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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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Updating Kindle DX or Kindle 2 to Kindle 3.x Firmware

Having discovered an already functional jailbreak for the Kindle Touch recently thanks to independent developer Yifan Lu, I was also pleased to note that there is a way to get your older Kindle devices somewhat more up to date.  It turns out that the hardware improvements in the Kindle 3 as compared to the Kindle 2 and Kindle DX, particularly the processors, were not significant enough to make it impossible to run the newer version.

To get this update installed, you will need a few things.  The most important, and possibly the hardest to get in some cases, is a working Kindle 3 (Kindle Keyboard) that has been jailbroken.  Assuming you have a spare Kindle 3 laying around, the same site linked in the instructions to follow contains detailed instructions on the jailbreaking process under the “Projects” tab.  You will also need a minimum of 900mb free on your Kindle 2/Kindle DX and 720mb free on your Kindle 3.  Naturally a USB transfer cable will be important as well.

Assuming you have all of these things, check out this page on Yifan Lu’s site.  The included instructions are simple to follow and while it will probably take you anywhere from one to three hours to complete the entire process, there is little room for error if you follow the order of operations correctly.

There are several things that you must be aware of before starting in on this:

  • Should you allow either of your Kindles to lose power while they are in use, it is likely to cause some major problems.  Charge them before you begin.
  • Once completed, you will have to repeat the process for any future firmware updates.  The Kindle 2 or Kindle DX will not be able to automatically access the files released for the Kindle 3.
  • While the hardware difference between these Kindles is not large enough to make the process inadvisable, as it would be if going from the Kindle 4 to the Kindle 3, there is a difference.  You will experience slight lag as the downside of your improved functionality.
  • Active content such as Kindle games will not work as a result of the update.  The developer of this update process doesn’t know exactly why, nor does there seem to be any major fix for this.  Be aware.
  • Sound/Music playback on the newly updated device will be flawed.  Since it will have been jailbroken it is possible to install an alternate music player to fix this, but it is an additional step for people who make much use of the eReader’s audio playback abilities.
  • There have been some unconfirmed reports that extremely large PDF files have issues on devices updated in this fashion.  This is likely the result of slightly inferior hardware and will probably not be an issue compared to the greatly improved PDF handling, but it is worth noting.

We can’t quite say why Amazon chose not to update these older Kindles, although it has been speculated that they were consciously abandoned to drum up business for the Kindle 3.  Also possible is the idea that faster processing simply opens more doors to new features that couldn’t be productively implemented otherwise.  Either way, at least now it is possible for owners of older Kindles to get the most out of their devices.

While the newer Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch are great, eReaders are made to last and there is no reason for a satisfied owner to throw away their perfectly good Kindle 2.  With the Kindle DX it’s an even more obvious choice, since there is yet to be a hardware update to the larger form and it looks increasingly like there never will be.  This update makes it even more desirable for those who need the 9.7″ screen.

How Much Do You Have To Read For The Amazon Kindle To Be Worth Buying?

There are any number of reasons to pick yourself up a Kindle, from convenience of transportation to instant 24-hour delivery of all new book purchases, but let’s take it down to the basics for a moment.  Assuming that you have absolutely no concern besides the direct tradeoffs with paper, how much do you have to read before your Kindle has justified itself?

Pricing

We’ll make the somewhat depressing assumption that you read nothing but current bestsellers.  I sincerely hope this isn’t the case, of course, but it makes the price estimation easier for me and negates the obvious point of free books that you should already be aware save you money.  Looking through the top 15 bestselling new hardcover book releases in the Amazon.com store(not the Kindle Store since that might indicate a customer predisposition toward discounted books), there are 13 books that the Kindle saves money on, one where the price is even based on pre-order discounting, and one book that is not available in Kindle format.

The actual average savings on those books that are available is around $2.47(ranging from $0.98 to $5), but for the sake of argument we can round it down to $2.  Always better to err on the side of caution.  This means approximately 58 Kindle books purchased during the life of your Kindle device before it has saved you money, if you pick up the $114 Kindle WiFi w/ Special Offers.  Now, I’m aware that reading five books per week is abnormal so my average doesn’t really play into this.  For the sake of argument, it seems safe to assume a conservative pattern of finishing a book every two weeks.  That would mean that you have to own a Kindle for a little over two years before it saves you any money, assuming this level of consumption and no taking advantage of special offers or hunting for savings.  Not unreasonable, if perhaps more than some would like.  These things do work pretty much forever if you take care of them.  It also might be worth knowing that Kindle owners are said to buy books at more than three times the rate of paper book customers, which speeds things up a bit.

Impact

Another major concern that has come up before is the environmental impact of eReading.  While there is definitely a lot more that goes into the manufacture of an eReader like the Kindle than ever would in a paper book, there is more than that to take into account. Between production, transportation, storage, shipping, and all the other associated fuel costs, each book creates a noticeable amount of pollution.  The question is where these numbers cross over.

