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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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Free Kindle Book – Change of Heart by Fran Shaff

 Change of Heart is a heartwarming, yet grief stricken love story that is certainly worth reading.  It is currently on the Kindle Top 100 list of free books.  It is hard to gauge how long a book is going to be free, so catch it while you can.

Change of Heart is set in the 1850′s Midwestern United States.  Marietta Randolph lives in Chicago, and is forced to travel to the wild lands of Nebraska to pick up her nephew.  Zack’s parents, Kathy and Clint, were murdered by “savages”.  So, Marietta has to fulfill her legal guardian duties that she agreed to in case anything happened to her sister and and brother in law.

She makes the long trip to Nebraska in a carriage.  There she meets Jase, Clint’s brother.  Jase is like a second father to Zack, and took him in after his parents’ death.

In the usual fashion of Western romances, you have the incredibly appealing rancher.  Add being trapped in a snow storm, and you can probably figure out the rest of that part of the story.

Fran Shaff has the ability to capture the reader’s attention and make her stories so real that the reader just escapes into the fictional world..  The element of grief and family adds depth to the story.  I love books like that.  It is so nice to escape into another world for awhile.

She has won a number of awards for her Romance writings, as well as Children’s literature.  She also won E-Book of the Month Award from MyShelf.com.  Most of her books are available for Kindle, and are $3.99 and under.

So, if you’re a fan of sweet romances, give Change of Heart a try.  The reviews overall are positive.

C. Donne

“CHANGE OF HEART will touch a place deep in your heart. Marietta, Jason, and Zack all lost people they loved deeply when Clint and Kathy died, together they are able to comfort each other and begin to heal the wounds that are left when something so horrible happens to someone you love. I adored the unselfishness both Marietta and Jason show by their willingness to make sacrifices for Zack. Fran Shaff does an amazing job pulling the reader into the story so that you feel like you’re really part of it. I became so involved, I’d read all the way through the story before I even realized it, and was extremely impressed to find myself so emotionally involved that I cried at several points. “

Amazon Updates Kindle Book Format From Mobi 7 To KF8

Up until now, despite certain efforts to use the Kindle for iOS app to encourage media embedding in eBooks, the Kindle line has really been all about the bare content.  Yes, page formatting is not only possible but important, but for the most part writers and publishers have been restricted so much by the format and the capabilities of the devices used to read their books that the only thing really possible was the basic layout stuff.  Now, with the Kindle Fire on the horizon, things are changing.

Amazon has already got a lot planned to take advantage of the color screen on their newest Kindle.  Kid’s books and magazines will be getting a huge push, for example.  There has even already been some fairly major controversy in the world of comics over Amazon’s exclusive deal with DC for some digital editions and the repercussions this is having on that industry.  Naturally none of this would be simple to pull off using the rather outdated Mobi 7 eBook format.  Amazon’s solution is a new release called “Kindle Format 8″.  Over time it will completely replace the obsolete format, though all Kindle devices will continue to be able to access these older files.

Kindle Format 8 brings the power of HTML5 and CSS3 to the eBook.  This gets you greatly expanded layout control, including fixed layouts.  That’s going to be especially important for things like children’s books and comics, where relative positioning of the illustration is important to meaning.  It will also finally make possible footnotes, which will please academic publishers among others.  Personally I’m hoping that that particular application won’t take off, since there is a lot of potential in the Kindle‘s existing annotation framework if they could figure out how to adapt it to replace footnotes, but that may be an unrealistic hope now.  On top of formatting, Kindle books will now be able to contain their own specific custom fonts, text displayed over images, and a number of other welcome updates.

This update is anything but a surprise, in a way.  Existing popular formats like EPUB and Mobipocket are already based on HTML, so there is a certain sense of inevitability to the development of a new eBook format based on modern standards.  The greater functionality will be welcome for many, should the development tools prove effective.  Both KindleGen 2, the Kindle Format 8 publishing tool, and Kindle Previewer 2 will be available soon, assuming they’re not already out by the time this is published.

While the Kindle Fire will be the first device in the Kindle line to support this update, eReaders should be updated to support KF8 within the next several months.  No word yet, to the best of my knowledge, if Amazon will be making any effort to update either of the first two generations of Kindle to allow for compatibility, but the currently available devices should have no trouble. Hopefully users will enjoy a greatly improved reading experience once authors and publishers get the hang of the new tools.

Kobo To Take On Kindle Fire With New “Vox” Tablet

The Nook Color might have been the first tablet to come from a major eReader maker, but the Kindle Fire has clearly set the tone for devices in its size / power range.  Amazon’s new media tablet hasn’t even shipped yet and people are scrambling to match prices or rush out competing product.  For the most part, there isn’t really any obvious reason for Amazon to be concerned, but the new Kobo Vox is an imitator with impressive potential.

Kobo’s new Kindle Fire competitor, marketed as a color eReader much like the Nook Color, will be a 7″ Android 2.3 device with comparable specs, expandable memory, and a small selection of colored quilted backs to choose from.  The single core processor might end up being a slight negative, but this was never intended to be a powerhouse anyway.  Oddly enough, both the major strengths and the major shortcomings come in on the software end.

When Barnes & Noble started out with the Nook Color, they tried to keep it almost entirely about the reading.  It was only relatively recently that their app selection started to improve.  Amazon avoided that mistake by building up a huge App Store for the Kindle Fire before it even existed.  Kobo seems to feel like it isn’t worth the trouble.  Rather than a heavily customized, or even locked version of Android, they have decided that Vox users can just grab what they want through the default Android Marketplace.  The OS seems to be pretty much just basic Android 2.3 with some Kobo Apps.

On the one hand, this is genius.  It gives them the ability to offer customers access to the largest selection of Android apps in existence without having to jump through hoops.  At the same time, however, it means that Kobo themselves will not be making any money off of anything but the books.  Whether or not this proves to be a smart business move remains to be seen, but it will definitely appeal to a certain segment of the customer base.

What really makes the Vox a major player among eReading companies jumping into tablet production is Kobo’s international presence.  More than pretty much anybody else so far, Amazon included, Kobo has managed to make sure a wide selection of books is there in any market they can get their hooks into.  The Kobo eReader is widely available and has been for some time.  It would not surprise me even a little bit to discover that when Amazon manages to get the Kindle Fire out to markets outside the US, especially those new sites like Amazon.es, the Kobo Vox is already a common sight.

It isn’t the best option in terms of hardware or software in the US right now, even for the $200 price, but for users who want just a cheap, effective 7″ Android device it might fit the bill.  In areas where the tablet market has yet to really take off, though, I expect to see the Vox make a huge impression.  Let’s just hope Apple can hold off on the anti-competition lawsuits?

Installation Tips For DecalGirl Skins

This is the 4-th post in  the series of weekly giveaways sponsored by DecalGirl.com here on BlogKindle. Here is the answer for the question – who is the lucky man? His tweeter name is @LGM777. I’ve sent the redemption code via Twitter. To be in the game you need to do the following: click on the twitter button on the left to retweet this post and follow @BlogKindle so that I can send you a personal message on twitter with redemption code in case you win. A winner will be randomly chosen next Friday and announced in the next post. A tip – tweet more and you will have more chances.


I hope everyone’s Halloween spirit was stimulated by last week’s post! We’re definitely in the mood for some trick or treating here at DecalGirl. As I write this we are preparing for our annual Halloween costume contest. Right now there’s Edward Scissorhands, a Hula girl, Gumby, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Raggedy Ann, a mad scientist, a jellyfish, and lots of other interesting characters roaming our halls!

But now on to something new….

DecalGirl skins are amazingly easy to install, and when you decide you are ready to change your look with a new one, they come off clean as a whistle, with no residue left behind. People occasionally ask “Are they reusable?” The answer to that is “no” for a couple of reasons. First, most anything made from vinyl is going to stretch a bit when it is removed from something, especially if it has adhesive on it and you have to peel it off. Second, our proprietary adhesive is designed to come off of your device with no residue, but, like most adhesives, it will not be as sticky and it will not adhere in the same way a second time.

Having said that, you should know that our adhesive does give you a “do over” if you try to place your skin and you don’t get it quite right the first time. If things don’t line up quite right for you, you do have a short time window to carefully remove the skin, line it up, and try again.

If you need some help installing your skin, you are in luck! There is a page on the DecalGirl website that is filled with installation tips. Or, if you are the type of person who prefers audio/visual help, pay a visit to YouTube.com, do a search for “DecalGirl skin installation” and you will find several pages of videos showing skins being installed on various devices. Please note that some of these are official DecalGirl productions; those are the ones that are by “DecalGirl Support.”

