The introduction of eReaders into the portable electronics world immediately led to prophetic statements declaring them irrelevant in a world that already had access to tablets. The Kindle vs iPad debate was long and monotonous, but over time people have generally come to accept that there is a distinction between the two types of device. While most tablet functions would be more or less ridiculous to add to a dedicated reading device like the Kindle, however, Microsoft’s upcoming Surface tablet has introduced a useful concept that may have important implications for the future of electronic reading devices.
The Surface will incorporate technology that separates general touch recognition from stylus recognition, making it possible to take notes conveniently on the screen of the tablet without having to worry about where your fingers are positioned. As anybody who tries to write naturally on a tablet for the first time will likely be immediately aware, it can be quite difficult to manage without either setting the device down or letting a thumb wrap around onto the screen.
Amazon has already done something great for Kindle users with Whispernet. Having all of your annotations saved, along with bookmarks, page position, and so on, regardless of where you are loading your content from allows the Kindle platform to be device independent and convenient for just about anybody. Unfortunately, taking notes on an actual Kindle eReader is a huge inconvenience. Even with the keyboard provided by the Kindle Keyboard (or the virtual one on the Kindle Touch), it’s a slow and annoying process that will usually result in there being few such notes taken.
While it would definitely mean a slightly higher production cost, and would probably require a greater expense as far as data transfer and storage in concerned due to the increase in use, Amazon would be wise to adopt a similar option in their next Kindle upgrade.
The last remaining hurdle for eReaders at this point is their inability to match the convenience of paper books when it comes to direct interaction. Annotation is part of that. This would not make it any easier to flip rapidly from place to place in your favorite book, but that is not a sensation that can be replicated on a screen. The pleasure of making one’s own contribution to a personal copy of a book is far simpler to bring to the new medium.
There is no indication that Amazon is going to make this sort of change. This is merely speculation about what could eventually become a major selling point. Until color E Ink style screens advance to the point where they are worth integrating, there isn’t a lot that can be done to make the Kindle a better reading tool. The screen is already offering basically the same reading experience that you get from paper. It’s not easy to find ways to make paper replication an exciting new thing once you reach this level of sophistication. Improved writing inputs could be just what the Kindle needs in that respect.
The Kindle isn’t ever considered the most secure of devices. Even here on this site you’ll find many hacks for Kindles from the first generation forward. Still, this might be the first time I can think of that there has been a hole in the device’s security that poses a genuine problem for both users and Amazon.
heise Security has recently released some proof of concept code that demonstrates the potential for remotely exploiting Kindle Touch devices. This is a problem occurring in the most recent Kindle Touch 5.1.0 firmware. The vulnerability allows commands to be injected into the eReader through the WebKit browser. These commands are then executed at the root level, essentially giving malicious code total control over your Kindle.
Amazon is aware of the problem and working on a patch. Considering the first indications that there might be a problem to fix came up as early as April, according to the MobileRead forums, they are clearly taking their time about it. Various reports indicate that there may be some difficulty getting the patch pushed to Kindle Touch users, but until we know more about Amazon’s response that may be speculation.
There are no indications at this time that anybody has managed to create malicious code directed at Kindle Touch users. While some speculation has revolved around turning Kindles into nodes in massive botnet attacks, that is just potential at this stage. There are, of course, measures you can take to protect yourself.
The most obvious solution to keeping safe until this is fixed would be to avoid the internet. Turning off your wireless connection, whether WiFi or 3G, will save you battery life and put your mind at ease. If you don’t find that appealing, sticking to Amazon’s services and trusted sites will also go a long way toward security.
If that is not enough and something more drastic is desired, there is a way to patch the hole yourself. For complete instructions, head over to MobileRead and learn about jailbreaking your device. Ironically, it seems that the most common jailbreaking method right now also uses the exploit in question. Once you have gained root privileges for your Kindle Touch, however, a tool has been uploaded in this thread that should disable browser-based exploitation from remote sites.
This is probably not a big deal for most users. It has the potential to turn into something major for Amazon. A properly made piece of malware could theoretically turn their Kindle Touch line into an internet attack network. This would be a PR nightmare and cost an unbelievable amount thanks to the free 3G these devices enjoy, but the limitations of the exploit as it is currently understood make it unlikely that any personal information could be stolen or that users could in other ways be easily harmed.
Exercise safe browsing habits and wait for Amazon to issue a firmware update. New Kindle Touch units are already shipping with 5.1.1 firmware and that will likely be making its way to existing customers soon enough. Some reports indicate that this update will patch the security hole, though that is not yet confirmed.
There is one issue with my Kindle that I wish Amazon would make more intuitive. That issue is deleting books directly from my Kindle. I understand that there is a lot of room for books on the device itself, but often, people would like to get rid of books that aren’t really serving any purpose anymore.
On my Kindle 2, I just slid the 5 way toggle button to the side and it gave me a menu option to remove a book or game from the e-reader. I just figured out how to do this randomly when I was maneuvering around on it.
Figuring out how to delete books are little more difficult on the Kindle Touch, but once you know the trick, it is quite easy. If you have an iPad or iPhone you have to press down the app for a few seconds, and an x will pop up and allow you to close or delete the app.
Using this same idea based on the iPhone delete commands, I pressed down on a book on my Kindle’s Home screen for a few seconds and sure enough, a dialog box popped up giving me an option to delete the book.
So why is this worth mentioning? Now that you can check out Kindle Books from the library or Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, there are a lot of books coming and going. When you return a book, the title still shows up in the list, and says “recently returned.”
Frankly, they are annoying, and can really clutter up the device’s library. They also hide the books you actually need or want.
A friend asked me once how to do this, so I thought I’d pass it along in case you were wondering the same thing.
And don’t worry, even if you delete a book from your Kindle, it remains stored in your account on Amazon. You can always re download it on any Kindle or Kindle app supported device at any time.
While I’m mostly a fan of the Kindle Touch, I’ve largely seen little reason to upgrade from the Kindle Keyboard in day to day use. The darker frame is nice, the keyboard works well for any shopping I have to do, and it has generally proven reliable for quite some time now. Since I knew I would be on the road for about a week recently, however, I decided I would give the Kindle Touch a thorough test. You never know what you might learn by trying, right?
One thing that surprised me was that I was generally able to get a better 3G signal through the Kindle Touch than through my Kindle Keyboard. The Keyboard model is definitely far more broken in, so I can’t necessarily count this as a side by side comparison of new devices, but I was able to get more reliable, faster connections at nearly every stage of a 3,500 mile trip with the Kindle Touch.
I expected that the lighter case on the new Kindle Touch would be a pain compared to what I was used to. This was somewhat accurate. While reading in the majority of indoor lighting situations was fine with either eReader, I noticed that it was much easier to use my Kindle Keyboard in bright sunlight. I’m sure this was an optical illusion rather than actual quality differences, but the lighter frame around the screen left the Kindle Touch looking washed out in truly bright light.
Quite frankly, I love the physical page turn buttons. I still get annoyed at Amazon for removing them. That is literally my only complaint about the general reading experience on the Kindle Touch, though. It is quick, light, easier to hold, and generally everything you want in a reading device. The preference for physical buttons aside, I will admit that after a few page turns I stopped noticing that I was having to touch the screen and things moved quite naturally. This could be a matter of my own preconceptions as much as anything.
The place where I really appreciated having a touch screen was in PDF navigation. Things went much more smoothly than I’m used to. The same is true of in-line annotation in Kindle documents. While it is slightly faster to type on the physical keyboard, that advantage is negated by the fact that the Kindle Touch allows for quick placement of your cursor rather than a slow movement via 5-way control pad. The point here has to go to the Kindle Touch on both issues.
You can’t really complain about the battery life on any Kindle product. I used each of my Kindles for about 4 hours per day across a seven day period. They both still had just under half their batteries left when my drive was over. The charger that was packed could have easily been left at home.
My Kindle Touch is going to be seeing a lot more use. The lighter weight and smaller form made it stand out in a lot of ways and the fact that note taking was so much faster than I expected has persuaded me to make this my daily eReader. There are still many reasons to prefer the Kindle Keyboard, the keyboard among them, but it is not as clear a choice as I had expected. I will try to follow up on this in a few weeks to see if extended use is still preferable when both are available.