Last year, in reference to Kindle 2 production, a report came out on the impact of producing Kindles compared to that of books which said that a Kindle creates a bit over 20 times as much pollution as a book in its creation.  You could always assume that Amazon has gotten more efficient in their production with the next generation of the device, improved processes being good at that sort of thing, but let’s ignore that speculation and focus on what numbers we actually have.  Round that first estimation up to 30 books worth if you want to account for the impact of charging your Kindle and I would be willing to bet that there are still very, very few people ever to own an eReader who didn’t manage to offset these totals.

Putting aside used books and libraries, since if you buy used books then you already know the advantages and the interaction between libraries and Kindles is in flux at the moment and hard to judge in the long term, picking up a Kindle, or any eReader, is just generally a good long term investment for you and the planet.

Helpful Software Update Tip

My Kindle was experiencing major battery drain, causing me to recharge every 2-3 days.  Since my Kindle is almost a year and a half old I thought it might be time for a replacement.  So I asked around, and didn’t find much in the way of help.  So, I finally called Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) thinking that I’d probably have to replace either my Kindle or battery.

But, it just turned out that I needed to update my software.

Where to Download Software Updates

So, for Kindle 2 users like me, the latest software update is 2.5.8.

Latest generation Kindle users need software update 3.1.

The above pages will provide ways to update the software automatically, or via USB.

To check to see what software update you have on your Kindle,  go to Home, then click the Menu button.  Go to Settings.  Once you are in your settings, you’ll see what current software update you have.  Click the Menu button again, and if you need to update your software, the selection is available, if not, it is greyed out.

Amazon Customer Service

I’m so used to major companies having either automated or poor customer service that I was pleasantly surprised to see that Amazon’s was excellent.  They offer phone call, email or chat options, and give a step by step guide on how to fix the problem.  The software update issue was resolved quickly, and now my battery is good as new.

So, next time you have any issues with battery drain, don’t panic!  It most likely is a simple fix like this one was.

No Kindle Deal from Amazon on Cyber Monday?

Kindle $89 deal got lots of attention on Black Friday. But the deal lasted for just several seconds and after that all available $89 Kindles were in the lucky customers shopping carts. Based on the number of negative comments which filled the internet after the deal I can guess that number of lucky customers was considerably less than those who went away from the deal page with empty hands. I guess most of those who missed the deal just went ahead with either $139 Kindle WiFi, $189 Kindle WiFi+3G, Nook or Sony Reader. Or they may just got completely disapponted with eInk based e-readers and went ahead for iPad. Who knows…

Now all excitement grows again with the arrival of Cyber Monday. I don’t expect to see mile long traffic jams and crowds rushing to the shopping malls but I can foresee internet routers getting overloaded with shoppers and e-commerce sites getting slow due to inflow of cyber shoppers. On Black Friday around 9am when $89 Kindle deal was in progress Amazon Lightning Deals page was loading very slow. I guess load time of this page could be a good measure to see how many customers are trying to see if there are any exciting deals there. This page is loading quite fast now as I’m writing this post but it is 2am Cyber Monday night time and most of Cyber Monday shoppers are still watching dreams about their tomorrow’s purchases.

Amazon has already changed their Facebook page to “Amazon Cyber Monday Deals” logo and published multiple deals there. You can see all of these deals at Amazon Cyber Monday Deals page.

I checked both Kindle WiFi and Kindle 3G pages on Amazon and they are still selling for $139 and $189 respectively. As of writing this post (Cyber Monday night 2am) I don’t see any Kindle related deals yet but they may show up later during the Cyber Monday day. But besides Kindle related deals I see lots of other Cyber Monday deals in other categories, like Electronics, Video Games, Sports, Health, Beauty and more. So it may be worthwhile to check Cyber Monday Deals and see if you can find something good there.

Since I’m a sports fan I also recommend you to check out bowlex sport equipment page on Amazon – they have quite nice discounts on some cool training equipment there.

Also I see lots of folks lining up to dance in front of the Microsoft Kinect demo booths at my local shopping mall which I guess means that Microsoft Kinect is one of the hits on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Kindle Black Friday Deal: Best Day for Amazon Kindle Sales in History?

This Tuesday (November 23rd) Amazon reported on their Facebook wall: “We had our biggest sales day ever for Kindle devices yesterday. Thank you, customers!”. And it was just Tuesday of Thanksgiving Week. Since then Amazon made couple more posts on their wall announcing more Black Friday Deals products but didn’t leave any notes about Kindle Sales on Friday. My expectation is that Wednesday would be as strong as Tuesday and Thursday or Black Friday Kindle Sales will beat the record. Also I have great expectation for Cyber Monday which in recent years grew to be as significant as Black Friday.

It would be very interesting to find out how many people will go with Kindle 2 Black Friday Deal for $89 and how many will get Kindle 3G+WiFi or Kindle 3 WiFi version instead. It won’t be a simple choice since Kindle 2 is closer in features to $189 Kindle 3G (both of them have 3G connection which is a very useful feature) for just half the price at $89.

I’ll keep track of Amazon Facebook page and Amazon Black Friday Lightning Deals page deals both manually and with use of my Amazon Deals tracker which I announced in previous post an will keep you updated on all changes and announcements there.