There are also a lot of others made by third parties. While most of them are pretty good and you’ll hear a lot of positive comments about DecalGirl skins, when it comes to installation advice you should probably stick to the ones that are officially from DecalGirl.

Just a quick note in closing today… We are already getting questions about skins for the new Kindle Fire. We would like everyone to know that we are planning to have skins available for it within hours of its release. Scattered through this post are some of our more recent skin offerings for Kindles. All of these, as well as any other design you find on our site will be available for the Fire. Talk to you next week!

Apple May Be Bringing 7″ iPad To Compete With Kindle Fire

Could Apple be feeling a bit threatened by the arrival of the impressively popular Kindle Fire?  If certain rumors coming out of Taiwan are true, then the answer seems to be “Yes”.

The most recent set of rumors, which as always should be taken with a grain of salt, indicate that Apple has been looking at samples of 7.85″ screens.  Presumably this would be an effort to design something along the lines of a budget iPad to compete with the sudden wave of affordably priced iPad alternatives hitting the market.  Such a device would have the advantage of Apple’s excellent reputation and superior presence in the tablet market while also allowing purchase by customers who aren’t quite ready to drop $500+ for their newest piece of narrowly useful electronics.

This would not exactly fit with prior declarations from Apple regarding the usefulness of a 7″ tablet, of course.  Steve Jobs came out emphatically against such devices, declaring that extensive testing had shown anything smaller than the iPad to deliver a sub-par user experience when using fingers as pointing devices.  This doesn’t rule a smaller iPad out entirely, though.  One, with the passing of Steve Jobs his company will naturally have to choose their own course.  If the market demands smaller, more affordable tablets then there is every reason to believe that Apple will rise to the challenge.  Two, Apple does have some history of declaring things pointless or unfeasible right up until the moment they feel they are in a position to do those very things.  Whether this is due to clever PR trying to throw off the competition or simply Apple’s desire to give their customers what they want regardless of what seems to be a smart move at first is open to interpretation.

Clearly nothing is set in stone yet.  At best, somebody at Apple thinks that the idea of a smaller iPad is something that should be explored to some extent.  As far as anybody knows, orders have not been placed and plans have not been made.  We have more substantial speculative information floating around about the iPad 3 than this, by a fair margin.  Even if it did happen, would it really be able to outshine the competition anymore?

A smaller iPad competing with the Kindle Fire would almost certainly come in at $250-300 and be unavailable until at least mid-2012.  Where Amazon is pushing media, Apple is making most of their profit on the hardware end and would have to scale back the power of their device accordingly, likely eliminating a great deal of their edge along those lines.  On top of that, the Kindle Fire will have had time to gain a following.  Assuming that the real value is in the content that a tablet has access to, Amazon is certainly offering enough to keep their users happy and the low price is clearly attractive.

We’ll see what happens in the months to come, but I question the potential for a move like this.  Apple already controls the performance tablet market and would be better off without a disappointment on the budget tablet end of things.

Larger Kindle Fire Coming Soon, Kindle Phone Distant But Possible

Let’s assume for a moment that the Kindle Fire proves to be a successful endeavor.  I don’t just mean that it sells well, since we know that it is already doing that, I mean that users love it as much as the existing Kindle line and product loyalty can be assumed to a certain extent.  Where do they go next with things at that point?

Well, there are already indications of a 10″ Kindle Tablet.  Personally, I’m guessing we’ll be calling it the Kindle Air by early 2012.  This is based on rumors from people in the know about what is going on at Foxconn Electronics, who Amazon is said to have tapped for the production of their next device.  While it doesn’t necessarily mean anything, the fact that Foxconn is also the producer of Apple’s iPad 2 hints at a more head-on confrontation over the high end tablet market.  This will likely end up being what was originally known as the Kindle ‘Hollywood’ Tablet rather than anything directly upgrading the brand new Kindle Fire

A larger Kindle Tablet was always a given in most ways, though.  The majority of “leaked” information leading up to the reveal of the Kindle Fire indicated that there was always meant to be a larger, more powerful option that Amazon just ran out of time to have ready to ship in time for the 2011 holiday season.  We can hope that by taking more time with it we will get a device that while still affordable brings a larger display and significantly more power.

Looking to the longer term, though, Amazon has to be hoping to bring their end to end service to all areas of the portable electronics market.  After all, being based on Android should make it relatively easy to port their Kindle Fire OS to anything with a screen on it.  My guess, and I’m hardly alone in this, is that there is a Kindle Phone coming up down the line.

There were predictions about a possible 4″ Kindle Tablet type of device in a Wall Street Journal article some months ago featuring supposedly leaked information about the Kindle Fire.  It was interesting then and it remains that way.  While it would be easy to see that resulting in something along the lines of an iPod Touch competitor, though, I don’t see how that would make the kind of impression that launching a new type of Kindle should aspire to.

More likely would be a Kindle Phone.  In 2010, Lab 126 representatives stated in an interview that Amazon was interested in entering into the mobile phone arena in the past, but at the time considered it out of reach for a variety of reasons.  That was before the Kindle Fire and its Android fork, though, so things have changed.  At this point they have the OS, the App Store, plenty of media to serve, and even an existing relationship with a major cellular provider.  A phone just seems like a logical extension of putting all of these things together.

Amazon to Offer Trade in Option for Older Kindles.

I have a Kindle 2, and I just got it for Christmas two years ago. Then it was $259. I love my Kindle, but it sure is looking clunky after seeing the specs from the newest models that were recently released. What a difference two years make! The Kindle Fire is $60 less than my Kindle was when I got it.

The newest Kindles no longer have a keyboard, which makes them so much more streamlined and lightweight. There is also the touch screen model and of course, the tablet. The good news is, Amazon is now offering a trade in option. Click here for more detailed discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of the trade in option.

Don’t expect to get much money out of it. You can get $28 for a first generation Kindle.  Can you believe that it was twice as much as the Kindle Fire is now, when it was released four years ago?  The second generation 6″ Kindle like the one I have goes for $39. The Kindle DX is $135.

The deals are not that great, but the trade in values go a long way if you want to use it towards a new Kindle.  I ordered the Kindle Touch that will be available November 21, and a trade in would cut down a big chunk of the $99 price tag.  I am really excited about the touch screen version because that is what I am so used to now with it being so popular these days.

I haven’t decided whether I want to pursue the trade in program option yet. I have several family members that would love to have a Kindle,  With that in mind, I’m sure libraries, schools, and charity organizations would love to have old Kindles also.

The trade in program also includes a variety of other popular electronic devices such as the iPod, Touch, iPad, tablets, and more.  Some offer Amazon credit.  For someone who buys stuff on Amazon all the time, that’s not a bad deal.

So, now you have several options to choose from if you have an old Kindle lying around that you want to get rid of.  So, glad to know that old Kindles can still be put to good use.

Could Amazon Create a Kindle Phone?

The Kindle Fire is not even released yet, and there are already speculations going around that involve the possibility of an Amazon smartphone. More information on Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) smartphone predictions can be found here.

Now that Amazon has an appstore and an Android OS, they are much closer to putting all of this together into a phone than ever before. Amazon also has a contract with AT&T for their 3G service on the Kindle.  Amazon’s appstore also includes daily free apps.  This gives them an edge over Apple.

I just hope they don’t get so bogged down by creating all of the different devices that they neglect the device that they’re most well known for. That is the Kindle e-reader. Books and reading are the core of Amazon’s services.

I think the main thing that Amazon has over everyone else with their products is how inexpensive they are. They can design a cheaper smartphone, and that would allow consumers who wouldn’t otherwise be able to get a smartphone, be able to have one. I come to this conclusion from looking at the current tier of prices for the new line of Kindles, and the $200 Kindle Fire.  It is $300 less than the cheapest iPad.

Speaking of Amazon being inexpensive. I was in a used bookstore the other day, and compared the price of a book there versus the same book available on Amazon. The new version was cheaper on Amazon.  If used bookstores have such high prices, they’re never going to be able to compete.

So, in summary, I’m all for an Amazon smartphone that would open up the smartphone market to consumers looking for a more affordable phone. They have the means to do it, but I only if it will not compromise the quality of the original Kindle e-reader devices.  I would hate to see Amazon to lose sight of what they stand for, yet they have so much potential on a lot of device fronts.

Kindle Fire’s Silk Browser Raises Security Concerns

Amazon’s Kindle Fire does a few things that surprised people when it was announced a couple weeks ago, but probably nothing shocked people more than the inclusion of the new Amazon Silk internet browser.  The idea behind it is sound, allowing most of the work for web browsing to be done in the cloud so that the user experiences vastly reduced loading times and a generally superior browsing experience.  Obviously, however, the fact that the processing is being done by external computers raises some concerns in terms of privacy that need to be addressed.

