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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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September 2016
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Send-to-Kindle Sets Tone For Amazon Cloud Drive App

With the release of Google Drive after years of speculation and anticipation, it seems like everybody is interested in being the next big thing in cloud-based storage.  Amazon’s Cloud Drive app is their entry into the competition, but it works a bit differently than the competition.  Users of the Send-to-Kindle app meant to ease transfers for Kindle owners and eliminate the need for cords will feel right at home.  It is honestly hard to say whether this will come to be viewed as strength or weakness as the spotlight is brought to bear on what seems to be a Google vs Microsoft vs Dropbox vs Amazon conflict.

For a while now Dropbox has been the standard in cloud storage.  With their application you have a limited amount of free space and options to pay for more as needed.  Files are dropped into a local computer and synced to the net where they can be automatically downloaded on any other computer you happen to log into your account on.  It makes things so simple that it takes very little time to forget Dropbox is even present on the computer.  I take it for granted, as do many people.

Microsoft’s most recent attempt to interest users involves a revamp of their SkyDrive system.  Previously restrictive options have been removed and the whole interface now functions much like Dropbox with its automatic syncing.  Users do get 7GB of free storage, which is substantial, and there are limited Office applications tied right into the web portal.

Google Drive is essentially more of the same.  Google is still finding their footing so it may be too soon to criticize overly much when it comes to their interface and such, but they shine in the obvious area of in-document search function.  While this is the option that started the recent surge of web storage interest, it is probably not going to be setting new standards any time soon.

Amazon, as I mentioned, works differently.  There is no syncing.  Every act of storage is a conscious decision that saves the exact instance of the file you are interested in rather than the most up to date at any given time.  Like Send-to-Kindle, you can just use the usual “Send to…” dialogue in the Windows Explorer context menu to make any transfers.  You can also use a drag and drop onto the taskbar icon, should that seem simpler.

As competition for the area of most seamless storage option, Amazon has issues.  Nobody is going to find this as convenient as simply having a user-defined folder that is always up to date.  It seems to be more for users of the Kindle Fire.  Anything sent to the Cloud Drive is immediately and conveniently available on the Fire, so long as the internet connection is active, and since the Kindle Fire doesn’t ship with a transfer cable this will address some user complaints.  This is the one situation where I truly recommend you check out Amazon’s new app.  If you have a Kindle Fire, life just got a lot more convenient; if you don’t have a Kindle Fire, grab Dropbox or SkyDrive.

Hidden Nook Capabilities Hint At Readiness For Future Kindle Competition

So, as many of us have observed, the new Nook Simple Touch Reader was recently rated even higher than the long dominant Kindle by Consumer Reports. This is a big deal for B&N since it makes their eReader really stand out as a superior reading device again after a while of being noticeably behind, but it also works out great for the readers since close competition generally means better products and more software updates.  What surprised me a bit was the fact that the new Nook seems to be set up with a few unused features in place and ready to go when they next need to bump up the competition.  It’s great to see planning for the future like this.

First, we have the unannounced web browsing capabilities.  They never advertised it and nobody really expected it, but the Nook has an incredibly basic browser built right in.  The problems it has right now make it clear why it wasn’t advertised.  It just does not seem ready for significant use.  The interface is clunky and the experience is just generally sub-par even compared to other E Ink devices like the Kindle.  There are two ways to interpret this.  Either B&N rushed out an unfinished product and didn’t bother to disable that part of the firmware, which is possible for all I know, or what people have managed to access is actually the underlying structure of a more functional browser yet to come.  I personally don’t think that the release of the new Nook was meant to have a browser at all.  It seems like something Barnes & Noble was holding in reserve for the next time they needed something to trump a Kindle update in some way.

Speaking of things held in reserve, we have also learned that the Nook has unannounced and unused Bluetooth capabilities.  I don’t know what to really say about this one.  At first, it seemed particularly cool.  I mean, actual unused hardware capabilities probably meant to be pulled out for something impressive when the situation calls for it.  Maybe that’s even really the case.  The problem is that I can’t think of many situations where Bluetooth would come in handy in a reading device.  Any ideas?  Still, it seems like a good idea in theory, I think.

