower case. Courtesy of “jswinden” from mobileread.com.
  • To take a screenshot, press “menu” and “keyboard” buttons at the same time.
  • Pressing “back” and “keyboard” buttons at the same time will do a full screen refresh, eliminating ghosting artifacts
  • If you purchased Kindle 4 with Special Offers, you can opt-out of these by visiting Manage Your Kindle Page on Amazon and agreeing to pay $30 difference between prices WSO and non-WSO Kindles.

Kindle 4 Review

My Kindle 4th generation finally arrived in the mail towards the end of the day. Here is a hands-on review based on my first impressions. If you feel geeky, be sure to check out my Kindle 4 disassembly post.

Although Amazon sticks to not adding numbers to their device names, software on the unit that I’ve received is 4.0 (1308590058). Serial number starts with B00E, leaving B00B, B00C and B00D unaccounted for at this moment. Surely some of the gaps in serial numbers are going to be filled in with Kindle Touch and/or Kindle Fire.

Kindle 4 Setup

Although Kindle 4 comes preconfigured with your Amazon.com account just like previous generation devices, it does ask you a few questions during the initial start-up:

  • Language that you prefer to use. It can later be changed in Device settings. This is a new feature of Kindle software 4.0. You can choose from German, US or UK English, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese.
  • Connect to WiFi network. This is essential for getting books and further working with the device since keyboardless Kindle 4 lacks 3G connectivity. Perhaps this feature will stay in Kindle Touch 3G as well. This will encourage more users to use their home WiFi networks to cut 3G costs for Amazon and provide better battery life and faster download times for users.
  • Confirm amazon account to be used with the device. I guess that people often gifted Kindles but still had them initially bound to their own account. This might have created extra customer support calls for Amazon and they decided to address this issue as well. Of course you can always deregister and re-register your Kindle through settings just like before.

Kindle 4 Apps and Games

Ever since the keyboardless device was announced during the press conference in NYC I couldn’t help but wonder: “what will happen to Kindle apps?”. While some of them can get by with only 5-way controller, physical keyboard is essential for many. I wonder no more – applications are disabled in keyboardless Kindle 4. If I were to venture with a guess – they will also be disabled in Kindle Touch. Touchscreen is nice, but it would still be cumbersome to use in Kindle games and apps that rely on keyboard shortcuts. It looks like Kindle Fire games and apps are “going to be the way of the future”. Rather than letting customers have a sub-par experience, Amazon decided to cut the feature altogether. Although most apps don’t work on the new device, some do. Amazon has inspected apps and certified some as compatible with devices that don’t have a keyboard. For example you can get “Jewels” and “Grid Detective” on Kindle 4 and play these games. Amazon will work with app developers to make as many existing titles compatible with Kindle 4 as possible. The same will be true with Kindle Touch once it is released. It will have a separate certification program of its own.

What is new in Kindle 4?

In terms of software – not a whole lot… Here are the things that I’ve noticed so far:

  • UI language selection. You can change Kindle UI language in the device settings. Doing so causes the device to restart. Please not that it only affects menu and UI language. Dictionary lookup will still be based on the dictionary that you currently have installed. By default this is English Oxford. If you would like to use translation dictionary (including translation from different languages) – take a look at selection of dictionaries that we offer.
  • Menus were cleaned up a bit in PDF viewer. Irrelevant controls are completely hidden rather than shown as disabled.
  • Power button is now pressable rather than slideable. Personally I like pressing more. Perhaps this is because sliding the button though zip-lock when reading in bath tub is a pain.

Kindle 4 vs Kindle 3

On the other hand, several features that were present in Kindle 3 are missing in Kindle 4:

  • Hardware keyboard. This is the most noticeable change and it truly is a double-edged sword. On one hand I really appreciate reduced weight and size while retaining the same 6″ screen (while Sony PRS-350 is lighter still, it has smaller screen that may be harder to read if your eyesight is not perfect). On the other hand you never truly know what you had until you loose it. And loosing a keyboard is a major inconvenience. While most of the time you use Kindle for reading and the only button you care about is “Next page”, you do need to type text from time to time:
    • To find already purchased book in your “archived items”.
    • To find a new book in Amazon Kindle Store and purchase it. I’m pretty sure that Amazon will soon notice reduced book purchases from keyboardless devices. And this reduction can only be partially attributed to more frugal audience. Buying books without keyboard is less convenient. On the other hand, having WiFi and not needing a PC is still a whole lot more convenient than Sony way of buying books via PC.
    • To do a quick google/wikipedia search if you don’t feel like getting up and using your other Internet connected devices
    • To use apps. Especially productivity apps like Calendar and Notepad
  • Kindle Apps are disabled. Only limited number of apps are supported at the moment.
  • There is no audio at all. Not even a headphone jack. This eliminates “text-to-speech” “read-to-me” feature and “voice guide” accessibility. It is also not possible to listen to background MP3s while reading a book or listen to audiobooks. While small – this is still an inconvenience.
  • There is no 3G version. Accessing WiFi on the go can be problematic sometimes and I would have gladly paid extra $50 for lifetime 3G and assurance that I’ll be able to get new books pretty much anywhere. According to my Kindle 4 disassembly, there is plenty of space inside to accomodate 3G modem and larger battery to feed it. So it seems that this choice was made either to cut costs or/and to make purchasing Kindle Touch more desirable.

Kindle  4 Ergonomics

Kindle 4 is one inch shorter and 1.5 ounces lighter than Kindle Keyboard. Personally I find lighter and smaller better. I don’t think that Kindle 4 is too small. While buttons are easily reachable in the center where they are, it would have been easier if they were shifted to the right. This would have made the device much less convenient for left-handed people of course. Page turning buttons are smaller than in K3. Initially I found Kindle 3 buttons uncomfortable. I’ve grown used to them since and not I don’t have a problem with either Kindle 4 or Kindle 3 buttons.

Kindle 4 Accessories

When buying Kindle 4 from Amazon you have the option of adding following items to your order:

  • Power adapter. If you plan to travel a lot – do get it. It is much more convenient to charge from the AC outlet than keep you laptop running just to let your Kindle charge via USB. If you already have USB charger for your smartphone or similar device it will most likely work with Kindle. Or maybe you will want to be the cool kid on the block and go with solar USB charger
  • Leather cover (no light)
  • Zip Sleeve to protect your Kindle from scratches.
  • 2-year squaretrade extended warranty. $25 warranty on $79 device that already has one year of top-notch Amazon support (with polite customer reps and cross-shipping replacements) doesn’t seem like a good deal to me.

Accessories

Lighted cover power connectors have moved to the back and became more exposed. So don’t throw powered on Kindle in a bag with lots of metallic things – they might short out the battery. When Kindle is powered on there is 4 volt on these contacts next to the power button and USB.