Some have worried that Amazon would use customers’ browsing habits to customize sales pitches.  Others are concerned that once acquired this user data becomes a commodity that Amazon can hope to turn into profit.  Enterprise IT is definitely concerned with the presence of the Kindle Fire in the workplace this November for a variety of reasons.  Even Congress has gotten involved, making the assumption that Amazon would be collecting as much data as humanly possible about everything going through their servers.  In response to these concerns, Amazon has released some information to the Electronic Frontier Foundation regarding what data will be collected and how it will be used by the company.

The biggest concern for many people, especially those focused on their online privacy, is being forced to use the Amazon Cloud acceleration.  Worry no more: You CAN turn it off at any time.  In addition to opting-out by the user, anything encrypted will be routed from your Kindle Fire directly to the origin server.  This means that anything going on over HTTPS will remain totally off limits for Amazon by design.

In terms of what data is being stored, each session will be logged individually for 30 days.  This log will contain nothing more than requested URLs and timestamps.  In no way will names or user accounts be connected to these logs, nor can they be according to Amazon representatives.  Data may in some instances be even more secure than it would otherwise be since the connection to Amazon’s servers is always going to be encrypted regardless of what you are doing.

Is there still some reason to be concerned?  Of course.  Mostly, however, it requires far fetched scenarios.  Since each session is logged individually, it is unlikely that search history could be used to identify the user from logs.  That doesn’t mean impossible.  Amazon will also suddenly have access to a vast amount of information about browsing habits in general which could be used to inform future business moves.  There is even the chance that law enforcement will find ways to coerce the company to provide cached information for one reason or another.  In terms of individual user safety, however, it seems that things are looking pretty good.  Being singled out is all but impossible.

If you are still concerned, just remember that you can tell your Kindle Fire not to use this feature.  Even without it on, the Silk browser is reported to deliver a speedy experience.  It’s always better to be aware of what information you are letting out about your habits on the internet, however mundane those may be.  Overall, though, Amazon seems to have gone out of their way to avoid intruding on your privacy.

Sony Tries To Step Up The Kindle Competition With Upgraded Reader Apps

Since right around the time Amazon launched the first Kindle, Sony has had trouble maintaining a place at the front of the eReading world.  In a way this is really a shame, since it was the Sony Reader that first brought E INK reading devices to the public in a meaningful way.  I still have an old Sony Reader PRS-500 from 2006 that works perfectly, for example.  They set the standard when it came to initial performance and pricing for early eReaders.

Still, over the past 4-5 years Sony as a company has failed to keep up with their competition in terms of hardware pricing and content availability.  As these are pretty much the most important parts of successfully marketing an eReader, it’s no surprise that the first thing people do when they want to read a book is rarely “open the Reader app”.  Efforts are clearly being made to turn this around, however, both with the newer Reader hardware and the recently released Reader application update.

This software update is now available for PC and Mac, bringing some features that the product line has been in dire need of for some time.  With the new program you can organize your library, tag eBooks for easy searching or sorting, jump to real page equivalents while reading, enjoy tabbed browsing, and sync your reading information between devices using Cloud Sync.  The appearance is quite nice as well, and makes the PC and Mac apps consistent with the Sony Tablet equivalent.

Now, this is not in any way a revolutionary move.  Anybody familiar with eReading will recognize these features as basically what has been around for some time now on both Kindle and Nook platforms.  The fact that they are not right at the forefront of innovation at this time does not make this inconsequential, though.  Right now there are, for the most part, four major players in eBooks.  Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Kobo, and Sony.  Anything that keeps the options open for consumers and heats up the competition a bit is going to be good for everybody involved.

This is especially true moving forward as eReading companies attempt to secure places as Tablet PC providers.  Barnes & Noble has had some noticeable success with the Nook Color as a reading device, and Amazon seems to be exceeding all expectations with the response to their upcoming Kindle Fire media tablet.  The Kobo Vox is the first of these to offer an open Android experience, but it remains to be seen if this will be a smart move.

Sony, coming from a less specialized background, already has a tablet presence and experience with the wider market.  They are still behind in pricing, of course, but that’s true of the majority of the tablet market with less than a month having passed since Amazon upset the balance.  Will this make a big difference going forward?  It’s hard to say.  The Sony Tablet S hasn’t exactly made the kind of impression that one would hope for if it were to compete, but that doesn’t mean we can necessarily rule them out yet.  We can only hope that Sony is quicker to respond to Amazon’s latest moves than it has been previously.

Kindle Trade-In Available Now For Those Hoping To Upgrade

As Kindle updates have happened over the years, one of the biggest customer complaints has been that Amazon has completely ignored the existing customers who might want to upgrade to the newest device possible.  This was especially an issue moving from the first generation of the Kindle to the second generation, since it was such an immense improvement and change in aesthetic.  Up until recently, however, the only recourse for early adopters and other existing customers was to either be happy with what you already have or pay full price for the next generation.  At this time, though, if you are a Kindle owner who would like to trade in their existing eReader for credit toward a new one, there is finally an option!

It seems that pretty much anything you have on hand is eligible.  Even first generation Kindles will get you up to $12 depending on condition.  That might not be much compared to the initial purchase price, but using a 4 year old eReader to get 15% off a new Kindle 4 isn’t a bad deal at all, considering all the improvements that have taken place.  Surprisingly, even non-Kindles are eligible.  At this time, a non-touchscreen Kobo or Sony Reader Pocket will get you around $20.  You’ll find any number of competing products to be worth some money if you are interested in switching to the Kindle, or just want some Amazon credit in general (Nook excluded at the moment).

As one cautionary note, be aware that when trading in your eReader you are unlikely to get the full “up to $__” value for your device as this is for a completely unworn product with its original packaging intact.  I doubt many people have hung on to their old boxes on the off chance they might come in handy someday.  The difference between the “Like New” price listed and a “Good” product is generally between $1 and $15, proportional to the value of the device.

I can see this being a valuable move for Amazon in a couple different ways.  Obviously it spurs adoption of new devices.  The Kindle Fire is doing great, of course, but more is always better.  Also, the Kindle Touch is probably where Amazon wants focus at this time as far as eReaders go, so it makes sense to provide an easy way to upgrade.  No matter what device is chosen, there is a good chance that it will be something that Amazon can present ads on, increasing the revenue stream along those lines going forward.  There is also a high probability that, since the Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch are the newer, shiner eReaders at the moment, this will mean fewer devices with unlimited 3G access floating around.  While they have not gotten rid of that feature for new Kindle Keyboard purchases, the restriction on the new device makes it clear that there is an interest in cutting down those ongoing expenses.

Regardless of the motivation for offering the deals, though, this should help some people who want to get their hands on a new Kindle to do so.  It might not be a lot of the price being offset in some cases, but everything makes a difference in the end.

Here is the link to the Trade-in department of Amazon where you can choose any stuff for trade-in transactions. In the “Find the Items You’d Like to Trade In” select “Electronics” category from the drop-down menu and type Kindle in “Search by title or keyword(s)” box. After clicking the “Go” button you will see the options for trade-in transactions.

 

 

The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills

When I took a young adult literature class during library school, I remember thinking how young adult literature is full of vampires, awkward moments, and other outlandish fantasy type books.  That isn’t a bad thing.

However, it was a relief to read a young adult book that seemed more real, and included characters I could relate to.  That book is The Rites an Wrongs of Janice Wills, by Joanna Pearson.  It was just released on the Kindle at the beginning of October.  This is Pearson’s first book, but she has written a number of essays and articles that are definitely worth checking out.

Despite the fact that The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills is a young adult book, I could still relate to it for two reasons.  The first is that the author is from my hometown, and this book was loosely modeled on this town.  In the book it goes by Melva, North Carolina, also known as the Livermush Capital of the World.

The second reason is that it took me back to my high school days.  Like Janice, I was also on the outskirts of things.  Unlike Janice, I wasn’t that great of an observer.  I just had my nose buried in a book.

Janice Wills is a budding anthropologist, who aspires to get her anthropology notes published in Current Anthropology.  She makes detailed notes about the various social crowds at Melva High School: popular, theatre, jock, etc.  You have your usual high school cafeteria set up with each group at separate tables.

The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills is hilarious and has a biting sense of humor.  Janice gets a lot of joy out of making fun of the popular crowd.  It makes me wonder where she comes up with stuff she says about them.  But, in the end, there are lessons to be learned and the journey towards discovering who your real friends are.

