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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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December 2014
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Amazon to Launch Kindle Store in Brazil, but No Other Services

The Brazilian market has not seen an entry from Amazon so far, but that looks like it is about to change.  It seems that the Kindle will be launched in Brazil by the holiday season, along with a store that they hope to full with at least 10,000 titles.  Oddly, in what I believe is the only instance of such a thing happening so far, there will be no other Amazon services entering the market at the same time.  That means that for the time being the eBook store will have to stand on its own.

While a full retail store is definitely in plans for Brazil, at the moment there are apparently too many potential dangers in the notoriously complex commercial markets there.  By going entirely digital, many of the shortcomings in infrastructure and tax codes can be somewhat sidestepped.  It’s interesting timing given the fact that Brazil’s consumer growth seems to be trailing off after a decade of impressive growth, but Amazon is far from the only company interested in cashing in on Latin America’s most prosperous economy.

The motivation behind this move is Amazon’s expectation that the Kindle could quickly come to dominate the eBook market.  Apparently some research has indicated that a fairly large number of Brazilian readers already own imported eReaders, including the Kindle, and go out of their way to purchase and download books through stores that are not technically open to the country at this time.  By moving the Kindle Store in, Amazon expects to immediately grab as much as 90% of the country’s eBook sales.  The same source that released this information also mentioned that Amazon is hoping to expand eBook sales from 0.5% of the Brazilian publishing market to 15% within the first year of operations.

We can expect the basic Kindle model to be the first thing released through the new store.  It will likely be selling for approximately 500 reais, equivalent to $239, which is obviously higher than many other markets are seeing but still cheaper than the competition currently available in Brazil.  Naturally prices will drop as competition strengthens, but there has been some indication that even this high price is being subsidized by Amazon thanks to the added expense of doing business in this area.

There are already contracts in place with around 30 publishers as Amazon gets ready for the release.  There is also word that there are still ongoing talks with several that are not included in that list.  One publisher said that the current plan is to offer titles at 70% of their paperback price, allowing for a profit margin of 40-50%.  That would not translate to much revenue for the wholesalers, in this case publishers, but they are still interested in signing up for the platform as a means to expand interest in their books.

This will probably end up being the slowest expansion that Amazon has undertaken to date.  Entering into the Brazilian economy will be rather unpleasant for them and clearly they are aware of that.  By leading with the Kindle not only will they avoid some of the headaches associated with local shipping and distribution of assorted retail products, they will also be putting the best foot forward by providing interested customers with one of the best products in production today for reading.  It seems to be a smart choice.

Amazon Appstore Expansion Indicates Kindle Fire is Nearly Ready For International Release

Amazon recently announced that they are now interested in developer submissions of Android apps for the international expansion of the Amazon Appstore for Android.  Those who are interested can now submit via the Amazon Mobile App Distribution Portal in order to be ready for the expansion.  This summer the Appstore is expanding to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.  Beyond that there are apparently plans for more, but even a handful of new markets should generate a big surge in popularity for the Appstore in general and the Kindle Fire in particular.

The Kindle Fire has to be what this is all about, of course.  We are expecting the next iterations of the Kindle line, both tablet and eReader, before the summer is out.  Although their first Android tablet has started to lose some of its initial popularity, it is clear that Amazon has a great deal invested in the idea of mobile devices integrated into their media distribution system.

Because of its integration, however, selling the Kindle Fire outside the US has seemed problematic at best.  Amazon has a lot going for them, but media rights need to be established in any country the company chooses to support.  That means not just books as with the Kindle eReaders but also movies, television, music, and apps.

Getting the apps will probably be the easiest part for this effort.  By setting up a portal by which Android developers can submit their applications, they are actually setting up an interesting alternative to Google Play.  Google has had a few incidents with regard to paying their international developers (mostly failing to pay them, actually) that makes an alternate major app store with a proven record huge news.

There are no estimates yet on exactly when the Kindle Fire will be offered outside the United States.  It even makes some sense to question whether Amazon will bother marketing the existing model at all.  With a newer high resolution model supposedly on the way, as well as a larger version set to follow soon after, waiting an extra month or two to make sure to put the best product forward might be the smart move.

The Appstore for Android has already proven itself able to provide better returns for developers than its Google counterpart.  It’s true that many find the extra oversight and extended review process to be painful, occasionally to the point of refusal, but that has not stopped the store from growing rapidly over the past year.  Customers seem to value the higher submission standards, if nothing else.

Will this be enough to revive interest in the Kindle Fire?  That’s hard to say.  With Windows 8 right around the corner and Apple surely waiting to one-up any competition as soon as they are able to justify it financially, it’s an unsettling time to be selling Android tablets.  Because of Amazon’s break with Google’s standard interface and store, as well as the ecosystem integration, they stand somewhat apart from the Android crowd and might be able to survive even if interest in Android falls abruptly.  The next Kindle Fire is going to have to be impressive to regain the kind of market share that it had at the end of 2011, though.

Kindle Faces Major Competition Internationally

While the Kindle name is practically synonymous with eReading for many people, it has been confined largely to the US for a rather long time now and as such Amazon may have lost a chance to build the same momentum in other markets.  Much of what made them so successful was being the first company on the scene ready to get eBooks out there when customer interest began to stir.  The situation will be a bit different moving forward.