While it is definitely true that the Nook got to the top for the moment simply by imitating the Kindle and dropping the deadweight of its earlier incarnation’s extras, I would say that there is potential for expansion here if customers decide they want more.  For now we have a great reading device that simply falls away and lets you read.  Everything the Kindle has been pulling off for a long time now.  I love mine.  I still wouldn’t be surprised to see, at some point, an opening up of the system in a manner similar to what happened with the Nook Color so that apps can be thrown on.  I know that some of the same people who found the Nook’s Bluetooth also managed to do things like get the Kindle for Android app running on it, so the potential is there for more than we have so far.

Kindle and Google eBooks Fight For the Web

This Tuesday, just days after the release of Google’s new eBook store, Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) gave us our first glance at the new Kindle for the Web service.  Seemingly meant to compete almost point for point with its new Google counterpart, Kindle for the Web will let users transcend the limitations of dedicated eReaders, and even eReading apps, to the point of opening your collection on practically any web browser on the market.  We can expect to be seeing an actual release of this product, and the complete eBook access it brings with it, early next year, though in the meantime the existing service allowing Amazon customers to preview select chapters of their books will have to do.

This new web service will allow for inter-device syncing, all of the highlighting/bookmarking/annotating that you could ever want, and the ability to share your favorite passages all without ever bothering to install an app or download much more than the book you happen to be reading (which will end up in your temporary internet files to be cleaned up later anyway).  It’s hard to say if this is meant to be a catch-all replacement for the many device-specific applications currently being distributed, but it will open up possibilities and, hopefully, a chance at simultaneous feature roll outs across the Kindle family.

One of the other fun additions to the product line that comes along for the ride is the ability to make pretty much any website into its own little Kindle book store. Webmasters, bloggers, and pretty much anybody with a web site should now get the chance to talk about or quote from their favorite books, link along to a purchase page for the main text, and maybe even make a little bit of money for the referral.  This could be a great way for the Amazon marketing machine to send out some quick and easy connections to the web at large.

The most interesting point on which Google seems to have the edge here is the opportunities for independent authors.  In addition to an easy upload program for authors, similar to what Amazon has already been doing, there are some really neat promotional tools to play with.   It also has some built-in social networking.  Assuming you set things in your profile to ‘public’, your friends can look through your purchases, see what you’re reading, and get a general comparison of what people are up to.  It’s a new service, so of course the novelty hasn’t worn off yet, but I’m finding it to be a lot of fun so far.

If I had to make a guess at this stage, acknowledging that the Kindle for the Web service is still pretty difficult to review to any extent as it doesn’t really exist yet for us general users, I’d say that these services are pretty much equally matched.  Amazon has the experience, but Google may soon have the superior selection, and may even adapt their service to be usable on Kindle devices themselves (currently you can use it on the Nook, but the Kindle‘s browser doesn’t quite cut it.  We’ll know more for sure in early 2011, it seems!

Borders Pushes the Kobo Store

Preorders are now being taken for the June 17th US release of the Kobo eReader through Borders.com (NYSE:BGP), and this is only the beginning of their increased association with eReading devices.  In a move that apparently abandons their previous efforts at an eBook store through Sony’s (NYSE:SNE) distribution channels, Borders will be launching a Kobo-powered eBook store along with the release of the device.  This store will service the obviously affiliated Kobo eReader, but also work with just about anything else you have handy to read on, in keeping with the Kobo store’s existing philosophy. Supported devices currently include just about everything but the Amazon Kindle, including but not limited to the B&N nook (NYSE:BKS) and the IREX DR-1000S.

The Kobo device will not be the only eReader technology being embraced by the Borders physical store presence, either.  Beginning in August, we should be seeing what Borders is calling Area-e(TM) boutiques that highlight multiple devices at any given time including, most likely, the Sony Reader line and the upcoming Spring Design Alex eReader, both of which have existing ties to the company.  Time will tell if this move secures the Borders Group a real place in the eBook market, but the additional exposure of less well known devices will certainly be a boon to consumers as they try to balance budgets against a plethora of options and features.  So far, the nook and the Kindle seem to have a strong lead on the features and functionality in the market, but not everybody needs quite such a wide range of options in their device.