Mela K

“It seems that most young adult fiction nowadays is full of the dark, the macabre, and the fantastic. While much of it does have merit, I’ve been feeling a certain nostalgia for stories about the joys and pains of growing up… without werewolves and/or abusive relationships. ”

Brooke B.

“I wasn’t sure if this would be that book about the nerdy, ugly girl who somehow got the hottest guy in school. It kind of was that book, but it was a lot more than that. I literally LOLed during the whole time. The way Pearson ties together teen angst, awkwardness, and humor is unlike any other.”

Halloween Skins From DecalGirl

This is the third post in a series of weekly giveaways sponsored by DecalGirl.com here on BlogKindle. As usual we start it by announcing the winner of last weeks giveaway: @MRSHRAINEY. To be a winner as @MRSHRAINEY you need to do just a few steps: click on the twitter button on the left to retweet this post and follow @BlogKindle so that I can send you a personal message on twitter with redemption code in case you win. Winner will be randomly chosen next Friday and announced in the next post. Chances of winning are pretty high, especially if you participate several times :)

I’ll let Bill take over from here…


“Halloween is coming, and soon the doorbells will be humming….” Sorry, I slipped back into my former career as a music teacher for a second. As you probably know, DecalGirl.com offers skins for almost every taste, and designs featuring fantasy, macabre, or Gothic art are no exception. Halloween is getting very close, and in honor of the dentist’s favorite holiday I am going to show everyone a few “creepy crawly” designs from DecalGirl.com and tell you a little about the artists who created them.

Before we get started, just remember that you will not find all of these designs on the Kindle skins pages at DecalGirl.com. If you read last week’s post you will recall that you can shop by design and select any of our available designs for any device. If something you see here strikes your fancy, click on the image and you will be taken to the page for that design at DecalGirl.com. From there it’s a simple matter to select your device from the drop down menus, and your options for gloss or matte finish will appear along with the price. Make your selections, add the skin to your cart and you’re good to go!The first design is called “Hallucination” by Ross Farrell Design. The skull is a persistent theme for Ross, as you can see if you visit his artist page at DecalGirl.com. Ross uses media such as sculpture, oil, and acrylics to produce much of his work. He believes that “the single most important thing about art is interacting with it.” Ross currently has 20 designs available at DecalGirl.com.Next we have “Angel vs. Demon” by James Ryman. DecalGirl.com currently offers 13 designs by James. His focus is on fantasy art, and his work features images such as fantastic creatures, skeleton musicians reminiscent of Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix, and supernatural femmes fatales.

The third design is called “AFS-1” by Robert Steven Connett. Robert offers fantastic looking creatures in science fiction style settings. He cites as inspiration the work of H.R. Giger, Chris Mars, and Heironymous Bosch. Those familiar with the work of H.R. Giger will probably see some of his influence in Robert’s work. There are currently 11 of Robert’s designs available at DecalGirl.com.

For some seasonal art in a lighter vein, there’s “Succubus” by Chrissy Clark. Chrissy works in digital media, producing anime/manga style drawings that usually feature innocent looking females in a variety of settings from fairy tale to sci-fi. DecalGirl.com currently offers 29 of Chrissy’s designs.

This is just a small sample of some of the macabre and fantastic art available on skins for Kindle and other devices at DecalGirl.com. They have been greatly reduced in size for this post due to limitations on file size, but you can click on any of the images here to see them full size on our site.Have a great week, everyone!

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

I read a lot so books usually blur together in my memory.  However, there are certain Kindle books that I will remember for a long time.  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford is definitely one of those.

The book opens in 1986 Seattle in front of the old Panama Hotel.  This hotel was used to store a lot of the belongings of Japanese American families while they were sent to work camps during World War II.

The main character is Henry Lee.  He is grieving the recent loss of his wife, Ethel, who died of cancer.  Henry was her primary caretaker.  You will see how his relationship with Ethel and his old friend Keiko are intertwined.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet flips between 1986 and 1942. Henry meets a Japanese American girl named Keiko when she joins him as a worker in the school cafeteria.  Both are a minority in a school where white students are the vast majority.

The story shows the various ethnic sections in Seattle including Chinatown and Japantown.  It also shows the hostile environment that Asians live in during the war years.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is also about relationships.  It explores the depths of Henry’s relationship with Keiko, his father, and his son.  I was in awe that even though the Japanese and Chinese Americans were treated so badly by America and ridiculed by their peers, they still were proud to be American.

I highly recommend reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.  It really is a gem.

Pippa Lee

“I highly recommend this novel to those who remember their first love, have heard about the Japanese American internment camps, or strive to bridge two cultural worlds and to those who just love a good story. To all of you, there is a room waiting at the “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.” ”

L.K. Messner

“This book does a phenomenal job exploring the history and attitudes of this time period, and Ford’s portrayal of Seattle’s ethnic neighborhoods is amazing. But really, the thing that pulled me into this novel the most was the richness of the relationships — Henry and Keiko, Henry and his father, Henry’s mother and his father, and Henry and his own son. HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET looks at the best and worst of human relationships, the way we regard others, the way we find ourselves reenacting our relationships with our parents with our own children, the choices we make along the way. Mostly, though, this book reminds us that there is always room — and time — for forgiveness and redemption.”

Baking Cakes in Kigali

I have read several good Kindle books lately that I thought I’d share.  One of the best ones is Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin.  This is Parkin’s debut novel, and is set in modern day Rwanda.

Here’s a basic plot set up.  The main character is Angel Tungararza, and she is known for her delicious cakes.  She and her husband Pius, as well as their five grandchildren move to Rwanda after Pius takes a job at the local university.

A majority of Baking Cakes in Kigali centers on Angel’s conversations with the residents of Kigali who come to purchase her cakes.  Angel and her customer sit down for a cup of tea and a slice of cake.  These conversations center around various social issues such as the shortage of men in Rwanda, genocide, homosexuality, prostitution, AIDS, and more.

Parkin eases the blow of learning about the tragic events in Rwanda by writing in a easy, conversational tone.  It is amazing how a cup of tea and a slice of cake can encourage people to reveal their deepest troubles and darkest secrets.

It was really neat to read from an African perspective, and even more unique to have it set in modern day Africa.  Cell phones and computers are still not common place.  Can you imagine life without a computer?

I do admit that this book can be a slow read.  Sometimes I felt like it should have picked up speed, but overall, it was an enjoyable book.

OldEnglish

“Parkin touches tellingly on a large number and wide range of troubling and contentious social issues that exist just as much in Western industrialized countries as they do in the Kigali environment that forms the locus of her novel, such as the introduction of Muslim religious views and cultural practices, homosexuality, prostitution, infidelity, female circumcision, AIDS, and much more as just what being part of the human variety entails among her wide circle of friends and acquaintances in a newly formed multi-cultural, urban environment. Beyond that, Parkin invokes an African perspective on historical events that underlie what probably endures as at least antipathy toward the foreigners (“Wazunga”), who overran and broke up the African continent with no consideration for the inhabitants, as well as nationalistic and feminist sensibilities.”

Lindsay Johnson

“Part of what I enjoyed so much about this book, apart from the wonderful characters that populate its pages, was that Parkin manages to address these potentially depressing, horrifying subjects while maintaining a tone of hope and renewal.”

 

 

Free Kindle Book -Thanksgiving Cookbook by Gooseberry Patch

The holidays are fast approaching and that means lots of delicious recipes.  A cookbook  in particular that is full of holiday treats is the free Kindle edition of Thanksgiving Cookbook.

Thanksgiving Cookbook includes 24 recipes, mostly involving pumpkin or turkey, but there are some others like harvest apple cheesecake.  Yum!  I love apple cider.  The cookbook includes several different recipes for it as well.

The set up and design of Thanksgiving Cookbook is pretty easy to read and doesn’t require too much fancy navigation.  It just moves from recipe to recipe.  There are little decorating tidbits at the bottom.  I enjoyed these because they sure do get creative with common household items.

The only big suggestion that I have as far as the layout of the book goes, is to include a table of contents so that the reader doesn’t have to go through the introductory section.  The best way to skip to the recipes you want is to go to the Kindle’s menu and select the “go to” option.  Once there, just select “table of contents.”  I admit that searching for recipes on the Kindle is a little more cumbersome than searching for them in a traditional recipe book or card that has colorful markers.

Gooseberry Patch is a company run by two women who wanted to work from home to raise their families.  The style of the cookbook is very warm and family oriented.  Very fitting with Thanksgiving being such a family style holiday.