Kindle Black Friday Deal – Gone in under 60 seconds…

Update: As of now latest generation Kindle 3 WiFi is still in stock for $139

Update 2: There is a response on official Amazon forums. It reads: “Our Kindle 2 for $89 deal is sold out. Amazon Lightning Deals are limited time deals that can sell out very fast. We had thousands available and unfortunately they sold out very quickly. – The Gold Box Team

Well, folks that was fast. While I was taking the screenshot in the previous post, the deal has gone from available to all claimed with even waitlist being full. All “in under 60 seconds” (the amount of time take for the Kindle reader to download books according to Jeff Bezos). Another quote that comes to mind is from “Lord Of War“: “Selling a gun (or buying a Kindle on Black Friday) for the first time is a lot like having sex for the first time. You’re excited but you don’t really know what the hell you’re doing. And some way, one way or another, it’s over too fast.” “Gone Bay Gone” is another appropriate quote.

There are still other (than Kindle) Black Friday deals to hunt on Amazon and there is Kindle 3 which is still reliably in stock for either $189 (3G + WiFi) or $139 (WiFi only).

If any of you are curious – here’s how fast the Kindle was claimed and sold out according to my Amazon Black Friday Deal tracker.

Kindle Black Friday Deal Sold Out

Kindle Black Friday Deal Sold Out

All Kindle deals were claimed within seconds of the deal going live. About 3.6% of people sere able to rush to check out within the first minute. Quarter of the lucky ones cheked out within 3 minutes, 50% – within five. Now, 25 minutes after the deal, 95% customers checked out while 5 are still hunting for more Black Friday Deals.

Kindle Black Friday Deal – Now Live On Amazon!

Kindle Black Friday Deal (buying 2nd generation Kindle 3G eReader for $89) is live Black Friday Lightning Deals page on Amazon Black Friday home page (to have easier time finding the deal, select “Kindle Store” in the category selector – it will be the only deal there). Here is a screen shot of the deal. You can click on it to go to the deal page.

Kindle Black Friday Deal 2010 Sale

Kindle Black Friday Deal 2010 Sale

Deals page on Amazon.com website seems to be extremely slow to load this morning. By the looks of it a lot of shoppers convinced by the ads decided to cyber-shop on Amazon this Black Friday rather than camp at 4am on Best Buy parking lot. If Amazon Black Friday Lightning Deals page is being slow for you or fails to load at all, you can check out this copy that I’ve created that is lightweight. It only contains Black Friday deals that are currently active and not sold out (why would you care about other deals anyway?) so Kindle deal should also be there only while supplies last. I try to have the deals updated every minute but even with  2 redundant servers doing it parallel, Amazon website sometimes doesn’t respond at all.

And of course, should you be out of luck on Black Friday Kindle 2 for $89, you can always get the latest generation Kindle 3 with WiFi for $139.

I will keep updating this page as the deal unfolds.

Kindle Black Friday Deal – Already on Amazon

Kindle Black Friday Deal just showed up on Black Friday Lightning Deals page on Amazon Black Friday home page. Deal should become active at 9am today. Here is a screen shot of the deal. You can click on it to go to the deal page (new price will become active only after 9am PST).

While this is the previous generation, that isn’t saying much against it.  The Kindle 2 is a great, very reliable piece of hardware that would still stand up as competition against pretty much anything on the market.  It uses the same screen as the Nook eReader that was its ongoing competition, is nearly as compact as the current generation, and has access to all of the books, games, and applications(i.e. Facebook integration, web browsing, etc) that you would expect.  When it comes right down to it, you really can’t beat $89 for a Kindle of any sort given that the equivalent competition is going for $149.

Now, of course there won’t be enough to go around.  Heck, at this price I’d be surprised if they have enough second generation Kindles left in stock to satisfy the demand that this offer would be likely to generate if it weren’t a “Lightning Deal” and therefore intentionally limited.  So set your alarms, keep a laptop close to your bed, make the kids do it…whatever it takes to keep from missing out.  It’s always unpleasant waking up on the day after Thanksgiving, but this time there’s a worthwhile reason that won’t even make you stand in line freezing your butt off!

And of course, should you be out of luck on Kindle 2, you can always get the latest generation Kindle 3 with WiFi for $139.

Kindle Black Friday Deal – Best Day for Amazon Kindle Sales in History?

This Tuesday (November 23rd) Amazon reported on their Facebook wall: “We had our biggest sales day ever for Kindle devices yesterday. Thank you, customers!”. And it was just Tuesday of Thanksgiving Week. Since then Amazon made couple more posts on their wall announcing more Black Friday Deals products but didn’t leave any notes about Kindle Sales on Friday. My expectation is that Wednesday would be as strong as Tuesday and Thursday or Black Friday Kindle Sales will beat the record. Also I have great expectation for Cyber Monday which in recent years grew to be as significant as Black Friday.
It would be very interesting to find out how many people will go with Kindle 2 Black Friday Deal for $89 and how many will get Kindle 3G+WiFi or Kindle 3 WiFi version instead. It won’t be a simple choice since Kindle 2 is closer in features to $189 Kindle 3G (both of them have 3G connection which is a very useful feature) for just half the price at $89.
I’ll keep track of Amazon Facebook page and Amazon Black Friday Lightning Deals page deals both manually and with use of my Amazon Deals tracker which I announced in previous post an will keep you updated on all changes and announcements there.