The Kindle Touch just got an automatic update. A manual update was released about a month ago, but it is usually worth it to just wait for the automatic one. Kindle Touch Update 5.1 includes several important fixes such as better wi-fi, landscape mode, KF8 publishing, and text to speech.
The Kindle Touch recently arrived in Europe. How fitting that this update also includes more language support and instant translations. Amazon is finally getting going with reaching out to the global market.
I have noticed that my Kindle Touch has a crisper display. I was disappointed to see that there were still shadows of the previous page text. Does anyone else with a Kindle Touch see this issue as well? This is one thing that I keep hoping will be resolved with each update.
I like the landscape option a lot, especially since I have to blow up the text size. It allows more room for the text, and also provides another option for holding the e-reader. It also adds more flexibility when holding the device for a long period of time.
To access landscape mode, you have to tap the menu and turn it on. Maybe one day the ability to just turn the Kindle sideways will trigger it.
If your Kindle is using wi-fi, then the update should automatically download. Otherwise, turn on wi-fi, go to menu, then settings. Once in the settings, tap menu again and select “Update Your Kindle.” This option will be greyed out if you already have the latest update.
If the success of the Nook GlowLight is any indication, the next big update to the Kindle Touch will be a built in light. I look forward to being able to read in all lighting conditions without the added hassle of extra accessories.
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.
The Kindle Touch has had its firmware updates in preparation for a multi-national release, it seems. Version 5.1 actually brings us a number of useful features that users have been vocal about desiring for their eReaders. While the removal of the physical keyboard may have opened the door for Kindle availability in languages besides English, this is probably the biggest step we have seen so far in terms of making that a reality.
It is finally possible to switch back and forth between portrait and landscape orientations on the Kindle Touch. While this has long been an option for Kindles, for whatever reason it has taken until now for the Touch to get with the program. Good news since there are situations where you can’t reasonably do without it.
Added Language Support
Kindle users can now choose from English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, or Portuguese according to personal preference.
While reading, you can now highlight a word or selection and have it translated for you on the spot. Translations go through Bing Translator and are obviously going to be imperfect, but this is both fun and useful. Unfortunately, it won’t work very well if you like to read with the WiFi turned off to improve battery life.
Connectivity has been improved and users have more options. Connect with WPS and some WPA2 Enterprise setups.
Read-to-Me With Text-to-Speech
This one is restricted to English for the moment, but the Kindle Touch can now read to you, including some magazine and newspaper articles. Perhaps more robust language support will come later?
This will basically just tell people what you’re reading, should you feel like sharing. It fills in a feature missing in comparison to Nook and Kobo options, but doesn’t excite.
Onscreen Keyboard Suggestions
Let’s face it, onscreen keyboards are annoying. On the Kindle Touch it is even worse because of the refresh rate of E Ink. Now typing is far more manageable. Huge improvement!
Kindle Format 8
This one was pretty much just housekeeping for Amazon. If you’re going to try and build a new standard, the least you can do is make sure that the latest generation of the device it is being designed for can handle it. Might make periodicals more readable, but overall reflowable text is still the biggest advantage of an E Ink Kindle.
The Kindle Touch just plain works better now, really. They added enough that there should be reason for users old and new to be excited here. Landscape mode might have just been crossing an essential fix off the list, but things like keyboard suggestions and translation on demand change the experience for the better. I’m definitely looking forward to the next generation of Kindle now that we have an idea what the innovation it brings to the table will be, but for now I may finally be recommending the Kindle Touch over the Kindle Keyboard for the first time.
By now Kindle users have become familiar with the idea of sponsored screen savers on their eReaders when the devices are on standby. They are generally unobtrusive, don’t get in the way of the reading experience, and can even offer some decent deals from time to time when you get lucky. Not many people argue against them anymore, especially since Amazon now allows users to pay the price difference between a Kindle with ads and a Kindle without ads to have the whole mechanism disabled entirely. Unfortunately, the idle screen’s ads have opened Amazon up to a claim of patent infringement from one of the biggest “Patent Trolls” in operation.
The company making the accusation, Network Presentations Solutions, is a shell company operated by Acacia Research Group. Acacia Research Group, as some might remember from last October, has taken on Amazon before with regard to Kindle devices. Last time it was a variety of issues regarding the Kindle Fire. This time around, they have acquired the rights to a patent for any personal computing device that shows ads on a screen after a certain designated period of idling. Naturally this would include all recent Kindle offerings, in addition to other companies such as Kobo that have followed in Amazon’s footsteps, one would think.
What are they hoping to accomplish with this suit? The requested ruling would require Amazon to pay a substantial penalty, recall and destroy every Kindle device ever sold with the Special Offers screen savers, issue a copy of the court ruling along with an admission of wrongdoing to everybody who has ever owned a Kindle, and generally appear contrite and humbled. More realistically, Acacia is hoping for a substantial payday when Amazon settles to avoid the potentially huge ramifications of losing. Patent Trolls are not held in particularly high regard at the moment, but that doesn’t mean they always lose in court. Amazon isn’t exactly the most beloved company around at the moment either, after all.
While there seems to have been no word as to what, if any, progress has been made on the last Acacia vs Amazon lawsuit, it is a fair assumption that Amazon is not in the habit of quietly accepting this sort of thing. They have placed a great deal of faith in the Kindle line, both eReader and Tablet offerings, and such vaguely applicable patents have questionable standing when held up to scrutiny. Remember that a software patent holder needs to be able to prove that its patent involves a non-obvious solution to a problem. It is hard to say whether or not advertisements in place of screen savers would really qualify in the eyes of the court.
Chances are good that this is not the last time we’ll be seeing Amazon hit with patent litigation. Patent Trolling is huge money and there is a lot of profit to be made in anything somebody can make stick to the Kindle. With the next generation of Kindle Fire just around the corner and the possibility of a Kindle Phone being whispered about in vague rumors about the distant future, Amazon is just going to be even more open to these things. Hopefully the added expense of an occasional settlement or legal dispute won’t be enough to scare them off of ongoing hardware development.
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.
Just wanted to let you know that you should be able to download the latest update: 5.0.3, for the Kindle Touch via Wi-Fi.
Here’s how to do it:
While in your Kindle Touch’s home screen, tap “Menu”, then “Settings.”
Once you are on the Settings page, tap “Menu” again, and go to “Update Your Kindle”.
Your Kindle will take it from there. Just make sure that it remains turned on so that the update can be fully implemented. The whole process only takes a couple of minutes.
Prior to the update, my Kindle was running really slow. I had a difficult time trying to get to the different menu options. There have been reports of page turn lagging slow navigation to the home screen. Now that the update is complete, it does seem to run faster. The real verdict will come once I get the chance to use it for a longer period of time.
Overall, this update is minor but it makes some much needed adjustments that will make your navigation and reading experience better. Generally speaking, it is always good to keep the software up to date for top performance and security.
Suggestions for future updates.
Eliminate the shadowing that appears when transitioning between pages and the home screen.
Provide clearer navigation commands. Sometimes I try to move to the next page in my list of books on the home screen, and it clicks into the book itself.
Lastly, page turns for lefties. That is the one thing I miss about my older generation Kindle. It had page turn buttons on both sides.
Along with the Kindle Fire update, the Kindle Touch also got one as well. It is currently only available for manual download at the moment. If you want to download it see Amazon’s instructions on how to transfer it via USB here.
I don’t really see anything major in this update that is worth racing to the computer to download, so I’d sit tight and wait for it to be available via Wi-Fi. The automatic update does all of the work for you. But, it is a matter of preference, and the option is there if you want to take advantage of it.
I think it is worth pointing out how to check for updates. I learned my lesson first hand when I realized my battery was draining really quickly on my older Kindle. If you need assistance with the process, Amazon’s support is excellent. It is good to do this periodically because it can affect security, battery life, and the content on your e-reader.
So here’s how:
Tap “Menu’. Select “Device Info” If it says “5.0.3″ then you’re good. Most likely it will say “5.0.” That will be greyed out until the automatic update is available. For the manual download, you will need your USB cord.
Amazon is really vague about what is in this update, but one thing I’d like to see if smother page transitioning. My Kindle Touch has frozen before after being incredibly slow. This has only happened once, but there have been other reports of freezes. Touch screen technology is not quite up to speed with physical button transitions from what I can tell. You can’t turn pages as quickly as you can with the buttons.