When it comes to international market coverage in eReading, Kobo is the name to reference.  They haven’t had the same impact in the US that Amazon has managed with the Kindle, but the Kobo Touch eReader has been available in areas where a Kindle was hard to come by for quite a while now.  They have recently partnered up with WHSmith in the UK in an effort to gain more coverage.  The Kobo Vox, essentially their attempt to match the Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet, is just £149.99 (by comparison, the Kindle Fire is not even available).  That’s not to mention the fact that Kobo devices are already available in 190 countries with expansion still ongoing, or the newly revamped  self-publishing platform that they are having some success with.

Sony is also making something of a comeback.  While they were possibly the first company to launch a major eReader line with the Sony PRS series, they have failed to stay relevant in recent years.  Their new Reader Store has finally opened (months behind schedule) in the UK and they have a fairly substantial presence in select other markets where the Kindle is just beginning to move in.

Even Barnes & Noble is going to be something of a threat, potentially, in specific international markets.  Well, one specific international market if they’re lucky.  The much-reported partnership that the company has with Waterstones has produced very few results so far.  The partnership is still likely to happen, but they are taking their time about it.  This is most likely a matter of developing relationships for content to fill UK eBook stores with and could be held up at least partially due to the chance of the Agency Model being abolished in book publishing by ongoing lawsuits.  This would naturally have widespread implications.

None of this is to say that the Kindle won’t be able to make it outside the US.  If anything, the international launch of the Kindle Touch and Kindle Touch 3G enjoyed such popularity that even Amazon was shocked.  Since the creation of a real, local Kindle Store in any given market is likely to be a major undertaking, however, anybody who has already got their store and device out there for customers is at a distinct advantage.  Amazon certainly has enough weight to throw at the problems they encounter, and they will do so without much hesitation as the recent small publisher negotiations prove, but it may be a long process at best with all the other big names already at work.

Kindle Touch International Release Begins Ahead of Schedule

The Kindle Touch and Kindle Touch 3G have begun to make their way to customers outside the US a full week ahead of schedule.  Some may already have them in hand.  The company mentioned on Friday that they had begun sending out the new Kindles for pre-order customers.  Shipments are being mailed in the order those pre-orders were received.

The enthusiasm from customers outside the US has apparently exceeded expectations by quite a bit.  Since there has already been a well observed secondary market for Kindle re-sales emerging in areas that did not have access to the device previously, this could indicate a more active expansion on the international scale than we have seen so far.  Much of that will depend on how much ongoing popularity the Kindle enjoys now that it is past the pre-order stage, but it’s safe to say that Amazon will expand to pretty much any area they see the potential for profit in.

At the moment the Kindle Touch and Kindle Touch 3G are, as Amazon claims, the only more or less globally available eReader in the price range to offer such a wide range of features.  While some of them are not fully functional in all circumstances yet, such as the newly introduced translation ability from the last firmware update, the important parts are all still there.  Users will still be able to enjoy the high contrast E Ink screen, two month battery life, and all the other basic eReading functions that we’ve come to expect even in cases where the more creative new abilities have not quite become available.  On top of that, the optional 3G connectivity will work all over the world and remains free of monthly charges no matter where you’re ordering from.

So far we have no word on the possible international release of the Kindle Fire media tablet.  Surely there will be some effort to bring this branch of the Kindle line to a wider audience at some point in the relatively near future, but it could be a complicated enough problem to work through that delays until the next generation of the product would not be surprising.  If nothing else, securing rights to media streaming over a variety of different media forms will tend to involve time-consuming  negotiations of a sort that many publishers don’t want to be in with Amazon given their recent tactics.

Check back here for more information on Kindle Fire international release schedules, tech specs for the Kindle Fire 2, and generally anything Kindle related that I can come up with.  There should be no shortage of such information over the next several months.

Kindle Touch Will Launch Amazon’s eBook Efforts in Japan This April

Recent reports via The Nikkei indicate that Amazon will finally be bringing their bestselling Kindle eReader line to Japan in April of this year with their newest model, the Kindle Touch 3G.  It will carry a  20,000 yen price tag (~260USD), which seems a bit high compared to what the same model is going for elsewhere, but this will actually be rather competitive with existing 3G eReader options in Japan.  Amazon has teamed up with Japanese cellular carrier NTT DoCoMo to offer 3G access which, as with all other Kindle 3G products, will require no data plan or monthly fee of any sort.

This will be a big step for Amazon in a number of ways.  Not least of these is the fact that they are entering into an uphill battle against both established competing hardware providers and a whole new publishing industry that has demonstrated a tendency to be far more resistant to the eBook as a medium than their US counterparts.  Sony and Panasonic are among the more recognizable names that already have a presence but this will also involve going up against Japan-based Rakuten, the company that recently acquired Kobo as a subsidiary and which has an impressive presence in the market already.

When dealing specifically with the issue of eBook supply, many have noticed that Japanese selections are pointedly missing from current Kindle Store offerings.  This is not really a coincidence.  Even localized Japanese eBook stores, such as that offered by Sony, reportedly tend to offer tens of thousands of titles compared to hundreds of thousands in other markets, and these don’t always even include bestsellers.  Either there are some accommodations already planned for building relationships with Japan’s book publishers, or Amazon intends to rely even more heavily than usual on their ability to attracted talented self publishing authors to the Kindle Direct Publishing program.

While this will be a great thing for fans of eReading in Japan, there is unfortunately not yet any real reason to get hopes up regarding a Kindle Fire offering.  Currently it is expected that the UK will be the first to have access to the Kindle Fire outside of the US and even that is taking an absurdly long time for many peoples’ tastes.  The transition to Japan would require a far more extensive localization effort than even the Kindle Touch 3G will require as well as an impressively large amount of infrastructure development for Amazon.  That says nothing about the complications of digitals video rights acquisition, which one would imagine to be a major concern in this case but which I lack the ability to offer any informed commentary about at this time.

