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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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November 2011
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Kindle Daily Deal – JFK by Fletcher Prouty and Oliver Stone

Today’s Kindle Daily Deal is JFK by Fletcher Prouty and Oliver Stone for $0.99 (vs. regular price of $14.95)

Here are a couple of reviews…

Prouty, who was a Washington insider for nearly 20 years–in the last few of them as Chief of Special Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Kennedy–has a highly unusual perspective to offer on the assassination and the events that led up to it. Familiar to moviegoers as the original of the anonymous Washington figure, played by Donald Sutherland in the Oliver Stone’s movie JFK , who asks hero Jim Garrison to ponder why Kennedy was killed, Prouty leaves no doubt where he stands. The president, he claims, had angered the military-industrial establishment with his procurement policies and his determination to withdraw from Vietnam, and had threatened to break the CIA into “a thousand pieces” after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. His death was in effect a coup d’etat that placed in the White House a very different man with a very different approach–one much more acceptable to what Prouty consistently calls “the power elite.” Although he declares that such an elite has operated, supranationally, throughout history, and is all-powerful, he never satisfactorily explains who its members are and how it functions–or how it has allowed the current East-West rapprochement to take place. Still, this behind-the-scenes look at how the CIA has shaped postwar U.S. foreign policy is fascinating, as are Prouty’s telling questions about the security arrangements in Dallas, his knowledge of the extraordinary government movements at that time (every member of the Cabinet was out of the country when Kennedy was shot) and his perception that most of the press has joined in the cover-up ever since. Photos not seen by PW.

Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Prouty, the mysterious “X” in Oliver Stone’s JFK , promises to explain why Kennedy was assassinated. Instead, he delivers a muddled collection of undocumented, bizarre theories, most significantly that a super-powerful, avaricious power elite engineered the Cold War and all its pivotal events–Korea, Vietnam, the U-2 incident, the Bay of Pigs, and the Kennedy assassination. Although they are never identified, these shadowy technocrats, working through the CIA, allegedly had Kennedy murdered because he was on the brink of ending America’s commitment to Vietnam, along with its billions of dollars of military contracts. Prouty avoids some very important issues. Would Kennedy, a Cold War warrior’s warrior, have indeed ended American support for Diem? And why couldn’t the omnipotent power elite ensure the election of Richard Nixon, its preferred candidate, in 1960–especially since Kennedy won by only .02 percent?

Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

These deals as the name implies are updated daily and usually entail Kindle eBook being sold for nominal $0.99. You can keep track of them here: The Kindle Daily Deal. Or you can follow our blog as we’ll keep track of these deals too.

Get Nook App For Your Kindle Fire

Image: Business InsiderWhen it comes to deciding which eReader to buy, the biggest consideration is usually going to be whether you want to use a Nook or a Kindle forever.  Because sadly, it is difficult at best to change between the two platforms without losing access to every eBook you own.  While it is nice to dream of a day with no restrictive DRM, where you can move what you buy to whatever device you want, we have yet to reach that point.  Fortunately there are now some options that don’t require learning to tear out the DRM from every one of your eBooks, assuming you don’t mind reading on an LCD.

Naturally, whether you buy a Kindle Fire or a Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet (or Nook Color), there is always the option to root your device to install the competitor’s reading app.  That process can be a pain for a few reasons, more so with the Nook in my experience since Amazon didn’t really try to prevent their customers from doing whatever they want with the Fire.  Despite the complications, this is a great option for the Nook Tablet.  It adds a load of functionality and removes some of the rather silly restrictions on usage that B&N felt the need to include. With the Kindle Fire, however, taking advantage of rooting causes you to lose access to the wonderfully streamlines interface that Amazon came up with in favor of a default Android OS.  Maybe that works for some people, but personally I prefer what the device shipped with for once.

If you’re of the same opinion, hope is not lost.  While you cannot access the Android Marketplace through your Kindle Fire, you are still able to download third party apps.  Amusingly this includes the Nook App if you know where to look.

As a fan of the original Nook, I jumped at the chance to get easy access to my old purchases again.  You can find the app at m.getjar.com, using the Kindle Fire‘s browser.  While some have indicated that you need to download the GetJar app to proceed from here, I had no trouble without it.  Just search for “Nook”, download the app, and install from the downloads menu (Pull up the list by tapping on the number next to your tablet’s name on the status bar).  It will show up under the Apps tab.

The only complication in using the Nook App this way is that it is unable to download all of my books.  Since some of them work fine and new purchases come through smoothly, I’m guessing these particular titles are the freebies I picked out early on that have been moved or replaced with better free copies, but it’s been long enough now that I honestly can’t recall.  It’s got a couple features that might be preferable to the Kindle’s normal reading app for some people.  Small things like a dimmer brightness setting, or a different animated page turn.  For the most part they are practically identical.

To me, this increases the usefulness of the Kindle Fire significantly.  If nothing else, it is great to finally have all of my eBooks available on the same device at the same time.  While I would love to be able to do the same on an E INK reader, this works as the next best thing for now.  There’s no real downside and it takes just moments to get this installed.  Give it a try.

Penguin, Overdrive, and Amazon: Kindle Library Lending Gets Complicated

Kindle owners found themselves targeted recently in a fairly unpleasant way.  Penguin USA, one of the largest publishers in the world, decided that it would be a smart business move to pull their entire collection of publications from libraries across the country for Kindle owners.  Everybody else, including owners of competing eReaders like the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch, could still get these books.  Now, while things have been temporarily dealt with since then – Penguin has temporarily stopped singling out the Kindle users entirely – new Penguin books will not be made available anymore and there is reason to believe that the event will recur unless Penguin and OverDrive (the service providing eBook lending services for most libraries these days) are able to work out a deal by the end of the year.

Neither Penguin nor OverDrive has said anything about the exact details of Penguin’s problems.  OverDrive was simply sent word to disable the “Get for Kindle” functionality for all Penguin eBooks immediately.  There was not even a warning sent to the affected libraries before the change took effect, which led to a great deal of ill will.  These libraries purchase each copy of the eBooks they rent out and as such were left sitting on the results of essentially wasted money that could not be lent out despite Kindle-owning customer demand.  The expected outcry for massive refunds, which would certainly have garnered a great deal of public sympathy, might well explain Penguin’s temporary capitulation.

Many have believably argued that this is a direct response to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library that Amazon launched recently for their Prime members.  The timing certainly fits.  Amazon got around the fact that major publishers have refused to buy into this new program by focusing on their KDP titles, smaller publishers, and by outright purchase of each rented eBook that they could get their hands on through wholesale arrangements.  This last move is what causes the ill will since many publishers and authors feel that this exceeds the scope of their current relationships with Amazon.

While nobody involved in the Prime lending library is directly losing money, a major worry in the industry is that eBooks will lose perceived value.  If customers start thinking of eBooks as somehow inherently cheaper that printed books, then printed Book sales will suffer and publishers would be forced to rely on sales of the eBooks, which means being subject to Amazon and Barnes & Noble even more than they are now.  This is the same sort of reasoning that brought on the behind-the-scenes deal with Apple to fix prices of eBooks around the time the iBooks store opened up.

I would say that this is going to go poorly for Penguin.  While their need to react is understandable given that they feel wronged, the targeting was off a bit.  Instead of attacking Amazon directly, they have gone after their own readers.  Yes, the Amazon deal with OverDrive increases the incentive to purchase a Kindle, but going after libraries doesn’t do a lot to make you look better to a customer base that loves to read.  The Kindle is unlikely to be pushed out of the #1 slot in eBook Readers any time soon, even if all the major publishers pulled out of the library system in the same way.  It’s difficult to understand what Penguin is still hoping to accomplish here.