HP and B&N Team Up

This week has brought us the launch of a co-branded HP (NYSE:HPQ) and Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) eBook store.  What does this bring to the market?  Not a whole lot of new insight.  The new site, accessible at http://hp.bn.com is basically a new black skin on the same old B&N website.  Apparently, many new HP computers will be coming with a link to the B&N eBook store preloaded and may even have the reader software already installed and ready to go.

The most important thing to note here is that there seems to be absolutely nothing new happening.  Maybe it is simply a branding move to help build the presence as eReader sales wars escalate, but you would expect something a bit more substantial from such a teaming up.

The store is the same.  The software is the same.  The selection is the same.  The frequently referenced access to the LendMe technology is nothing more than the same old feature that the software already had.  There is not even any effort made to specifically market it as an eBook store; there are still tabs for normal books and DVDs as on the B&N main site.  This is all distinctly underwhelming.  I suppose they had to come out with something new now that the Kindle has taken the feature lead back with their Collections organization system, but from my perspective this one fizzled.

Take your nook Shopping!

One of the things that B&N has been advertising since the nook first debuted is an enhanced in-store experience.  With the recently released 1.3 patch, they’ve really delivered.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Take your nook to any B&N store and get access to the store’s hotspot.
  2. Open up the nook’s store browser and find a book you’re interested in.
  3. Select your book and choose the “Read in Store” option from the menu.
  4. Enjoy!

It’s ridiculously simple and works for every last book in their ebook catalog.  You get an hour per book per 24-hour period, so you’re not likely to see your way through to the end of a book in a single sitting, but there seems to be no daily limit on number of books per day or number of days per book.

I don’t claim to understand the business model, but it’s certainly fun.  I anticipate many a lunch break around the country being spent in the local Barnes & Noble cafe.  Whether you’re reading a bit at a time or previewing that new release you were on the fence about, you can’t really go wrong.  It ties the nook device into the physical store better than anything else I could think of.  I would really love to see something like this coming from the Kindle, honestly.  It’s a neat feature that’ll give the nook a huge advantage should it catch on.

I Never Would Have Thought of That…

I found myself sitting down recently with a relative of a friend of a friend, back on a break during her first year in college, and talking about my enthusiasm for the eReader concept in general and a few of my specific favorite features on the devices I own.  When I mentioned web browsing, after the initial scoffing that I’ve come to expect from somebody who has trouble imagining an internet without bright colors and video, she got thoughtful and said “…but it handles text files really well, I’d imagine, right?  I think I might need to get one after all.”

Now, I tend to view the browsing on these devices as a peripheral thing.  I might use it to get a book for my Kindle from a non-amazon source or to check some piece of information that catches my fancy on Wikipedia while I’m away from a computer, but it’s a convenience for me and not a selling point at the moment.  I couldn’t even imagine, off the top of my head, where one might come across large enough sources of plain old text files to make a sale on no other factor.

She went on to explain to me that one of her more esoteric interests was the reading of Fan Fiction based on her favorite books and movies.  I won’t deny that this seems like an odd hobby to me.  I’ve been aware that such things exist on the internet for quite a while now, in the same way one might be aware that there’s an Indian/Italian/Korean Fusion Bakery on the other end of town somewhere.  You know it’s there for some reason, but it’s hard to imagine walking into it yourself.  It seems, however, that there are gigantic databases of homemade work from rabidly enthusiastic consumers of popular media eager to explore the many imagined possibilities that the original creators never would have had the inclination, time, or sometimes even bad taste, to throw into the official story lines.

Putting aside the questionable moral ground on which the distributors of such things stand, since I’ll make the assumption for my own peace of mind that the majority of these amateur authors would desist instantly at a request from the owners of the properties they’re playing with, I can see this being a draw to these devices.  It’s always fun to know that your favorite piece of gadgetry can be appealing even in unorthodox areas.

Upcoming Kobo Release Draws International Attention

As the May 1st release date for the Kobo eReader from Canada-based Indigo Books and Music Inc. draws near, people have begun to take notice.  The $149 price tag alone would seem to many to be the biggest draw, but the full picture is a little bit larger.

In keeping with the company’s goal of promoting content over gadgetry, anybody using the Kobo Store can expect to have access to their purchases available on any number of platforms from eReader to computer to cellular phone.  This should hold true not only in North American markets but around the world, as Indigo has brought in partnerships to expand their presence into the US, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and Europe.