Regardless of how much of the Kindle Family makes the trip, it is good to see Amazon expanding their efforts in non-Anglophone countries.  While this tends to provide more complications at first, it’s worth it to get the Kindle out there.  Hopefully this effort in particular will be more than just a passive offering of Kindle hardware and KDP, so as to draw more publisher attention to the potential for digital publishing in Japan.

Kindle Fire UK Coming This January

One of the biggest obstacles that Amazon is going to have to overcome in order to continue expanding its Kindle line at a decent rate is the complicated international release process.  That hasn’t stopped them so far, of course.  Some analysts are anticipating, for example, that the Kindle Fire will control as much as 50% of the Android Tablet market in 2012.  A great start, but it still doesn’t really make an impact against the market dominating iPad which is already around in over a dozen countries.

The first step in improving their new tablet’s presence is coming in January 2012 when according to supposed insider sources speaking to tech blog Know Your Mobile the UK will be the first country outside the United States to get the Kindle Fire.  It isn’t exactly a surprise, given the history of Kindle releases and the ease of localization, but it is a step in the right direction.  What’s important will be what comes next, which could end up being somewhat unpredictable given the peculiarities of the device.

Obviously the first instinct is to look to Anglophone countries that require minimal modification of the user interface.  Amazon has spent a lot of effort on getting things working properly, after all, and the need for redesign may at times be significant when dealing with alternate languages.  I would guess that this will not be the primary factor in determining who comes next, though.  Given the Kindle Fire’s emphasis on consuming a variety of media (especially video) via data streaming, chances are good that they will go where the content rights are most easily acquired.

This will likely sync up somewhat with the Anglophone list, I’m sure, but there’s definitely the chance of unexpected choices given the increasing general wariness being expressed in many of Amazon’s more established markets over their huge influence.  The one thing that Amazon has to know that they can’t do with the Kindle Fire is release it like the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet. While the Netflix streaming is nice, as are most of the content apps that are currently available, the device itself is completely built around Amazon.com integration and would be crippled by the lack of their servers.

Regardless of the less immediate future, UK customers can look forward to a great experience.  The Kindle Fire has become a hit in America for good reasons and will have had time in the interim to be polished even further.  The video streaming is wonderful and likely to be tied to Amazon’s LOVEFiLM brand rather than the Amazon.co.uk Prime service.  Music and cloud storage in general seem to work wonderfully for almost everybody, and indications are good that the vast majority of WiFi connectivity issues will have been addressed prior to this launch.  Even the reading experience isn’t precisely bad, however much better the Kindle E INK eReaders might be.  Expect official announcement early on as we enter 2012.

Kindle vs Kobo: Can Amazon’s Fire Win Against The Vox Internationally?

The Kindle Fire has made a big splash in the Tablet PC marketplace, driving prices down across the board and seemingly speeding along the release of direct competition from Amazon’s fellow eBook vendors.  Sadly, at the moment the Kindle Fire is only available in the US.  Chances are good, in fact, that there is going to be an extremely long wait before device is released anywhere else.  It is simply too reliant on the integration with Amazon’s Cloud Servers, Video Streaming, Android Appstore, and other such things that have not been prepared for other markets yet.

That doesn’t mean that people outside the US will want to overlook the Kindle Fire, of course.  Combine the $200 price tag with the almost complete lack of security measures to prevent Rooting of the device and you have a decent 7″ Android Tablet even if the quality of the custom OS is lost.  It does the job, if you’re willing to put up with all of the related complications of buying, shipping, rooting, etc.

The Kindle Fire isn’t the only option in this price range, though.  In fact the Kobo Vox, a similar competing tablet from an eBook vendor, is already available in the UK.  Even if it had nothing else going for it, and it does, the Vox’s availability would be enough to make it a major player in the new $200 tablet niche.  In addition to that, there is no need to root the device to get full functionality just about anywhere.  It comes with full access to the Android Marketplace already enabled, unlike either its Kindle or Nook competitors.

Admittedly the hardware isn’t as nice as the competition.  Neither the screen nor the processor is as nice as in the Kindle, which is itself criticized as lacking power by many.  They have made next to no effort to make the Kobo specifically ready for anything aside from the reading, which will already have some shortcomings given the backlit screen.  Since the primary competition will be rooted devices from the US, at least at first, this shouldn’t be too big a deal but it isn’t necessarily a recipe for long-term success.

As much as I’m a big fan of my Kindle Fire, neither option here thrills.  The Fire is amazing in many ways, but a big part of that is the seamless integration with Amazon’s services.  You lose that the second you take it out of the country.  The Vox, on the other hand, has no really exciting features.  When your tablet’s big claim to fame is extensive Facebook integration for a reading app, it is a stretch to see success in the future.  Either way you’re getting a 7″ tablet that runs Android 2.3 for around $200 (depending on local taxes and the cost of importing) but not much else.

As such, it seems unlikely that the Kindle Fire has much to fear from the Vox at the moment.  What will decide things is not where the two devices stand right this minute, but where they go from here on.  If Kobo can come around and start offering some really impressive incentives to use their tablet before Amazon extends their web service line sufficiently, there will be some real problems.  For now, the Kindle Fire wins ever so slightly based on narrowly superior hardware and nothing else.  Firm footing this is not.