Kindle Books on Sale During Cyber Monday Deals Week

During the week after Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday kicks off an online only sale on a variety of items including electronics, books, and more.

There is a huge sale going on this week on Kindle books in all genres.  First, there are the editor’s picks.  The one Kindle book that stood out to me in that list is The Art of Racing in the Rain.  Garth Stein writes this compelling novel from the point of view of a dog named Enzo.  Enzo sticks by his human companion, Denny, as he faces trials and triumphs in his racing career, marriage, and in other aspects of his life.

I’ve heard good things about this book, and have it downloaded and ready to read on my Kindle.  I was excited to see it as part of the sale this week.

In addition to The Art of Racing in the Rain, there is another book in the Editor’s picks called Undrunk.  It is a first hand account of what goes on behind the closed doors of an AA meeting, and the steps alcoholics have to take to remain sober.  A.J. Adams gives an honest take on his experiences and uses this book as an opportunity to explain the process to readers who have not attended AA meetings, and to dispel ugly stereotypes of Alcoholics Anonymous.  There’s also a bit of humor mixed in.  Humor is always a good thing.

Other genres include Fiction, Romance, Biography, Mystery and Thrillers, Young Adult, Health and Wellness, and Children’s books.  So, there is something for everyone.  I noticed a lot of books that put a unique spin on classics like Pride and Prejudice and Sherlock Holmes.  There are also some good cookbooks and self help books that are worth checking out.

In the Young Adult books sections there is a book called Julie of the Wolves that I remember reading back in elementary school.  It was a good book, and includes some good wolf lore.  It also deals with issues that all kids face at the adolescent stage.

In time for the holiday season, The Legend of the Candy Cane is a fun book for little kids to enjoy. It makes a great bedtime story for parents and their children.

The books I mentioned are just a small sample of the vast collection of Kindle books available. With the holidays coming up and time off from work and school, this is a great time to load up on some reading material.  All books are $3.99 or less.  The deals run until December 3rd.

 

Kindle Fire & Nook Tablet Video Focus Brings Android Attention

It was known well ahead of the official announcement for the device ever took place that the Kindle Fire would be intended for video more than anything else.  Perhaps due to that pressure and perhaps just as part of an overall trend in the market, the Nook Tablet was designed along similar lines.  While this doesn’t necessarily mean much on its own, it spurred along at least one other development that might mean a great deal more attention for the Android community as a whole.

Amazon’s intent to promote their own streaming video service is clear.  Their library has been growing quickly over time, including many titles being given away “free” with Amazon Prime.  This is naturally something of a concern for a company like Netflix that is suddenly faced with competition from somebody as big as Amazon.  Although Netflix has not commented on it, something definitely spurred them along to push forward their new tablet app upgrade for Android weeks or months ahead of iOS.

The Nook Tablet practically relies on Netflix and other streaming services to function, all the more so because Barnes & Noble currently offers nothing analogous to Amazon’s video services.  They also began advertising a uniquely deep connection with Netflix immediately following the reveal.  As Kindle Fire owners have likely noticed by now, the Netflix app in the Amazon App Store isn’t exactly lacking either.  They went for the maximum possible audience with this update and it seems likely to take.

The implications here go beyond benefits for owners of these new 7″ tablets, however nice those are to have.  This is one of the first times that the Android platform has received special attention ahead of the iOS equivalent.  That sort of thing does not happen without a fair degree of confidence in the potential profitability. If the Kindle Fire alone, or even the collection group of it and all of the competing $200 tablets springing up from companies like B&N and Kobo, is considered important enough to be prioritized ahead of the market dominating iPad then it could easily be a sign that tides are changing.

Part of the bar to Android’s widespread adoption in tablets has been the fact that quality development tends to get prioritized for the competition.  Whether you blame it on the fragmentation of the ecosystem due to frequent non-mandatory upgrades, lack of faith in Google’s offering as a whole, or the lack of a truly major name product to line up behind, the situation has now changed. With luck, this will build up some momentum.

While I have nothing against Apple or the iPad, some heated competition would go a long way toward not only improving their product but creating some genuinely functional alternatives.  The strength of iOS that everybody else lacks isn’t the iPad’s hardware or aesthetic.  Its main virtue is the functionality that primarily comes from the Apple App Store.  Neither the Kindle Fire nor the Amazon App Store is a match for Apple.  It isn’t likely that a single company or product will be any time soon.  What it does do is get the ball rolling, so to speak.

A Kindle Conversion: Why The EPUB Argument Stopped Mattering

Amazon made what appeared to be some fairly big opponents in the earliest days of the Kindle.  All they had to do was decide to go with a closed format.  Unlike some companies who might have decided that a strong DRM scheme was plenty of protection, they made sure that Kindle owners were locked in by consciously failing to support the industry standard eBook format.  It struck many people, myself included, as manipulative and more than a little bit condescending.

Thinking back, many of my earliest complaints about the Kindle revolved around the EPUB format.  I was ideologically supportive of the Nook in a very strong way as a result.  They might have wanted to lock in customers via DRM, but at least things like outside purchases and library books would work if the user wanted to make the effort to access them.  MobiPocket format was already too outdated in many situations.

Oddly enough, in principle the objections remain to this day.  The difference is that now customers aren’t expected to buy into an unproven platform with no guarantee that success was ahead.  Keep in mind that the Kindle was not the first E Ink eReader.  Sony was already doing a fairly good job of fizzling out by then and has been taking a back seat in the field ever since as a result.

My own change of opinion regarding the importance of the eBook format conflict stems from purely practical matters.  We have reached a point where there is literally nothing you can’t do with a Kindle that can be done on another device.  Library books are plentiful, no author or publisher is likely to boycott the Kindle platform in favor of the competition, and on the off chance that you find a DRM-free eBook you want on your device you can convert it for free with Calibre (a practical necessity for the eBook enthusiast in case you haven’t adopted already. Google it!).  In a situation where the format itself offers no particular advantage inherent to itself, there is no longer much reason to cling to it.  There is a reason you don’t see much use of HD-DVD anymore, or Betamax before that.

As we move forward into the next generation of formats, HTML5 forms the underlying structure.  Kindle Format 8 looks to allow for as much, or as little, formatting as the person producing a given publication desires as a result.  This will improve Amazon’s ability to present their media equally well on practically any size display, which makes sense given speculation regarding future Kindle Tablet options.  Nobody else seems to have really adopted an equally versatile approach yet, and even if that happens it won’t necessarily change anything.  There is only so much you can do in order to essentially show off text in an attractive manner.

What it all comes down to is that customers will go where they get the best experience.  EPUB might be better than Mobi, but with the Kindle providing the better hardware and Amazon backing their product with strong infrastructure and a great book store that didn’t matter enough.  It’s one more format war down.

Kindles Make Great Holiday Gifts for Kids

I’ve seen so many reviewers say they wish that there were more books, games and activities that would allow children to use a Kindle easily.  The bestselling e-reader has mostly catered to adults in the past.

The good news is that now, there are a lot of apps and games designed with kids in mind.  They are both educational and fun.  You’ll find a growing collection of interactive fiction available for the Kindle. I’m sure parents will be very happy to see that there are games that are great for keeping kids occupied in the doctor’s waiting room or on long car rides.

Interactive fiction gives the story to the readers so that they can determine what direction it will go.  As you go through the book, it will ask you questions that impacts how the book will end.  In some of the books, you can even choose the character and setting.  A few examples of interactive fiction titles available on the e-reader include The Little Stick that Could, the Fighting Fantasy series, and the Choice of Games series.  More details on Kindle apps can be found on the Kindle App review blog.

The 4th generation Kindle is perfect for kids because of its reasonable price, and it is basic enough for them to grasp.  The user interface is primarily navigated with just one button.  The keyboard is virtual, which makes the Kindle so much smaller and lightweight.  The Kindle 4 holds about half the amount of storage that the rest of the Kindle models do, but it has access to unlimited cloud storage on Amazon.  It makes a great introductory e-reader.