Kindle 4 Connectors

Kindle 4 Connectors

Bottom line

If you are choosing between Kindle 4 and Kindle 3 – choose based on how important to you is reduced size vs lack of apps, audio, 3G and keyboard. If these features are not important to you – you should get Kindle 4 and enjoy it’s compact size. Otherwise get Kindle Keybaord (K3) for $20 more which is a great device to begin with.

Kindle 4 Disassembly – Part I

So my Keyboardless Kindle 4 (we can call it that since it is the first Kindle device to hit the market that features software 4.0) arrived late in the evening. Surely enough my curiosity got the better of me and armed with a screwdriver and tweezers I set out to take it apart and see what is inside.

Normally one would open a Kindle by prying the back cover off with something sharp and pointy (screwdriver or knife). Kindle 4 resisted my attempts to open it up and when I finally did I understood why – top and bottom latches are much stronger than the rest so you need to bend the center of the cover up to let them slide out. On top of that it turned out that back cover is glued to the internal battery cover with adhersive gel. You need to apply some force to pop it open. If you decide to repeat my steps – be warned that your warranty will definitely be voided. My Kindle 4 device bears clear signs of being opened. There is no way to do it gracefully. Clearly the K4 is not meant to be user-serviceable or serviceable period.

Popping the back cover off reveals battery and motherboard. Most of the interesting stuff is covered with metal and I’ll leave it at that for the time being. I don’t want to ruin the device until I play around with the software. But fear not – soon enough the mission will be complete and I’ll post pictures of bare motherboard even if I end up bricking the device.

kindle4-rfid-tag

Kindle-4-rfid-tag

On the back of the cover there is RFID tag manufactured by UPM. It reads “UPM + 253_1″. Perhaps it is used to automate the personalization process (Kindle comes to your doorstep already configured with your Amazon account. It turns out that Amazon started putting RFID tags inside Kindle 3 and I missed it during my last disassembly.

Kindle4-disassembly

kindle-4-disassembly

Internally Amazon uses T-6 screws rather than Philips like in Kindle 3.

Taking the cover off the LiPo (Lithium Polymer) battery reveals its specs:

  • Model No: MC-265360
  • Rating (Voltage): 3.7V
  • Battery capacity: 890mAh (3.29Wh) – this is almost half that of Kindle 3. And not surprisingly Kindle 4 claims half the battery life of Kindle 3 – one month. Which is still plenty
  • Made in China by NcNair
  • Part Number: 515-1058-01
Kindle4 battery

Kindle 4 battery

WiFi chipset is Atheros AR6103T-BM2D 26AR0620.142D PAF284.1B 1126 made in Taiwan. This is very interesting because doing a Google search for AR6103T returns zero results. Nothing. The chip is not mentioned on the net at all. It is clearly a part of AR6103 chip family but seems to be a newer modification. AR6103 chips feature:

  • 2.4GHz 802.11b, 802.11g and 1-stream 802.11n. This means that it can only put though up to 72.2 Mbps in the 802.11n mode.
  • WEP, WPA, WPA2 (TKIP and AES) and WAPI encryption
  • 802.11e, WMM and WMM-PS QoS
  • 8.3mm x 9.2mm LGA package
Kindle4 Atheros WiFi Chip

Kindle 4 Atheros WiFi Chip

Small chip between battery and buttons is Winbond W25Q40BVIG is 512 kilobyte Quad SPI flash with clock speed of 104MHz, 3V power rating and erase block sizes of 4K, 32K and 64K. It has been in manufacture since Q3 2009. It sits right on wires that go to eInk screen. Screen model is ED060CF(LF)T1 REN60B7075(C62)

Kindle 4-Winbond-flash-W25Q40BVI

Kindle 4-Winbond-flash-W25Q40BVI

There is quite a bit of free space around the battery that could have been used for one or some of the following:

  • Larger battery
  • Speakers or at least audio-codec and mini-jack headphone connector
  • 3G modem
  • Memory card (SD or MMC) reader

Perhaps Amazon will add some of these things in the future. Or perhaps they will leave this space empty forever to keep the weight and cost down.

If there is a serial console like in previous Kindle generations, it is not obvious or easily accessible.

To be continued… Continued here: Kindle 4 disassembly – part II

Kindle Fire Sets New Tone For Tablet Industry

So, the big news has finally broken and we now know all there is to know about the new Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet.  If anything, it exceeds much of the high expectation surrounding the initial hype.  Everything from the drastic undercutting of competition pricing to the well thought out theme of the interface seem calculated to dominate a currently scattered industry.  With something like this available, even the iPad might have more to worry about than previously expected. That said, there are some other things going on here that aren’t entirely apparent at first glance.

A couple things go a long way to guaranteeing that Kindle Fire customers will remain Amazon customers as long as they own their device, for example.  For one, while nothing says that you definitely cannot import content from other sources, and indeed it seems almost inevitable that you will be able to do so, the integrated storage is fairly limited and only Amazon content will be given unlimited storage space on their cloud servers.  Will it be possible to stream content, especially video, over your home network to the tablet?  That remains to be seen.

We also have to assume that a great deal of the functionality, as far as content access and even web browsing go, would be lost with the rooting of the device for whatever reason.  Amazon has been concerned enough with piracy in the past to make this something they will have taken into consideration, even if it means that some legitimate users will be inconveniences by it.

For your average user, still not really a bad deal.  You have access to movies, music, magazines, and even books, all at a reasonable price.  The Amazon Prime functionality becomes almost mandatory to get the most out of things, but it provides value far beyond its cost. Kindle Fire’s even light enough for one-handed use and can multi-task enough to play you music while you read or browse the web.

What would have made it even better?  In the future people are definitely hoping for a larger viewing area, expandable storage, optional 3G capabilities, and longer battery life.  Some of that fell to the side in order to allow the Kindle Fire to be priced so low.  Some of it, like the battery life, just isn’t reasonable yet.  Of course if we’re speculating about hardware that does not exist yet then I suppose full color, low power, non-backlit displays would be nice.  These things will happen when the tech is available, I would assume.  Better to do it right with what is mature right this minute than jump in too soon.

Should this take off, and I think we can all be pretty sure that it will after today’s reveal, expect to be seeing a larger, more powerful Kindle Tablet on the horizon.  Amazon supposedly spent time and manpower getting a 10″ tablet designed already, and they’ll need it to top this offering.  The competition will need some time to adjust, in the meantime.  It’s unlikely we’ll see such an affordable yet functional tablet from anybody else in the near future.

We knew Kindle Fire name known for almost a year… kind of ;)

Amazon naming their color eReader tablet, Kindle Fire didn’t come as a big surprise for us here. In fact this name was mentioned on our blog as far back as December 25th, 2010… Back then we had a Kindle Color name guessing contest and back then, subscriber with nickname “shyam”, submitted Kindle Fire as his guess and was right. Back then I promised a grand prize of Kindle Color reader to whoever would correctly guess the name first. After making this post I’ll be contacting Shyam via email so that he can claim his prize.