Another good improvement that goes along with smoother transitions would be to erase the previous page shadowing that seems to linger when I move on to the next page.
Other than those two issues, I have really enjoyed my Kindle Touch. I especially like the grip on the back and sides, and the compact size. It fits much more easily in my purse than my Kindle 2 did.
Stay tuned for the automatic update announcement. As I mentioned earlier in the post, until then the manual download with instructions is fully available on Amazon’s website.
Amazon reported record breaking Kindle sales this holiday season. The Kindle Fire was a major player in making those sales possible.
My sister got a Kindle Fire, so I thought I’d grab it and give my thoughts on it. First off, I was shocked at how small it is. It is not that much bigger than my Kindle Touch. I guess the size came as a shock because I’m used to the iPad.
The Kindle Fire is the best of two worlds. It is compact enough to tote around in your purse, but it yields a bigger screen than a smartphone. So, you don’t have to squint to see what you’re reading. Plus, there’s no data fee each month on top of the fact that the Fire is the same price as most smartphones with a contract.
The display is as crisp and vibrant as described in the product description. I like how some of the most prominent navigation buttons are bold or in a different color to make sure you don’t miss them.
Now, here’s where the Fire could use some improvement, and I have to say that I am biased because I am a staunch advocate for user friendly technology. The Kindle Fire is very appealing to the masses because of its price and features, which is Amazon’s goal. That sentiment can certainly be proved with the rush of new Kindle Fire owners this Christmas. However, there are a few aspects of it that make it counter intuitive.
The app wheel that spins the apps on the home screen is cool, and it allows you to quickly zoom into the app that you want. But, the home screen in general is a bit cluttered with apps and links. It took me awhile to figure out where I needed to go first.
There is only one button that switches the tablet in and out of sleep mode. My first instinct was to find the physical “home” button, but that is actually on the screen in the bottom left corner.
As for the web browser, I like that the text does not require scrolling, and it reads down the page regardless of whether you flip the tablet vertically or horizontally. I am visually impaired, so I have to zoom in on the text that I am reading. I couldn’t find an easy way to do so in the Kindle Fire’s web browser. I also had a little trouble with the tabs.
Accessibility is something that Apple excels at, and integrating it would take a little more effort on Amazon’s part. It would probably also ramp up the price because of the extra time. But to truly appeal to everyone, a device has to include features that make it usable for people who cannot access it the conventional way.
So, to sum it up, there are aspects of the Kindle Fire that are awesome, and there are others that need improvement. It is just like any other new technology that will improve over time. So for now, I am quite pleased with my Kindle Touch, and with my iPad for more heavy duty stuff.
So, new Kindle Fire users, what do you have to say about it?
In order to attempt this Jailbreak (Which neither I nor this site recommend or take any responsibility for as it voids the warranty and may render your Kindle unusable if something goes wrong), head to this site and follow the instructions included in the Zip Archive’s README file. This involves nothing more than connecting your Kindle to a computer, copying a .mp3 file to your music folder, disconnecting from the computer, and running the music player. A button pops up labeled “Press to Jailbreak!” and you’re done.
My trial of this process went smoothly and did pretty much nothing. It is definitely anything but an urgent need or an inherently beneficial act for most people. All you are doing is enabling root access to your device, which means that among other things installing third party software will be possible. Chances are good that even with this it will not be possible to open up general 3G internet access, use of neglected hardware like the internal mic, or removal of advertising, but other than that there shouldn’t be many limits.
If you are interested in the potential that the process opens up, I would recommend both acquiring your Kindle Touch in the near future and making sure not to allow any software updates on the device until it is certain that the changes will be kept around. While Amazon has been incredibly open in their lack of interest in securing the Kindle Fire in any significant way, they have a history of being somewhat more closed with their eReaders. Not the least important reason for this is the heavy investment the company has made in their proprietary format, the evasion of which would likely be the first thing that customers use their new found freedom to achieve.
Let’s say that you know you want to buy a brand new Kindle eReader. It could be for a Christmas gift, a charity donation, or just because you’ve been wanting one. Technically I suppose you could just have a desire to use the new Kindle to wedge under the leg of a desk to stop it from wobbling, but if so then we have different priorities and budgets. Anyway, there are a couple options right now as far as which to buy, so it’s important to know what you want to get out of it.
This part doesn’t matter too much. Basically any modern eReader will be making use of the E INK Pearl display and the Kindle family is no exception. Unlike an LCD, you can read on this type of screen with no eye strain in any sort of lighting that would work with a normal paper book. In an extremely minor way the Kindle Touch might be at a disadvantage here since there is a likelihood of fingerprints, but in practice they are surprisingly minimal and don’t have an effect on anything that quickly wiping the screen down every couple days or weeks won’t fix.
The Kindle Touch is far superior in terms of interacting with your books. If you have any interest in taking notes, highlighting, or just about anything else besides flipping pages while you read, then the touchscreen will be practically necessary. The Kindle 4′s directional control is fine for choosing a book, but using the virtual keyboard is tedious at best and you’ll find yourself avoiding it quickly.
The storage space on the Kindle Touch is effectively twice that of the Kindle 4. While this might seem at a glance to be a big deal, in actuality it won’t come into play much. There are only so many books you can easily navigate at a time anyway which means most people hit their limit well before the Kindle’s storage fills up and start archiving titles that aren’t needed.
The battery life is also doubled on the touch model by comparison. Once again, however, it doesn’t much matter. The cheaper model still gets a month of use in between charges. When you hit the point where your biggest problem is remembering where the charging cable was after such a long time has passed, it stops mattering much which eReader wins.
Hands-down, the Kindle Touch provides the most extras aside from simple reading. It has text-to-speech, audio playback, optional 3G, simple PDF zoom and scroll control, and Amazon’s new X-Ray feature. While none of these is likely to be enough to sell the device on its own, the ability to access audiobooks and PDF documents easily is likely to be important for some people.
Basically, the Kindle Touch has the most to offer you. It does everything that the Kindle 4 can do and more, for just $20 price difference. This isn’t to say that the Kindle 4 has many problems, because if all you want to do is read cover to cover in your favorite books then it’s wonderful, it just isn’t as versatile. We’ve effectively reached the point where all new eReaders will be equally pleasant to use for basic reading, so I’m forced to weigh other factors more heavily. Regardless of that, the Kindle will almost certainly be enjoyed regardless of which one is chosen.
The addition of advertisements to the Kindle line is what has allowed Amazon to drive prices down as low as they have on all eReader hardware in the US. It’s really the only reason that the eReader was finally pushed down to the $99 and beyond. While many people were initially upset about the idea of advertising intruding into their reading experience, something that has in recent decades proven fairly inefficient and therefore been disregarded, the way Amazon tackled the problem has left most people satisfied. No ads in the books themselves is the most important part, of course.
The most surprising thing, in a lot of ways, is how effective the Special Offers have been in providing genuine value for customers. Among other things, Kindle w/ Special Offers owners have had the chance to buy $20 gift cards for $10, $1 Kindle Edition eBooks, and more. Amazon has been their own best customer when it comes to these ads despite having some big name partners join in from time to time, and recently there have even been some great local deals springing up as a result of their attempts to take on Groupon. Naturally this has left some owners of older Kindles, as well as people who avoided the opportunity due to suspicion over the ads, feeling rather left out.
Recently an option was introduced to remove these ads from the Kindle by paying for the difference in initial purchase price. Definitely an appealing option since it effectively allows new buyers who are hesitant to accept the idea of ongoing advertisements buy into the device now and get the rest of the experience they want when it’s affordable. It doesn’t hurt that this makes it that much more appealing for new customers to give Amazon’s Special Offers scheme a chance to prove its worth.
The fun flip side is that they quietly introduced the option to turn Special Offers on for Kindle eReaders that either never had them in the first place or decided to buy out of them at some point. By going into the “Manage Your Kindle” section of the Amazon.com website, most of the work is already done. Find your eReader in the list (which may include no more than one Kindle depending on how invested you are in the line) and, under the “Special Offers” heading, choose the Edit option. Turning the ads on and off takes place almost instantly, requiring nothing more than that you turn your Kindle on and connect it to the internet.