The device itself is simply a basic reading platform without any of the frills and features that a device like the Kindle boasts, but it provides an affordable option to people at a time when the eReader market is taking off and pulls in a large selection of international literature that is otherwise rather hard to come by.  There are reports of an impressive showing of Korean-language content on the horizon, for example.

If you find yourself interested, check out the National Post’s book blog, The Afterword, where’s there’s a contest going on all week to give readers the chance to win a Kobo eReader of their own to enjoy.  All it takes, it seems, is a few minutes, an email, and some luck!

nook on the Web – First Impressions

Today the latest content patch for the B&N nook rolled out and it’s made a fairly impressive showing.  I played around with it for a while earlier and found little to complain about.

The most important point is, of course, performance.  The screen refresh isn’t any faster, but navigating the device has been sped up considerably.  There is nearly no discernible delay moving from one menu to the next anymore.  Adding onto this the fact that the update is supposed to fix the freezing of nook units(couldn’t say since mine never froze in the first place), and I think many people are going to like the upgrade for this alone.

The most widely touted feature of this update was the web browser.  Now, as you would expect from the first release of a browser for a device that was never really an optimal sort of avenue for that sort of thing in the first place, there are some bugs.  First, page navigation is a bit slow.  Both moving from page to page and simply scrolling from one part of the page to the next.  I love that I can check my email easily through the device.  In fact, that was the first thing I did, just to make sure I could.  It causes problems when you try to do anything involving a pop-up or new tab though.  Just bumps you out to the main menu.  Personally I’d rather just get a message saying “No, go do something else instead.”  Anyway, it’s still a nice addition.  With the color on the touchscreen, the web isn’t nearly as bland as it could be.  It’s a small window to the full color spectrum of the web, but it makes a big difference.

Finally, we have the games.  Why did B&N add games?  No idea.  Not that they’re bad.  I mean, they’re really not.  Heck, the sodoku is one of the most pleasant versions to play that I’ve ever found, and I hate sodoku.  I just don’t exactly see the point just now.  Maybe when downloadable games demonstrate the potential better somehow?

I’d say nook owners should be very pleased for a bit.  This is a major improvement in the device.  I still feel the lack somewhat, since the keyboard is a little less sensitive and harder to use than my Kindle‘s, but it isn’t too bad.  This eReader’s definitely going to get a bit more use than it has been for a while now though, I can assure you.

…First Kindle DX review

Ok, lets pick up where we left off: My Kindle DX has just arrived…

Unboxing Kindle DX

Unboxing Kindle DX

Kindle DX power up

Kindle DX power up

Post #301…

Exterior & Ergonomics

Kindle DX is much larger and slightly heavier than Kindle 2. In fact If you put K2 on top of DX, K2 would be almost the same size as DX’s screen. It’s still comfortable to hold and flip pages, at least for right handed people like me. Of course it works upside down and it’s usable this way but I will pass on making a judgment on how comfortable such setup would be for left-handed people. One thing for sure – alphanumeric keyboard is not usable this way. Landscape mode is comfortable. As Kindle is rotated, 5-way controller is automatically remapped so left remains left and right remains right.

Amazon leather cover now comes with two magnets to keep itself shut. If you are still using floppy disks from the previous millennium you shouldn’t put them next to Kindle DX if you are using the cover.

Kindle DX vs. Kindle 2

Kindle DX vs. Kindle 2

Screen and fonts

It’s large. That’s for sure. 824×1200 pixels. It seems to update faster than Kindle 2 and whiles seems to be slightly lighter. There’s minimal ghosting sometimes just as on my second K2. The first K2 that was bricked by airplane didn’t have ghosting problem. Screensaver pictures seem to be the same as in K2 but upscaled and they do look gorgeous on the big screen. Fonts seem darker. So looks like Amazon took complaints about low contrast in Kindle 2 seriously and decided to address them. Spatial resolution is slightly lower – 150ppi comared to 167 in Kindle 2.

I’ve downloaded samples of some of the “books that look good on Kindle DX’s large screen“… Really they should be called “books that would have looked great on Kindle DX should have looked great on Kindle DX if images were not downsampled to lower resolution… I’ve checked 3 books and none looked as good as screensaver images. You could clearly see that illustrations in these books are much lower resolution than the screen. Hopefully this will get fixed as some point.