Congratulations, Shyam!

If you are would like to win free Kindle Fire or free Kindle Touch for yourself, there is a chance for you to do as well. Just use the button below to tweet about our Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch coverage and follow @blogkindle (so that I can contact you in case you win). One day before Kindle Fire starts shipping (on November 14th, 2011) I’ll randomly select a winner and ship the prize overnight.

Kindle Touch, Kindle Fire – New Amazon devices announced…

Today, on September 28th, 2011, during Amazon press conference in New York, Jeff Bezos has announced several new versions of the Kindle Device: Kindle Touch, Kindle Fire and Kindle 4 mini.

Kindle Touch

 

Kindle Touch 3G

Will have a 6″ latest generation eInk. There will be no keyboard, not even page flipping buttons, with all features accessible via “easy reach” system touch interface. Touchscreen uses the same infrared technology as latest generation Sony eReaders. Kindle Touch is made of silver plastic (again similar to latest Sony eReaders). It will be available on November 21st with pre-orders starting today in two flavors – WiFi only for less than a $100.00 (!!!!) -$99 and 3G for $149. Amazon is pretty consistent with charging $50 for “lifetime unlimited 3G access available in over 100 countries”. It seems like the software has gotten an upgrade as well with the new X-Ray feature that lets you do rich text lookups that go beyond looking up single words in the dictionary. It seems to pull Wikipedia description of general concepts mentioned on the page you are currently reading.

Features and specs:

Kindle 4 (mini)

Kindle 4 mini

Same 6″ screen, but no touch, no keyboard, only with page flipping buttons. Because of this the device is both very compact and inexpensive. It is 18 smaller than Kindle 3 and weights under 6 ounces. Priced at only $79 with Special Offers and $109 without and shipping today. The device is actually called just “Kindle”, with Kindle 3 being creatively renamed into “Kindle Keyboard”.

Specs and feature:

  • Latest generation eInk Pearl screen (600×800 16 grayscale) – same as Kindle 3
  • Size: 6.5″ x 4.5″ x 0.34″
  • Weight: 5.98 oz. This is 2.5 ounces lighter than Kindle 3, and only 0.5 ounce more than Sony PRS-350
  • Storage: 2GB internal flash, with 1 1/4 GB available for user content
  • RAM: 512MB SDRAM memory
  • Battery: 1 month battery life
  • Wireless connectivity: 802.11b/g/n WiFi. No 3G option available at this time
  • Wired connectivity: micro-B USB 2.0 connector
  • Audio: headphone jack and built-in stereo speakers
  • Pricing:
  • Available: Can Order Now!

Kindle Fire

Kindle Fire Tablet

Amazon’s entry into the tablet market, currently dominated by Apple iPad. Kindle Fire features:

  • 7-inch color backlit LCD display based on IPS technology that allows good viewing from wide range of angles
  • LCD is protected with extra-strong Gorilla-glass.
  • Dual core ARM CPU
  • Weighs 14.6 ounces
  • Runs heavily modified version of Android operating system

Kindle Fire will have direct and easy access to a broad range of content:

  • First and foremost – over 1,000,000 (and counting…) of Kindle eBooks
  • Color versions of newspapers and magazines
  • 100,000 movies and TV shows streaming from Amazon. 11,000 of these are available for free to Amazon Prime subscribers
  • 17 million DRM-free MP3 songs
  • Amazon’s own Android app store.

Kindle Fire seems to rely heavily on Amazon Cloud Storage.

Same WhisperSync technology that synchronizes book reading position across multiple devices now works with movies and TV shows – it automatically remembers last watched position. You can resume watching the movie on your TiVo or any other Amazon-connected streaming video device.

Touch UI supports swipe gestures to bring out extra controls, very similar to Windows 8 concept. It looks nothing like vanilla Android. Homescreen features 3D carousel of most recently accessed content regardless of it’s type: in the demo Angry Birds game is shown right next to the latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine and Kindle eBooks. OS supports multitasking. So you can listen to music while you are reading a book. You can pin any kind of content (including a website bookmark) to your Home screen bookshelf. Full color magazine display seems to be much smoother than with original version of Nook Color.

Browser user interface has tabs at the top. Kindle Fire features Amazon Silk – “cloud based mobile browser”. The browser automatically off-loads part of the page parsing and rendering to Amazon EC2 servers, helping the mobile device to load desktop oriented websites heavy with dynamic content and javascript quickly.

Price point is $199 as was previously announced. This includes 30-day trial of Amazon Prime service that normally sells as $79/year subscription. Kindle Fire ships on November 15th, 2011 with pre-orders starting today.

Specs and features:

  • Screen: 7″ backlit IPS LCD with multi-touch and gestures. 1024 x 600 resolution with 24 bit color
  • Size: 7.5″ x 4.7″ x 0.45″
  • Weight: 14.6 oz. This is 1.2 lighter than Nook Color
  • Storage: 8GB internal flash memory. No expansion slots (SD/MMC/etc) are available. It does however have access to Amazon Cloud Storage which is unlimited for Amazon content
  • Battery: Up to 8 hours on a single charge. Very similar to Nook Color. There is no cheating laws of physics there.
  • Wireless connectivity: 802.11b/g/n. No 3G option at this time
  • Wired connectivity: micro-B USB 2.0 connector
  • Audio: headphone jack and built-in stereo speakers
  • Data formats: on top of supporting the usual bunch that Kindle 3 supports, Kindle Fire adds native support for DOCX and a number of DRM-free audio-formats
  • OS: heavily modified Android
  • Sensors: Accelerometer
  • Digital content:
    • 1,000,000+ in-copyright books. 800,000+ of these are priced at $9.99 or below. Millions more – out of copyright
    • 100,000+ movies and TV shows available for streaming
    • 1000s of Android apps. This is only a subset of what’s available for Android. On the other hand, acceptance criteria is much higher so overall app quality is much better than you average Android app. Nook, Kobo app availability… I’m guessing not.
    • 17,000,000+ DRM-free Mp3 songs from Amazon MP3 store
  • Email client that works with major providers like Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc. Additional email support is available though apps that can be separately purchased.
  • One month trial of Amazon Prime.
  • Pricing: $199
  • Availability: Ships on November 15, 2011. Pre-orders available now.

Amazon Kindle Fire TV ad

Size comparison

I’ve added these new devices to the eReader Size Comparison page. So now you can visually compare how they stack.

  • Kindle Mini is smaller than Sony PRS-350 while featuring same buttons and screen size.
  • Kindle Touch is smaller than Nook Color again while featuring the same screen diagonal.