I’ve heard several people say that they are going to buy a Kindle for their kids this Christmas.  This is a great opportunity to steer kids away from TV and video games, and towards reading.  There are a ton of children’s books, old and new, available to choose from.  I hope Charlotte’s Web will be added to the list sometime in the near future!

Are Airport Scanners Making Kindle Carrying Risky?

This time of year travel is anything but rare and chances are good that at some point a delay will have you sitting in an airport with nothing to do.  The obvious solution is to bring your Kindle along for the ride.  Reading is always a pleasant way to kill time, of course.  The problem comes in deciding whether or not this is safe to do.

There have been numerous reports of airport security causing Kindle screen failure in the past and it continues to be an issue.  Amazon denies that the usual sort of security scanners employed in airports have any chance of harming their eReaders.  Even leaving aside my own personal anecdotes involving extensive holiday travel having failed to do anything to a Kindle, they’re obviously correct.  The radiation being used in these scanners is simply far too weak to manage to do any real harm to E INK displays, even over the course of repeated scane.

Where it gets tricky is in the associated mechanisms.  Naturally, to speed up the processing, belts are employed to feed baggage through scanners.  We’ve all seen or used them from time to time.  These long rubber belts, constantly in motion, have the potential to build up a significant charge.  Some estimates have indicated it could easily reach or exceed 100 volts.  In instances where this discharges through a Kindle, of course it is going to freeze the E INK permanently in place.  Of course, that sort of thing isn’t particularly good for just about any piece of electronics.

While it seems unlikely that this phenomenon alone is sufficient to account for all of the reports of travel damage, keep in mind that it is travel damage.  Tight bags, rough handling, and not infrequent jostling in crowds and tightly packed planes inevitably takes its toll.  Given that the Kindle line makes use of display technology that is notoriously brittle, it is to be expected to some extent.

In order to ensure safety for your favorite Kindle, especially the eReader models since the Kindle Fire has proven extremely resilient, there are a few things you can do.  The simplest is packing carefully.  Make sure that your Kindle is in a good protective case or at least not in a position to be supporting any weight or accepting any major pressure.  This won’t be particularly helpful if you are one of the rare cases of airport scanner damage, but for general hits it makes all the difference.

If you are particularly concerned about the scanner, keep in mind that the damage likely to be the result of static discharge.  They make cheap protective products for help with that.  Many people employ antistatic bags to protect data storage devices in transit and they should work just as well for the Kindle.

The overwhelming majority of the time, you have nothing to be worried about.  What people remember are the rare exceptions and that tends to make for some rumors being blown out of proportion.  Fortunately, even if you should end up with problems all reports indicate that Amazon has an unofficial policy of replacing airport-damaged eReaders.  Enjoy your travel, bring your Kindle, and good luck with your travel this holiday season.

Holiday Shopping/DecalGirl Artists Pt. 3

This is our traditional (8-th) Friday post in  the series of weekly giveaways sponsored by DecalGirl.com. The winner of prize is Marty with the following comment “So far I am pleased with my kindle fire. My first kindle…”  Our congratulation to him (her).  You need only to leave a comment what you think about Kindle Fire on our site to be in the game. In the next Friday we will announce and send a personal message on email with redemption code in case you win. It is good chance to get a new case to your new Kindle Fire. Do not lose it.


Getting ready to hit the stores for Black Friday?  Have you made your list and checked it at least a dozen times?  Do you have extra coffee and energy drinks in the pantry so you can stay wide awake during the midnight sales?  Or would you rather avoid the whole thing altogether?

Well, it’s important to patronize your local stores, especially the small businesses, but there are some things it is better to shop for online, and for some you simply have no choice.  Sure, you can stand in line for hours at Target or Best Buy, or Walmart to get the new Kindles for yourself and all your friends and family, but do you really want to do that?  Really??

If you are reading this, there’s a good chance that you will be joining millions who will be spending, in all likelihood, over $1 billion online on Cyber Monday.  So get a good night’s sleep on Thursday night…perfect after eating all of that turkey…and laugh at everybody who is waiting to be trampled by the rush at the midnight sale.  Rest your fingers, get a manicure, and then hit the keyboard for some serious online shopping.

Once you have stocked up on new devices of all kinds (but especially those new Kindles!) you may want to look for some stocking stuffers.  DecalGirl would be happy to help you with that!  Just click on over and shop to your heart’s content!  The best thing about internet shopping is that you can do it on your schedule; websites are always open.  And of course we have prepared for the season with a bunch of great new designs that will put you in the holiday spirit.  Here are just a few of them.  Click on any of the images to take a closer look.

Heidi Dobrott’s rendering of the “jolly old elf” himself is very modern and traditional at the same time.  Heidi hails from Southern California where she lives with her husband and dog.  She is a graduate of UCLA with a degree in design and graphic arts.  She has produced designs that can be seen on everything from paper goods to dinnerware to textiles (and of course, skins!).  “Santa” is only one of several new designs by Heidi offered at DecalGirl for the holiday season.

Kate McRostie, whom we introduced you to a couple of weeks back, likes to work with traditional subjects in a traditional manner.  So if you are a traditional sort of person, you might enjoy Kate’s work such as “Christmas Wonderland” shown here.

We haven’t introduced you to Iveta Abolina yet.  Iveta started drawing as a child by tracing over pictures from books and magazines.  This background has given her a great attention to detail that you can see in all of her work.  Her work has been described as “imaginative, colorful arrangements of abstract floral shapes with intricate detail and vivid colors.”  You can see her attention to detail in her work “Crème de la Crème.”

Our last holiday image is from Digital Blasphemy, aka Ryan Bliss.  Ryan discovered his talent for art when he received his first computer in 1995.  He likes to create desktop wallpapers, and he designs his work to both draw the eye from across the room and stand up to close inspection.  The work shown here is called “Magi.”

Kindle Keyboard 3G On The Way Out

In the past several months, especially since the announcement of the Kindle Touch, I’ve mentioned regularly that I expected the Kindle Keyboard to be a thing of the past by early 2012.  While nothing concrete has happened just yet, there are beginning to be small indications that this is beginning to happen.

The most obvious early sign was the fact that the Kindle Touch’s 3G option did not include the same freedoms that we have come to expect in previous models.  Where up until now you could browse freely, albeit in a limited fashion due to the nature of the Kindle’s screen and experimental browser, now users are stuck with only Wikipedia and Amazon’s own store.  Given the size of the ongoing 3G bill that Amazon has to have been racking up over the past several years, this change should be no surprise.  Lifetime 3G for free is going to be hard to keep going without limitations.  What is surprising and makes this stand out is the fact that the Kindle Keyboard did not start having the same restrictions.  If this was really the direction that Amazon has chosen to go, the only easy explanation is that they were waiting to run out existing stock.

More recently, the Kindle Keyboard WiFi w/ Special Offers has silently disappeared from the Kindle Store.  You can still get the more expensive ad-free model, but somehow I doubt that is because Amazon has suddenly decided to drop their advertising subsidized eReader plans.  Not only is it gone, but the newer versions of the sales banner for the Kindle Family are now focused entirely on the newest devices and don’t display the Kindle Keyboard at all.

It would not be surprising to find that even more signs have been given that were just too subtle to be noticed at the time.  I seem to recall there being white versions of both WiFi and 3G Kindle 3 models, for example, but now that is only available for the 3G model.  Hard to say for certain at this point since the graphite frame was so appealing at launch that I didn’t bother picking up a white edition.