There are 7 font sizes just as in previous models. However the smallest font on Kindle DX seems to correspond to second smallest on K2. I can’t say for sure because I have Droid fonts installed on my K2 so that I can read Cyrillic. When font size dialog is invoked there are 2 additional options there that are specific to DX: “Words Per Line” and “Screen Rotation”. The second one is pretty much self-explanatory: you can explicitly select one of the four rotations or set it auto and let the accelerometer control it. “Words Per Line” really controls left and right margin width. Three available options are: default, fewer and fewest. At the moment I don’t quite understand the use of it. If I would want smaller screen area I’d just use K2. As this option is changed inline pictures as downscaled as well.

Screen rotation

Works as advertised – the image rotates as you rotated the device. Refresh time is good. Changing scren orientation is as fast as flipping a page.

Kindle DX Landscape

Kindle DX Landscape

Keyboard

Keyboard layout is QWERTY. Numeric row is merged with top letter row. To enter numbers you need to hold the “Alt” button. If you just need to enter one digit, you can press “alt” and digit in sequence (“alt” is “sticky” just likethe “shift” button). On DX buttons stick out more and are harder to press. Overall I found K2 keyboard more comfortable and easy to use than DX. Except “Next page” button being larger on DX, buttons on the right edge of the device are identical. 5-way controller stick is higher on DX.

PDF support

Kindle DX relies on it’s large screen to display PDF files “as is”, without re-flowing the text (which would be next to impossible with PDF since the format lacks any concept of paragraphs or text continuity).  The only way to zoom that I could find is to switch to landscape mode. It’s not such a big problem because most PDF files that people would want to read are preformatted for either Letter or A4 page size and Kindle DX screen is comparable in size to these formats.

Although there is concept of pages in PDF and you can navigate to any given page, both internal and external links in PDF files are disabled. Structured table of contents that is present in some PDF files is not usable either.

Graphically PDF files look fine and crisp. Rendering time is also good. It usually takes around 5 seconds to open the file initially and after that pagination speed is the same as when reading ebooks.

It’s not possible to download PDF files to your Kindle via WhisperNet. Most likely this is because Amazon pays 12 cents per megabyte to Sprint while keeping Internet connection free for Kindle owners. Given decent support that Kindle DX has for PDF files, abundance of PDF files on the Internet that people would like to download and read and relatively large size of these files it wouldn’t be a good idea for Amazon to enable such downloads.

It so happens that in my past life I spent a lot of time writing software that would process PDF files. Some time later I’ll run a comprehensive test of PDF support in Kindle DX and publish the results here.

Basic Web

Web browsing seems to be that same as on Kindle 2. “Advanced mode” is now called “Desktop mode’”. Basic mode is still much faster and usable than desktop mode. I tried to render BlogKindle.com in desktop mode and DX actually rendered it quite well. The only problem I could see was the lack of PNG transparency support.

Kindle DX Basic Web

Kindle DX Basic Web

9 inch screen definitely makes browsing a better experience.

Text-to-Speech

There are seemingly no changes in this feature. Funny thing that I’ve noticed as I experimented with it that female voice seems to have trouble pronouncing word USB. With male voice turned on is sounds much more natural.

Software

Apart from PDF support, changes to font size dialog, picture viewer mentioned above and additional game mentioned below Kindle software remains the same. Kindle DX comes out of the box with firmware version: 2.1 (337560062). Source code for Kindle DX is already published by Amazon and I’ll take a look at it. What seems important is that it has a separate section for Kindle DX sources code. On this basis I would speculate that next version of software for Kindle 2 is going to be 2.0.4, for Kindle DX it’s going to be 2.1.1. These will come from separate branches of code so I wouldn’t hope too much for PDF support being ported to Kindle 2 any time soon.

Hacking

Unfortunately Kindle DX was unresponsive  to the “old way hacking”. When I created a small “update” using Igor’s tool to dump the system log along with full directory listing to the root of Kindle drive the “Update Your Kindle” menu item remained disabled. Either Amazon has changed the format of the update files or they’ve come up with some way to digitally sign them to prevent hacking. Either way this means no unicode fonts for Kindle DX for the time being :(

Easter Eggs

I did a quick check on Kindle 2 easter eggs.