Chinese Kindle On The Way?

I’ve mentioned before that Amazon is expanding their international presence significantly lately, especially with regard to the Kindle line.  No longer must an avid reader live in an anglophone country to take advantage of the best selling eReader to date.  The biggest untapped market for anybody looking to sell digital content, however, is probably China.  So far Amazon has been slowly seeping into the country in general and now there are indications that the addition of a Kindle Store may be on the way.

There are a few things that stand in the way of making this work.  The most important of these is government intervention.  Marc Onetto, Senior VP of Amazon’s Worldwide Operations, is said to have been in active negotiations with Chinese officials over how this would work.  While no word has been released by Amazon about where they stand at the moment, the Chinese Government has a tendency to take an active part in censoring information that could make things complicated. It is already often problematic to obtain rights to sell digital content globally even without this sort of oversight, but Amazon clearly has plans.

China has proven to be one of the, if not the, fastest growing market for Amazon in the past year, with revenue up over 80 percent.  They have already got ten distribution hubs set up and warehouse space adding up to about a third of what their Unites States enterprises boast.  All that despite only recently rebranding the site from “Joyo Amazon”, inherited from the company Amazon bought to gain traction in the first place, to Amazon.cn.

Chances are good that these numbers will continue going up for some time, especially if Kindles do start shipping.  There is no word just yet on whether Amazon will be creating relationships with local retailers or just selling the devices online, but either way enthusiasm for the product is likely to be high.

If they get this up and running along when seems to be the intended schedule, this would be the first Asian country to have their own localized Kindle and Kindle Content. It seems inevitable that it would be a somewhat crippled version of the Kindle Store, though.  If nothing else, China’s censorship policies would make it difficult to truly enable the Kindle Direct Publishing platform that gives Amazon a unique edge over the competition in other markets.  On top of this, Onetto did say that they had no intention of forming any sort of connection to existing content providers in this market, indicating that there is going to be some problem with stocking the electronic shelves, so to speak.  How they will get around these difficulties is anybody’s guess.

If the Kindle gets government approval, it is likely to make a big splash.  There is a lot of demand out there for such a product. Don’t expect to be seeing something like the Kindle Fire any time soon, but now that the Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch have opened the door to localized interfaces this will be a big step moving forward.

Amazon Prime: Pros, Cons, & Kindle Implications

For some time now Amazon has been pushing their Amazon Prime service.  For just $79 a year (less if you’re an active college student with a valid .edu email address) you can take advantage of unlimited free two day shipping on eligible items as well as enjoy the perk of a selection of streaming video titles free on demand to any supported device.  While the former has been the major selling point for many so far, the latter is going to be an increasingly big deal with the coming of the Kindle Fire.

There is a reason that the Kindle Fire will be coming with a month worth of Amazon Prime membership.  The device is designed to work as an ideal portable video streamer.  The Amazon Instant Video library has been growing regularly since right around the time the first Kindle Tablet rumors started popping up, and it hasn’t stopped yet.  A significant portion of that is free to Prime members.

Of course, as with any such program, there are issues.  Most significantly is the fact that much of the benefit is restricted to the United States.  Amazon’s other sites mostly have their own versions of Amazon Prime with similar benefits (such as Amazon.co.uk offering free 1 day shipping and evening or weekend delivery discounts in select areas) but as yet none of them seem to involve the video service.  While there are obvious reasons for this, including the complications of international media rights acquisition and local content distribution laws, that doesn’t mean that the problem isn’t there.  It is slightly strange that Amazon would choose to call their program basically the same thing in multiple countries while offering different benefits depending on location.

This is, incidentally, widely believed to relate directly to the Kindle Fire‘s lack of international presence.  Before Amazon can hope to make any money off of such a device, they need to have the media services in place for it to tie into.  No video streaming, no Kindle Fire.

Will this be changing in the future?  I think it is safe to say that most people expect Amazon to be making a move to expand their digital media services internationally in the near future.  The recent expansion of the Kindle eReaders into new markets could even be seen as a way of testing the waters, so to speak.  I don’t think that this will happen soon enough to please most people, though.  Given the time required for Amazon to build a significant library of video content, Prime members are likely to be left on the back burner as far as this goes for some months yet.  More in countries whose Amazon presence is still quite new.

Still, watching for changes in how the Amazon Prime services are handled may be a good way to predict Amazon’s next moves in a given country.  As closely tied into it as the Kindle Fire seems to be, a beefing up of related content seems to be a likely predictor of a local tablet release.  As popular as their new tablet is, I can’t see Amazon stopping at just the US.

The Amazon Kindle’s International Future

At the moment, and in spite of some admittedly impressive competition, the Kindle is pretty much the biggest thing in eReading.  In a given review or opinion, another eReader might come out on top as the new Nook Simple Touch Reader has managed to do lately, but nothing else has managed the level of distribution and quality of content that Amazon has pulled off so far.  The margin isn’t all that it used to be, though.  In order to keep on top of things, they are going to have to do more than we have seen in the past couple months.  While it would not be entirely out of line to assume that the current focus on the upcoming Kindle Tablet might be drawing attention away from the existing product line, I think there may be more to it than that.

The Kindle, as it stands right now in terms of both the physical eReader and the platform as a whole, is limited in a number of ways.  The current level of control being exerted by publishers prevents any one-upsmanship in terms of pricing.  Amazon has some of the smaller names experimenting with sale offerings, but we have to assume that even if companies start buying into the idea of discounted eBooks it will not be a platform specific thing.  That avenue is closed for now.  They’re doing a rather good job of getting a lot of self publishing authors into their stores, which helps, but assume that at the moment there is not much that can be done to fix up the store as we know it.