Will this be the end of eReaders with physical inputs?  Quite possibly!  The major competition has already moved to entirely touchscreen, though the Nook Simple Touch eReader still has some actual page turning buttons.  The virtual keyboard allows for a lighter, more compact device that is even less intrusive than previous Kindles.  I’m still dealing with mixed feelings regarding this move, having gotten used to my keyboard and not quite having had the same amount of exposure to the new design, but it does seem the way of the future.

If you are still interested in the Kindle Keyboard (formerly Kindle 3), now is really the time to buy.  Lefties will find it especially valuable since the Kindle Touch requires swiping if you want to flip a page forward with your left hand. It offers pretty much everything that the Kindle Touch does aside from X-Ray and the ease of use in highlighting and annotation, but you get the reassuring presence of buttons.  The option won’t be around much longer, I’m sure, but for now you can get either the normal Kindle Keyboard or the Kindle Keyboard 3G w/ Special Offers for just $139.

Kindle DX Black Friday Price is $259 ($120 off)

It looks like Amazon Black Friday Deal for Kindle devices is going to be Kindle DX 3G for $259 ($120 or 32% off).
Hurry while it lasts! It is a great price for e-reader with 9.7 inch screen.
Get Kindle DX for $259

Kindle Fire App Store Limitations Show Good Judgement

When people talk about the Kindle Fire’s shortcomings, one of the most common objections is the fact that Amazon has closed their customers into an ecosystem that has no direct connection to the general Android Marketplace.  While this is true and does mean that there are far fewer apps at the disposal of customers, that doesn’t mean it’s entirely a negative thing.

The most obvious positive, as far as I can tell, is Amazon’s inspection practices.  While they aren’t nearly as restrictive as Apple, neither does Amazon just allow anything that happens to be submitted to make its way into the system.  This becomes especially important at times like this when large numbers of inexperienced users are likely to be presented with a kind of device they are completely unfamiliar with.  Buying from the Amazon Appstore you have little to worry about, whereas the Android Marketplace has had instances of Malware uploads increase by nearly 475% since just this part July by some accounts.  Because of how Google has structured their store model, there’s no easy way for them to preemptively remove these apps.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, there is also the added benefit to users of regularly discounted or free apps.  While it is my understanding that there have been issues with this system before, such as developers having been misinformed about the potential for profit when their apps are included in the featured slot, it is nothing but a benefit to the end user.  Chances are good that eventually something you want to use will be featured, or at least something that you didn’t realize would be interesting until it popped up.

Kindle Fire owners also have the added benefit of knowing that their device of choice is likely to enjoy ongoing support.  Unlike the main Android Marketplace in which developers are often practically obligated to cater to whichever build hit shelves last, it is fair to expect that Amazon will be clinging to their highly customized build for quite a while.  This means that not only will the newest apps to hit the store be available to you, but that more developers wishing to enjoy ongoing relevance for their work will be drawn in.  Nobody likes to see something they put significant effort into be rendered incompatible a month later.

It would be ridiculous to say that this was anything but a self-serving move on Amazon’s part.  If they could have made more money by opening up their software to Google’s store, there is no doubt that it would have been the first thing done.  Less infrastructure to develop, if nothing else.  The fact is though that by keeping things in house, so to speak, the only people harmed are over at Google.

If having a pure, untouched Android build is really what you would prefer, Amazon has left it quite simple to root the device and make it so.  As it stands, though, the Kindle Fire will be a great entry level product for exactly the reasons that many existing tablet enthusiasts will find unpleasant.  Unless one is exceptionally wary about being tied into Amazon’s services, few shortcomings will be noticeable in their handling of the Appstore.

Kindle Fire vs Kindle Touch Hands-On: Is The Dedicated eReader Obsolete?

In the past several weeks, especially as the Kindle Fire’s release date drew near, many people have been touting the new media tablet as a higher end, more advanced Kindle.  While it is definitely true that it opens up new doors for Amazon in terms of content distribution, I don’t necessarily think that it is fair to assume that the Fire is a direct evolution of the line it takes its name from.  As such, I figured I might as well do a small comparison on the relative virtues of Amazon’s two newest Kindles.

Kindle Fire

This is the clear winner in terms of general usefulness.  We don’t need a breakdown to prove that, it simply is.  The dedicated eReader didn’t rise to popularity because of its exclusive access to the text contained inside eBook files, though.  The question is how this device stacks up specifically as an eReader.

Pros:

  • More Responsive Interface
  • Larger Storage Capacity
  • More Intuitive Sorting/Storage Library Interface

Cons:

  • LCD Display
  • Short battery Life

It really is a good system in general besides the back-lit LCD, offering the full functionality of any Kindle or Kindle App prior to the Touch model.  When you swap to the white on black color scheme it isn’t even terribly uncomfortable to read for hours at a time, though the fact that you are reading on a screen is never forgotten.

Kindle Touch

Pros:

  • E Ink Screen
  • X-Ray
  • Long Battery Life

Cons:

  • Slightly slower than Fire
  • More Basic Menu System
  • Limited PDF Functionality

The biggest things that the new Kindle Touch eReader has going for it revolve around the strengths that the Kindle line has always played to: a reading experience analogous to that of a paper book.  This includes no eye strain, page turns faster than physically possible with paper, seemingly endless battery life, and the best selection of books on the market.  That last is obviously not restricted to this model, but it helps.

On the downside, the responsiveness of the Kindle Fire when doing things besides plain old reading is far superior.  Both the color display and the simple ability to rotate your document also make it the superior device for PDF viewing.  While the zooming and scrolling on the Kindle Touch is superior to any previous Kindle due to the touchscreen implementation, for some reason this resulted in the loss of landscape mode.  That can be a pain when you’re unable to reflow your document.

Conclusions

When in comes to extended reading, the Kindle eReader is still king.  The E Ink screen isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker for everybody, but the loss of battery life that comes along with the move to LCD is likely to be.  X-Ray is a nice feature and will add some great tools for students and reading groups, but I have yet to find it more than a perk.

On the other hand, for active reference and note taking I would definitely recommend the Kindle Fire.  The reading experience shows no lag for me in about 15 hours of use so far, the page turns, highlighting, and note taking are nice and quick, and it can be useful to have the full web browser handy.

The experiences are indeed distinct, and probably will remain so until some form of Color E Ink or an equivalent comes along.

Nook Tablet’s Larger Storage Offers Less Than Kindle Fire

In the eyes of many, the Kindle Fire didn’t have much of a chance of competing with Apple’s technically superior iPad tablet.  That remains to be seen in the longer term, of course, but for now it’s all just speculation.  Regardless, this shifts the focus of people watching for active competition to the Kindle vs Nook battle.  They have been ongoing rivals in the eReader world, of course, and now they both offer budget priced tablets that will do a lot more than help you read.

On paper the Nook Tablet is quite possibly the better device.  It has the same processing power, more RAM, and most importantly twice the local storage of the Kindle Fire.  This last alone was enough to get many people to declare it a clear winner before either device hit shelves.  Now that we can use them both side by side, the situation has drastically changed.

The Nook Tablet, despite having 16GB of storage space (~12GB available to users), severely restricts what users are able to do with that space.  To such a degree that the idea of purchasing the device as a video player without the intention of rooting it is fairly laughable.  Users will find that Barnes & Noble has chosen to allow a mere 1GB of storage for the loading of outside content.  While the remainder can be filled by anything B&N sells, the fact of the matter is that right now they don’t offer nearly enough content to justify the choice.

There is not, for example, a video store for the Nook Tablet.  Neither is there an MP3 service.  You can, of course, access services like Netflix or Pandora for all your media consumption needs, but should you desire to watch or listen to things that you yourself own already then chances are good there is a problem.  Basically the only thing available in any quantity besides apps, and the scarcity of Nook apps is another complaint to address at another time, is reading material.  It simply does not justify this.