Scrabble for Kindle Released

Recently we have seen the release of the first third party game to actually be sold for the Kindle.  Scrabble, an Electronic Arts release, is available to US customers on their Kindle 2 or Kindle 3 for $4.99 through the Kindle store.  This is not the first game to become available for the popular eReader, of course, but it is the first major production from a big name publisher.

Those who have been following these sorts of things, or who simply like word games and Kindles, will likely remember the release of two free games(Every Word and Shuffled Row) a couple months ago that were quite well executed and demonstrated the potential for development that was present in spite of the lack of a rapidly refreshing screen.  This version of Scrabble operates similarly.  It can be played alone in a solitaire mode for fun and practice, against the Kindle when you want a bit more of a direct challenge, and in a head-to-head competitive mode that involves passing the Kindle around. Sadly, there is no capacity for multiplayer interaction between devices.  While it is understandable that the hardware limitations of the device might make such things difficult, it is certainly a disappointing and difficult to accept shortcoming that will be a major factor in many players’ purchase decisions. Overall, however, it looks at least somewhat promising if you don’t mind that.

These days there are quite a few different activities to be found in the Kindle store, from Crosswords to Sudoku, but this is pretty much the first polished experience to be found since Amazon’s initial offerings.  Reviews so far are favorable in the extreme.  People are finding it to be a fun game, fairly intuitive, and easy to get addicted to.  As always, however, there are going to be problems and it is best to bring them out into the open.

The most common complaints so far are:

Some customers have taken issue with the way shading is used in this application.  Words occasionally become hard to discern due to overly bold board markings(double word/letter scores, etc.) confusing the play area.  There are also passing comments made that there is no major distinction made on the board between a space occupied by no tiles and and a filled one.  Empty spaces and blank tiles are effectively identical, apparently.

While many reviews state that controls were obvious and easy to understand, there are some gamers who wish that the Kindle‘s 5-way controller was more intuitive to use.  Most of those who made these complaints also went out of their way to mention that it was soon something they grew accustomed to as well.  Possibly simply a matter of users trying something besides reading on their Kindle for the first time, but it would be impossible to dismiss this out of hand without more information.

There isn’t much elaboration that can be made on this.  More people claimed that the interface was perfect than complained about it, but that doesn’t mean it’s fine for everybody.  May well be related to the control issue I mentioned above.

One disappointed Canadian user stated that as of this moment the game is not available internationally.  Definitely something to be aware of for many users.

Owners of multiple eReaders sharing one account, and therefore libraries, throughout their household may be disappointed at first here as well.  One reviewer points out for us that it seems to not be possible to share the application among multiple devices as one might expect.  Further reading and comments, however, lead me to believe that this reviewer simply didn’t know what he was doing, as follow-up comments indicate licensing for up to six Kindles.  It might just be a bit more of a pain to manage than usual.

As of the writing of this article, the favorable reviews of this application outweigh the unfavorable by more than two to one(17=4-star+, 8=3-star-), even leaving in those reviews by people misusing the space on the product page to ask questions, complain about unavailability, and generally contribute little to the understanding of the product.

It simply looks like a good deal right now, if you’re like me and enjoy word games.  It’s a gross generalization, but I’d say that likely encompasses the majority of Kindle owners.  Definitely a smart move on the parts of Amazon and EA.  Personally, I’m really looking forward to getting this thing on my DX when I get home.  Any version is likely great, but this just cries out for a larger, crisper screen to me.  If anything happens to alter my favorable outlook on all this, I’ll let you guys know.  Can’t wait to see what apps hit the store in the next few months now that there’s a precedent to work with.

New vs. Refurbished Kindle: Which is the Better Deal?

Kindle 3 and Kindle 2 size comparison

Kindle 3 and Kindle 2 size comparison

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) is offering refurbished 2nd Generation Kindle 2 and Kindle DX for $159.99 and $289.99 respectively through its Warehouse Deals section.  For the smaller Kindle, I don’t see any point in going with the refurbished model because the Kindle 3 3G is only $30 more, and it has improved features such as better screen contrast, better web browser and is more lightweight.  I have heard that the web browser is much better, which is good because the Kindle 2 web browser is slow and clunky.  The Kindle 3 Wi-Fi is an even cheaper option if you are looking for one.

The refurbished models are probably just left over Kindles that didn’t get sold before the new release or returns that were not used.  Amazon Warehouse Deals has a lot of other electronics for sale at a discount as well.  However, you never know what whether there is something wrong on the inside. Apple (NASDAQ: APPL) provides refurbished iPods as replacements for ones that have been broken as long as they are under warranty.  They appear to be brand new, although I’m not sure it is fair to replace a fairly new product with a refurbished one.

I think getting a refurbished Kindle DX might be worth checking out, but the latest generation Kindle DX has much better screen contrast.  It is hard to believe that a refurbished Kindle DX is not much more than the Kindle 2 was just nine months ago.  At $289, it would be almost half the price of the iPad.  Who knows, we might see another price drop for the latest generation of the DX in the near future.