New “Kindle Fire” Tablet To Be Revealed On Wednesday

All year we have been getting bits of data, speculation, and supposedly leaked information about the upcoming Kindle Tablet.  This past month has seen huge dumps of information about the upcoming product, and today we’ve got even more thanks to TechCrunch.  In a press conference being held this Wednesday, we should get confirmation and all of the other information we’ve been waiting for.

Probably the first big revelation is the name.  In order to differentiate it from the Kindle eReader line, the new Tablet has apparently been dubbed the “Kindle Fire”.  This was actually hinted at several months back when people stumbled on Amazon’s acquisition of several Kindle related domains, including kindlefire.com.

We now know that the Kindle Fire will be feature a 7″ backlit screen that may look quite similar to the BlackBerry Playbook due to shared manufacturers and a lack of time to get the product out for this holiday season.  It will be using a custom fork of Android (probably built on the 2.1 base), but altered to the point of complete uniqueness.  This will be running on a TI dual-core OMAP chip, probably in the 1.2GHz range, putting the hardware in line with other newer Android devices.  Overall a strong offering.

Now, the existing Kindle line has effectively dominated the eBook market in the United States by bringing customers an impressive reading experience that improves value despite the inability to price their eBooks as competitively as the company might desire (Hooray for the Agency Model, right?).  If a similar relationship with customers can be achieved with the Kindle Fire, Amazon can completely turn the current hardware-based Tablet sales model on its head (Some reports indicate that as much as 90% of iPad based profit for Apple comes from hardware sales).

To pull this off, Amazon has been pulling together a great support base.  Major app developers have apparently been approached to get them ready for the launch, for one.  Also, quite importantly given the media-centric nature of this device, Amazon has been putting together deals with the likes of CBS and Fox  to secure access to extensive video content for the Amazon Instant Video service.

There is currently some question as to the exact nature of what will be offered as incentives to new users.  Some sources are saying that this will be a $250 Tablet PC with Amazon Prime bundled free for the first year, while others are claiming that there will be two packages available that will differ mainly in their inclusion of the Amazon Prime membership.

What we anticipate at this time is an announcement by Amazon that the Kindle Fire will be available either late October or early November.  This seems like a large delay between the press conference and first shipments, but Amazon is clearly under pressure from competition in both tablets and eReaders at the moment and needs to get ahead.

Check back on Wednesday for confirmation, revisions, and any other Kindle Fire news that we are able to bring you.

Is Windows 8 Bad News For Kindle Tablet?

There are two major factors favoring the success of the Kindle Tablet right now, aside from being backed by Amazon and all that that entails.  One is that it will be cheaper than pretty much all of the tablet competition, especially the big names like Apple.  Two is that it should be able to provide a consistent, centralized experience practically unheard of in the Android Tablet market today.

Pricing is a key issue, of course.  It will be incredibly hard for most companies to compete with Amazon since their media sales emphasis will allow them to sell hardware at or below cost while confidently expecting to make up the profits in post-sale usage.  The only really usable tablet in the same range is the Nook Color, which is mostly only succeeding by being great compared to other extremely cheap tablets.  If Amazon can manage to provide a genuinely superior experience at the same price, they will stand alone with good reason.

We can’t rely entirely on pricing to determine success, though.  The Pandigital Novel can often be found for $80 or less, but that doesn’t mean it is knocking the Kindle down from their place on top of eReader sales (despite being a color eReader, which many people claim is more important than screen quality or interface).

The act of creating a consistent Android experience, however, might soon be less useful than we might expect, should Windows 8 live up to its promise.  Microsoft’s new tablet-centric operating system seems to have a good chance of focusing tablets around a single unfragmented environment that has no ties to a specific manufacturer.  They’ve got media play capabilities, the full versatility of a Windows OS, an apparently highly streamlined design, and even an App Store.  It can be hard to argue with all that.

The Kindle Tablet will clearly be running lower powered hardware than most Windows tablets can be expected to, and will have a more consumption-focused experience.  The problem they are facing is less direct market competition and more a conflict of perception.  If the idea is to lure in consumers with something that is like an iPad in every way that matters besides the price, it will only work so long as the iPad is what people are using as the basis for comparison.  A $350 Windows tablet with superior hardware and a comparable user experience might be enough to derail the whole effort no matter what kind of incentives Amazon is able to throw in to sweeten the pot.

In the end everything will rest on how the two launches go.  Amazon has earned a great deal of customer loyalty through the Kindle platform, which goes a long way toward jump starting the new product.  Microsoft, on the other hand, has left many potential customers and developers a bit put off with the extremely different direction their newest product has taken things.  A failure to impress on the part of either company will mean a lot for the competition.

Doodle for Kindle

Do you remember Etch A Sketch from way back when?  I remember it being one of my favorite toys from childhood. Doodle For Kindle is a worthy equivalent of Etch A Sketch, and is fun for all ages.

I know there are people who can draw some elaborate scenes in Doodle for Kindle, but it is also great for basic sketches. There are some drawing included.  They’re pretty cool.  The Mona Lisa, a swan, and more.  It would be good practice to try copying these.

Your main drawing tool is the Kindle’s 5-way toggle button.  there are three drawing methods: step by step, automatic drawing, and a more precise one that is primarily controlled by the drawer.  The automatic one draws on its own until you tell it to stop.  The step by step one is good for boxes and staircases.

I had so much fun with Doodle for Kindle.  In addition to bringing back childhood memories, I found that this app helps foster creativity.  Sometimes the most the most haphazard drawings can become the best forms of art.

For others, Doodle for Kindle might be a good way to pass time at a boring lecture, or keep kids occupied on long car rides.  When I read through reviews on many different Kindle apps, I see comments about how excited they are to have kid friendly apps on their Kindle.

A suggestion for future versions of Doodle for Kindle include lines that have different styles such as dashes or dots.  If keyboard shortcuts are possible, they might can be used to take some pressure off of the toggle button.

Doodle for Kindle has amazing reviews, and is great quality for just a dollar!

Ted Johnson

“Great to see how innovative some people can be. Love the idea and execution here. Would be great if I could share my creations externally through email or social networks. Only problem – this is somewhat addictive! ”

D. Frenkel

“A fine app that will help you pass some time while exercising your creativity. Performance is great and the initial set of “doodles” that comes up when the application starts looks amazing! It has several modes of operation which are very handy for simple things (where the line moves faster) or for complicated drawings (where lines need to be carefully moved literally pixel by pixel). Color reversal mode is also a very good idea, looks nice on my device. Overall, a very enjoyable and fun addition to my Kindle collection. Highly recommended!”

Kindle Tablet’s Android Fork A Smart Idea

Admittedly I was one of many people who were initially a bit shocked and disappointed by the news that the Kindle Tablet would run on a forked version of Android from a pre-3.0 base.  Since Android 3.0 was the first version optimized for tablets, and since I want the Kindle Tablet to be as useful a device as the Kindle, there seemed to be an important connection being missed somewhere along the line.  After a bit of further research, though, this could be a great move to establish the new ecosystem.