While I think that anybody would agree that the Kindle Fire‘s 8GB on-board storage is one of its weak points, Amazon at least manages to expand your options.  Sure you might have trouble loading everything that you want onto the device at once, but you can always stream it or store in their provided cloud storage until it is needed.  This is in addition to also offering equally functional access to Netflix, Pandora, and basically everything else that the Nook Tablet is using to make up for its lack of media store integration.

What probably should have been a clear win for B&N has turned their device into a joke for many prospective buyers.  We can hope that as time goes on this will be changed via a software update of some sort since the Nook Tablet is honestly a decent piece of hardware for just $250.  It is ridiculous that to get any decent amount of storage space a new user should feel compelled to purchase a memory card when the drive is just sitting there more than half empty.

Kindle Touch’s X-Ray Feature Combats Piracy The Smart Way

While the news of the week is certainly focused on the Kindle Fire media tablet and all of the wider implications for tablet computing that go along with it, this week also brings us the release of the new Amazon Kindle Touch eReader.  It does a few things right that other companies haven’t quite caught on to yet, but overall it’s just another iteration of the line.  Once you reach a certain point, there is a limit to how much excitement can be mustered over fractions of an inch in dimension reduction, fractions of an ounce in weight reduction, or fractions of a second in page refresh rate.  It was all pretty much great in the Kindle 3 (Kindle Keyboard) and the trend continues in the fourth generation here.

What is really important here aside from the touchscreen implementation, which I’ll talk about another time, is the way Amazon has managed to add extra value for users beyond the simple reading experience.  That’s not easy when you’re talking about something as basic as a book, and most attempts to do so up until now (i.e. video embedding, hyperlinks, etc.) have been at least somewhat obtrusive during the act of reading.

The new X-Ray feature is, at first glance, an extension of the search function.  It will find what you need in an intelligent fashion using Amazon’s own predictive algorithms to determine what the most important parts of a book are.  The name is meant to imply that by using the Kindle Touch you can see through to the “bones” of a given book.  This information is stored on your eReader, having been downloaded alongside each eBook you picked up, so it remains accessible even if you keep the WiFi turned off consistently. Accessing X-Ray will get you things like a list of proper names in the book, how often those names appear and where, as well as other extrapolated information about the form of the book’s content.

While this isn’t generally going to be a feature of major importance, it will come in handy to many.  For students and reading groups the applications are obvious.  It serves as a reference point.  Even during a casual reading, however, it will come in handy to be able to pull this up on the fly.  Forgot where you last saw a character earlier in the book?  X-Ray.  Not sure if it’s worth looking up a historical figure to understand a reference?  Check X-Ray to see if they keep coming up during important passages.  That sort of thing might not be a day to day need, but it’s nice to have handy.

In handling things the way they are, Amazon is effectively providing paying customers something that pirates don’t have access to.  Even if people figure out a good way to side-load this content, Amazon is presumably improving how the X-Ray feature determines what is important.  This means that each time you sign online with your Kindle Touch, the information potentially evolves and improves.  It’s a neat system and manages to avoid restrictive content control while giving users an incentive to stay honest.

Kindle Fire Popularity Seems To Spur Interest In Kindle Phone

It’s safe to say that the Kindle Fire has made an impression.  Tablet prices are dropping across the board, some major hardware developers seem to be reconsidering their desire to enter the fray, and Amazon has increased their expected sales numbers on the order of millions of units beyond what was originally planned for the 2011 holiday season.  Not only does this spell good news for Amazon’s first non-eReader (or maybe post-eReader?  Hard to say precisely where to draw the line since it technically can show you books), it means that the hardware line is sure to continue and expand as time goes on.

There is some contention at the moment about exactly which Kindle Fire followup we can expect to see next.  Some are certain that it will end up being a 10.1″ direct competitor for the iPad while a newer contingent citing supposedly inside information from the production chain has started indicating somewhere around 9″ as the next step.  Regardless of where you would place your bet, one frequent point of speculation is the potential for a Kindle Phone.

There has been speculation before that Amazon was interested in entering into cellular devices, but until recently that seemed doomed to be nothing but a rumor.  This past week, though, Citigroup analyst Mark Mahoney noted that certain checks they have done indicate that development for an Amazon Phone is already underway with delivery expected in 4th quarter 2012.

To be honest, it is hard to know what to expect moving forward.  While this seems to be fairly detailed information, it feels like there is little in it for Amazon in the end.  The tablet makes sense since Amazon is able to completely control the data end of things and sell at near cost, undercutting the competition.  In a cellular market closely controlled by carriers, there might well be less room for such tactics.  When consumers are already used to getting hardware for less than half of its suggested retail cost, budget options aren’t as shocking.

What I could definitely envision, however, is a Kindle Fire-like device with a smaller screen and optional 3G coverage along the lines of what is available for the iPad.  It would work marketed as an iPod Touch competitor but still have the hardware necessary to function as a communication device should the desire arise.  Even without the 3G, relying on WiFi availability, such a thing would make a big splash at the right price.

As much as it might be a difficult thing to enter into the smartphone marketplace at this time, would Amazon be willing to pass up a chance to grab hold of what is only going to continue to be an expanding market?  The Kindle Fire has demonstrated for them the potential of Android devices and the fact that they already have an Android fork fully developed and customized to fully integrate into their sales systems means that much of the work is already done.  Maybe it’s just optimism, but I think the Kindle Phone is definitely on its way.

Kindle Fire Review

I’ve had my hands on a Kindle Fire for a bit now and I figured that it was time to share impressions.  Overall, definitely a nice device for the price.  That’s worth saying up front.  It does everything that I expected it to be able to pull off and a fair amount that never even occurred to me.  Probably best to break it down a little more specifically, though.

Video

The Kindle Fire was always expected to be a video viewing device and it pulls that off quite well.  Integration with the Amazon Instant Video library is seamless and you can browse through the Prime membership freebies without any trouble or intrusive sales pitches.  Playback is perfect and I haven’t had so much as a stutter or buffering delay in the time I’ve been using the service.  Downloading rental movies goes quickly and it’s obvious how to choose between streaming video and what you have on your device locally.

The inclusion of Netflix and Hulu Plus at launch was a nice addition that effectively shut down the Nook Tablet’s main point of potential superiority.  While I don’t maintain a Hulu Plus account, Netflix runs almost as well as Amazon’s Instant Video.  Jumping into the middle of a half-watched movie resulted in about 2 seconds of stuttering followed by normal playback.  Basically the same experience I have come to expect from the box hooked up to my television.

I would love to be able to side-load more content that I already own onto the device.  At present the supported formats are rather limited.  The majority of my library is incompatible.  Probably, as with the fight over EPUBs with the Kindle eReader line, a way for Amazon to “subtly” encourage adoption of their house preference.  Conversion is much more of a pain for video than it is for eBooks, though, which might make this a major inconvenience for people looking to play things they already have around.

Audio

Possibly the biggest drawback to using the Kindle Fire to watch movies is the limited audio capability.  While yes, it is indeed perfectly possible to listen to music or movies through the built in speakers, the quality is quite lacking.  With a decent pair of headphones, however, it works as well as any audio device I’ve ever owned.  There isn’t much more to say other than that the streaming here seems to work perfectly well for me, even when reading or using other apps.  So long as there isn’t a conflict over who gets control of the speakers, you’re good.

Web

One of the biggest perks of the Kindle Fire was meant to be the new Amazon Silk web browser.  Since most of the work is done off of the device by outsourcing to Amazon’s cloud servers, there’s a lot of potential.  Unfortunately there are some problems.  Most noticeably, there seems to be a slight jump in input lag while using the browser.