So, stock up on Kindle cookbooks like Thanksgiving Cookbook.  Another good, free cookbook to try that isn’t holiday themed, is called Prevention Healthy Favorites.  I’m sure there will be a lot of holiday cookbooks, and even non holiday ones popping up in the Kindle Free book list.  So, keep an eye out for them.  You can’t go wrong because they’re free!

Serene

“Gooseberry Patch is one of my favorite companies. A while back, they often produced little cookbooks on a variety of topics. This is one of them. If you are expecting a large book, be forewarned, there are only 24 selected recipes in this book. The Kindle version, however is nicely formatted with good hyperlinks to each recipe, and cute clip art added to make the pages look less barren. ”

Benjamin Lew

“I found this Thanksgiving cookbook to be very helpful with the upcoming holidays coming up. The illustations were wonderful and it has gotten me inspired to learn some new ideas and ways of cooking the presenting the holiday fall meals. Lots of great pratical advice and wonderful receipes.”

Halloween Games for Kindle

I was browsing the list of popular games that are currently available on the Kindle, and noticed that several of the old favorites are featuring Halloween editions.  What a great idea to add holiday editions to the rapidly growing Kindle game collection.  Hope to see some others come up as the holiday season approaches.

The original edition of Blossom is a pipe connection game where you connect a series of pipes to irrigate flowers from a watering can in the center of the grid.  The Halloween edition is the same thing, but instead of irrigating flowers, you’re irrigating pumpkins with potion from a witch’s pot.  Make sure you don’t leave out any flowers, I mean pumpkins, or the level won’t be complete.  If you get stuck, don’t worry, there are hints available to help you out.

Futoshiki is one of the highest rated games on the Kindle.  The game consists of a Sudoku grid, but with a twist.  Futoshiki includes greater than and less than symbols between the numbers.  Don’t let these intimidate you, they can actually be quite helpful in solving the grids. Futoshiki Halloween Edition is the same fun puzzle game, but instead of a basic grid, you’re playing in a graveyard.  Watch out for the zombies lurking around!

Mahjong Solitaire is a fun, addicting tile matching game.  The tiles are stacked up in stairstep fashion, and you must match the upper level tiles before revealing the ones underneath.  The tiles have basic shapes and dots on them.  The Mahjong Solitaire Halloween Edition has a few pumpkins, scary faces and cauldrons and more floating around.  The Kindle’s black and white platform is such a natural fit for graphics like these.

Ultimate Halloween Quiz joins the collection of trivia games for Kindle.  They include nature, math, literature, movies, music and more.  The Halloween edition includes topics related to Halloween (obviously) that include horror movies, scary books, Halloween history, and other miscellaneous scary questions.  The questions can either be answers all at once, or in rounds of 10.  What a fun activity for families!  A Halloween themed trivia night perhaps?

All of these games are great for all ages, and are for the most part, quite inexpensive.  They include easier levels for kids and beginners, and provide a good challenge for adults.  More in depth reviews coming soon on the Kindle Apps Blog.

All of these games are compatible with the newest version of the Kindle.

 

 

 

Free Kindle Book – Just the Way You Are by Barbara Freethy

I’ve read a few of Barbara Freethy’s romance novels, and have really enjoyed them because they have storylines that tend to have more depth than your basic, trashy romance novel.

Just the Way You Are is about two sisters: Tessa and Alli.  Alli seduces Tessa’s boyfriend, Sam Tucker and that leads to a surprise pregnancy and a troubled marriage.

In sibling relationships, there is often one sibling that is super successful.  That sibling may have the good looks, an amazing job, and the husband or significant other that everyone else would die to have.  Alli lives in the shadow of Tessa, who is a supermodel.  So, this book examines the dynamic of sibling relationships.

The unifying symbol in Just the Way You Are is a pearl necklace that Alli and Tessa’s grandmother, Phoebe started with her husband.  After Phoebe has a stroke, Alli and Tessa come together to find the last pearl in the necklace.  The pearl necklace represents the love their grandparents have, and it helps heal the wounds from the past.

Just the Way You Are will probably not be on the list of free Kindle books very long.  Right now it is #1 on the Top 100 list.  So, if I were you, I’d grab it soon before it goes off the free list.

If you’re into sweet romance novels and beach reads, other authors similar to Freethy are Debbie Macomber, Susan Wiggs, and Barbara Delinsky.  There are more that you’ll find listed as suggestions when you look up these authors.  Most of their Kindle books are pretty cheap.  They’re not always just about romance.  They explore other types of relationships as well.

After going over the reviews, I saw that several reviewers mentioned how real the characters seemed.  I love it when authors create stories that let you escape into the characters’ lives and forget that they aren’t real people.

Viaggiatrice

“The best romance novels are the ones that do not follow formula (at least in every aspect). Barbara Freethy has always been good at making her characters a little more realistic and a little less cookie-cutter. It is a great relief to find someone who does. This story is very well done. None of the characters is a saint, all have insecurities and doubts, and each is very flawed.”

amie

“I always enjoy Barbara Freethy’s style of writing before. She always manages to create characters that real, who are not flawless, and fill with insecurities — which make them real human. And the new novel “Just The Way You Are” impresses me just like others.”

 

 

Kindle Fire vs Kindle eReaders: Interface Differences and Why They May Matter To You

With the Kindle Fire opening up whole new avenues of entertainment in the product line and the Kindle Touch providing the affordable touchscreen eReader that people have been asking for for years now, there is a sense that both the Kindle Keyboard (Kindle 3) and just plain “Kindle” (Kindle 4) are superfluous.  Sure the low price on the basic Kindle is great, for example, but for only a $20 difference over the touchscreen model you are asserting that you will never need an audiobook and don’t have much interest in note taking.  Sometimes it is nice to retain those capabilities just in case, even if you have no interest in them from day to day.  This absolutely does not mean that there is no situation where that is the smart move to make, it just means that being aware of your needs is important.

I think that the obvious contrast will be between the Kindle Fire and the Kindle products with mechanical interfaces.  While I will maintain that there is a definite difference between the new tablet and the eReader line it is billed as a part of, Amazon’s association of the two types of hardware under the same brand name makes the comparison important.  It’s true that much of the argument also goes for the Kindle Touch, right now we can look at the Kindle and Kindle Keyboard hands-on.  That makes things a bit simpler.

Naturally I could go on again about the superior reading experience to be found in an E INK Pearl screen over pretty much any LCD we’re ever likely to see.  Fortunately, I think most people have come to accept that already.  The battery life issue is also a big one, but not worth dwelling on.  It is not likely that people would fail to see the benefits of only having to charge a portable device every few weeks.  What I will contend is that there is an advantage to be found in the simplified experience of the Kindle and Kindle Keyboard over that we can expect from the Kindle Fire.

Since the Kindle is traditionally associated with reading and I’m talking about the virtues of the less expensive members of the Kindle family, it’s only natural that a great deal of weight is to be placed on the act of reading.  For example, I consider it a great advantage to be able to read without the distractions offered by a multi-functional device.  I won’t deny this owes to my own easily distracted nature, but that’s hardly an uncommon trait.  Reading a book should not generally be an act of willpower overcoming the urge to do something else.  That detracts somehow.  With a Kindle or Kindle Keyboard, not only can you do little besides read, most of what else you are able to do revolves around acquiring more things to read.  It is a cohesive experience.

The fact that both of the Kindles in question make use of mechanical controls rather than a touch interface can also be an advantage.  Aside from any risk of fingerprints being left, many people will prefer to be able to navigate their eBooks via the page turn buttons on the sides of the device.  When using a Kindle Keyboard, for example, you can adjust your grip to allow for page turning with nothing more than a light squeeze of the thumb.  Even assuming this is possible on a touchscreen, it would involve covering part of the display.  You may only save a small motion, but when Amazon is looking to save on even the effort of a swiping gesture in their touch interface there is obviously a preference for conserved effort in the user base.

The Kindle Keyboard in particular also offers the distinct advantage of being able to interact with your device without tying up screen real estate.  Normally this is not a big deal, I will be the first to admit.  When it comes to making in-text notations, however, it is useful to be able to see as much as possible while forming your thoughts.  I do think that the Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire will offer a greater speed to the notation process since selecting text is a bit clunky with the more basic directional control, but it is useful to be aware of the tradeoff.  Losing the keyboard was worthwhile in terms of reducing size and weight, but for some people the keyboard is still a useful part of the Kindle experience.