I no longer have a Kindle 2 to test out this process with, but I think it is safe to assume that it would not work. The Kindle 3 (Kindle Keyboard) definitely works, and all newer devices should handle it without any trouble. If you haven’t had a chance before now to check out the options, it might be worth a try. Just today I’ve seen a couple tempting ones flipping my Kindle off and on. I especially recommend if you are in an area covered by the AmazonLocal deals. Amazon is clearly not pushing people into this, nor do they make it hard to change your mind. If there’s value to be found, why waste the opportunity?
I got tricked by Amazon and thought the release date for the Kindle Touch was November 21 so I had mine sent to my parents’ house since I would be there for the holidays. I am just now getting to try out my new Kindle first hand, and very pleased with it so far.
As many know, the Kindle Touch was released a week early along with the Kindle Fire. Both hit the market at rock bottom prices, and well before Black Friday. That gave developers time to create apps and games for the e-reader and tablet. Reviews are good for both overall.
The Kindle Touch‘s screen has a glow like quality to it. At first I thought it might glow in the dark, but it doesn’t. It is just the big upgrade in screen quality and e-ink quality between the Kindle 2 and Kindle Touch. I decided to skip the Kindle 3 generation because when it came out, my Kindle 2 was barely 6 months old.
So far, I’m loving the compact size of the Touch, the crisp screen, and the grip on the back. My Kindle 2 seems incredibly clunky now especially because of the keyboard. The touch screen on the new Kindle works great, and I’m able to turn pages with ease. I’ve already finished one book, and adjusted the font size to where I could read it without straining my eyes.
I noticed a comment in another post about the Kindle Touch on this blog that made a good point. The Easy Reach software makes it easy to tap and move to the next page, but it can be a challenge for lefties. I am left handed, and do see that it is a little more challenging to turn pages. Amazon could probably add a next page tap on the left side like they did with the buttons in the past. That is really the only criticism I have so far.
I can hold the whole Kindle in one hand. It is about 3/4 the size of my Kindle 2. It is amazing how quickly technology can change in just two short years!
I chose the wi-fi only with special offers version, so I am also getting used to not having 3G available on a whim. It isn’t too much of a hindrance because I can access a wi-fi hotspot just about anywhere. Even if I don’t have wi-fi, I can use the USB to connect my Kindle to the computer and download the book files that way.
So, I give the Kindle Touch a thumbs up, and recommend it for anyone looking to upgrade or try a Kindle for the first time. I am a hard core reader, and I can see the e-reader holding it’s own for the foreseeable future. E-readers have the look and feel of a regular book. To me, they don’t fit in the same category as computers, tablets and smartphones. I don’t find myself looking for a break from my Kindle like I do the other gadgets.
While the news of the week is certainly focused on the Kindle Fire media tablet and all of the wider implications for tablet computing that go along with it, this week also brings us the release of the new Amazon Kindle Touch eReader. It does a few things right that other companies haven’t quite caught on to yet, but overall it’s just another iteration of the line. Once you reach a certain point, there is a limit to how much excitement can be mustered over fractions of an inch in dimension reduction, fractions of an ounce in weight reduction, or fractions of a second in page refresh rate. It was all pretty much great in the Kindle 3 (Kindle Keyboard) and the trend continues in the fourth generation here.
What is really important here aside from the touchscreen implementation, which I’ll talk about another time, is the way Amazon has managed to add extra value for users beyond the simple reading experience. That’s not easy when you’re talking about something as basic as a book, and most attempts to do so up until now (i.e. video embedding, hyperlinks, etc.) have been at least somewhat obtrusive during the act of reading.
The new X-Ray feature is, at first glance, an extension of the search function. It will find what you need in an intelligent fashion using Amazon’s own predictive algorithms to determine what the most important parts of a book are. The name is meant to imply that by using the Kindle Touch you can see through to the “bones” of a given book. This information is stored on your eReader, having been downloaded alongside each eBook you picked up, so it remains accessible even if you keep the WiFi turned off consistently. Accessing X-Ray will get you things like a list of proper names in the book, how often those names appear and where, as well as other extrapolated information about the form of the book’s content.
While this isn’t generally going to be a feature of major importance, it will come in handy to many. For students and reading groups the applications are obvious. It serves as a reference point. Even during a casual reading, however, it will come in handy to be able to pull this up on the fly. Forgot where you last saw a character earlier in the book? X-Ray. Not sure if it’s worth looking up a historical figure to understand a reference? Check X-Ray to see if they keep coming up during important passages. That sort of thing might not be a day to day need, but it’s nice to have handy.
In handling things the way they are, Amazon is effectively providing paying customers something that pirates don’t have access to. Even if people figure out a good way to side-load this content, Amazon is presumably improving how the X-Ray feature determines what is important. This means that each time you sign online with your Kindle Touch, the information potentially evolves and improves. It’s a neat system and manages to avoid restrictive content control while giving users an incentive to stay honest.
In case you are in a hurry or are not interested in the in-depth technical stuff you can just read though this brief review to get a high level scoop on recently released Kindle Touch.
Noticeably smaller than Kindle Keyboard (KK/K3) and 0.5oz lighter. Just a notch larger (hardly noticeable) than Kindle 4 Non-Touch (K4NT) and 1.7oz heaver.
Exactly same eInk Pearl screen as in Kindle Keyboard and Kindle Non-Touch (verified with colorimeter). Unlike backlit screens of tablets, eInk reads like a paper, so it is very readable in direct sunlight. On the other hand you will need a light to read from Kindle when it is dark. Some options include leather cases with built in lights and clip-on lights. Touch works based on infrared sensors so nothing is overlayed on top of the screen preserving its contrast.
Only two buttons: Power and “Home”. Everything else is controlled by multi-touch and gestures (including page turns)
No computer required – books and audio books are downloaded directly to the device. However you can still connect Kindle Touch to computer to transfer books via USB cable in case you can’t or don’t want to use 3G or WiFi
Long battery life of up to 2 months on a single charge.
WiFi only or 3G + WiFi connectivity available. However web-browsing of websites other than Wikipedia and Shelfari (Amazon’s free encyclopedia) only works though WiFi
Text-to-speech can read your eBooks and (!!!) PDF documents to you via built-in speakers or headphones.
Whispersync will automatically synchronize reading position between all your Kindle devices and apps so you can seamlessly read one book on many devices.
Audiobooks from audible are downloadable directly from the Web and playable on Kindle. No computer required.
Kindle Touch has a built-in MP3 player that can play music while you are reading books. Actually it can just play – you don’t have to read a book, unless you want to
Built-in dictionary to look up definitions and translations of words in books and documents. You can also look up things in Wikipedia.
Unicode support allows reading books in many languages, including Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean.
X-ray feature allows you navigate characters and high-level concepts in a book
Native support for PDF, MOBI, PRC, TXT and HTML. Other document types can be loaded onto Kindle via Amazon online conversion.
Compared to previous Kindle versions PDF support has been improved.
More than 1,000,000 in-copyright books available for purchase. Wast majority of these for $9.99 or less (including most of New York Times bestsellers). On top of these there are also around 2 million out of copyright books available for free.
First chapters in any book are available to read as free samples.
You can check out books from your local community library. For Amazon Prime subscribers it is also possible to loan books from Amazon library for unlimited time.
Newspapers, magazines and blog subscriptions are automatically wirelessly delivered to Kindle Touch.
4 gigabytes of built-in flash memory can store up to 3,500 books at the same time.
All eBooks that you buy from Amazon can be downloaded as many times as you like to your Kindle, PC, iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7 and other reading apps.
Social features include Twitter and Facebook integration along with the ability to share book highlights and see passages that other people most frequently highlight in a book that you are reading.
WebKit-based browser that can easily open complex web-applications such as GMail.
For pricing of other Kindle devices (keyboard and non-touch) see table in the left sidebar
Now lets take a deeper look at all o the aspects and features of Kindle Touch and how it compares to two other 6″ eInk devices – Kindle Keyboard (KK) and Kindle Non-Touch (KNT). I will refer and compare Kindle Touch (KT) a lot to these devices in the course of this review.