With the Kindle 3′s improvement on the web browser, comes the ability to read newspapers via Google Reader.  Google Reader is news site that allows you to add clusters of news sources for whatever topics you like.  It also serves as an RSS feed for blogs of your choice.  I really like it because you can put everything in one place.  I have topics ranging from Science and Technology to Recipe blogs on my Google Reader page.

To navigate Google Reader on the Kindle, use the cursor to find the desired feed, then click the right cursor to navigate to the articles.  After that, press “f” on the Kindle’s keyboard to enter full screen mode and you are set to go.

Amazon’s Kindle Gets Even More Popular

Recent releases from Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) have indicated that the Kindle, proving it deserves its place as Amazon’s #1 Best Selling item, has tripled in sales this year compared to last, in part due to last month’s price slashing.  While many deride that move as the end of the Kindle as a profitable endeavor, there can be no doubt that the greater the availability of the eReader and the platform in general, the healthier the product-line it supports will become.

Being spread, as it is, between the Kindle device, iOS applications, Android applications, various smart phones, and PC applications, there are surprisingly few people left who cannot, should the choose to do so, access the eBook of their choice in a convenient and comfortable setting.  As some reports indicate that the eBook market has grown by more than 160% in the past year, this increasingly pervasive presence gives Amazon an impressive advantage and even further encouragement to keep the momentum up.  We already know that Kindle Editions are outselling hardcovers by a significant percentage these days, even if you exclude free eBooks from consideration and don’t exclude hardcover sales for books not available on the Kindle.  It’s starting to feel like this is only the beginning of a much larger trend, however, that could truly change the way we enjoy books.

Any thoughts?

Kindle Reading Speed Study: Badly Misunderstood

For the past week or so, blogs like ours here have been buzzing with thoughts about a study done of relative reading speeds between the Kindle, iPad, PC Monitor and Paperback Book.  The general consensus seems to have been anything from “See, eReaders are bad!” to “Look, it proves the iPad is better than the Kindle!”  This leads me to believe that a large number of people have only a very vague understanding of what this study actually means.  Let me explain.

In the actual text of the reading speed study, we are given the details of their methods.  The sample size is actually quite small, with only 32 people involved total of whom a mere 24 were included in the final data set.  Putting aside that flaw, the data gathered provided no useful information at all besides that reading on anything but a computer monitor is preferred.  For those who are talking up the slight difference in reading speed between the iPad and the Kindle, there is a note in the results that “the difference between the two devices was not statistically significant”.  For those who do not have any statistics/science background, this means that no difference can be said to exist, with any reasonable accuracy, that stem from anything but random chance.

Basically, if you were hoping for scientific evidence of which device is better, even if you judge “better” in terms of how fast you can read, there’s nothing in this recent study to help you out.  Maybe next time.

SmartPlanet Kindle Giveaway

This isn’t the first such contest we’ve brought to your attention, so you probably know the general idea by now, but here we go again!  From now through June 30th, SmartPlanet is taking entries for a free Kindle giveaway.  The registration process takes just a moment.  You go to this page, enter your information, and you’re done for the day! One entry per day is allowed.

Now, as a warning, you might want to take a look at the site first and decide if you like the content as this will automatically sign you up for a copy of their email newsletter.  That’s a fairly negligible issue, however, since in the same announcement telling entrants about that, they make clear that you can unsubscribe right away should such be your preference.

I had never heard about this site previously(Excellent draw for your site, guys!), so it’s hard to make an informed recommendation, but the front page story listing led me to a few fairly interesting things I also had not run into before. Early developments in wireless energy transfer just plain interest me.  Coverage on the developing privately funded space flight industry is similarly cool.  Where they caught me, however, was the vat-grown human liver.  I’ll be honest, I’m not much of a news guy.  I follow what interests me in as narrow a way as possible on most occasions because I don’t want to be bombarded with information on what famous person leaked a sex tape with what other famous person and so on.  Finding a site that covers the interesting stuff on a broader scope without that sort of inanity is at least potential, in my book.  Worth a shot, especially when I might get a new Kindle in the process.

High School Goes Digital

While they are still in the market for a vendor and making efforts to arrange matters of budgeting and potential purchase bundling discounts, Clearwater High(Clearwater, FL) has made known its intent to move the student body over to the use of the Kindle as a replacement for the traditional textbook collection that students have always known and “loved”.

The intention is to supply all 2100 students with a Kindle that comes preloaded with every book they will require for the academic year.  Students will not be given the ability to purchase further books on the school property, but it seems likely, given the fact that students will have internet access, that there will be the ability to transfer privately acquired eBooks as desired.  In order to reduce parental concerns and school liability somewhat, all students will be required to sign a form agreeing to avoid accessing inappropriate material on their eReaders via the internet browser.

There is no guarantee that this move will save the school money.  It is intended more as a way of connection with a student body far more at home in front of one electronic device or another than behind a book. With luck, giving these students just what they’re used to in non-academic settings as a component of their learning will increase interest and focus on what they need to do.  The recent addition of Facebook integration probably won’t hurt much either, sadly.