I’m told this has something to do with a known problem that Android 2.3 has in trying to decide whether the OS or the browser gets to handle input, but I’m not intimately aware of the particularities of Android so this may be inaccurate.  If it is true, however, then to some degree it is likely a problem that won’t be going away in the near future.

Other than that, things work great.  You do get some small speed increase over normal browsing, which if I properly understand how Silk is supposed to work will only get better in time.  It scores pretty well on HTML5 tests, though not perfectly, and should run most HTML5 apps.  Not much more you can ask for in a browser besides being able to open pages quickly, I suppose?

Apps

This is undoubtedly the most important aspect of the tablet experience for many people, but it is also somehow the one that Amazon has decided to put the least emphasis on.  Yes there are loads of apps to choose from, but not all of the ones in Amazon’s Android Appstore will work on the Kindle Fire.  That makes sense, given the wide variety of Android devices out there, but Amazon is able to put a little check mark for device compatibility next to the purchasing button on their site so I would love it if I could just get a “Kindle Fire compatible only” button.  I’m sure it will happen in time, though.

As for functionality, I haven’t noticed any problems with the apps.  Their icons look a little out of place on the carousel next to the eBooks you’ve been reading recently, but no more so than many movie or TV show icons do. I’ve also had no issues so far with performance.  The apps specifically for the Kindle Fire work slightly better than their more general counterparts, but even those have little trouble and the screen isn’t huge enough to cause much distortion when interfaces get stretched more than developers intended.

There doesn’t even seem to be any major area overlooked by those developers so far, either.  Everything I’ve wanted out of it has been available for a dollar or two. The fact that Amazon has a daily free Android App is also a nice plus.  This isn’t necessarily Kindle Fire specific, but I’ve seen everything from games to office suites up there.  It opened up some options that might have otherwise been overlooked as too expensive to be worth a potentially wasted purchase.

Summary

Overall this is a great device.  It is not a PC replacement, or even a netbook replacement, but for what it was meant to do it works well.  You can purchase and use any content you want from Amazon and it seems to run smoothly.  Picking up media in unfamiliar formats might cause some complications, but even then there are usually conversion programs available should it be particularly important.  While I do see clearly how Amazon is trying to push people into using their services by offering minimal support for anything else, it isn’t nearly as heavy-handed as many claimed it would be.  I feel like they are genuinely trying to convince their customers that Amazon services are superior rather than just saying that you shouldn’t have other options.

At $199, the Kindle Fire is more than worth the investment.

Kobo Learns From Amazon, Adds Ads

While the Kobo eReader has had trouble gaining much traction against competing Kindle and Nook options, it continues to be a comparatively strong presence in the eReader marketplace.  This is especially true in international markets where Amazon has not yet managed to secure the same sort of market dominance that it enjoys in the US.  In an effort to keep up with the recent Kindle and Nook price drops, the Kobo Touch eReader had been brought down to as low as $99.

Of course, they accomplished this by using Amazon’s own methods against them.  This newer, cheaper version of the popular touchscreen eReader will only be available at the $99 price point by offering advertisements.  This is obviously no different from what has been done before with the Kindle, but it is especially interesting in that Kobo is the first company to attempt to make use of Amazon’s eReader ad revenue stream model.

The major question right now will be in how they implement it.  Since none of the new Kobo models have shipped just yet, we have no way of knowing precisely where these ads will be placed aside from in screensavers.  Any time the device is powered off or in sleep mode, the owner will be treated to a sponsored special offer.  No major imposition there.  The tricky part is that Kobo also lists ads in “other discreet places” without clear definition of where these will be.

I think it is safe to say that none of these ads will in any way interfere with the reading experience.  Not only would that better adhere to Amazon’s already successful model, but Kobo as a company has always maintained that it is interested first and foremost in the reader.  Nobody would be particularly happy at this stage if they had to read ads inside their books.  That does not preclude throwing up half-screen banners or pop up windows that need to be closed to proceed throughout the menu navigation, though.  We can hope that these will not be present, but the company does not have quite the clout that Amazon brings to the table and may need to concede a bit to get advertisers interested.

While it can be a touchy issue to bring advertising into something like this, especially in an environment where publishers are desperately afraid that customers will start perceiving eBooks as an affordable alternative to paper printings, if done right it can reduce costs significantly.  There is every reason to expect that within the next year or two we will be seeing Kindles priced so low as to make it almost silly not to own one.  They might even be free, under the right promotion.  If this takes place, the competition will have no choice but to follow suit or drop out. Considering how tactfully Amazon has managed to include ads on their eReader line, making many owners including myself wish that it were possible to ad the adds to older Kindles, there is no reason not to join in so long as a similarly low key approach is employed.

The new Kobo Touch with Offers will be shipping in 2-3 weeks.

Kindle Fire Demand Exceeds That Of First iPad

Can the Kindle Fire really manage to compete with, or even beat out, Apple’s iPad?  Opinions are divided, naturally, but it is definitely a strong step in the right direction.  What’s going to be most important in the near future is how customers perceive the new Kindle.  Is it just another eReader with color, like the Nook offerings?  Is it the poor man’s iPad?  Would Amazon have been better off making just another generic Android tablet rather than keeping tight control over their ecosystem?  Both individual needs and individual experience will play a large part in answering these questions for customers.  You don’t necessarily get what you expect or what you’re hoping for, but those are important in informing purchasing decisions.

Since the iPad effectively built the Tablet PC market around itself, that’s going to be the best spot for comparisons.  ChangeWave Research, a company specializing in identifying consumer and business demand trends, recently did a survey of 2,600 consumers regarding their interest in the Kindle Fire.  The results were interesting.

Of those surveyed, 5% said they had already ordered a Kindle Fire.  Another 12% indicated they were fairly likely to make the purchase.  Compare that to a similar study of the iPad’s initial launch back in 2010, wherein only 4% considered themselves likely to buy and another 9% said they were somewhat likely.  Of those who said that they have already ordered their Kindle Fire, 26% said that they are likely to put off an intended iPad purchase as a result.

Do these numbers mean that the Kindle Fire is doing better than the first iPad was?  Only in the most superficially literal sense.  Keep in mind that Amazon’s new device is less than half the price of Apple’s.  That makes a difference in how many people will even have the opportunity to make the purchase, if nothing else.

What is really telling is the number of people who are likely to put off their iPad purchase thanks to the Kindle Fire.  That is only 26% of people who are already getting the 7″ tablet.  This would indicate that the clear majority are interested in owning both products.  While you can’t say that they are not in competition, it can be assumed from this that the two tablets meet different customer needs (or at least are perceived to do so) at this time.

The iPad currently holds more than two thirds of the tablet market at the moment.  Depending on your source, significantly more than two thirds.  It is going to be hard to budge no matter who takes it on, regardless of the company backing the hardware.  With the Kindle Fire, Amazon has seemingly done a fair job of approaching it non-confrontationally.

This is not just a cheaper iPad or a smaller iPad.  It certainly isn’t a superior version of the iPad.  The comparisons will remain inevitable because so much of tablet computing is based on what Apple started, but perhaps it is possible for there to be a more nuanced appreciation for the two different pieces of hardware.