Kindle Touch Ergonomics
It is amazing how quickly we can become spoiled, especially when comparing things. Kindle 3 felt significantly lighter when compared to Kindle 2. Kindle 4 Non-touch felt like a feather compared to Kindle 3. As I hold all 3 current devices (Keyboard, Non-touch and Touch) and compare, I can clearly feel the difference in weight. Kindle Fire that also lays in front of me feels like a brick when compared to eInk devices. Yet the truth is that all 6″ eInk devices (and perhaps even 9.7 Kindle DX) are light enough not to bother you during prolonged reading. It takes reading for more than an hour on something as heavy as original iPad for my hand to go numb. According to Amazon Kindle Touch weights 7.8 with 3G modem and 7.5 without. My electronic scale actually put 3G version at 7.6oz. It seems like Amazon is systematically overstates weight of their devices starting from Kindle 3. To put this into perspective, Kindle Non-Touch weighs 5.9oz, and Kindle Keyboard – 8.5oz. Of course Sony PRS-350 is smaller and lighter still at 5.3oz but at a price of having a smaller screen.
Kindle Touch is just a notch larger (6.8″ x 4.7″ x x 0.40″) than it’s non-touch counterpart (6.5″ x 4.5″ x 0.34″) and smaller than Kindle Keyboard (7.5″ x 4.8″ x 0.34″). Weight and size difference can most likely be attributed to increased battery capacity.
As far as controls are concerned, 3 eInk Kindles have different control paradigms each of which has its pros and cons. Lets look at most typical eReader usage scenarios:
Touch page flipping area or swipe. Either forward or backward page turn can be accomplished one-handed. Excellent experience.
Press page turn button. You can page forward and backward one-handed. Excellent experience.
Same as Kindle Keyboard. Excellent experience.
Finding a book or location within a book by keywords
Couple of taps to open search box and then you can type on on-screen touch keyboard which is rather responsive. Couple more taps to select search context if needed. Two hands required. Good experience.
Just start typing on the physical keyboard. Search context easily selectable with 5-way controller. Two-handed operation. Best experience.
Invoke on-screen keyboard with physical button and “type” by selecting letters with 5-way controller. You can still use just one hand (though using two is more comfortable). Overall it is a slow and tedious process.
Look up word in a dictionary
Touch the word and hold for a short time. Can be one- or two-handed operation depending on where the word is on the page. Excellent experience.
Use 5-way controller to select the word on a page. Can require a lot of clicking. One-handed operation. Overall acceptable experience.
Use 5-way controller to select the word on a page. Can require a lot of clicking. Doing this one-handed is not as comfortable as with Kindle Keyboard because 5-way controller is located in the middle of the device. Overall acceptable experience but slightly less so than with Kindle Keyboard.
Look up word in Wikipedia or Google
There is no way to select a word or a phrase within a book to conduct a search. You need to type it on on-screen touch Keyboard. Less than optimal experience. Definitely two-handed
Select word or phrase with 5-way, then press “Space” on keyboard. Use 5-way to select search context. Acceptable experience. Can be done one-handed. Alternatively you can just type the word on keyboard.
Same as with Kindle Keyboard when it comes to selecting the word in a book, but instead of “Space” you need to press “Keyboard” button twice. Acceptable experience.
Navigate via table of contents
3 taps to get to table of contents, then just tap on the chapter name to go there. Two-handed operation because 3 initial tap points are on top, bottom and center of the screen. Overall good experience
Use menu and 5-way controller to get to ToC and then 5-way controller to select an item. One-handed operation. ToC is easier to get to but harder to navigate with 5-way. Overall good experience.
Same as Kindle Keyboard but a bit more awkward because of central location of 5-way controller.
Highlight a passage / share on social
Tap, wait and drag to select the passage you want to highlight, then tap to confirm. Very convenient. Can be either one or two-handed operation depending where the passage is.
Use 5-way to select start and end of the passage to be highlighted. Acceptable experience
Same as Kindle Keyboard but a bit more awkward because of central location of 5-way controller.
Go to next/prev chapter
Swipe up to go to the next chapter, swipe down to go back to the previous one. Can be done with one hand. Excellent easy experience.
Use left or right on the 5-way controller. Easy one-handed experience.
Same as Kindle Keyboard but a bit more awkward because of central location of 5-way controller.
As you can see, the most frequent operation of flipping a book page is equally comfortable on all devices. In other operations, touch and keyboard perform on par with each other. So it’s really a question of what you will do more often. If English is a second language for you and you will frequent the dictionary than touch will have an advantage. If you annotate with text a lot, then keyboard rules the day. Non-touch device will give you some minor trouble even in such basic operations like finding a book by name (among 100s of other books in your archived items) but it pays back for this inconvenience in reduced size and weight.
As with Sony devices that pioneered eInk + touchscreen combo, there is a noticeable lag between finger manipulations and things happening on the screen. At first it seemed a little annoying to me but very soon I got used to it and stopped noticing it altogether. The convenience of selecting any word on the page by merely pointing at it is worth it.
Kindle Touch Screen
The screen in new Kindle Touch is the same eInk Pearl that Amazon has been using since Kindle 3. It is also currently used by Sony and Barnes & Noble in their PRS and Nook devices. It features resolution of 600 x 800 pixels and can display 16 shades of gray. It has higher contrast compared to older generations of eInk and quicker refresh time.
Kindle 3, 4 and Touch Screen comparison
Although some people on forums claim that screens look different, I tend to disagree. I’ve measured all 3 screens with colorimeter that is normally used for printer calibration and found the measurements to be close enough. Small discrepancies can be attributed to normal screen quality variance, different screen age and wear and minor measurement errors. The difference is so small that it wouldn’t be noticeable to a naked eye. This graph shows measurements of the L component of Lab color for 16 shades of gray, with “0″ being total black and “15″ being “total white”. “L” component is indicative of the brightness and disregards color information. “a” and “b” components were close to zero indicating almost neutral gray color with a slight greenish tint.
Touch interface is implemented by infrared sensors located on the edges of the screen. This way nothing is overlayed on top of eInk avoiding low-contrast disaster that resistive tochscreen film caused in Sony PRS-600. IR touchscreen attributes to a slightly thicker bezel around the screen. I’m guessing that to conserve battery power, IR transmitters light up only few times a second until user touch is detected and then sampling frequency is increased. This can explain why there is a lag that is longer that can be attributed to eInk refresh speed and why very quick taps on the screen can be ignored by the device altogether (though not always).
Although if you rotate your Kindle around you can find an angle at which fingerprints will be clearly visible, they are not during normal reading. So this is not a problem (for me at least)
All-in-all eInk + Touch combo is not perfect but it does provide added convenience over keyboard and even more so over the lack of keyboard in non-touch version.
Kindle Touch Battery
Given my past experience with Kindle 4 dis-assembly (and how it turned out to be irreversible) I’m going to put off taking Kindle Touch apart to see what is inside, including the battery. Based on the device weight and claimed battery life, I’m guessing that it would have the same capacity as in Kindle Keyboard or more to accommodate for infrared touch screen power use. However I suspect that it might be of the same soft-case, glued-in non-replaceable kind as in Kindle 4 Non-Touch. My second Kindle Touch is scheduled to arrive on November 22nd and then we’ll know.
Kindle Touch Fonts
Just as in Kindle 3, Kindle Touch features unicode font support enabling users to read texts in non-latin languages such as Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, etc. No hacks are required. I did some quick tests and confirmed that Russian and Japanese Hiragana definitely work. If the language you need is not supported you can always bypass this limitation by saving the document as PDF that has all of the fonts embedded.
When reading books, Kindle Touch allows you to configure the font. You can select from:
3 typefaces: regular, condensed and sans-serif
8 font sizes that can be configured wither via fonts dialog or just by doing an pinch-zoom
3 settings or line spacing
3 settings of line width (called “words per line”)
Using large fonts can be a great help for readers with impaired vision.
Kindle Touch Software
According to “Device Info” section in “Settings” my Kindle Touch currently runs software version 5.0.0 (1370280073). Kindle Keyboard currently has software version 3.3, and Kindle Non-Touch has 4.0.1. While there is little in terms of visible differences between 3.x and 4.x branches of Kindle firmware, unsurprisingly version 5.x looks like a major overhaul since it had to accommodate a whole new paradigm of touch interface. But changes in the software go beyond just touch. Some existing features were changed and several new ones were added. Here’s a scoop of what I’ve found so far:
Table of Contents (both structural and in-text) now works in PDF
Text-to-speech now works in PDF too.