The device itself is also pretty much at the peak of what we can hope for.  It has the best screen technology available, amazing battery life, whatever connectivity options you want, and a lot more.  About the only thing left to complain about is the physical keyboard.  I think this is the first place we can expect major change is here.  We know that one of the new Kindle options we can expect in October will be a touchscreen eReader.  Not only will this reduce the size of the Kindle without losing the functionality of the admittedly difficult to use keyboard and appease the crowd of people who really don’t like physical buttons anymore, it will allow true localization.  Hard to really pull that off when every device you sell has a built-in English keyboard.

This also brings up what I believe will be the next big stage in Kindle expansion.  Right now, while a hit in some places, the Kindle platform seems to only be dominating in the US.  Amazon has the experience and resources to spread out a bit.  I would anticipate, following the release of the Kindle Touch and the first generation of the Kindle Tablet (and, of course, the initial patching stage to iron out the bugs), a big effort to get the Kindle out to any market that Amazon thinks is large enough to be worth tackling.  Possibly even before localized firmware is a reality, but with a promise of fully integrated language selection as a later option.  There isn’t any reason to hold back now, and stagnation would lose them the edge.  Amazon has to keep moving and this is the only way that really makes sense as far as eBooks go.

Three more Kindle Dictionaries (Italian, Portuguese and Croatian)

We’re glad to announce that 3 more Kindle translation dictionaries are available on Amazon to download:

Kindle English-Italian Dictionary

Kindle English-Italian Dictionary

Kindle English-Italian Translation Dictionary

English-Italian dictionary that contains translations for 47,031 words + derived words (like selected or commenting)


Kindle English-Portuguese Dictionary

Kindle English-Portuguese Dictionary

Kindle English-Portuguese Translation Dictionary

English-Portuguese dictionary that contains translations for 50,820 words + derived words (like selected or commenting)


Kindle English-Croatian Dictionary

Kindle English-Croatian Dictionary

Kindle English-Croatian Translation Dictionary

English-Croatian dictionary that contains translations for 49,412 words + derived words (like selected or commenting)


You can see complete list of our Kindle dictionaries here along with instructions on how to change Kindle dictionary.

Kindle German Dictionary

Kindle English-German DictionaryWe are glad to announce that in addition to English-Russian Kindle Dictionary and English-Spanish Kindle Dictionary, new English-German Dictionary is now available to Kindle. After downloading the dictionary you can replace your default Kindle dictionary with it and have any word in a book translated into your native tongue rather than having to read the definition in English. At any point you can always return to the original or any other Kindle dictionary.

Read this tutorial to find out how to change Kindle dictionary.

Kindle Spanish Dictionary

The best way to learn a foreign language is to experience it though interaction with native speakers and reading books. However if your vocabulary is not that rich just yet, reading books in foreign language can be a tedious chore as you encounter unknown words that you can’t deduce from context. Using default Kindle dictionary helps a great deal. You can just select the word in question with 5-way controller and see the definition in a matter of seconds. While this has worked great from some people others would prefer to see the word translated to their native language rather than defined in English.

Fortunately you can replace default Kindle dictionary with another. A while ago English-Russian Kindle Dictionary was published that became quite popular among Russian people reading English books because it was able to translate different word forms (ex: reading, published, etc) rather than just “read” and “publish”.

Just recently we published English-Spanish Kindle Dictionary that works in a similar way. You can replace your default Kindle dictionary with this one and Kindle will translate every word from English to Spanish in a matter of seconds.

Read this tutorial to find out how to change Kindle dictionary.

Kindle’s Unofficial Chinese Utility

Amazon Kindle 3

One of the more interesting bits of news that has come around lately in terms of Kindle information is the recently discovered ability of imported Kindles in China to bypass the “Great Firewall” of government censorship on the internet.  While Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) does not officially ship to China, there is an emerging market for the Kindle specifically for this purpose, as what may be the only handheld device to date that can get around restrictions places on such social networking sites as Facebook and Twitter without difficulty.

Up until now, tech-savvy internet users in China were able to get around these government imposed restrictions through a bit of effort and some creative use of proxy services, but never before has it been this easy.  There is some speculation, of course, that it will not last.  It is entirely possible that the fact that there is no legal means by which to acquire a Kindle in China at the moment meant that nobody ever felt the need to bother with singling them out. For the moment, however, creative entrepreneurs managing to sneak them into the country are getting as much as $950+ for the eReaders.

While this certainly isn’t anything but a fun bit of info for the majority of users, it is always nice to hear that censorship is being lightened, however accidentally. Clearly we won’t be hearing any press releases about this being a new Amazon selling point, nor have I seen any clear explanations so far as to why the Kindle can do this when other similar devices cannot, but for the moment it’s even more of a boon to some readers than ever before.

New Kindle for the UK!

UK Kindle

While the Kindle has long since become an international phenomenon with customers found all over the world, many people are surprised to find that there have been significant shortcomings to being a Kindle user outside of the US.  Sure, the books are digital property and take a lot less time to ship than if you decided to import a sofa, but delivery time isn’t everything.  Up until now, users in the UK have been forced to pay extra for all of their eBook purchases, simply for being outside the United States.