Kindle Fire Tear Down Details: It’s Less Expensive Than We Thought

One of the more obvious inevitabilities when a product like the Kindle Fire is released is a detailed tear down of the components.  It’s always interesting to find out what goes into making useful new electronics so functional, after all.  Recently iFixit was on the ball and ripped apart a new Kindle for our benefit.  Here’s what they found inside, along with some price estimates I was able to dredge up:

Part Estimated Price
Processor 1GHz TI OMAP 4430 $18
Display 7″ 1024 x 600 w/ IPS $35
Touchscreen Controller ILITEK
2107QS001K
A95B8F416
A2130B002
$25
Flash Memory 8GB Samsung KLM8GFEJA $8
RAM 512 MB Hynix H9TKNNN4K $5
Battery LI-ION Polymer 4400mAh/16.28Wh 3.7V $12
WLAN Jorjin WG7310 WLAN/BT/FM Combo Module $3
Misc Parts TI 603B107 Fully Integrated Power Management
TI LVDS83B FlatLink 10-135 MHz Transmitter
TI AIC3110 Low-Power Audio Codec w/ 1.3W Stereo Class-D Speaker Amplifier
TI WS245 4-Bit Dual-Supply Bus Transceiver
TI WL1270B 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi Solution Total ~$25
Other Materials Case, Assembly, Etc $7
Manufacturing Costs ~$5
Total: ~$143

All of this seems to indicate that earlier assumptions about the lack of profit to be found in such a device as this were blown out of proportion.  The Kindle Fire seems to be not only a versatile device, but surprisingly simple and efficient at the hardware level.  While my estimates for pricing are, as always, pulled from several sources and estimated when necessary, there seems to be a great deal of confirmation about the majority of it.  I feel fairly confident that that comes within +-$15 of the actual cost.

Much of the focus of the tear down I am pulling from was also on potential serviceability of the device.  The Kindle 4 non-Touch, as we outlined our previous in-house tear down, was practically unserviceable due to the extreme use of adhesive throughout.  While some of that remains in this model, apparently the only real difficulties will come in when trying to replace cracked glass (which won’t be much of an issue as our earlier posted drop/scratch test demonstrated) and during the initial removal of the battery.  Unlike the Kindle 4, it was possible to work past this without destroying the entire device.

They were also able to refute those who assumed that, due to the connection with Quanta Computer and the similar external appearance, the Kindle Fire would be nothing but a clone of the Playbook.  Internally, the two are only very vaguely similar.

Basically, not only is Amazon making at least some profit off of each device, they are doing so by presenting customers with an experience that rivals some of their more technically powerful competition at a price that people are having no small amount of trouble competing with.  It’s durable, seems to have a long lifespan ahead of it, and generally serves its purpose well.  As expected this carries nowhere near the punch of something like the iPad on a technical level, but in the end that shouldn’t come as any surprise given the asking price.  All in all the Kindle Fire definitely carried a couple surprises.  It will be interesting to see what the next generation brings aside from a slightly larger screen.

Kindle Fire Skins From DecalGirl

This is our traditional (7-th) Friday post in  the series of weekly giveaways sponsored by DecalGirl.com. The winner of prize is @chipvanalstyne. Our congratulation to him (her).
We decided to change a little bit the rules of the game. Now they are more easy. You need only to leave a comment what you think about Kindle Fire on our site to be in the game. In the next Friday we will announce and send a personal message on email with redemption code in case you win. It is good chance to get a new case to your new Kindle Fire. Do not lose it.



Usually when a fire is out, things cool down. But if you have been keeping up with the news, you know that Amazon’s sales figures for the Kindle Fire suggest that things are really heating up. According to CNN Money, sales of the Fire are estimated to reach 5 million by the end of this year.

DecalGirl has prepared for the Fire (and the Kindle Touch) by offering a pre-sale on skins for those devices for the past couple of weeks. Now that the Fire is out, DecalGirl skins are ready to roll so that you can have your Fire and skins for it, too.
In this week’s post I am going to shut my mouth, so to speak, and just let you see some of our currently most popular skins for the Kindle Fire. As usual, clicking on any of the images in the post will take you to the page featuring that design at DecalGirl.com, so you can take a closer look.
First up, we have a perfect design to cover a Fire: “Flower Of Fire” by DecalGirl Collective.

Next is a design called “Fascinating Surprise” by Kate Knight. The mix of colors on this one make it appear dark and yet bright at the same time.


The third design fits the upcoming season: “Winter Sparkle” by Madart.
Valentina Ramos offers a design of a different sort, “Owls Family.”


And the final design for now is “Sacred Honu” by Al McWhite.

Those five designs are among 33 skin designs for the Kindle Fire that are currently ready to ship, but remember that you are not limited to those designs for your new Fire skin. At DecalGirl you can shop by design and choose from any of over 2000 works of art for your skin.

Happy Thanksgiving to all American readers! Settle in next to the fireplace with a good book on your Kindle, and I’ll have more to share next week.

Amazon Kindle Daily Detail Now Available In UK

Let’s face it, Amazon has not been great up until now about making sure that customers outside of US markets get access to their products and services in a timely manner.  The Kindle Fire will be a long time coming to other countries due to its strong ties to an infrastructure that hasn’t been built up anywhere else yet, Amazon Prime has yet to carry quite the same incentives for everybody, and many of the promotions that Amazon runs don’t quite make it to any of their sites besides Amazon.com.  It’s always good news when this changes, though, even if only slightly.

Amazon has recently announced that their ongoing Kindle Daily Deal promotion will be extended to the UK’s Kindle Store.  Amazon.co.uk customers will be able to enjoy specially discounted Kindle Edition eBooks on a daily basis.  Each book will be available at this price for 24 hours before reverting to its normal number.  In the US Kindle Store, it has not been unusual to see heavily discounted titles in a variety of genres and it is hopes that this trend will continue now that the offer is being expanded.

Sadly, while as I mentioned this is definitely a step in the right direction, it does little to address the ongoing problem.  The newest Kindles have not yet been given much of a presence outside of US markets.  While, for example, you can buy the new Kindle 4 in the UK you cannot order a Kindle Touch, or even a Kindle Keyboard without 3G.  Prices are still noticeably higher due to a number of factors including the lack of Special Offers integration, and this has not been changing at the rate we might expect.

Clearly Amazon is responding to a number of pressures.  I could reasonably see it being difficult to justify having a Kindle Keyboard WiFi if consumer demand in a particular country leaves them sitting on a shelf while orders come in for the 3G model.  The Kindle Touch, due in particular to its much-touted X-Ray feature, requires access to Amazon technology still in its early stages.  As such it might be worth working the bugs out before implementing it elsewhere.  The Kindle Fire relies on all sorts of media streaming avenues that will require years of time and more money than anybody likes to think about to make happen in new markets.  Each new market, in fact, will be the same headache all over again since global media rights are not exactly simple to secure.  There is a lot that goes into getting something ready for international release on any large scale.

That said, all of this is insufficient to really justify the continuance of the problem or Amazon’s lack of comment on user demands.  It is nice when they come up with something like the Kindle Daily Deal, but in the end it seems like audiences outside the US are almost an afterthought.  If Amazon hopes to secure any significant presence beyond what it already has in hand, the only option is to start pushing for more equal treatment of these customer bases.  Or so it would seem to me.

Best Places to find Free Kindle Books

There are many options on where to find free Kindle books.  Amazon has dedicated a page to list all of the options.  The only catch is that you really have to be diligent about tracking the special promotions.  They disappear quickly.

First off, the Kindle Store has limited time promotions on different books.  I’ve found some good ones through the Top 100 Free Kindle books list.  This list is updated hourly, so if you see one you like, grab it immediately.  the list includes popular free games such as Pixel Perfect Holiday Puzzles.

The free books offered by the Kindle Store are mostly romantic or religious themed.  But, if you take some time to look through the list, you can find some books with a good storyline.  It is a great opportunity to explore new authors who don’t get the recognition from the big name publishers.

Pre 1923 classics can be found in a variety of places.  Project Gutenberg is one of the original sources for free e-books.  It currently has a collection that includes roughly 30,000 titles.  You can download the books to your Kindle via USB.

Amazon’s free book page provides links to Project Gutenberg, as well as other internet based e-books.  Open Library, ManyBooks.net, and Internet Archive offer up to millions of titles.  For web based e-books and limited previews, check out Google books.