The Natural Page

Everybody has their little pet peeves when it comes to their favorite eReader.  Nobody ever has every feature quite the way we want it and nothing will ever be quite perfect.  One of the complaints I’ve heard surprisingly often with the Kindle has been its lack of normal page numbering.  While this seems like a simple sort of thing to deal with, since we are given a progress counter of sorts anyway, I can certainly understand it getting on the nerves of some.

In response, we have The Natural Page(TM) from Forbidden Stitch Press.  Their first book, Spirit in The Sky, is now available for download from the Kindle store for $9.99.  The basic premise is that by setting a page length at right around 400 words, it is possible to put a page number, formatted as (Page 12), at the bottom of each screen as the reader moves through their book.  It’s a novel concept, if you’ll pardon the pun.  While there’s little chance that this will work out as a long term solution, being rather un-dynamic and therefore breaking any time the reader changes font size or a Kindle DX, it’s a good thing to have around, most likely.  If nothing else, the reader response could point out to Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN)  that this is a desired, and quite possibly easy to include, feature for a future patch.  The best way to get your point across about a product has always been to vote with your wallet, after all.

Kindle And Kindle DX Get Folders – They Are Called Collections

There seems to be significant interest in this long overdue feature for the Kindle, so to clear up some of the confusion for people I thought I’d look at some of the functionality and ideas surrounding Collections.

In essence, Collections are short lists of books created by the user to make browsing easier.  The idea is to save time on moving through the library and keep things nicely organized along the way.

  • Books can belong to more than one collection, or none at all
  • Collections are built directly on the Kindle
  • Your collection data will be stored by Amazon and all books will remain in their collections until you remove them
  • No data is changed by Collections, they are simply an organizational tool
  • While you are able to import collections from other people, this will not transfer the books themselves; simply the lists.
  • There are no sub-listings.  This is a one-level categorization, not a real directory tree.

So what are Collections going to be good for?  In addition to saving you from having to sort through your entire library every time you want to read a specific book, there’s a lot of customization that can come into it.  Since all Collections are user-created, it adds a certain depth of individuality to the device.

Some suggestions I’ve read so far:

  • List by Genre
  • Rate Your Books After Reading
  • Keep a List of Books To Read
  • Keep Track of What You’re Reading Now
  • Regional Listings
  • Literary Period

Any other ideas I’ve missed?

And finally, some bad news for Kindle 1 owners – it looks like Amazon is focusing all of their development effort on software version 2.* so original Kindle will not be getting the Folders update.

2.5 Update Brings Facebook And Twitter to Kindle and Kindle DX

In a fairly timely manner, given the recent impressive nook functionality update, Amazon gives the Kindle a few new features that are actually something to get excited about for once. And a couple that aren’t of course.

One of the more exciting new additions is simply a long overdue organizational concern.В  Users will now be able to define collections of books.В  I don’t know when this became something people didn’t expect an eReader user to need, but it’s about the only thing I missed when I made the move from the PRS-500 to my Kindle.

Password protection, going down Amazon’s list, is simply a useful new feature.В  Not exciting, per se, but anything that adds a sense of security to this otherwise almost scarily portable device I like to take out in public with me is a good thing.

In terms of functionality, we get the ability to Pan & Zoom on PDFs, and some font enhancements.В  I’m on the fence about the PDF thing.В  It seems like a great idea, but until we see the actual implementation, it might end up being about as useful as the note-taking feature for all I know.В  Sharper fonts, as well as larger font options for those in need of them, can’t help but be a plus.В  Anything that makes reading even more pleasant gets my vote.

The most hyped part of the update, however, is about Facebook and Twitter integration. В At very least it gives you (and Amazon) the ability to advertise to people that you’re reading on a Kindle right this minute and show off what your book of the day is. В Depending on how functional this social highlighting would be it can turn out to be quite useful. I read several periodicals and blogs on my Kindle when I’m on the go. I highlight and clip interesting articles and paragraphs so that I can later get back to them or share with other people only to forget about them five minutes later. The problem is that although Amazon let’s you view your notes and highlights online so theoretically you could conjure up a web-service that would email them to you, this functionality doesn’t apply to periodicals and blogs. Hopefully with this update you could tweet your interesting highlights and then read your own tweets so they are actually not forgotten.

Anyway, this one’s going to be a fun one, especially for those of us with huge collections.В  Bringing some order to the chaos that is my ebook shelf is going to be a huge relief.

Audible Incentives

There are a lot of good reasons to pick up a Kindle.  It’s neat to read, occasionally very useful for its ability to be a portable internet device, and it saves on effort and potential injury when you compare it to the hundreds or thousands of paperbacks you might otherwise have to carry down a flight of stairs on moving day.  One of the less talked-about uses, however, is as a vessel for audiobooks.

Having worked with the Kindle while helping out students with learning disorders, I can tell you that this is a really useful feature.  It’s also proven helpful with an elderly relative of mine who sometimes has trouble even with the device’s largest font sizes, but who still really loves her books.  The Text-to-speech feature isn’t bad, though it can trip over some words in odd ways sometimes.  I personally prefer to go with actual narrated book readings.  It adds something that, if you’re forced or inclined to be listening to a book rather than reading it yourself in the first place, helps significantly with personal immersion.