This is not a claim for the overarching superiority of the older Kindle Keyboard or even the equality of the Kindle 4 (there is a reason that it is priced lower than all the other Kindles).  What I am claiming is that they each fill niches separate from the Kindle Fire and, to a lesser degree, the Kindle Touch.  Yes the newer, more powerful device can do basically all the same things that the eReaders are able to do as well as many other things that people will find useful, but that does not mean that it is a direct upgrade.  For an affordable tablet, the Kindle Fire is great.  For an eReader I would recommend any other Kindle without hesitation.  There is no more reason to disregard the Kindle or the Kindle Keyboard than there is to ignore the situational usefulness of the Kindle DX, which is an issue I have also gotten into recently.  Know your options and your needs when you decide it is time for a new Kindle.

Nook Color vs Kindle: Does B&N Still Have A Shot?

The Nook Color was not the first color eReader by any stretch of the imagination, for all it beat out the Kindles to that point.  Even if you exclude all of the PDAs, Blackberrys, and smartphone types of devices in general that gave the Microsoft LIT format a space to thrive in, there were others that came before.  Credit where credit is due, however, B&N created the first reading tablet that was worth owning.  Its value might just not come as much from the pure quality of reading experience as it could need to to remain competitive as an eReader.

Analysts have regularly indicated that the appeal of the Nook Color, for the average consumer, is in its ability to access magazines and casual games along the lines of the ever popular Angry Birds series.  The portability, full color display, and Android based operating system make it great for short periods of interaction and immersion, even if the screen is less than ideal for extended reading.  Now, with the release of the Kindle Fire, there is reason for Barnes & Noble to be concerned over their device’s future.

What it comes down to is a practically point by point feature trumping on Amazon’s part, plus a superior media distribution base to draw on in the areas where a tablet is most useful.  The points of comparison stand out a little bit when you consider the Nook Color’s superiorities over the Kindle 3 (Kindle Keyboard).

Kindle Keyboard Nook Color Kindle Fire
Display 6″ Monochrome E INK 7″ Color LCD 7″ Color LCD
Interface Keyboard & Directional Controls Capacitive Multitouch IR Multitouch
Dimensions 7.5″ x 4.8″ x 0.34″ 8.1″ x 5.0″ x .48″ 7.5″ x 4.7″ x 0.45″
Weight 8.5 Ounces 15.8 Ounces 14.6 Ounces
Battery Life 2 Months 8 Hours 8 Hours
Storage 4GB Internal 8GB Internal, Expandable Memory Slot 8GB Internal, Amazon Cloud Storage
Browsing Capabilities Basic HTML Experimental Full Browser w/ Flash Support Silk Browser w/ Flash Support
Price $99 – $139 $249 $199

That comparison is based on what features Barnes & Noble has chosen thus far to highlight on the device specs section of the Nook Color sales page, in an effort to present things fairly.  I’m ignoring the majority of software concerns, especially in terms of file type compatibility, since apps are theoretically able to make up for most any deficiency.  These would still, however, favor the new Kindle.  While the Nook Color is the only one of these with an expandable memory slot, which would seem incredibly useful to many users, this has proven a mixed blessing for the company since it provides people with a simple and effective way to bypass the Nook’s proprietary Android build.

Basically it appears that with the Kindle Fire Amazon has looked at what the competition was doing and improved on it.  No surprise, that’s what competing products are supposed to do.  They’ve essentially got a slightly smaller, slightly lighter 7″ tablet that they’re not hooked on the idea of presenting as an eReader.  Overall the technology behind the Kindle Fire is newer and more powerful in every way that matters and still comes in at a lower price for the end user.  The only real question now is what B&N does with this information.

We can take as a given that Barnes & Noble is not in a position to provide the same sort of robust media library that Amazon is bringing to customers.  Even if they were to start pulling in video streaming deals and other things along those lines to fill in the gaps, the time factor would be a problem.  What they can do is work to get Netflix, Hulu, or any number of other streaming services on-board as partners.  With Amazon poised to make a move into that market in a larger way than they have so far, it shouldn’t be too difficult.  It would mean giving up on potential media sales revenue, but it also eliminates the need to build up the infrastructure to support that media.  We know that rooted Nook Colors are able to access services like Netflix already, so it would only make sense to cash in on it given how easily root-able these devices have proven to be.

There is also the rumor of a new Nook Color that will bring hardware upgrades.  Now, this is pretty flimsy in spite of having seen posts declaring it would be released “any day now” since early September, but it could make a big difference to their presence in the device market.  While a price drop in the current Nook Color is a given, having a newer more powerful model available would work well whether it was a more expensive option or as an outright replacement.  In the former scenario it would highlight the fact of the low price point while providing options.  In the latter, there is room to hope that in some way the Kindle Fire will be inferior.  If the hardware option is going to make a difference, however, it needs to happen soon.  Once people start getting their hands on the Kindle Fire, barring major issues with them, the momentum is likely to increase leading into the holiday season.

What we do know is that the Nook line as a whole is pretty much the only part of Barnes & Noble that is growing right now.  They need to keep things going.  As a result, you can be sure that something is on the horizon to keep the situation competitive.  Tablet PCs just tend to be the most useful when it comes to things that aren’t reading, so it might take a bit of a shift for B&N to really make their presence known now that there are comparably priced options available.  Whether or not they manage remains to be seen, but hopes are high.  While the Nook Color has not been my favorite device personally, it did provide us with one of the first reasonably priced yet fully functional tablets almost by mistake (rooting is essential in a way that many are hoping will not be the case with the Kindle Fire).  It would be a shame to seem them fall aside now.

Getting Around at DecalGirl.com / Kindle 4 Skins

This is the second post in a series of weekly giveaways sponsored by DecalGirl.com here on BlogKindle. I’ll start it by announcing the winner of last weeks giveaway: @nbrown1981. I’ve sent the redemption code via Twitter. This weeks giveaway works in a very simple way (same as the last one): click on the twitter button on the left to retweet this post and follow @BlogKindle so that I can send you a personal message on twitter with redemption code in case you win. Winner will be randomly chosen next Friday and announced in the next post. Last week only about a dozen people participated in the giveaway so chances of winning were pretty high.

I’ll let Bill take over from here…


This week I would like to start by introducing the DecalGirl website to those who have never been there before, and showing everyone some of the ways to navigate and quickly find what you are looking for.

If you click on the images of Kindle 4 skins below (more about them in a bit) you will be taken to a page for that particular design. Let’s take a look at various ways to find what you are looking for from there.

You can make a selection from the main menu and the drop down sub-menus at the top of the page. Those will help you navigate to the main pages for each device where you can see all of the stock skins for that device. (Don’t forget, you are not limited to the skins you see on this page. More about that later, too.) There is also a “directory listing” type menu just above the content area of each page that allows you to jump back over multiple levels with one click if you so desire.

If you look over the skins on any particular page and you don’t see anything that really tweaks your interest, or if you just want more choices, you can go to the right side of the main menu and click on “More ways to shop.” If you select “Shop by artist” you will be taken to the main artists’ page, where you can select an artist to view his or her gallery. If you select “Shop by design” you will be presented with all our current designs, which can be sorted by “Freshest,” “Best Sellers,” or “Name.” There’s a filter option on the left that lets you filter by artist, color, or style of art.  Any design can be put on a skin for any device.  When you choose to shop by design or by artist you will be presented with a menu to select the type of device, and then the specific device you would like skinned.  After making those selections you will be presented with a choice of gloss or matte finish, you will see the price, and you can add the skin to your cart.

We are occasionally asked about custom skins.  It’s a little hard to find information about it on the website, so let me make everyone aware:  Yes, DecalGirl can do custom skins.  If you want a picture of your favorite pet, or your daughter, or whatever on a skin, all you need to do is email [email protected].  We will send you a photoshop template via email.  Put your art on that template, send it back to us, and we will create your skin.  There is an additional $5 charge for custom skins.  You can also request to have color changes made or text added to any of our stock designs.  We will soon be streamlining this process by adding an online customizer tool to our website.

Still can’t find what you are looking for, or have questions? You can contact DecalGirl in several different ways. Go to the bottom left of any page to find our customer service links. From there you can send us an email or find our snailmail address, as well as our toll free customer service telephone number. Live customer service is available Monday-Friday from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM Eastern. When you call you will be talking to a friendly helpful customer service representative who is right here on site at DecalGirl, not someone at a foreign outsourced call center! (You’ll be talking to Amy, Keith, or Erin, not “Peggy!”  For anyone not in the U.S., this video will introduce you to “Peggy.”)

Now let’s talk about the skins for a bit. We have most recently added skins for the Kindle 4, and you can expect to see skins available for the other new Kindles in the near future. Right now there are 157 skin designs available on the Kindle 4 page, but remember you can shop by design or artist to select any of our more than 2200 skins to cover your Kindle 4. Here are three of our currently most popular designs. Click on any of them to visit the page for that design.