X-ray book rich information system. Lets you browse characters and high-level concepts found in the book. At the moment this feature is enabled for only a small fraction of Kindle eBooks
Only portrait orientation is currently available for reading book or viewing PDF files. There are claims on message boards that landscape may be enabled via future software update
MP3 player got a face-lift. In Kindle 2 and Kindle 3 you could only use hot-keys to start or pause it and advance to the next track. There was no way to go back. In Kindle Touch MP3 player controls are visible in book menu. You can play/pause, go back and forth between music tracks and control volume all with touch. Unfortunately there is still no artist/album navigation
Audiobook player takes advantage of touch so you can easily jump to any location within the book
Settings page was reworked and made more organized
You can configure Kindle to do a full page refresh after each page turn to eliminate ghosting. By default this happens after every 6 page turns.
Web-browser can access websites other than Wikipedia and Shelfari only when you are connected to WiFi (not via 3G). On the other hand you can access AT&T hotspots in the US for free.
Kindle Touch PDF support
One of the areas that was reworked in Kindle Touch is PDF file support.
Kindle finally added support for internal and external PDF hyperlinks. So things that were clickable in Adobe Acrobat Reader on PC are now clickable on Kindle. PDF documents became much easier to navigate. Another welcome addition was added support for structured table of contents that Adobe Acrobat normally displayed as a “tree-structure” to the left of the document. Kindle displays it as a flat menu. Again it makes documents easier to navigate. In the past one had to rely on search or “go to page…” command.
These commands are still there and work well.
Text-to-speech now works in PDF documents too.
Unfortunately landscape viewing mode is no longer there which makes documents that were designed to A4 or US Letter paper size very hard or impossible to read without zooming. Pan and zoom is controlled by multi-touch as one would expect, but it is not as convenient as switching your 6″ Kindle into landscape mode and paging though the document. With Kindle Touch, once you zoom in, you loose the ability to flip pages (need to zoom all the way out first). Panningg is reasonably fast due to the fact that the viewer updates only half of the pixels on screen and even those in 2-color mode. Once you stop panning a full page refresh follows to eliminate ghosting and display the image in full quality.
Found in UR, Frank Herbert’s Dune (though not “Dune’s Messiah”).
Kindle Touch X-ray
This was one of the highly-advertised features during the Kindle Touch reveal back in September. It lets you browse though characters and concepts in the book and see where they are mentioned. The feature is based on shelfari Amazon community encyclopedia. Currently it is only available in a very limited selection of books. After randomly checking a few dozen of books in my Kindle library I found it working in Stephen King’s “UR” (that was written specifically for Kindle) and Frank Herbert’s “Dune”. What is interesting that it didn’t work in “Dune’s Messiah” which is a sequel. I found it funny that one of the entities in the “Dune” book was “New York Times” due to the fact that it was mentioned in the afterword. While technically this is correct, it is a bit misleading.
Kindle Touch X-Ray
Kindle Touch Apps
Kindle has supported apps for quite a while. With introduction of Kindle Non-Touch and Kindle Touch, application market has split. Since Kindle Keyboard has been around the longest, most if not all Kindle apps work on that device. On the other hand, most currently do not work on Keyboardless devices due to poor user experience or complete inability to control the app without keyboard shortcuts.
So each individual app may or may not run on every type of Kindle device. With time app developers will update their apps to support as broad range of devices as possible buy meanwhile you can enjoy playing Number Slide on Kindle Touch.
Other small Kindle Touch Features
Magazine reading layout was reworked to be more touch friendly and efficient. Font page now features 4 main articles chosen from different section. Either of these can be selected with a single tap.
Surprisingly Kindle Touch doesn’t take advantage of pinch zoom to view images within eBooks. You can maximize images for full-screen viewing but can’t zoom in to a specific part of the image
When content is downloaded you can see completion percentage ticking in real-time. It can be helpful if you are downloading something like 20 hours unabridged version of Tom Clancy’s “Dead or Alive” audiobook.
Although officially Amazon is mum on HTML support, it is present. If you save HTML with file extension TXT into the documents folder, Kindle will open it and basic markup, formatting and hyperlinks will work.
All-in-all, Kindle Touch is another solid eReading device from Amazon. Although previous incarnations of Kindle were already quite good at their main purpose, which is reading books and newspapers. That being said, touchscreen interface still does add some value even if to keep the device usable while making it smaller and lighter. As I was typing this review (more than 3000 words as it turned out), 23 user reviews were already posted on Amazon, more than half of them are 5-star reviews.
With purchase price of $99 (though I’d recommend making a one-time $50 investment to get lifetime free 3G) Kindle Touch provides great value (especially considering the ability to get books for free from library (either your local one or Amazon Prime). If you will find sponsored screensavers annoying, you can always pay $30 that you saved during the initial purchase to amazon to have them removed.
It’s only evening of the 15th here in Woodinville, WA but I’ve already received one of my new Kindle Touch devices and both Kindle Fires. Why would I need two of each? Remembering how Keyboardless Kindle 4 prerished during my last disassembly attempt I decided to stock up in advance. So stay tuned to hands-on review and disassembly photos…
One of the ways that Amazon has managed to bring down the price of their Kindle eReader to a point that nobody else has been able to match is through their Special Offers. This feature saves customers $30 – 40 on their new Kindle by displaying advertisements in place of the otherwise uncustomizable screen saver images that the device carries by default as well as on the bottom of menu screens. In doing so, Amazon makes enough off the ads, in theory, to offset the discount and maybe even get word out about useful offers they could be interested in.
One of the most notable initial offers was that of a $20 Amazon.com gift card for only $10. This was only available to active Kindle w/ Special Offers owners and got a fair amount of press at the time as a smart move on Amazon’s part. Other ads have included Buick, Olay, Visa, ABC, and more. There was, and for some still is, some question as to how effective this advertising method would prove to be in the end, but responses are coming in from Advertisers that put that to rest for the time being.
For example, while Buick was mainly concerned with building a connection in customers minds between their brand and what they viewed as an innovative new product (the Kindle), they have been reported as noting that their customer engagement matched what they’ve come to expect from other, more established media. ABC’s promotion also went well, with over 24,000 people taking advantage of their free script offer in support of new show “Revenge”.
In the past month, however, people in supported areas might note having seen a focus on the new Amazon Local service. This is meant, by all appearances, as Amazon’s own competition for the popular Groupon site. Nationwide offers in such areas have been somewhat scarce as a result. This has led some to jump to the conclusion that Amazon has been having trouble finding people interested in advertising via Kindle. One Amazon advertising VP, however, was able to come right out and say that there has yet to be a drop in the number of interested advertisers.
In spite of the fact that this appears to be a fairly narrow media venue to exploit, the Kindle has brought reading back to the front of peoples’ minds in a way that many wouldn’t have believed possible five years ago. Millions have been sold and, while Amazon does not and is unlikely to ever, release sales numbers for the Kindle, it is safe to say that several of those millions had the Special Offers included. These devices are cheap, allow for an unhindered reading experience wherein ads will never appear to disturb you, and can even come in handy when bringing deals to your attention. Personally, I was just glad to stop seeing the same dead author portraits over and over again. It seems clear that while there is expansion to be done and experience to be gained, this was a smart move on Amazon’s part.
Continuing a trend of building their international presence, both in eBooks and beyond, Amazon appears to be making arrangements to bring their Kindle line to Japan as early as then end of this year. While the company has been operating their Amazon.jp site for some time now, there have been complications in offering customers the Kindle until this point. Hopefully that is soon to be a thing of the past.
Japanese publishers have shown themselves to be very hesitant to allow Amazon to acquire content, citing concerns about the online retail giant’s increasing level of control and influence in anglophile markets. This, in addition to Amazon’s habitual price cuts led to them to question whether there was money to be made in Kindle Store content.
After Sony’s recent successful entry with the Reader PRS-650 at the beginning of this year, though, there has been reason to hope these companies are coming around. If nothing else, there is definite pressure from consumers who are quickly growing increasingly familiar with the potential of eBooks and eReaders and want to be able to take advantage of them.The solution to the publisher impasse seems to have taken the form of building a predefined framework for the timing and rate of discounts. Publishers will, according to reports, be consulted before any such discounts were put in place.