  • Minesweeper is still there. It’s accessible by pressing Alt–Shift-M in the home screen. If you press G after minesweeper is started you can play GoMoKu (it’s like tic-tac-toe but on a large board and the goal is to get 5 in a row). Kindle is actually a very good GoMoKu player. I played it twice and so far the score is 1-1 even though human player always gets the first turn.
  • Picture viewer is also there. To activate it connect Kindle via USB cable to your PC and create “pictures” folder in Kindle USB disk. Create subfolders there and copy pictures. Subfolders will become “book” names and pictures will be pages. JPG, PNG and GIF files are known to be supported. Once you’ve copied the files, disconnect the USB cable and press Alt-Z in the home screen – you should see your picture folders among books now. Scaling options have moved from the main menu to font-size dialog. Kindle DX will never try to stretch image to fit the screen but it can downscale to either fit width, height or screen. You can also display image at actual size and use 5-way controller to navigate the image. Screen rotation is also supported.
  • Symbol keyboard shortcuts are gone since numeric row is merged with the top letter row.
  • Hidden settings are still there. Typing “411″ and “611″ (using the alt-key) open corresponding settings pages.

Conclusions

Kindle DX is a nice device. Perhaps it’s not as much better as people hoped it would be but Kindle 2 sets the bar quite high. For day-to-day book reading I would still recommend Kindle 2 because of greater portability. If you can’t get by without PDF support and don’t want to use Savory hack (that would add similar or better level support than what’s available in 2.1) – Kindle DX is right for you. Hopefully with time there will be digital media that would take advantage of Kindle DX’s large screen.

Stay tuned for more detailed reviews, second impressions etc…

Twitter On Kindle

Since everyone is tweeting nowadays, I’ve decided to check how well does this service work in Kindle‘s Basic Web Browser. It turns out to be quite usable. I’ve created a profile using my PC and opened http://twitter.com on Kindle. Both mobile and full versions render correctly in both basic and advanced modes. Advanced mode feels sluggish. However as you can see it’s entirely possible to tweet from Kindle on the go. For faster updates I would recommend using http://m.twitter.com/ with Basic Mode.

Twitter On Kindle

Twitter On Kindle

Although I’ve created the account – don’t expect me to tweet much. I’d rather spend my time blogging here.

ePub and PDF support

To view ePub of PDF files on your Amazon Kindle normally you would need to use Amazon email conversion service (either free of $0.10 per document) or you could convert documents on your PC using Mobipocket Creator. Well, not anymore…

Jesse from “Massively Parallel Procrastination” blog has created a Savory hack that adds almost native support for these formats to your Amazon Kindle. Installing this hack does two things:

  1. It becomes possible to download PDF and ePub files from Kindle browser (normally all unsupported file-types are blocked)
  2. One PDF or ePub file is dropped into /documents folder background conversion process is started automatically and after some time a converted document appears in it’s place.

I installed and tested it and it took just under 2 minutes to convert project Gutenberg version of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. There were some formatting flaws but overall book converted well.

This hack is fully reversible. There is an uninstaller provided. However it should be noted that because of the way uninstaller currently works, if you have other hacks installed (like unicode hack or screensaver hack) it can potentially partially revert these as well if they were installed after Savory. So for now it’s safer to uninstall in the reverse order of how you installed hacks.

As with all other Kindle hacks it should be used with care because although tested by many people (myself included) it can potentially brick your device. Also having this hack installed will prevent official Amazon updates from installing so you’ll need to uninstall it and the install Amazon update manually.

This makes Kindle even more PC-independent than it was to begin with. And this is good. Personally I believe that PC-independent gadgets are the way of the future. Just look at how successful iPhone is (I only need to tether mine to upload new audiobooks and flash new firmware). This is because most people don’t wan’t anymore just to use computers for the sake of using computers but to get done things they need done in their everyday lives and the simpler – the better.

kindle-savory

Unicode Fonts for Kindle 2 v0.1

Patches were tested by several volunteers and all results were positive. The patch works and doesn’t cause any problems. You can now read books on your Amazon Kindle 2 in Russian, Chinese, Japanese and probably number of other languages.