There were some analyst observations made recently that brought the truth of things out pretty well.  Essentially, since this isn’t just an early release of Android it may not matter quite as much that it isn’t based on the most recent release.  The best way to think of this may be as an alternative to Android.  The Kindle Tablet OS, by all accounts, is built on the Android base code but does not carry over any of the experience.  It seems like something of a slight to Google to take their offering and run in another direction with it, but that’s another matter entirely.

What makes this an observation worth making is the way it increases the Kindle Tablet’s potential for creating a real presence for itself.  On the developer end of things, Android development is forced to exist in such a fragmented environment at this point that there is no simple way to keep up with everything.  Amazon is in a position to immediately take a dominant position among non-iPad tablets.  The combination of a huge user base and a stable environment could be enough to persuade many developers to release software exclusively for the Kindle Tablet, even leaving out the ability to make assumptions about the hardware capabilities of the end user.  A greater selection of apps than competing tablets is a big draw for customers, if the iPad can be taken as an example.

On the customer end of things, Amazon has already proven to be more effective than Google in moderating the content of its own Android App Store.  They’ve also shown a fair degree of insight into meeting user demand, as demonstrated by the Kindle, Kindle Apps, and the Amazon.com websites in general.  Combine the expected $249 price with a unique and positive user experience and it is hard to argue with a purchase, especially compared to more expensive and less impressively backed competing tablets.

Yes, it would have been nice to see Amazon having used a more recent release as their starting point.  The fact that they didn’t does imply that they’ve been at work for quite a while making the best product possible.  The Ars Technica preview that brought so many of these details to our attention in the first place emphasized how fluid and intuitive the tablet was to use, so apparently they have made good use of that time.  While I will continue hoping for certain hardware improvements in the form of a high end Kindle Tablet(Hollywood?), there seems to be no reason to find fault with their software decisions at the moment.

Kindle Library Lending Has Begun (In Seattle)!

The long anticipated release of Kindle library lending has begun!  Beta testing for the new integration with Overdrive Library, a product of the Cleveland-based company whose software powers most library eBook lending in the country, is now going on in Seattle libraries.

Ever since the initial announcement that these two companies would be working together to bring the feature to the Kindle, there has been an impatient audience waiting to take advantage.  Library lending has often been touted as the one thing that allowed anybody to claim a significant advantage over the Kindle in the eReader marketplace.  With recent hardware updates for both the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Kobo eReader, news that this feature gap will finally be closed will be a big asset for the Kindle line.  While at present only the Seattle Public Library and the King County Library System will get to borrow Kindle Editions, the opportunity will be making its way to over 11,000 libraries nationwide once the testing is complete.

The user experience should be remarkably familiar for most Kindle owners, as it is essentially just a short step before the procedure normally employed for purchasing a Kindle eBook in the first place.  To rent a book, you start off in the library’s website and browse their available content.  Seattle Public Library, for example, has around 25,000 eBooks at this time.  Not all of those will be in stock at any given time, of course, so waiting lists are available to handle anybody who doesn’t get to the latest new acquisitions in time.  The library’s collection will be browse-able through OverDrive’s software and you will check out as would normally be the case.

Once the eBook is put on your library card, for whatever period the library allows, presumably, there is a button labeled “Get for Kindle”.  Clicking on that brings you to an Amazon.com store page with “Get Library Book” in place of the usual purchasing button.  Click it and you’re done!  You’ll be notified three days before the loan expires.  There are, however, some minor inconveniences.

One, you will not be able to use the 3G coverage on a Kindle to download your library books.  Either WiFi or USB connections will manage it just fine.  Should you happen to have an older Kindle or Kindle DX that does not have WiFi capabilities, and should you be unfamiliar with the method for putting eBooks onto your eReader, it’s as simple as downloading the file to your computer and dragging it over the the Kindle in your Computer menu like you would any other removable drive.

Two, some library patrons are apparently unhappy with the recommendations presented during the Amazon.com steps of the borrowing process. Given Amazon’s eBook sales business and the fact that the library rentals will be offered freely, I think it unlikely that they will make any significant effort to remove the unobtrusive sales pitch but it is something to be aware of if you find such things truly unpleasant.

These aside, it sounds like the process is smooth and should generally be more streamlined than any other eBook borrowing procedure at this time.  Library patrons will finally be able to make the most of their Kindles.  With luck we can expect to be seeing this service pop up nation-wide by the end of the year.

AmazonLocal, Meet Amazon Kindle

Anybody remember not too many months back when I speculated that the coming of the Kindle w/ Special Offers meant a strong possibility of an Amazon move against the Groupon dominated local offer business?  Yeah, I’m definitely taking full credit for the idea and feel that I am sure to be getting royalty checks any day now.  Well, maybe not…

Anyway, as was previously speculated would be the case, the popular ad-supported Kindle will now be playing host to a series of locale specific deals through the AmazonLocal program.  The AmazonLocal program, for those who have yet to get any information about it, is a local deals web service that offers customers as much as 75% off of various goods and services in their areas.  They launched it earlier this year, and have been spreading the service’s influence throughout the US.  So far, 44 locations across 15 states are covered and more are popping up all the time.  While it is separate from the Amazon owned LivingSocial deal site, many deals sourced through LivingSocial can be found in both places.

The initial Kindle deals will be limited to New York City customers.  Kindle owners in Downtown, Midtown, Uptown, and Brooklyn will get to take advantage of a few offers over the next couple weeks that should make the idea of ads on the Kindle even more attractive.  According to the recent press release, the first few big offers for New Yorkers will include:

  • $7 for a one-hour bike rental in Central Park ($15 value)
  • $5 for $10 at Dangerfield’s Comedy club
  • $59 for one month unlimited yoga classes at Bikram Yoga Grand Central ($180 value)
  • $5 for $10 worth of ice cream and ice cream cakes at Coldstone Creamery
  • $45 for lunch at City Winery ($98 value)

The major attraction of the Kindle integration with AmazonLocal will be the completely computer-free access to the service.  Not only will potential customers be able to encounter new deals as a matter of course without going out of their way, just by closing their books and glancing at the screensaver, but even the purchases will be taken care of.  Customers wanting to make the purchase offered through this program will be able to grab it through the eReader and present the redemption voucher as an item displayed on the screen to the business in question.

This functionality, while not yet a part of the Kindle experience, will be included in an upcoming software update.  Once again, it seems that devices that do not have the integrated Special Offers will be left out of the promotion, increasing the overall appeal of an ad supported eReader.  Given the unobtrusive nature of the advertisements while reading, and the value of the advertisements that have been and will soon be offered, it will be no surprise if the Kindle w/ Special Offers is appealing for far more than simply the associated price cut.  Should you be somebody who is both interested in the offers and uninterested in ads on your Kindle, make sure to check out www.AmazonLocal.com!