Should Amazon manage to carve out a place for the Kindle in the Japanese eBook market, it could be a huge move. Right now this space has been comparatively underexploited for a variety of reasons. To make it work, however, they’ll need to do more than just set up a Kindle Store.
The first step will be getting the entire newest generation of Kindle eReaders out there. The Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch, due to their virtual keyboards, both provide the ability to display Japanese characters in every part of the eReader’s function. Just one advantage of doing away with the physical keyboard, I suppose. Without the Kindle Touch, however, competing with even the Sony PRS-T1 would be difficult no matter the price of the Kindle 4. Right now Amazon.uk is offering the Kindle 4 and the Kindle Keyboard without the touchscreen model, but that won’t do much good in an area where the English keyboard is less useful. These need to be available not just online but in retailers as well. Exposure will be vital, and partnerships will need to be formed.
While the Kindle Fire is currently only available for pre-order in the US, it would make a great deal of sense for Amazon to push Japan as the first other market to get access to it. Unfortunately, given that this would require a lot of effort to grab distribution rights in a wide variety of media forms it seems like a long shot. An effort by Amazon to acquire these rights and expand its influence seems to be inevitable, but it won’t come quickly or easily and a half-hearted attempt would do more harm than good.
With the Kindle Fire opening up whole new avenues of entertainment in the product line and the Kindle Touch providing the affordable touchscreen eReader that people have been asking for for years now, there is a sense that both the Kindle Keyboard (Kindle 3) and just plain “Kindle” (Kindle 4) are superfluous. Sure the low price on the basic Kindle is great, for example, but for only a $20 difference over the touchscreen model you are asserting that you will never need an audiobook and don’t have much interest in note taking. Sometimes it is nice to retain those capabilities just in case, even if you have no interest in them from day to day. This absolutely does not mean that there is no situation where that is the smart move to make, it just means that being aware of your needs is important.
I think that the obvious contrast will be between the Kindle Fire and the Kindle products with mechanical interfaces. While I will maintain that there is a definite difference between the new tablet and the eReader line it is billed as a part of, Amazon’s association of the two types of hardware under the same brand name makes the comparison important. It’s true that much of the argument also goes for the Kindle Touch, right now we can look at the Kindle and Kindle Keyboard hands-on. That makes things a bit simpler.
Naturally I could go on again about the superior reading experience to be found in an E INK Pearl screen over pretty much any LCD we’re ever likely to see. Fortunately, I think most people have come to accept that already. The battery life issue is also a big one, but not worth dwelling on. It is not likely that people would fail to see the benefits of only having to charge a portable device every few weeks. What I will contend is that there is an advantage to be found in the simplified experience of the Kindle and Kindle Keyboard over that we can expect from the Kindle Fire.
Since the Kindle is traditionally associated with reading and I’m talking about the virtues of the less expensive members of the Kindle family, it’s only natural that a great deal of weight is to be placed on the act of reading. For example, I consider it a great advantage to be able to read without the distractions offered by a multi-functional device. I won’t deny this owes to my own easily distracted nature, but that’s hardly an uncommon trait. Reading a book should not generally be an act of willpower overcoming the urge to do something else. That detracts somehow. With a Kindle or Kindle Keyboard, not only can you do little besides read, most of what else you are able to do revolves around acquiring more things to read. It is a cohesive experience.
The fact that both of the Kindles in question make use of mechanical controls rather than a touch interface can also be an advantage. Aside from any risk of fingerprints being left, many people will prefer to be able to navigate their eBooks via the page turn buttons on the sides of the device. When using a Kindle Keyboard, for example, you can adjust your grip to allow for page turning with nothing more than a light squeeze of the thumb. Even assuming this is possible on a touchscreen, it would involve covering part of the display. You may only save a small motion, but when Amazon is looking to save on even the effort of a swiping gesture in their touch interface there is obviously a preference for conserved effort in the user base.
The Kindle Keyboard in particular also offers the distinct advantage of being able to interact with your device without tying up screen real estate. Normally this is not a big deal, I will be the first to admit. When it comes to making in-text notations, however, it is useful to be able to see as much as possible while forming your thoughts. I do think that the Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire will offer a greater speed to the notation process since selecting text is a bit clunky with the more basic directional control, but it is useful to be aware of the tradeoff. Losing the keyboard was worthwhile in terms of reducing size and weight, but for some people the keyboard is still a useful part of the Kindle experience.
This is not a claim for the overarching superiority of the older Kindle Keyboard or even the equality of the Kindle 4 (there is a reason that it is priced lower than all the other Kindles). What I am claiming is that they each fill niches separate from the Kindle Fire and, to a lesser degree, the Kindle Touch. Yes the newer, more powerful device can do basically all the same things that the eReaders are able to do as well as many other things that people will find useful, but that does not mean that it is a direct upgrade. For an affordable tablet, the Kindle Fire is great. For an eReader I would recommend any other Kindle without hesitation. There is no more reason to disregard the Kindle or the Kindle Keyboard than there is to ignore the situational usefulness of the Kindle DX, which is an issue I have also gotten into recently. Know your options and your needs when you decide it is time for a new Kindle.
Early on in the Kindle’s life, there was a lot of insistance than it couldn’t possibly succeed as a product when there was something as great as the iPad available. As we know, these predictions of doom didn’t exactly pan out. Dedicated eReader products were able to carve out their own market by bringing along capabilities that made them exceptional at what they did, even if that one task was somewhat narrow compared to potential competing types of products.
With the recent announcement of greater variety in the Kindle line, however, there is likely to be at least a small amount of confusion among prospective buyers. After all, Amazon has made a great eReader line and many will want to force the Kindle Fire into that niche despite its better fit elsewhere. While it makes sense for Amazon to want to capitalize on the popularity of the Kindle line by including the new tablet in it, it remains important for people to realize the things that the Kindle Touch will do better as a reading device. In order to help simplify things, let’s look at some ideal uses are for each specific device.
Reading in Sunlight
Textual Analysis (X-Ray)
Magazines & Comic Books
Color Document Access
As you might expect, the actual eReader is a bit more focused on the book experience while the Kindle Fire is able to handle many tasks. At first glance, this implies that the tablet is the more valuable tool. For many people this may well be the case. Just as the iPad does more than the Kindle in terms of sheer feature quantity, the Fire will always come out on top in that way. This should not be mistaken for an indication that the Kindle Touch is never the superior device, though.
No matter what advancements become possible with LCD technology, it is unlikely that these displays will be able to match the ease of use provided by the E INK Pearl. While some will claim that they have no trouble with reading on a backlit screen, the vast majority have expressed a definite preference for something like the Kindle Touch during the long periods of reading likely to be taking place over the course of a novel. These displays are also handle sunlight quite a bit better if that happens to be your preference while reading.
In addition to the screens, when you’re reading a book it is nice to be able to put it down and pick it up again a day or two later without worrying about charging. The fact that Kindle eReaders last weeks to months between charges makes them feel more like read books. The weight is also less than half that of the Kindle Fire, which while not necessarily a major issue at first will be noticeable over long periods of on-handed reading.
Perhaps the biggest selling point for the active reader will be the X-Ray feature. Amazon promises that this will be a great aid for picking out important passages, accessing related material, and generally supplementing your reading experience. While it is not something that we have been able to preview at this time, a system that works as well as Amazon claims X-Ray will would be an invaluable tool for many reasons.
If reading isn’t your main concern, of course, then the Kindle Fire still makes a lot of sense. The 8 hour battery life is at the high end for similar products, the app store is one of the best, and the whole end to end experience is geared to make viewing, listening, browsing, and reading as comfortable as possible. At $199, this is a game changing device that packs far more power and functionality than you would expect into a compact package.
To go along with the launch, Amazon has beefed up their Instant Video collection with tens of thousands of new titles including many available for free to Amazon Prime subscribers. They have put a lot of work into making sure that streaming video runs smoothly on the new tablet, so it is safe to say the experience there will be as pleasant as possible on a 7″ screen.
I would not recommend the Kindle Fire for readers, due to screen type and battery life especially, but other than that it will be a valuable resource to just about anybody. It’s portable, light, fairly powerful, and capable of opening just about any form of media you can think of. While nobody is really expecting that the iPad is in any trouble from this corner at the moment, it’s hard to argue with something that does a comparable job at less than half the price with what may be an even better source of content to draw on.