The first design is called “Library,” by Vlad Studio. Could there be a more appropriate skin for an ereader than this one?  Vlad lives in Irkutsk, Russia. He produces clever designs on a variety of subjects – from inanimate objects to stylized animals and people.

The next design is by one of our newer artists, Kate McRostie, and it is called “Fresh Picked.” Kate lives in Wilmington, North Carolina and gets her inspiration from people and things around her. “Fresh Picked” is reminiscent of the upholstery on an old fashioned chair, or perhaps decorative wallpaper.

The third and final design I want to share this week is called “Infinity” by David April. David is a software developer who produces fractal and photographic art. “Infinity” has multiple layers that give it an almost 3-D look.

Next week I’ll share some of our designs that will get you in the mood for the Halloween season. Have a good week, everyone!

Kindle Fire vs Kindle Touch: Deciding Which Meets Your Needs Better

Early on in the Kindle’s life, there was a lot of insistance than it couldn’t possibly succeed as a product when there was something as great as the iPad available.  As we know, these predictions of doom didn’t exactly pan out.  Dedicated eReader products were able to carve out their own market by bringing along capabilities that made them exceptional at what they did, even if that one task was somewhat narrow compared to potential competing types of products.

With the recent announcement of greater variety in the Kindle line, however, there is likely to be at least a small amount of confusion among prospective buyers.  After all, Amazon has made a great eReader line and many will want to force the Kindle Fire into that niche despite its better fit elsewhere.  While it makes sense for Amazon to want to capitalize on the popularity of the Kindle line by including the new tablet in it, it remains important for people to realize the things that the Kindle Touch will do better as a reading device.  In order to help simplify things, let’s look at some ideal uses are for each specific device.

Kindle Fire

Kindle Touch

Video Streaming Extended Reading
Internet Browsing Reading in Sunlight
Email Correspondence Audiobooks
Casual Games Textual Analysis (X-Ray)
Magazines & Comic Books Library Lending
Color Document Access

As you might expect, the actual eReader is a bit more focused on the book experience while the Kindle Fire is able to handle many tasks.  At first glance, this implies that the tablet is the more valuable tool.  For many people this may well be the case. Just as the iPad does more than the Kindle in terms of sheer feature quantity, the Fire will always come out on top in that way.  This should not be mistaken for an indication that the Kindle Touch is never the superior device, though.

No matter what advancements become possible with LCD technology, it is unlikely that these displays will be able to match the ease of use provided by the E INK Pearl.  While some will claim that they have no trouble with reading on a backlit screen, the vast majority have expressed a definite preference for something like the Kindle Touch during the long periods of reading likely to be taking place over the course of a novel.  These displays are also handle sunlight quite a bit better if that happens to be your preference while reading.

In addition to the screens, when you’re reading a book it is nice to be able to put it down and pick it up again a day or two later without worrying about charging.  The fact that Kindle eReaders last weeks to months between charges makes them feel more like read books.  The weight is also less than half that of the Kindle Fire, which while not necessarily a major issue at first will be noticeable over long periods of on-handed reading.

Perhaps the biggest selling point for the active reader will be the X-Ray feature.  Amazon promises that this will be a great aid for picking out important passages, accessing related material, and generally supplementing your reading experience.  While it is not something that we have been able to preview at this time, a system that works as well as Amazon claims X-Ray will would be an invaluable tool for many reasons.

If reading isn’t your main concern, of course, then the Kindle Fire still makes a lot of sense.  The 8 hour battery life is at the high end for similar products, the app store is one of the best, and the whole end to end experience is geared to make viewing, listening, browsing, and reading as comfortable as possible.  At $199, this is a game changing device that packs far more power and functionality than you would expect into a compact package.

To go along with the launch, Amazon has beefed up their Instant Video collection with tens of thousands of new titles including many available for free to Amazon Prime subscribers.  They have put a lot of work into making sure that streaming video runs smoothly on the new tablet, so it is safe to say the experience there will be as pleasant as possible on a 7″ screen.

I would not recommend the Kindle Fire for readers, due to screen type and battery life especially, but other than that it will be a valuable resource to just about anybody.  It’s portable, light, fairly powerful, and capable of opening just about any form of media you can think of.  While nobody is really expecting that the iPad is in any trouble from this corner at the moment, it’s hard to argue with something that does a comparable job at less than half the price with what may be an even better source of content to draw on.

Kindle Touch vs Kindle Keyboard: Is It Worth An Upgrade?

Some of the longest running customer demands for the Kindle line have been a touchscreen, a color display, and a price under $100.  The Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire each manage a different combination of two out of those three.  The big question now is what this means for Kindle owners.  Is the addition of these features worth the cost of purchasing a new eReader, even as cheap as they’ve become?  For that matter, should people just now coming to the eReader experience jump on the newer Kindle Touch or the Kindle Keyboard being sold for the same price?

In order to facilitate a more informed decision, let’s take a look at what differentiates the two devices:

Kindle Keyboard
Kindle Touch
Display 6″ E INK Pearl 6″ E INK Pearl
Connectivity WiFi + Optional 3G WiFi + Optional 3G
Battery Life 2 Month 2 Months
Weight 8.5 – 8.7 Ounces 7.5 – 7.8 Ounces
Dimensions 7.5″ x 4.8″ x 0.34″ 6.8″ x 4.7″ x 0.40″
Storage 4GB (3,500 Books) 4GB (3,000 Books)
Features Full Physical QWERTY Keyboard IR Touchscreen, X-Ray, EasyReach
Price $99 – $139 $99 – $149

Not quite as much as one might think, really.

Kindle Touch

The Kindle Touch is the newer device.  As might be expected in the portable electronics field, it is smaller, lighter, and faster (if videos posted to highlight the device’s anticipated user experience can be trusted).  Removing the physical keyboard seems to have saved about an ounce, which while equaling a weight reduction of over 10% still means little enough to not factor into any decisions.  At that point any case you get will probably render the point meaningless anyway.  It is also slightly smaller than the Kindle Keyboard, for obvious reasons.  You save almost an inch on the vertical and all other measurements are comparable. For a direct comparison, check out the device overlay here:

The real differences that come in stem from software improvements.  As you might notice in the table above, though the two Kindles share the same storage space measurement they have different listed book capacities.  This is because there are a couple things going on in the Kindle Touch software that the Kindle Keyboard does not have access to, which decreases the available area of the device’s storage a bit.

The less significant, though still quite useful given the interface, is the EasyReach system.  This partitions off the touchscreen so that the majority of the screen can be tapped for paging forward while the leftmost edge of the screen will work as a backward page turning button.  This eliminates the need for finger swiping.  Swiping was certainly a fine idea and emulates the page turning experience found in a paper book to a certain extent, but it gets old after a few hundred pages as anybody who wore out their original Nook can likely attest to.

More importantly, the Kindle Touch will be coming with something called X-Ray.  The X-Ray feature is basically intended to be an intelligent extension of the search function, based on Amazon’s description.  Not only will it find instances of word use, though, it will supposedly find all instances of a character, idea, place, or topic throughout as well as linking to relevant articles on either Wikipedia or Amazon’s own Shelfari service.  How successful this feature is remains to be seen, but Amazon clearly places a lot of confidence in it and emphasizes their own expertise in machine learning and data processing in explaining how they can make such a bold claim.  The product page literally says that “The vision is to have every important phrase in every book.”  An intriguing, if highly ambitious claim.

Kindle Keyboard

The benefits of a Kindle Keyboard are a bit more modest.  Aside from it being a proven device with very few shortcomings attached to it at this point, you also get physical buttons, more application/game options, and a slightly different experience in 3G usage.

The keyboard isn’t the most wonderful thing in the world, but it does the job.  This will be a benefit for anybody who prefers feedback on their button pressing.  It also means that more of the games and other applications currently available will work for you.  For the most part developers have been able to assume the presence of these controls up until this point and it is unlikely that many will be able to adapt to a touchscreen display.  This is not to say that there won’t be plenty of games and such that exclusively use the touchscreen in the future, but for now Kindle Keyboard owners have a clear advantage when it comes to non-reading eReader usage.

The 3G coverage that I mentioned is also noticeably more useful than that on the Kindle Touch.  Unlike the newer device, the Kindle Keyboard remains able to access the entirety of the internet through this connection (albeit in a sub-par browser), while the new Kindle will be restricted to the Kindle Store and Wikipedia.  Anything more is going to require access to a WiFi network, in which situations you will generally be able to access a more internet friendly device anyway.  Of course, I am personally taking this as a sign that the Kindle Keyboard is either going to be phased out in the near future or blocked off in a fashion similar to the Kindle Touch, but it is safe to say that current owners and near-future adopters will not be affected.