Windows 8 runs Kindle

In case you were wondering where I was off to last week… I was on the BUILD conference watching Microsoft unveil Windows 8 developer preview.

Amazon Kindle App on Windows 8

Amazon Kindle App on Windows 8

One of the first things I did is install Kindle App and I’m happy to report that it runs nicely on Windows 8. Microsoft did a great job ensuring backward compatibility.

The screenshot was taken with the app I’ve just finished hacking together. So if you are into installing Window 8 to see what all of this is about, you can use this Window 8 Screenshot Share app to easily take screenshots and share them online with a few clicks (or taps of you finger if you have touch).

Waterstone’s To Be UK’s Next Kindle Competition

Everybody knows that Amazon doesn’t release the sales numbers for their Kindle eReader.  That being said, some analysts have estimated that the popular eReader will sell over 17 million units this year alone and that the platform as a whole now accounts for as much as 10% of Amazon’s overall revenue.  That doesn’t mean that the Kindle is unassailable, of course, but it is definitely difficult.  The Barnes & Noble Nook has proved both parts of that.  Now, in an effort to revive flagging sales numbers, British bookseller Waterstone’s is going to try to replicate the B&N success story.

James Daunt, the Waterstone’s managing director, said in a recent BBC 4 radio interview that he was inspired by the Nook’s success in the US market.  So far, Barnes & Noble has not decided to expand their eReader presence beyond the US in spite of the exceptionally favorable reviews of their most recent generation of devices, which leaves a gap in the market for somebody else to exploit. Lately, given the consistent downward trend of most of Barnes & Noble’s non-Nook numbers, this seems like a great model for an otherwise declining company to make a comeback with.

Right now, Waterstone’s does not have a hardware partner or much in the way of solid details in terms of their intended offering.  Daunt has claimed that the company is “well down the planning line” on the way to an early 2012 launch are somewhat encouraging, but there is a lot to get done for such an ambitious move.  This is a fairly late stage to be entering into eReading on short notice, given the high quality of the current generation of eReaders.  Even the Kindle is sometimes only considered second-best by comparison these days.  That’s a lot to measure up to for any newcomer.

Since the closing of Borders Books and Books Etc, Waterstones seems to be the only major brick and mortar book seller in the UK market.  At a glance this seems to be something of a last-ditch effort.  The Waterstone’s internet storefront, which has been selling eBooks for some time now, has failed to compete successfully against the Kindle’s UK store.  A hardware tie-in would guarantee some returning business, but only if customers can be persuaded to adopt the new platform in the long term.

One of the biggest considerations for people seeking to build their own eBook library is whether or not their purchases will eventually be rendered useless by the end of a format or the closing of their chosen retailer.  Whereas Amazon seems to be around for pretty much the foreseeable future, Waterstone’s will have to make a big impression to avoid losing customers to the fear of obsolescence.  Add into that the overwhelming probability that there will be a new and improved Kindle released even before the Waterstone’s eReader comes to market and it will be a much tougher sale to make.

As always, competition is the most important driving factor for product improvement and customers should welcome a new serious contender to the eReader marketplace, but so far there isn’t enough detail to get your hopes up for.

In Era Of Self-Promotion, Authors’ Obligations & Opportunities Increase Thanks To Kindle’s @author

Amazon’s new @author feature is a new addition to their Kindle-based social media effort.  Currently in a limited beta release, the feature promises to create an even closer author to reader connection by allowing readers to send along questions for their favorite authors right from the Kindle itself.  While it may turn out to be a mixed blessing for authors already being pulled in far more directions than ever before to get maximum exposure, many will undoubtedly welcome the opportunity.

In its ideal use case, the @author feature will be a source for frequent connections with curious readers that allows for one-on-one contact and gives readers a chance to resolve points of confusion by going directly to the source.  At the same time, since questions are visible from the author’s Amazon page and answerable by anybody, this should help to foster a sense of community among readers.  It seems a lot like Kindle authors are getting the best of both worlds.  There are promotional opportunities from the comfort of their own homes when they are building an audience and an open forum for discussion when that audience gets large enough and involved enough that people start answering each other’s questions.

Obviously the advantage for Amazon in all of this is that the Kindle‘s integration into the communication process will give it that much more pull on customers and potential Kindle Direct Publishing authors.  The user experience of the upcoming Kindle Tablet will also involve tighter connections than ever to the Amazon.com storefront, which makes this a further selling point for the new hardware, at least among readers, should they market it properly.

There are potential downsides with this, as with all new services.  Because it is still a limited beta release, we have no real way of knowing what kind of moderation the @author question/answer system will enjoy upon release.  As anybody who frequents the Amazon product forums can attest, open discussion on the site doesn’t always tend toward the most productive side of things.  There is also a new set of authorial duties that will take some getting used to.

Since the ride of eBooks began, many have expressed concern that the increased emphasis on self publishing would result in the best marketers rising to the top rather than the best writers.  In theory, after all, the role of the publishing house was to select the best of the best to bring readers only exactly what they want to read.  In some ways, it’s a very important concern.  Sure, you can now sell your own book without bothering to get an agent, editor, or publisher, but now you also have to complete every stage of development from the start with no large support structure.

Undoubtedly some amazing authors have fallen by the side of the road for exactly that reason.  Overall though, with the sheer number of increasingly successful Kindle authors, we’ve seen an increase in the number of great writers being read.  This will probably bring a little bit more hassle for some people, but it will also facilitate convenient conversation and have a net positive effect for any author smart enough to take advantage of it.

Amazon Bringing Kindle To Spain, Also Their Whole Store

Amazon is all set to launch their new Amazon.es site in Spain on September 15th, according to sources in several Spanish newspapers.  While the service will cover only physical goods at the time the store opens, it will expand to digital content including a Spanish Kindle Store before the end of the year.  This will be a big step in eCommerce for a country that has reportedly been somewhat late to the game so far, as well as expanding the Amazon empire even more.

The lack of a local Amazon presence hasn’t stopped the company from developing a substantial Spanish following over the years.  It is reportedly quite common for people to order through extra-national Amazon sites in order to ensure fair prices, reliable delivery, and good customer service in a way that hasn’t been directly available in the Spanish marketplace.  Some even associate the slow adoption of online retail in Spain to the fact that the country has lacked an Amazon presence up until now, so this will spur things for the better in a number of ways.

One place where Amazon will not necessarily have an automatic lead over the competition will, surprisingly, be in the field of eReading.  The Amazon.es site is slated to have a Kindle Store open late this year, while the Kobo release is expected any time now, if earlier promises to have their store open by the end of the summer can be believed.  Kobo has managed to outdo Kindle on the international front so far in a number of ways, so this is just another front in an ongoing conflict.