Some of the longest running customer demands for the Kindle line have been a touchscreen, a color display, and a price under $100. The Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire each manage a different combination of two out of those three. The big question now is what this means for Kindle owners. Is the addition of these features worth the cost of purchasing a new eReader, even as cheap as they’ve become? For that matter, should people just now coming to the eReader experience jump on the newer Kindle Touch or the Kindle Keyboard being sold for the same price?
In order to facilitate a more informed decision, let’s take a look at what differentiates the two devices:
The Kindle Touch is the newer device. As might be expected in the portable electronics field, it is smaller, lighter, and faster (if videos posted to highlight the device’s anticipated user experience can be trusted). Removing the physical keyboard seems to have saved about an ounce, which while equaling a weight reduction of over 10% still means little enough to not factor into any decisions. At that point any case you get will probably render the point meaningless anyway. It is also slightly smaller than the Kindle Keyboard, for obvious reasons. You save almost an inch on the vertical and all other measurements are comparable. For a direct comparison, check out the device overlay here:
The real differences that come in stem from software improvements. As you might notice in the table above, though the two Kindles share the same storage space measurement they have different listed book capacities. This is because there are a couple things going on in the Kindle Touch software that the Kindle Keyboard does not have access to, which decreases the available area of the device’s storage a bit.
The less significant, though still quite useful given the interface, is the EasyReach system. This partitions off the touchscreen so that the majority of the screen can be tapped for paging forward while the leftmost edge of the screen will work as a backward page turning button. This eliminates the need for finger swiping. Swiping was certainly a fine idea and emulates the page turning experience found in a paper book to a certain extent, but it gets old after a few hundred pages as anybody who wore out their original Nook can likely attest to.
More importantly, the Kindle Touch will be coming with something called X-Ray. The X-Ray feature is basically intended to be an intelligent extension of the search function, based on Amazon’s description. Not only will it find instances of word use, though, it will supposedly find all instances of a character, idea, place, or topic throughout as well as linking to relevant articles on either Wikipedia or Amazon’s own Shelfari service. How successful this feature is remains to be seen, but Amazon clearly places a lot of confidence in it and emphasizes their own expertise in machine learning and data processing in explaining how they can make such a bold claim. The product page literally says that “The vision is to have every important phrase in every book.” An intriguing, if highly ambitious claim.
The benefits of a Kindle Keyboard are a bit more modest. Aside from it being a proven device with very few shortcomings attached to it at this point, you also get physical buttons, more application/game options, and a slightly different experience in 3G usage.
The keyboard isn’t the most wonderful thing in the world, but it does the job. This will be a benefit for anybody who prefers feedback on their button pressing. It also means that more of the games and other applications currently available will work for you. For the most part developers have been able to assume the presence of these controls up until this point and it is unlikely that many will be able to adapt to a touchscreen display. This is not to say that there won’t be plenty of games and such that exclusively use the touchscreen in the future, but for now Kindle Keyboard owners have a clear advantage when it comes to non-reading eReader usage.
The 3G coverage that I mentioned is also noticeably more useful than that on the Kindle Touch. Unlike the newer device, the Kindle Keyboard remains able to access the entirety of the internet through this connection (albeit in a sub-par browser), while the new Kindle will be restricted to the Kindle Store and Wikipedia. Anything more is going to require access to a WiFi network, in which situations you will generally be able to access a more internet friendly device anyway. Of course, I am personally taking this as a sign that the Kindle Keyboard is either going to be phased out in the near future or blocked off in a fashion similar to the Kindle Touch, but it is safe to say that current owners and near-future adopters will not be affected.
When it comes right down to it, there isn’t enough difference between these two to really justify an upgrade. If you own a Kindle Keyboard already and have no particular attachments to touchscreens or potentially super-smart text searches, you shouldn’t feel too bad about waiting a while before getting another eReader. If you’re new to the whole eReader scene, I would probably recommend the $99 Kindle Touch. It is the newest and most likely to be supported in the long term, especially in terms of firmware updates. In addition, you get the touchscreen interface which is certain to be a bit more versatile for most users when compared to the directional control on other Kindles. Completely worth it considering both devices are the same price anyway.
Ok, I’ll come right out and admit that I’m a big fan of the Kindle DX. I know it is a bit expensive compared to the other Kindles, especially after the price drops that we have just experienced, but it does a specific task very well and shouldn’t be overlooked entirely by prospective purchasers. Unfortunately, Amazon seems to have virtually abandoned the only good large form eReader on the market at the moment, at least as far as their advertising is concerned.
Since I do feel rather strongly that there are uses for this Kindle yet, and that many people would find it worth the money, let’s take a look at the factors that weigh your choices when looking into a new purchase. Here are some of the more important specs that differentiate the Kindle DX against its newer siblings:
This new Kindle is the least expensive and most portable ever to hit the shelves. It weighs less than most paperback books, for example, and will technically fit in your pocket. Please note that for the safety of your Kindle it is not recommended that you carry your Kindle around in a pocket. The battery life, while not quite as impressive as the more expensive Kindle Touch, is still an impressive month of reading. You can even change the language of the Kindle interface now, should you have a non-English preference.
The Kindle 4′s inability to be purchased with 3G connectivity makes it a potentially poor choice for people without access to a reliable wireless network. Storage is also substantially reduced, which might be an issue for people with large libraries. This may not matter to many, however, because this Kindle also lacks the ability to play audiobooks, or indeed any form of audio. If you like to listen to music while you read or have plans to make use of the Kindle line’s popular Text to Speech feature, this is not the right device.
The first ever Kindle with a touchscreen, the Kindle Touch eliminates the uncomfortable keyboard that many people have often complained was simply wasted space on their eReader. This manages to reduce the weight, allows for an easily usable localized interface, and generally speeds up navigation. This particular Kindle also has access to the X-Ray feature, which will allow readers to highlight connected passages throughout a given book, find term repetitions, locate external references, and pull up detailed articles via Wikipedia. So far, no other member of the product line has access to that. You will also get the device with the highest battery life in this comparison as well as the opportunity to choose 3G coverage in addition to the included WiFi capabilities. Unlike the Kindle 4, this eReader has audio capabilities and will be able to both play audio files or audiobooks and read texts aloud for you using the Text to Speech feature.
While Amazon has made the Kindle Touch’s interface quite simple to use while reading, it is still completely lacking in physical page turn buttons. This will make a small difference in how you hold the device and how often the screen needs to be cleaned. It is also slightly more expensive than the Kindle 4, though still coming in just under the $100 mark if you make use of the cheapest options. Aside from that, the only real downside is the highly restricted nature of the optional 3G coverage. Unlike previous Kindles, this one will only allow users to browse the Kindle Store and Wikipedia via 3G. Everything else is blocked off, rendering that option far less appealing.
The clearest advantage here is going to be screen size. Having a 9.7″ screen to work with will come in very handy for just about any book. This is especially important for people who prefer or require larger print sizes, or for the display of standard size PDF files that might be difficult to view on smaller devices. The Kindle DX has slightly more available storage space than either of the other options, which is also useful for PDF viewing as those files tend to be far larger than Amazon’s proprietary format. Also, this is the only device listed here that allows unrestricted 3G connectivity. Of all products in the Kindle line, the DX is probably the best suited for internet browsing.
The biggest downside here is weight. The Kindle DX is clearly far too heavy for comfortable long-term reading if you prefer to hold your book in one hand. It is better compared to a hardcover book, which has a bit more heft. Perhaps owing to the assumption that people would not want to be reading with just one hand anyway, there are no left-side navigation controls. This can make the device hard to use, especially for lefties. The firmware for the DX is also lagging a bit behind and shows no signs of pending improvements, so what you have now is probably all you’re going to get. Finally, obviously, is the price. At nearly four times the cost of the Kindle Touch, the DX will only be worthwhile if its larger screen provides you with something you find truly valuable.
Kindle 4: Perfect as a paperback replacement for the regular reader. The stripped down model provides a cheap enjoyable reading experience.
Kindle Touch: Great for active readers. By far the best option if you like to highlight, annotate, and examine your reading material closely.
Kindle DX: The larger screen makes this desirable for people preferring large print, anybody carrying around loads of PDF files, students, and those with a strong preference for the hardcover feel of a book.