Conclusions:

When it comes right down to it, there isn’t enough difference between these two to really justify an upgrade.  If you own a Kindle Keyboard already and have no particular attachments to touchscreens or potentially super-smart text searches, you shouldn’t feel too bad about waiting a while before getting another eReader.  If you’re new to the whole eReader scene, I would probably recommend the $99 Kindle Touch.  It is the newest and most likely to be supported in the long term, especially in terms of firmware updates.  In addition, you get the touchscreen interface which is certain to be a bit more versatile for most users when compared to the directional control on other Kindles.  Completely worth it considering both devices are the same price anyway.

Free Kindle Book – The Pastor’s Wife by Jennifer Allee

You might notice from looking through the Top 100 Free Kindle books list that there are a lot of religious themed books on there.  The Pastor’s Wife is one of them, but it takes on a different perspective than the average Christian fiction novel.

Maura Sullivan married Nick Shepherd six years ago and he took over the congregation of a small church in Granger, Ohio.  Nick gets so sucked into helping the members of his congregation that he neglects his marriage.  The rift in Nick and Maura’s marriage grows so wide that Maura goes back to California to work with her father.

The story opens when Maura gets a letter from a recently deceased member of the Granger community who gives Maura an old theater in her will.  The theater comes with a stipulation though.  Without spoiling the plot too much, this stipulation reveals the issues in Maura and Nick’s marriage, and forces them to confront them head on.

The Pastor’s Wife is told from a unique perspective because it gives an honest portrayal of how the pastor must balance the needs of his congregation with the needs of his wife and family.  Sometimes church members can certainly take up a lot of a pastor’s time and energy.

So, The Pastor’s Wife is a sweet, but thought provoking story.  I really enjoy these types of books because they give me a break from hectic daily life while teaching me little life lessons.  Trust me, I like my fair share of suspense and intense plots, but stories like The Pastor’s Wife have their place as well.

One of the other things I liked was how real the characters were.  Even the pastor had his own flaws to work out.  So, I felt like I could relate to them better that way.

Carla Stewart

“The story is tender and woven with grace. Jennifer raises many questions about the relationship of a pastor with his congregation and his family. Does God call a man or a couple? What roles are appropriate for the wife of a pastor? It gave me a new perspective in what it must be like to live the “fish bowl” life. A thought-provoking, but gentle book from a lovely author.”

Judi Bush

“I took a chance on this free Kindle book and I’m glad I did. Jennifer Ailee’s story of hope that turned to disappointment, brokenness that led to healing and redemption is wrapped in an easy reading story that keeps you interested throughout the book. This is the style of story that calls you to a cozy chair where you curl up and escape your busyness and are inspired to see challenges through.”

 

 

Kindle Comparison By Screen Contrast

With Kindle 4 being released, some people on forums started arguing whether Pearl eInk screen is the same in $99 Kindle Keyboard and $79 Kindle 4 “Non-Touch”. Both sides have posted side-by-side photos to support their claims. Having recently obtained a Spyder 3 Print SR colorimeter for purposes of calibrating my printer I decided to do my own research.

Telling whether two colors are the same or not is a tricky business. Lighting, our eyes and brain can play tricks on us that can be best illustrated by this short video.

Different colors may appear the same under different lighting conditions or if they are positioned in a certain way. The opposite can also be true. The biggest factor is the context – what is around objects that we try to color-match. It can make things appear darker or lighter or even change tint. This is where precision colorimeters come in. Precision colorimeter is a device that contains calibrated light source and calibrated color sensor that measures color of a very small spot on an object. This eliminates effects of external lighting and takes our eyes out of the equation. It produces 3 numbers “L”, “a” and “b” that precisely identify a color regardless of its origin or context. “L” stands for lightness. It measures how bright the color is. This is what one would care the most when evaluating grayscale device such as Kindle. “a” and “b” contain information about color – whether it is green or blue. Ideal neutral gray color has both “a” and “b” equal zero.

In the past I did some very crude measurements to compare Kindle 2 and Kindle 3 with my DSLR by trying to keep lighting consistent across exposures. This time I used the Spyder colorimeter to compare Kindle 4 and Kindle 3. I also threw Kindle 2 and Kindle 1 I had in the mix to gather more data and validate my DSLR measurements. I created 16 PNG files that contain monotonous squares ranging from #000000 to #ffffff with #111111 as a step. I copied these files on Kindle devices and measured each square with colorimeter. To make results consistent I refreshed the screen by pressing Alt-G before each measurement (Keyboard+Back on Kindle 4). If I weren’t lazy I would measure each color multiple times and average out the results. However after some testing I found little variation in measurements of the same color so I let it slide. Below is the table with measurement results and a graph to illustrate it.

Kindle 4
Kindle 3
Kindle 2
Kindle 1
L a b L a b L a b L a b
00        17.87        (0.74)        (3.91)        18.17        (1.18)        (3.16)        22.67        (1.30)        (2.07)        28.52        (1.17)        (2.59)
11        20.22        (1.10)        (3.93)        22.56        (1.33)        (3.32)        24.95        (1.01)        (2.19)        28.52        (1.17)        (2.59)
22        23.56        (1.35)        (4.17)        23.43        (1.17)        (3.41)        28.11        (1.40)        (2.33)        29.05        (0.98)        (2.57)
33        26.41        (1.17)        (4.44)        27.54        (1.23)        (3.29)        30.70        (1.08)        (2.22)        32.08        (1.35)        (2.54)
44        28.12        (1.66)        (4.14)        31.95        (1.54)        (3.40)        34.45        (1.11)        (1.95)        37.06        (1.42)        (2.34)
55        32.60        (1.61)        (4.14)        34.75        (0.87)        (3.50)        36.71        (1.29)        (1.80)        39.31        (1.14)        (2.05)
66        35.87        (1.49)        (3.75)        36.90        (1.80)        (3.58)        39.96        (1.36)        (1.62)        39.31        (1.04)        (2.17)
77        38.45        (1.78)        (3.98)        40.38        (1.82)        (3.59)        42.93        (1.33)        (1.52)        40.89        (1.60)        (2.11)
88        41.18        (1.76)        (3.66)        43.40        (1.75)        (3.55)        45.21        (1.24)        (1.57)        44.21        (1.78)        (2.11)
99        45.63        (2.11)        (3.43)        46.51        (1.79)        (3.33)        48.38        (1.56)        (1.59)        51.48        (1.77)        (1.82)
aa        49.13        (2.04)        (3.22)        48.99        (1.96)        (3.16)        50.56        (1.56)        (1.34)        51.48        (1.77)        (1.82)
bb        51.86        (1.92)        (2.98)        50.94        (2.14)        (3.03)        53.11        (1.67)        (1.34)        53.62        (1.69)        (1.50)
cc        54.81        (1.85)        (2.50)        54.06        (2.01)        (2.77)        56.20        (1.42)        (0.83)        59.75        (1.49)        (0.63)
dd        57.36        (2.01)        (2.17)        57.28        (1.76)        (2.19)        59.14        (1.59)        (0.54)        65.91        (1.23)          0.51
ee        60.86        (1.60)        (1.54)        60.09        (1.60)        (1.98)        62.33        (1.38)          0.24        68.20        (1.20)          0.91
ff        63.73        (1.34)        (0.56)        64.02        (1.24)        (1.09)        64.49        (1.05)          0.66        68.20        (1.20)          0.91

Dynamic range of the screen is ratio of brightest and darkest color that it can display:

  • Kindle 4 = 3.57
  • Kindle 3 = 3.52
  • Kindle 2 = 2.84
  • Kindle 1 = 2.39

As you can see, Kindle 3 and Kindle 4 have very similar response curves and dynamic ranges, even despite the fact that I’ve heavily used my Kindle 3 (Keyboard) during the last year, while Kindle 4 is brand new. Perhaps if I had a specimen of unused Kindle Keyboard, measurements would be even closer. On the other hand measurements of Kindle 2 and Kindle 1 are very different from K3/K4. According to Amazon these devices use different screen technology and it shows. These results are also very much in line with my rough DSLR measurements from last year. Kindle 1 supports only 8 shades or gray (as opposed to 16 in later models) and it can be seen in a non-linear character or its transfer curve.

Bottom line: Kindle 4 and Kindle 3 have very similar screens to the point of being identical. While point is the same in Kindle 2 and Kindle 3/4, but Kindle 2 has lighter darks. Kindle 1 has lighter whites but also even lighter darks than Kindle 2.