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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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September 2016
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Kindle for Android, Reading Apps & Good E-Reader

Earlier this month the Kindle for Android app got a bit of an update.  While nothing huge, it did finally bring the Real Page Numbers to Android users.  In addition to this, they managed to pare down the size of the download required to use the Kindle platform from 10+mb to a more manageable 8mb.  This might seem rather minor, but considering the lack of space on many Android devices as well as the fact that some users have reported sizes of up to 25mb (can’t reproduce that, but the claim has circulated), this is a definite improvement.

Much as I like the Kindle app however, and I do, there are some things that I would like to be able to do that it does not provide.  Real Page Numbers are nice, but situational at best given that they still only exist in a fraction of the available Kindle Editions.  Now, I have posted here before about the ability to download and install the Nook app through non-Amazon sources and this works quite well.  Sadly I believe that the specific method I mentioned several months ago has been blocked off, though.  This difficulty became a non-issue thanks to Good E-Reader being kind enough to open up their own free app store.

While you can find a fair selection of general purpose apps present that they felt were worth keeping around for people, the folks over at Good E-Reader are concentrating mostly on reading.  This covers books, magazines, comics, and all such things along those lines.  There are only free apps, but this allows the site to operate without adding in any of the inconvenient restrictions that currently plague locked-in Android device owners wishing to pick up something useful. It is definitely worth checking out.

In terms of reading on your Kindle Fire, for example, some people find it more convenient to have access to the Nook app’s extra level of brightness control than to be able to simply invert the contrast of the page.  Others will appreciate the level of social media integration offered by the Kobo app.  In either case, at least you will be able to open EPUB formatted eBooks, which the Kindle Fire lacks any form of native support for at the moment.  You won’t have luck with everything (Google Books, for example is still not working in my experience) but for the most part they’re doing a good job of making the latest popular selections available without all the hassle.

Overall Amazon has done a good job of giving customers what they want, both in terms of the software they provide and the hardware they sell.  I can understand the urge to retain control over what gets installed on Kindle Fire devices, especially since if anything goes wrong it is likely to be Amazon’s Customer Service that gets the call.  They have left the door pretty wide open to install most things, though, provided you know how to find them.  In some cases, it’s more than worth the effort it takes to get the most out of your experience.  Kindle Fire software updates do not remove any apps when they occur, so it shouldn’t be an ongoing hassle.

Kindle Content Reviews: Reading, Writing, and Understanding Their Impact

There is always going to be a certain amount of skepticism that has to be exercised toward online reviews of any sort.  Those who are least satisfied will also always be the most motivated to post something, and there isn’t necessarily any way to confirm whether the problem being experienced was in any way the related to the product experience that another customer might get.  With something like the Kindle Direct Publishing platform, or the Amazon Appstore for Android now that the Kindle Fire is around, this can be especially problematic for a provider.

These authors and developers often have no other major avenue through which to sell the product of their labor, which means that a misinformed negative review can have a major impact.  However much we might wish it weren’t so, the first thing many people look at when considering a new book, app, toy, etc., is the overall review.  Particularly the number of truly negative ones.  Now, Amazon has done some good by adding in a product review rating system that allows users to tag particularly helpful or unhelpful contributions, but that only matters if you actually go so far as to read them.

If you are considering a purchase, especially with regard to digital content from the Appstore, it might be particularly helpful to read carefully.  Right now, as the attempt to cater to an impressively diverse selection of Android devices can be problematic, many apps are overrun by 1-Star reviews for being incompatible with specific phones or tablets.  It is not unknown for this to be the case even when owners of these devices could clearly see that their device was not listed as compatible.  Don’t let this sort of behavior dissuade you from picking up an otherwise excellent piece of software.

If you are writing the review of an eBook or App, there are a couple things to keep in mind:

First, unlike what you might expect, anything 3-Star and below is considered a negative review.  If you rate a product below 4-Stars, you are essentially telling Amazon that this is not a product that you would recommend to anybody.  If the average product rating drops to 3-Star, that is exactly how the site will treat it and potential customers will rarely, if ever, be directed to it based on their interests.  This can have a devastating effect on the income of the creator.