The launch of the Kindle Store UK is currently scheduled for August 27th, coinciding with the release of the new Kindle 3, though I’m told that Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) insists that it be called simply Kindle, and in preparation has begun selling the Kindle directly from the Amazon.uk site for the first time.  This should mean no more import fees or expensive overseas delivery charges, if all goes well, as well as an end to any obnoxious side effects and hassles from the necessity of converting currency into dollars.

Apps are already being updated to incorporate this new development, with Android already rolling out and iOS being expected in the near future, so there need be no thoughts that this is beneficial to just eReader owners.  As the platform localizes, UK readers can surely expect to see a larger selection(especially of native UK authors), better prices, and more attention to the region’s specific demands.  If all goes well, it doesn’t seem unreasonable in the slightest to expect to see further nationalization of the Kindle platform across the international community.  If anything, the fact that character support in the new Kindle software has been expanded would seem to hint that this is definitely on the books.  This is exactly the sort of move that Amazon needed to further ensure that their eBook application becomes the default for the industry in the long term.

Kindle Now Open To Non-US Authors

090506-new-kindle-8a.widecIn welcome move, Amazon has decided to open up the Kindle platform to authors who are situated outside the US. So now authors from all over the world can sell their works on the various Kindles. This ensures a win-win situation for everyone involved — Amazon, Kindle users and the authors/publishers.

A lot of good literature gets published outside in the US. In fact, if you look at popular fiction genres, you will see that many of the world best sellers come from outside the US. I mention works of fiction mainly because those are the ones that sell the most. And with those facts in mind, it is easy to see why this would benefit Amazon. Amazon has really ushered the era of eBooks by making the Kindle and tying it up with the Whispernet platform. With this new move, they ensure that there is a steady supply of fresh material that is much greater in number than their current competitors. The great diversity that the Kindle Store will gain as a result of this will be really good for Amazon’s business.

For the average user, this means more choices and that is always a good thing. Plus it will also mean that you can finally carry your favorite non-US author on your Kindle, in addition to having the printed editions. With better choices and more diversity, you will probably end up buying even more books on your Kindle and less from physical bookstores. And that is exactly what Amazon wants.

As for the Authors, this basically means a new market has opened up to them. Book sales have been down for a long time now and they have been getting worse. But eBooks are gaining momentum by keeping the print media relevant. So many of them will undoubtedly see the great opportunity that it is for them and jump right in.

International Kindle DX ships on January 19th

Amazon Kindle DX

Amazon Kindle DX

Right after international Kindle 2 was shipped there were some speculations about international version of Kindle DX shipping sometime in 2010. Well… There is no need to speculate anymore. Amazon has just announced international availability of its 9.7″ eBook Reader. International Kindle DX is available for pre-order right now and will ship on the 19th of January 2010 worldwide.

There doesn’t seem to be any changes to the software as compared to the US version. Kindle DX will most likely get software version 2.3 that is now standard for the entire line-up of Amazon eInk readers. Since it now runs on GSM 3G wireless rather than CDMA it benefits from the latest software update that extended battery life with wireless on to roughly a week.

Last time I’ve checked international Kindle book availability, most countries has 320,000+ books available, while US customers can choose from 404,000+ books.

Most likely new Kindle will have new hardware ID (first 4 symbols in the serial number) so all hacks, including the Unicode Font hack will need to be repackaged specifically for the new version.

Updated Kindle International Coverage Table

I’ve updated the Kindle International Coverage table. Canada is now included and most countries have 300K+ books available to them.

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.

Instapaper + Kindle Problems Find A (Free) Solution

Kindle plus instapaper usb sync solution with mobi filesInstapaper lets you bookmark online content through a handy little bookmarklet that sits in your browser. Then you can log on to their website later or use their iPhone App to read the full articles in one place.

Their connection with the Kindle is simple — they have a service by which your recent articles are emailed to your Kindle or Kindle DX. You get charged $0.15 by Amazon for each email but in the end it is worth it to be able to read it on your favorite e-text reading device.

But there is a problem with this service, the emails do not reach the Kindle users every time they are sent. This is in all likelihood a technical problem between the Instapaper’s service and Amazon but it is taking its time getting fixed. So the Instapaper developer thought up an alternative solution.

Instapaper now allows you to download your 10 most recent articles to a .mobi file that can be transferred to your Kindle. You cannot go more than 10 articles per file for now but you can probably save multiple such files. Syncing is via USB, so it is not completely hassle free but it has three distinct advantages for now.

One is that you get to use this service for free. You will not be paying for the emails that Amazon relays from Instapaper to your Kindle. The second advantage is that you are guaranteed that the sync feature will work all the time. The third is that it works for International users as well. The email feature was only for US users. It is still in beta, so you might run into problems but those who use the Kindle with Instapaper know that it is a fantastic service to have. It adds to our already great Kindle experience.

Kindle Now Sold In Canada

kindle-canadaThe Kindle 2 International continues on its path to global coverage, this time reaching Canada. The International Kindle, with its free global roaming wireless connection has attracted a lot of international buyers and Canada was one of the many countries where the launch of the device is highly anticipated.

Amazon declared earlier last week that Canada is now amongst the countries that they officially ship to. While Amazon’s delay to support a nation so close to the US has raised a few eyebrows, it has to be understood that international trade laws can be pretty stringent. So finalizing business deals sometimes takes an unnaturally long time, which is lamentable but unavoidable in certain situations.

Now the wait is finally over for Canadians and Kindles have already started being shipped up North. If there was ever an eBook reader that a large number of international customers wanted, it has to be the Kindle. And this fact is not lost on Kindle’s competition.