Since I’m sure there are those of you out there who agree with me, as there are certainly those who find my position ridiculous, I figured it was worth pointing out the current incentive for people still on the fence about the usefulness of eReaders.  For the moment, Amazon is offering a discount of $100 off their device if you sign up for a year of Audible.com membership.  I don’t really know how limited a time this offer is, but I’d guess not terribly.  It’s been around a while.  I personally consider it a worthwhile investment if you’re interested in audiobooks.  Audible provides good prices on good readings of good books.  What more can you ask, really?  Chances are that if you’ve read this far into the post, you’re interested in audiobooks anyway.  Might as well get a discount on your Kindle and a new source for your reading all at once, right?

Kindle app for iPad goes live

Though Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad are touted to be arch rivals in the e-Reader segment, it hasn’t stopped Amazon from building a Kindle app for iPad. Amazon previewed the Kindle iPad app a couple of weeks ago and yesterday, the app made its way to the Apple iTunes Store. The Kindle app for iPhone has been around for a while now and is very popular amongst iPhone users. The iPad Kindle app is a logical extension of the iPhone Kindle app and its release was on the cards after Apple announced the launch of iPad on April 3. However, there’s one major limitation of using Kindle on iPad – Books bought through Kindle app must be read within the app itself. These books will not be viewable in Apple’s iBooks app.

The Kindle app for iPad lets people enjoy the best of both worlds – easy to use Kindle app interface and supreme performance of the iPad. Further, it gives the users a choice to read books from either Amazon or Apple. Customers always want more choices and e-Readers are no exception to this rule. I’ve come across many voracious readers who are addicted to kindle interface and therefore, they are reluctant to try out the iPad. The Kindle app for iPad is welcome news for all such readers.

While a lot of people have been debating the fortune of Amazon Kindle after the launch of Apple iPad, I believe that Amazon will emerge as the major e-Book provider for iPad. Since iBooks is not pre-installed on Apple iPad, many users might prefer to install Kindle app for iPad as compared to iBooks.

I’ll publish a review as soon as 3G-capable version of iPad hits the stores that I intend to get for myself.

Amazon Kindle 2 Growing in Popularity in China

Amazon Kindle is gaining immense popularity in China these days even though Kindle and Kindle 2 are not officially shipped there. While buying a Kindle online on Amazon Store, if you enter the location as ‘China’, it shows a regret message – ‘Unfortunately, we are unable to ship Kindles or offer Kindle content in China’.

However, Chinese are known to be avid technology lovers and true gadget freaks. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that Kindle is selling in large volumes in Chinese Gray Markets, stalls in Beijing electronics bazaar and other Chinese websites including Taobao.com, an auction site similar to eBay. PC World reports that Kindle 2 was on sale for 2,600 yuan (US$380) and the Kindle DX for 4,300 yuan ($630) at the Beijing bazaar. In fact, many people in China get the Kindle through their friends and family in United States by ordering the Kindle online, having it delivered to an address in United States and then having it mailed to them in China. e-Readers are quite popular in China these days and it is expected that sales of e-readers could reach 3.5 million units in China this year, up several fold from around 400,000 last year. Though there are numerous Chinese e-Readers in the market, Amazon Kindle stands its ground against one and all.

It is not hard to imagine that as and when Amazon Kindle starts shipping in China, it is bound to be a monumental success.

E-Reader Market will Continue to Grow despite Launch of Tablets

According to Andrew Nusca’s article on potential growth in the e-book market following the Apple iPad launch, “the average e-reader is 47 years old, makes 75,000 a year and reads two books per month.”  This generation tends to associate reading with pleasure, and the lightweight, easy to navigate, Kindle 2 strives to meet those demands.  Therefore, the e-ink technology that the Kindle uses is much more akin to reading a regular print book than any computer.  The general consensus is that the e-ink technology is more comfortable for reading for longer periods of time.  Can anyone picture curling up with an iPad at the beach?

The tablet market, which includes the Apple iPad , is geared towards younger, internet savvy users.  The younger group tends to search the internet for smaller chunks of information such as articles, blogs or social networking sites.  The average teen spends nearly a full time work week surfing and downloading media from the internet each week according to Nusca.

Another key factor for growth is price.  Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, suggested that Amazon will lower the price of the Kindle to $149 according to an article from CNET News. That would distance the single purpose e-reader market from the multifunctional tablet market.  So, in essence, its all about the marketing strategy.

Kindle-based Vacation Planning?

In a rather interesting move, Amazon seems to have increased the general utility of their Kindle. It could, in fact, be on its way to becoming a must-have for vacation-goers this summer. Sure there’s the expected advantage of being able to lug a pile of books to the beach in your pocket, but the sightseers are targeted now too.