Currently I’m releasing hack with two different fonts: Liberation that comes from RedHat Linux and Droid that comes from Google Android project. Both fonts are open-source and they are the best ones I could find that suit the needs of this hack. Finding good fonts was much harder than creating the hack itself.

Instructions and download links can be found here. Please-please-please-please-please do be very-very-very-very-very careful if you decide to experiment with adding your own fonts to the hack. If you find good free or reasonably priced fonts that work – please let me know – I’ll test them and make more versions of the hack available here and give you proper credit. Please spread the word about this hack as it will increase chances of someone finding better fonts that can be used with it.

Here are some screenshots of what Kindle 2 with hacked fonts looks like:

kindle-ufhack-v01-liberation

kindle-ufhack-v01-droid

I would like to thank John, Ted and some other folks for helping me test this patch. Another big thank you goes to Igor who created the python script that creates Kindle 2 update packages.

I’ll now shift my attention to figuring out creating custom recovery mode updates. Once this is done – I’ll have much more freedom in messing with fonts and other settings without fear of bricking my Kindle 2.

Kindle 2 Features I would love to see

Although I’m extremely happy with my Kindle 2 there are several features I would really like to have (even if only in Kindle 3) ordered by descending importance:

  • Full Unicode character support (Cyrillic, Asian, etc). Currently all you see instead of these characters are plain boxes. I realize that this is not high on Amazon’s priority list because there few if any books in the Kindle Store that use these… Still there are books downloadable from the Internet, personal converted documents, web-pages etc. It would be nice not to be limited to English here.
  • Ability to email clippings and highlights (even if only to myself)…. What makes Kindle great is that it’s not tethered to your computer and the only cord you need to plug in once in a while is the power cord. Yet this is not the case with clippings. Imagine, you are reading an article or a book and see a passage that would be very interesting to a friend of yours. Why not add a menu item that would allow you to email it right away using the WhisperNet connection?
  • Ability to cut and paste…. Real-life story: I’m in my car listening to “Book Notes” on NPR. They are running a piece about book by Daniyal Mueenuddin that really interests me so I try to look it up in Kindle Store – no matches… OK, I google for it using basic web and find the article on NPR website. I actually had to find a piece of paper and scribble the name on it so I could then type it in Kindle Store search-box because of my extremely poor memory for names and average spelling skills :) Wouldn’t it be nice I were able to just select the text on the web-page and then copy-paste it into search box. Same would go for book browsing – you can select a single word and it’s automatically put in the search-box but not entire phrase.
  • Better power management. There is no reason why my Kindle 2 should sustain more than 2 weeks of intensive reading on a single charge with wireless turned off and fully drain it in 4 days of hardly any reading at all with wireless turned on given that I only bought 2 or 3 books during this days and have one magazine subscription. I realize that it’s impossible for the device to know if it has something to download (book, magazine or update) without connecting to Amazon servers once in a while but right now it’s doing it way too often. It would be nice to have single menu item that would connect to WhisperNet, check for updates and download them and then turn off wireless automatically. As for magazine subscriptions, they come out on a regular schedule to it should be easy to turn the radio on just once a day and turn it off afterwards.
  • Password protection. It may be a minor thing but still… Kindle can be used to read personal documents that may be sensitive and browse the web (possibly storing authentication cookies). And of course there is a possibility that your 3-year-old would start pressing buttons and order one the $6,000+ books. Or someone may do it as an evil prank…
  • Hack-free custom screen-saver. I can imagine that I’m not the only one who would like to customize my Kindle 2 not only by the means of skins.

What I’m going to do now is email this list to kindle2-feedback@amazon.com. If you feel that these or other features are important to you, you can do the same. From my past experience of working in large corporations I know that massive customer feedback does work sometimes.

What about you? What features would you like to see in your eBook readers?

XKCD Comic About Amazon Kindle

xkcd-kindle

XKCD, “A Webcomic Of Romance, Sarcasm, Math, And Language” recently did a comic about Kindle which I couldn’t resist posting here especially since it mentions a book that I’m very fond of personally.

If you haven’t seen XKCD before I really recommend to explore it as you are sure to have some good time. I personally would love to see it available for subscription on Kindle Blogs but I guess because it is Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License it will never happen.