Sony has followed Amazon to Canada and has started shipping their own eBook readers there. But till date Sony lacks the kind of content that Kindle readers have easy access to with each and every Kindle. So it doesn’t look like Amazon will be threatened by Sony’s readers anytime soon. But that does not mean that Sony will not do anything about it.

As it turns out, Sony is planning its own online store, called Sony Online Service. Their primary target is iTunes but it is likely that they would want to provide content for all their devices and that logically should include Sony’s eBooks readers. However, if their content is as limited as their eBook reader and as unimaginative as their online service name, Amazon will have the last laugh on this one.

Why there will be fewer Kindle firmware updates in the future

Personally I’m used to updating software. Pretty much every week one or another piece of software on my PC updates – be it Windows itself, the antivirus, iTunes or whatever. I’ve subconsciously come to expect the same from Kindle. And at first Kindle firmware did update quite frequently:

As you can see it seems that Kindle 2 got several updates soon after release and then there was silence.

Early update rush was caused by bugs in the new software. One or two updates were caused by law suit (Text-to-speech, and Orwell book deletion). However, note that none of the updates introduced new features. I guess Amazon sticks to the policy – don’t fix it if it ain’t broken.

Kindle DX and Kindle international share most of the software with original Kindle so there is little room for new critical bugs.

But most importantly, the number of Kindles in operation has exploded since the beginning of 2009. And this is probably the most important reason why we will not see many Kindle updates in the future and probably none of them will be feature driven. Amazon pays Sprint 12 cents per megabyte transferred. It would be safe to assume that Amazon gets similar pricing from AT&T for domestic traffic and a much higher price for data roaming. Average Kindle update is 2 megabytes in size. Because of the way Amazon structures the update packages, this accumulates as each subsequent update includes all previous updates as well. So first update was 2 megs, second one was 4, third – 6, etc.

6 megabytes times 12 cents is $0.72 per device updated. By some estimates there may be 2..3 million Kindle devices in operation. Let’s assume that 80% of devices are within wireless coverage (although in reality this number can be much higher). This adds up to $1,440,000 to $2,160,000 per software update deployment and increasing with every update version. And this is just to update domestic Kindles. I wouldn’t even want to think about the pricing to worldwide distribution. Also I wouldn’t want to be the software developer who makes a critical bug that causes an update or that software developer’s boss for that matter…

Given these numbers I don’t believe that Amazon would release update unless they have a very strong reason to do so. Strong reason being a court order or something else of this sort. This more or less addresses they questions of where Amazon will add folders, PDF support for Kindle 2 or official Unicode fonts for that matter via an update. The answer is a definite NO.

On the issue of fonts I’m most sure since Unicode fonts in the updates that I use (that add only partial support without all of the font styles) are 1.5..3 megabytes. Proper Unicode support can easily add up to 10 megabytes. So this would mean millions of dollars spent with potential to spend more millions in the future and near zero return of investment since although many people would like to have this feature, for most of them it’s not a deal-breaker (especially since on Kindle DX you can have any kind of fonts via PDF files). The few books that have non-Latin characters that Amazon sells use Topaz format to embed the extra glyphs that they need. So adding Unicode fonts would help customers read books that Amazon doesn’t sell. In this light the question about Unicode fonts via an update for existing devices is a no-brainer.

It is possible that this support would be included in Kindle 3 or whatever else the next generation Kindle will be called since in this case the cost for Amazon is just licencing fee for the fonts.

Unicode Font Hack v0.2, now for Kindle International too!

kindle-international-unicode-font-hackI’ve create Unicode Font Hack that also works on Kindle 2 International. I’ve also reorganized the files to minimize download times. Each device/font combination can now be downloaded as separate file. That file would contain only update binaries. Source code for all binaries can be downloaded separately. I’ve updated the hack page accordingly. You can find instructions as well as more detailed information there.

I’ve made the following changes to the hack:

  • Removed browser only hack since it didn’t add much value – if you still want it you’ll need to build it from the sources yourself.
  • Changed the uninstaller so that it removes extra font files completely as some of you have requested this feature.
  • Since droid hack uses the same font, rather than making multiple copies I’m using symlinks now so the hack uses less disk space on Kindle.

Here are installation instructions:

  1. Download one of the following files:
    1. Droid fonts: this is an open-source font that comes from Android Google OS. This font looks quite nice and supports Asian characters. However it only comes in sans serif style:
    2. Liberation fonts. These fonts come from RedHat linux and are open-source. Personally I don’t find them as nice as droid. It doesn’t support Asian characters. However it does support all 3 font styles – serif, sans serif and mono-spaced.
  2. If you have international version of Kindle 2 you need to jailbreak it first:
    1. Connect your Kindle to PC via the USB cable.
    2. Download this file: update_freekindle-k2i.bin
    3. Copy it to the root directory of your Kindle.
    4. Press Home. Press Menu. Select Settings. Press Menu. Select Update Your Kindle. Select OK.
    5. The update WILL fail. This is expected. However from now on you will be able to install custom Kindle updates.
  3. Connect your Kindle to PC via the USB cable.
  4. Copy update package that corresponds to your device to to the root directory of your Kindle.
  5. Press Home. Press Menu. Select Settings. Press Menu. Select Update Your Kindle. Select OK.
  6. The update will install, Kindle will restart and when it does – new fonts are going to be in effect. Please not that for International Kindle it will take some time before the installation progress bar moves as font files are large and it takes a long time for Kindle to verify the update signature.