On top of the lack of status as the first people on the scene, the Kindle Store in question will not be able to set prices in an advantageous way.  There are means in place in Spain to fix eBook prices across the market at about 30% below the cost of their print equivalent. As in the US following the introduction of Agency Model pricing, Amazon will have to find other ways to add value to their platform aside from low prices.  If nothing else, at least it’s an effort that they have practice making.

Amazon currently maintains a presence beyond the United States in France, Germany, China, Italy, Canada, Japan, and the UK.  Their Kindle line has made it to the UK and Germany so far, with further international expansion said to be a priority.

Many have conjectured that there will be a large push with localized devices is loosely planned for after the introduction of a Kindle without a hardware keyboard, which would obviously help with pressing adoption in countries where English is not the primary language.  Time will tell if this manifests, but with many expecting a new Kindle with a touchscreen as early as October there would seem to be very little to prevent it.  The speculated-upon move to an Android OS for the Kindle eReader in addition to the Kindle Tablet might make localization more problematic, but until an implementation is actually seen it is hard to do more than speculate.

Kindle Book Library For Amazon Prime Members Coming Soon…Maybe

Apparently Amazon has been working on a way to offer Amazon Prime customers a Kindle platform lending library experience similar to what Netflix users have come to expect.  While this is in its extremely early stages and will depend on reaching agreements with publishers who have not been particularly fond of Amazon or the Kindle, if it were to be realized it would be a game changing addition to the eBook world.

It is important to note that this will be distinct from Kindle Library Lending.  An Amazon Prime membership will not be required for Kindle Library Lending.  This service would allow subscribers to access a certain number of titles per month, after which it is unclear whether these users would be cut off or given the option to pay overage fees of some sort.  At launch, and possibly permanently depending on the eventual structuring, this service would be only for older works, leaving the bestsellers list alone in favor of less profitable titles that publishers would have less reason to object to.

Publishers are not terribly enthused by this idea, unfortunately.  While Amazon has reportedly offered a substantial fee for any publishers who join in on the program, there are concerns.  One, executives are apparently concerned that the idea of such a rental program would devalue their publications in the eyes of potential customers.  Two, with Amazon already being in a highly influential place in the eReading world, many are concerned that such a program would alienate competing retailers.

The former concern isn’t exactly surprising in an industry that already seems to view libraries as little more than theft.  The fee offered for participation would have to be substantial indeed to overcome the industry’s anti-lending attitude.  As for the damaged relations, it seems shortsighted.  If Amazon did pioneer a successful subscription based lending program, it would open the door for publishers to arrange similar deals with competing platforms.  That relies on the assumption that the publishers do themselves a disservice by alienating their customers and will eventually have to give people what they want, which apparently is a difficult concept to swallow in many cases.

In all honesty, the fact that one executive defended their position by saying that “What it would do is downgrade the value of the book business” says to me that publishers still don’t quite get the fact that there are few inherent differences between the print and eBook mediums in most peoples’ minds.  Just as public libraries don’t keep people from valuing books, being able to access a Kindle library equivalent wouldn’t change anything for the vast majority of customers beyond removing the need to worry about waiting lists and local availability of lend-able titles in the public library system.

Going along with a plan like this would be great publicity, make author back lists more accessible for potential customers, and quite possibly make the companies more money than would otherwise be the case on these titles, if the fee Amazon is offering is large enough.  Shunning this sort of idea on principal does everybody a disservice.

Kindle Hardware Update Likely, Color eReader Not So Much

A combination of the high expectations surrounding the upcoming Amazon Kindle Tablet and the lack of substantial information regarding the expected hardware update to the existing Kindle eReader line has led to some speculation about secretly substantial change being just around the corner for the bestselling eReading device.  Domain name acquisitions have pushed some people into a belief in the importance of a touchscreen for the Kindle, but more ambitious sources are holding out hope for a truly impressive jump forward.  Wouldn’t having the first affordable Color E INK eReader be quite the coup for Amazon, after all?  It would certainly make the Nook Simple Touch a bit less shiny by comparison.

Still, and I say this with nothing but regret, there is next to no chance that we will be getting a true Kindle Color any time soon.  Sure the Kindle Tablet will have the ability to read, but only in the same way that the Nook Color or your average smartphone can technically be an eReader if the user so desires.  Until screen technology advances a bit further, nobody is likely to want to gamble on a good color reading display.

The problem right now is the tradeoffs.  To make a Kindle Color worthwhile, Amazon would need to have a vibrant color display that didn’t detract from the existing touted benefits of the Kindle’s display.  That means you can’t have a back-light, high battery draw, or less than crisp text.  Nothing currently being produced meets all those criteria while still being affordable enough to keep things competitive.  If they did, the Kindle Tablet would be looking at such a screen and would have a significant advantage over every other Tablet PC on sale today.

Naturally something has to give.  The Kindle device is going strong at the moment, but that’s mostly sue to a combination of momentum and strong backing from the platform as a whole.  If the hardware faces too much competition that can match or surpass it, Kindle sales and by extension Kindle eBook sales will suffer.  Amazon has to know this.  As such, I would say that getting your hopes up for an updated Kindle is totally safe.

What can we expect if not a color screen?  Well, a touchscreen is inevitable to match the competition from B&N, Sony, and Kobo, if nothing else.  Given the Kindle Scribe rumors, it wouldn’t be at all shocking if a stylus were included in the design.  Since nobody else is using 3G coverage Amazon could technically let that slip, but the recent ad deal with AT&T would seem to indicate that they value the ability to bring that sort of thing to customers.  Beyond these things, however, it’s anybody’s guess.  Higher resolution screens?  Bluetooth?  Strange magical powers?  All possibilities!

Current speculation places the updated Kindle‘s release in late October, but that information is several weeks old now.  Given the most recent Kindle Tablet developments, and the fact that Amazon is likely to emphasize the new branch of Kindle products heavily for this holiday season, we may not be seeing new Kindles before late November.  More updates will show up here as we dig them up.

A Tribute to Michael Hart, Founder of Project Gutenberg

Michael Hart, the founder of ebooks and Project Gutenberg, died on September 6, 2011 at the age of 64. His death will be a huge loss for the digital book and literary community. However, the work he has already done has set the groundwork in the ebook world. Other members of the literary community will have to continue his mission to provide global literacy. Hart founded Project Gutenberg in 1971, and it is the longest running literary project recorded.

Project Gutenberg currently offers over 36,000 public domain ebooks that are available on the Kindle, iPad, PC and other computers or portable devices that allow ePub, HTML, or Simple Text. All of the books are free, and there’s no cost to join. A wealth of information is literally at your fingertips. The information is top quality.

Hart’s ebook idea began when he typed up a copy of the Declaration of Independence on his computer and sent it to others in the network at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  This was barely after the internet was created.

Hart’s literary impact was profound because through ebooks, he opened up literature to the global audience. Project Gutenberg currently has ebooks available in 60 languages. It is also a huge asset to libraries and research. The longevity of this project proves that it the ability to adapt right along with the rapid changes in technology.