In short, it’s been reported that Amazon has recently acquired exclusive rights to sell the always helpful Michelin Driving guides. When added to the functionality of browser-based mapping programs like Google Maps, you can find yourself with an entertaining way to tour the nation without ever getting sidetracked. At present, such offerings as a driving tour of California Wine Country or a run around the Florida Keys are going for a mere $3.99. There’s certainly no shortage of other material there for the taking either, with popular publications like the Zagat Restaurant Guides, Frommer’s Travel Guides, and the Regional Hiking series already available at reasonable prices.

As a fun aside, as you prepare for the upcoming vacation weather, remember that road trips with kids are much more tolerable when they’re having a good time and for the moment Amazon can be very helpful there too with the majority of the popular Series of Unfortunate Events books being available free of charge to Kindle customers for what will likely be a very limited time!

Unicode Fonts Hack for Kindle 2.3

This updated version of Kindle Unicode Fonts Hack works on all versions of Kindle software including the most recent 2.3 and installs on Kindle 2 US, Kindle 2 International and Kindle DX.

I’ve added more font combinations:

  • GNU FreeFont – this hack uses GNU Free Fonts that come with Linux and are free to redistribute. All font styles are preserved (serif, sans-serif, mono-spaced, bold and italic) but these fonts only support Latin, Cyrillic characters and some others (click here for full coverage data). So if you are only interested in Russian books – this is the way to go. Otherwise this patch will do you little good. Here are download links:

kindle-ufhack-v03-gnu-free-font-serif

kindle-ufhack-v03-gnu-free-font-sans

  • Droid Fallback Fonts (recommened for Asian glyphs) - this hack uses open-source Droid fallback font that is part of Google Android platform. Unfortunately styles and typefaces are missing completely. You’ll only get regular Sans Serif. The upside is the broadest character support. It supports Cyrillic, Chinese, Japanese and a bunch of other languages. This font also looks very good on the Kindle screen (in my opinion way better than native Kindle fonts). This is the patch I currently have installed on my Kindle 2. Here are download links:

kindle-ufhack-v01-droid

kindle-ufhack-v03-droid-serif

kindle-ufhack-v03-droid-sans

Visit the Kindle Unicode Fonts Hack page for detailed instructions.

Kindle Software 2.3 (399380047)

It definitely looks like I’ll have to eat my words… One month ago I made a statement that there will be fewer Kindle software updates and that chances of new features being added via update are slim. At least on the second count I was wrong. Amazon has released Kindle software version 2.3 for Kindle 2 US, Kindle 2 International and Kindle DX. It added significant features to all of these devices. In fact Amazon deemed the update so significant that they’ve sent out emails to Kindle owners about it.

  • Kindle 2 International (wireless by AT&T) got a significant battery life boost. You can now go for a week without having to recharge the device and keep the wireless on. Since it doesn’t apply to the US version of Kindle 2 (that uses Sprint for wireless connectivity) it looks like Amazon didn’t change the poll frequency but either fixed some bug in wireless driver or took advantage of a technology similar to PUSH email.
  • Both US and international versions of Kindle 2 got native PDF support based on the same code that was used in Kindle DX. Now you can also manually switch screen orientation to landscape. Kindle DX style automatic switching doesn’t work since Kindle 2 devices lack the accelerometer hardware. PDF files are better cropped now as blank margins don’t use up valuable screen space. This is especially important for small 6″ Kindle screens since PDF viewer still lacks zoom feature.
  • Since all Kindle versions now support PDF, sending PDF file to @kindle.com email will no longer convert it to native Kindle format by default. If you still want the conversion to happen, you should put the word “Convert” in the email subject.
  • Kindle DX screensaver activation time was increased from 5 minutes to 20 minutes. This makes sense since larger screen can contain more text that takes longer to read.
  • All Kindle versions will not require signed update packages. This problem however has already been solved.

Normally you Kindle would update itself automatically if you have wireless connectivity. However if you do not or the update failed because you had hacks installed, you can update Kindle manually. This time around though, rather than trying to hit dynamic URLs that are supposed to always provide the latest version, you can download the update from the appropriate static location. These locations are listed on Amazon.com Help page.

By bringing all Kindle devices to the same version, Amazon will simplify software development process in the long run. They may change the update process in the future to cut the update delivery costs. 2.3 update package was around 10 megabytes large. If they keep the current method update packages will get only larger.

At the moment there is no update for 1st generation Kindle. And dare I make another prediction – the chances of it happening are rather slim.

While we are on the topic of updates. There might be another update currently in the works in Lab126. On Kindle Facebook page Kindle developers have posted the following message:

Amazon Kindle Kindle Customers, We have heard from many of you that you would like to have a better way to organize your growing Kindle libraries. We are currently working on a solution that will allow you to organize your Kindle libraries. We will be releasing this functionality as an over-the-air software update as soon as it is ready, in the first half of next year. – The Kindle Team

Personally I have just one question left: Where are the bleeping Unicode fonts? Amazon, seriously! Is it too much trouble to replace the current fonts with ones that support wider range of characters? Although with PDF support in place there is workaround via PDF font embedding, it would be nice to have native support as well.

I guess this leaves me with little choice but to recompile Kindle Unicode Font Hack to work with Kindle Software 2.3… I’ll post as soon as it’s ready and tested.