To uninstall:

  1. Connect your Kindle to PC via the USB cable.
  2. Download  and copy uninstall package that corresponds to your device to to the root directory of your Kindle.
  3. Press Home. Press Menu. Select Settings. Press Menu. Select Update Your Kindle. Select OK.
  4. The update will install, Kindle will restart and when it does – old fonts will be used and there will be no trace of the hack in the Kindle file system. So official updates will install once again.

If you would like to customize the fonts – you can do so by downloading the hack sources and modifying them. I have to warn you that this is risky business though. It may be a good idea to install the antibrick hack before you proceed.

Jailbreaking the International Kindle

I was quite close to publishing similar findings myself but Jean-Yves Avenard beat me to it. It is now possible to create custom updates for International Kindle that runs firmware 2.2.* Fortunately there is no need for hardware changes

A little background information first. A while back Igor Skochinsky found serial console connector on Kindle 1 and reverse engineered scripts that Kindle uses to update it’s firmware. Since Amazon is paying for it’s wireless traffic they don’t push full firmware dumps as updates but rather compressed linux patches that only change the things that need to be changed and are relatively small. In Kindle 2 same scripts were used. The only thing that changed was device ID. This was to safeguard against installing update for wrong Kindle device rather than to prevent custom update installation altogether. Kindle DX was a similar story.

However it all changed when Kindle 2 International came out. There was a device ID change as well but updates still failed to install. Using debug commands that still worked (you need to type then in the home screen search box – they are quite harmless will not break your Kindle):

  • ;debugOn
  • ;dumpMessages

Amonng other housekeeping messages it returned the folloing lines:

091021:102422 EXT3 FS on mmcblk0p1, internal journal
091021:102422 system: I _otaupexec:def:processing update /mnt/us/update_tool.bin
091021:102422 system: I _otaupexec:def:version is “FC02″
091021:102422 system: I _otaupexec:def:update image checksum OK
091021:102422 system: E _otaupexec:def:signature does not exist for “tool.sh”
091021:102422 system: E _otaupexec:def:signature verification failed

So it looked like Amazon was signing update packages now. Worst case scenario would have been usage of asymmetric encryption keys like RSA that would be impossible to break until we have working full-scale quantum computers. Best case would be Amazon using something simple – like tar file scrambling that they are using to “encrypt” the whole update file.

I was trying to break into the Kindle via serial console that can be exposed by sliding the top plastic cover off the device but fried my Kindle in the process.

While I was waiting for the new device to arrive, mobileread.com member clarknova suggested using a tarbomb to break into the new Kindle. He assumed that new Kindle would still use the old code to extract files from the update before verifying the signatures. It proved to be true. A tarbomb exploits the fact that linux tar would extract anything that is given to it and might put it somewhere where package receiver didn’t intent it to go. For example older versions would honor relative paths, so if tarball contained file ../../etc/rc5.d/S00kill-code and most likely user would try to unpack the file in /home/username, the malicious file would go into /etc/rc5.d/ and get executed on the startup. While version of tar that is installed on Kindle discards parent directory references, it allows to unpack a symlink that points anywhere in the filesystem. This allowed to craft an update that would still fail to install but in the process would deposit a startup script that would unlock further access to Kindle internals.

Unfortunately Amazon did use the asymmetric encryption to sign the packages. Fortunately there is a very nice way around. Kindle doesn’t use just one key to verify the signature – it enumerates all key files in /etc/uks directory and if any of the keys yields a positive signature validation – the file passes the test. So Jean-Yves Avenard created a tarbomb that would add extra public key to that directory. He also modified Igor’s script to use corresponding private key to sign all the files in the package.

Nice thing about this mod is that it doesn’t change any files in Kindle filesystem, it just adds. So it will not cause checksum conflicts when installing official Amazon updates in the future. However if you use this jailbreak mod to install other updates like Unicode Font Hack, screensaver, savory, etc that DO change files then standard rules apply – official updates will fail and you’ll need to revert the hacks, install official update manually and then reinstall the hacks. Although I doubt that we’ll see many official Amazon updates anytime soon. I’ll make a separate post on this topic at some other time.

I’m pretty sure that in the next version of the device (International Kindle DX perhaps or whatever comes next), Amazon will fix this vulnerability and serial console might be required to install things on Kindle or perhaps some other security exploit. But for now here are specifics:

You can download the “jailbreak” update here. I’ve tested it on my Kindle and it works perfectly. It also contains the updated script to create your own packages. However I would strongly advise you to do it only if you really-really need to, really-really know that you are doing and are willing to brick your device. Several people were known to irreversible brick their Kindle eBook readers by experimenting with them. I bricked two so far trying to create unicode font hack – one US Kindle 2 a while back another Kindle 2 International recently.

So if you are not sure about what are you doing – stick to pre-canned hacks from verified sources that have been tested to work and have uninstallers available. These are relatively safe though again there is always a chance of something going wrong and hacking the Kindle absolutely does void the warranty.

I’ve tested the pre-canned screensaver hack that can be downloaded here and it does work perfectly.

To avoid having to jailbreak Kindle multiple times and creating potentially conflicting hacks I recommend to all Kindle modders out there to use Jean-Yves Avenard’s packager and private/public key pair for creating Internaional Kindle hacks. I’m going to use it for Unicode Font Hack myself.

Right after publishing this post I’m going to reorganize the Unicode Font Hack a bit and release a new version for all Kindle versions including the international one. Stay tuned!