E-book readers such as the Kindle, Nook and Kobo are just part of the progression towards better literacy. They add portability and easy access to millions of ebooks. The Kindle has made life much easier for people who can’t read small print through its font size adjustments feature.

One of Michael Hart’s goals was to reach out to children. This goal is being realized as more children’s books are being added to ebook collections, and as Kindles and other e-book readers are being introduced in the schools. The lure of cool gadgets are enticing children who normally do not like reading, to consider it.

It always amazes me when I read about how long some technologies have really been around. I have only thought of ebooks being a new, twenty-first century invention. But, in fact, they have a rather long, rich history. Project Gutenberg dates all the way back to 1971, before computers really became a household item. E-books were around 36 years before the Kindle was even invented!

So, a big thank you goes out to Michael Hart for being such a champion for literacy, and for making information accessible to a much greater, and more diverse audience.

Free Kindle 3G Giveaway

I’ve done so in the past and I’m doing this again. I’m giving away one free Kindle 3G w/ Special offers. The rules of the giveaway are very simple. All you need to do is follow http://twitter.com/#!/blogkindle and retweet this tweet (http://twitter.com/#!/BlogKindle/status/111982324157136896) before September 16th 2011 ends according to Pacific Standard Time. I’ll monitor all retweets and will randomly pick one person whom I’ll contact regarding the free Kindle via Twitter.

Good luck!

Kindle Scribe: Something To Get Excited About?

While there have been some fairly substantial revelations recently regarding the Kindle Tablet, we haven’t been hearing much about the next generation of Kindle eReader.  It’s understandable, given the potential for some really great Kindle vs iPad competition in the near future, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything else going on.  Jeff Bezos said at one point that Amazon will remain mindful of their customers’ desire to always have a dedicated eReading device, and I think we can expect them to follow up on the Kindle 3 in a fairly substantial way.

Perhaps the biggest source for speculation regarding the Kindle lately has been the discovery of some domain names secretly registered by Amazon.  Using a hole in Go Daddy’s security, since remedied, interested researchers were able to figure out that they had acquired “kindlescribe.com” and “kindlescribes.com”.  This has, as might be expected, led to quite a few people being fairly sure they know the name and focus of the next Kindle eReader.

At best, I would say this might be half right.  While the Kindle is long overdue for some intuitive and immersion-maintaining method for annotation, I can’t see the addition of a stylus being an important enough addition for Amazon to base an entire generation of their devices on.  It will probably be present as soon as there is a touchscreen to make use of, which I think we can all agree is an inevitability for any new eReader Amazon comes up with at this point, but as a focal point it would just be underwhelming.

What does make sense is a Kindle Scribe(s) service that allows for tighter integration of the Kindle and Kindle Tablet.  One of the biggest problems that the company faces with their entry into the tablet market is that of avoiding cannibalizing their own eReader sales while still maintaining strong competitive advantages.  If the only way to either access or produce hand-written noted in eBooks turns out to be via the Kindle line of devices, not only does value go up compared to the competition in both categories, but the fact that your notes can be shared between the two would encourage dual ownership for a number of applications.  If for no other reason than that a stylus will be equally useful with either new device, there’s no reason to expect a Kindle Scribe eReader.

This isn’t the first time we have heard about potential naming schemes for new Kindle incarnations, of course.  The same source also discovered “kindleair.com” and “kindlewave.com” several months ago, which led to speculation of an earth, wind, and water theme for the next big Amazon device roll out.  For all we know, those will have some applicable meaning when release day comes around too.

While none of this is set in stone and nobody outside of Amazon can really say for sure what is going to come along in the next generation of Kindles, we do know that it’s coming.  Speculation about release dates has been growing, rumors are spreading, and Amazon is selling off refurbished Kindle models for as little as $99 everywhere they can think of to clear stock before the new device is ready to go.  It’s only a matter of time now.

Kindle Todo List App

I’m happy to announce that our second Kindle application: Kindle Task List Professional is now live on Amazon marketplace!

You can use this app to keep track of long term tasks by assigning priorities and due dates. The app also dubs as a notepad. You can edit task descriptions and import/export them to and from your computer.

App FAQ is available here. You feedback is very much appreciated either here on via email.

Kindle Tablet Finally Sampled?

Earlier today, a TechCrunch reporter claims to have had a chance to play around with an actual working Kindle Tablet in a closely supervised situation.  Much of the information he came out with isn’t exactly what we were hoping to hear when the real details started to turn up, but everything does fit the current situation pretty well and there are no glaring discrepancies.  As with all unofficial reports it should probably be taken with a grain of salt, but for the time being it is probably safe to say this is our best picture of Amazon’s upcoming entry into the Tablet PC market.

Here’s what we have to work with:

  • 7″ Back-lit touchscreen of some description with no hybrid options(2 finger capacitive multi-touch)
  • Highly customized Android OS, possibly forked as early as Android 2.2
  • No physical controls aside from the power button
  • Possible single-core processor
  • As little as 6GB internal storage
  • WiFi Only at launch
  • Expandable memory slot
  • No camera
  • Bundled Amazon Prime Membership
  • $250 Price Tag
  • Late November 2011 Release Date

Clearly the high expectations of Kindle fans will not be met in their entirety.

There is a sense that Amazon is rushing this to market, even after all this time.  If a guess were required, I would say that it almost seems as if they were hoping to carry the day by using the next best thing in display technology to get the jump on everybody only to have that tech fail to manifest in time to be useful.  That aside, they’re still bringing plenty to the table to make a splash.

The Nook Color has managed to carve out a space for itself by being something of a budget iPad, for all its stated eReading emphasis.  Amazon can bring the same sort of value to the table, perhaps with a more impressive array of applications and support structure, and not even have to bother with the eReader facade.  We have to assume at this point that they won’t make the mistake of marketing this as a Kindle eReader, whether or not it’s capable of displaying books, given the whole anti-iPad LCD commercial campaign.

The focus on cloud storage and streaming will negate the obvious problem of minimal storage space to some extent, though Amazon seems to be gambling a lot on the ubiquity of wireless networks.  If the reporting article is to be believed, then the Android OS fork should be customized and optimized well beyond simply skinning Froyo and throwing out the standard Google App Marketplace, which means that it’s too early to judge anything based on that at this time.  Nobody really expected Amazon to include a completely open copy of Android anyway, right?

Just because this isn’t the ideal situation that would blow the iPad out of the water without any significant contest doesn’t mean it isn’t a great step.  Tablets put out by anybody but Apple have tended to fare poorly so far, as evidenced by the HP TouchPad debacle recently, but Amazon has the marketing, support, and name recognition to make it happen.  I still don’t think this will end up being a direct contest with just the Nook Color for most people, unless something gets reviewed particularly poorly at release.