Some great programs were launched this Fall: Kindle Library Lending and Kindle Owner’s Library Lending.  Kindle Library Lending is available in 11,000 and counting libraries across the US.  Most libraries have a widget somewhere on their website that directs you to their Kindle books available through OverDrive.  My local public library just added Kindle Library Lending, and it offers a mix up new and old books.  There is already a waiting list on many of them.

Amazon Prime members can access the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.  It is a Netflix for books type deal.  You can only check out one book a month, but it doesn’t have a due date.  The library includes over 5000 books.  Lots of bestsellers in the collection.  One thing to note is that you have to download the book directly from your Kindle direction instead of on Amazon’s website.

So, to sum it up, there are tons of free e-book options available for all of the Kindles.  The great thing about the free classics is that you can use them for school.  The physical books are not that expensive, but with a lot of them it can add up.  Free is always good!

I’m hoping that if I wait long enough, the Steve Jobs biography and other major bestsellers will be available for lending.  But, that will probably be awhile.

 

Kindle Fire Drop and Scratch test

One of the major selling points for Kindle Fire is “gorilla glass” that is supposed to resist scratches and breaking. A few years back I inadvertently “tested” my Kindle 2 and it turned out to be not so scratch resistant (carrying Kindle and keys in the same bag turned out to be a very bad idea). I was very curious about how Kindle Fire would fare in this department. I initially pre-ordered 2 Kinde Fire devices – one to keep and another to disassemble and drop test. iFixIt beat me to the punch when it came to disassembling the device so I decided to skip right to the gorilla glass testing.

This video pretty much speaks for itself, but here’s a recoup of what I tried:

  • scratching it with house keys – no effect at all, not even smallest dent
  • scratching it with a screwdriver – same as above. Kindle Fire looks as good as new
  • scratching it with office knife – same as above. Kindle Fire wins
  • drops in various positions from 3 feet onto stone floor – Kindle Fire wins and goes on playing the video
  • angled drop from 6 feet – Kindle Fire survives and keeps working
  • flat drop from 6 feet – internal LCD screen cracked so we can finally write this one off as broken. However there is still not a dent on the “gorilla glass”
  • pound on the screen with a screwdriver and a sharp tool – still not a single dent on the “gorilla glass”

Bottom line is that, it is pretty much safe to carry your Kindle Fire without case or cover in the same bag with pretty much anything without fear of scratching the screen. Kindle Fire is very likely to survive “normal household drops” (from hands when reading, from the table, etc) even if it falls on something as hard as stone. It will probably need to fall in a bad way down the flight of stair for it break.

Bottom line is that Kindle Fire is a very sturdy device. I was surprised by the test results as I was sure that it will fail much sooner.

Rooting Kindle Fire to Enable Full Google Android Market – instructions that actually work

First and foremost, let me give you a fair warning: if you choose to follow these instructions – you are doing so at your own risk with full understanding of the fact that although they have worked for me and some other people there is still a chance that you may end up irreversibly damage your device ending up with $199.00 shiny paper press. I will not be able to help you even if I had the time to figure out what went wrong, which I will not. If you are cool with this, then continue, otherwise enjoy your Kindle Fire as it is right now, which is already quite good.

You will need to root your Kindle Fire first. “Rooting” means enabling the Android OS to give application full administrative (root) access to the system. Permissions are given to specific application only. While it may not seem like a huge security risk, you should consider that by giving another app root access you’ve increased “attack surface” as far as security threats are concerned. If that app has a security hole or just by virtue of poor design can be manipulated by another piece of code on the system into doing something, that other piece of code can gain root access to the system without your knowledge. It’s also worth mentioning that you can manually screw up your system by mishandling an app that has root access.

Another side-effect of rooting Kindle Fire specifically is Amazon Instant video streaming and downloads not working. This can be fixed by unrooting your device later. Even after unrooting you still keep access to Google Marketplace and can install apps from there.

Rooting Kindle Fire

  1. If you don’t have it already, download and install Android SDK from here: http://developer.android.com/sdk/index.html (choose the recommended download)
  2. Open %userprofile%\.android\adb_usb.ini file with notepad and add the following line at the end
    0x1949

    In case you are wondering – it is the hardware ID code of Kindle Fire

  3. Find google-usb_driver folder in the folder where you installed Android SDK. Within this folder, find android_winusb.ini file. Edit this file with notepad. In case you installed Android SDK under “Program Files” or “Program Files (x86)” directory you will need to run notepad as administrator
  4. Add following lines to the file twice. First after [Google.NETx86] and then after [Google.NTamd64]
    ;Kindle Fire

    %SingleAdbInterface% = USB_Install, USB\VID_1949&PID_0006
    %CompositeAdbInterface% = USB_Install, USB\VID_1949&PID_0006&MI_01
  5. Turn on your Kindle and enable installation of Applications from unknown sources
  6. Connect your Kindle to your PC.
  7. Open Windows device manager. Find “Kindle” device in the device tree. Right-click and select “Update driver”. Manually point Windows to the location of android_winusb.ini file you edited in step 4
  8. Download SuperOneClick from here: http://shortfuse.org/
  9. Run it (it will ask for administrative access to the computer) and click on the “root” button. Within a minute your Kindle Fire will be rooted. When asked if you want to install Busybox, you can say “No”
  10. If you “Force stop” Amazon Video process or just restart your Kindle fire you will see that Amazon Instant Video doesn’t work anymore. This means that you are on the right track.

Installing Google Android Market on Kindle Fire

  1. Download gapps.rar from here: http://www.multiupload.com/DGMBZZNOXM. In case the link is broken, check this thread for updated link http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1349902 and let me know. You will need WinRar or 7Zip to unpack this file. To install Google Market you only need 2 files from that package: com.market.apk and GoogleServicesFramework.apk. Copy these files to your Kindle Fire
  2. Download Root Explorer from here in your Kindle Fire browser : http://www.apktop.com/wp-content/plugins/download-monitor/download.php?id=582. Open the download apk file and install the app
  3. Run Root Explorer, give it root access and find apk files from step 1 on your device. They should be /sdcard folder.
  4. Run and install GoogleServicesFramework.apk
     
  5. Tap and hold on com.market.apk and select “Move” from the menu. Navigate to /system/app and press “Mount R/W” on the top. If it doesn’t work (button doesn’t change to “Mount R/O”, you need to Force close and restart “Root Explorer”. Select “Paste”
  6. Find copied com.market.apk file and long tap it. Select “permissions” and enable “read” and “write” for “owner” and just “read” for “group” and “others”. Everything else should be disabled.
  7. Tap on com.market.apk to install it and then open. In case the app will not open, reboot Kindle Fire, run Root Explorer (it should be at the top of your carousel) and run com.makert.apk from /system/app again. There is no need to “Mount R/W” this time around.
  8. When asked, create or register your existing Google account with the Marketplace app.
  9. Once Market app opens it may hang the first time around. If it does open it again by redoing step 7. At this point you will not be asked to login again. The problem is that Market will not show up in the list of installed apps. You will need a way to launch it when you want to install apps. We’ll take care of this in the next step
  10. Install SystemPanel or a similar app from the Market. It will help you to open Marketplace later and it is a good and useful app in itself.
  11. SystemPanel will show up in the app list of the device so you can always run it. In the installer menu will be a shortcut that will open Google App Market
  12. That is it – you can now enjoy much broader selection of apps from Google App Store.
Unrooting Kindle Fire
At this point you can get Amazon Instant Video Streaming back by either:
  • Unrooting your device via same SuperOneClick tool you used to root it
  • Install OTA RootKeeper so that you can turn root on and off right from your Kindle Fire without having to use your computer

After device is unrooted you need to “Force stop” Amazon Video app and restart it for video to work again.

Enjoy!