Second, it is bad form to judge a product based on what you wish it did rather than how well it does what it claimed.  If a book presents itself as a romance but is actually about corporate espionage, then there’s plenty of room for complaint.  If you felt that the calendar app you downloaded would have been better if it had the ability to import the Smurfs theme as an event reminder, that would generally be considered outside the realm of what you are meant to review unless sound file importing was specifically advertised.  5-Stars means that the purchase is a good example of exactly what it claimed to be.  4-Stars means that it generally met expectations, but probably could have been more successful.  Anything 3-Star and below means something was significantly wrong with it.

Please try not to penalize authors or developers who choose to make content for the Kindle and Kindle Fire due to things out of their control.  If Amazon takes longer than you would like to deliver your files, it isn’t their fault.  If you had hoped that despite being advertised for Honeycomb an App would work on your Android 2.1 device, the failure is not the developer’s fault.  Negative reviews on individual products that Amazon.com provides will generally not have any effect on the company as a whole, and often it is likely that they never see these complaints at all unless representatives are specifically directed to them.  Keep in mind who might be affected by your criticisms.

Getting To Know The Kindle Fire’s Parental Controls

I was browsing through some random reviews, recommendations, and complaints about the Kindle Fire a bit earlier, trying to get a feel for the reactions as people get used to them, when I came across the truly unbelievable claim that the Kindle Fire‘s major flaw as a family device was its lack of parental controls.  Now, there are a few reasons to get something besides the Kindle Fire for use with kids, such as some games not yet being available through the Amazon App Store or wanting to avoid the guilt of competing with your own children over the use of a favorite toy, but Parental Controls just don’t make the list.  In an effort to help people better understand their device, let’s go over how this works.

How to Turn On Parental Controls

  • Open the App tab on your Kindle Fire
  • Load the integrated Appstore
  • From the menu bar on the bottom of the screen, select “Settings”
  • Edit settings under both “Parental Controls” and “In-App Purchasing” as desired

What Parental Controls Do

By enabling Parental Controls on your Kindle Fire, you can prevent unauthorized purchasing.  This works in two ways.  Simply switching the setting to “On” will require entry of your Amazon account password before any purchase of anything in an App.  There is a second setting in the same menu tree that blocks in-app purchases entirely.  You also get the option to set a four digit PIN that can be used in lieu of your password, which can be convenient and is always going to be faster than entering a really secure password.

What Parental Controls Can’t Do

The most important things that the basic settings will fail to do are prevent purchasing and prevent app access.  The former is simple enough.  You can disable Mobile 1-Click Purchasing from the “Your Apps & Devices” settings on Amazon.com.

  • Under the main drop-down menu, select Appstore for Android>Your Apps and Devices
  • From there, select 1-Click Settings
  • Your primary payment method will be displayed.  Click “Edit” to the right of it
  • You will then see a button saying “Turn off 1-Click” under the heading “Mobile 1-Click: Kindle Fire”

Simple enough, you just can’t do it easily from directly inside the Kindle Fire‘s menu system.

As far as the app access goes, to the best of my knowledge there is no work-around.  If you have an app that doesn’t require a password, anybody can use it.

Why Bother With Parental Controls?

There was a great deal of controversy over some of the iPad’s apps earlier this year when their micro-transaction model, coupled with an emphasis on entertaining small children, resulted in ridiculously large charges being run up without parental consent.  There are always going to be games on the Appstore, of course, and it would be silly for us to expect them to avoid something as profitable and tempting as micro-transactions, so it’s probably best to be prepared.  Amazon admittedly seems to be doing great at keeping on top of all of their potential customer service disasters so far, but something is going to slip through eventually.  Don’t be the one to find out too late that you owe $10,000 over digital Smurf accessories after leaving a child alone with your Kindle Fire.