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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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August 2014
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New Kindle Lineup to Debut September 6?

Amazon has a big media even scheduled for September 6th.  Speculation points to the debut of this year’s Kindle refresh.  The new lineup could include a larger Kindle Fire, and updated version of the current model, and backlit e-ink Kindles.

The Kindle Fire has some serious competition now from Google’s Nexus 7,  the rumored iPad Mini, and the Nook Color and Nook Tablet.  One of the keys to the Kindle Fire’s success last year was price, and the competitors have recognized that.  So, what will be this year’s big idea that will cause the Fire to leapfrog over its competitors?

A larger Kindle Fire can undercut the iPad in price, and Amazon has the means to make a good quality tablet.  We’ve seen a lot of attempts to dethrone the iPad, but no one has really come close, yet.

Amazon has a robust collection of books, apps and videos, plus the Prime perks, Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, Prime Instant Video, and a free app a day from the appstore.  Good covers could be key: one with a keyboard built in, or one that can help boost battery life.

Moving on to the e-ink Kindles.  The biggest upgrade this year will be the backlight.  This is pretty much a given because of the release of the backlit Nook earlier this year.  I am really excited about this development because I will be able to read comfortably in all lighting conditions.  No need to worry about carrying around external light attachments.  Preserving the long lasting battery life will pose a challenge, however.

The Kindle Touch is currently available to purchase from Amazon directly.  So, that is a clue that something new is coming.  The Kindle Touch should see an update in touch interface quality.  By that I mean smoother navigation and page turns without previous page remnants.

So, the lineup should look like this:

Kindle Fire: 7 inch and 10 inch models, which older version at reduced price

E-ink Kindles: Lighted version of the Kindle Touch and basic model.

Older models: Selling at a reduced price until inventory runs out.

There will most likely be 3G and wi-fi only options, as well as models with or without special offers. This lineup should appeal to the broadest audience possible, remain competitive across the board price wise, and stay on top of the competition in terms of features and accessories.

Stay tuned.  It will be a wild couple of weeks.

 

 

Kindle Fire Release Rumors, and What is More Likely to Happen

There is a major rumor going around that six different Kindle Fire models will be released next week.  The six models may include different screen sizes, resolutions, and who knows what else. These rumors are coming from reputable sources, but no one will truly know what is going to happen until the tablet is actually released.

If that does happen, it will most likely be a 7″ updated Kindle Fire, and a 10″ tablet to compete with the iPad.  These two will possibly have 3G and wi-fi options.  The current model only has wi-fi.  Then a refurbished first generation Kindle Fire will be available at a discounted price until supplies run out.

So the focus will more likely be just two different kinds of tablets that have different connectivity offerings.  That is similar to the set up Amazon currently has with their e-ink Kindle models.

Both 7″ and 10″ models have some heavy competition from the Nexus 7, and of course, the iPad.  Amazon’s advantage will be the books and apps because there are so many of them.  I’m sure they’ll also come out ahead with the price.  In addition to these features, the Kindle Fire will need to include a camera and an updated display to remain competitive.  It makes my head spin to think about the cutthroat competition going on out in the tablet market.

One thing I’d like to see for the 10″ Kindle Fire, if released, is a keyboard. The biggest frustration I’ve had with my iPad is the inability to do more heavy duty computing.  A lot of this comes from the lack of a fully integrated keyboard.  An example of one is the soon to be released Microsoft Surface tablet.  It comes with a smart cover that houses the keyboard.  If Amazon can pull this off plus debut at a price to beat, they can pull some potential iPad consumers towards the Kindle Fire.

So, we’ll see what happens.  This holiday season’s going to be jam packed with tablet options.  That’s for sure.

 

Kindle Touch Hidden Gem

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.

 

 

The Tablet Divide

When I got my iPad, I also got an external keyboard.  It worked okay, but since it wasn’t directly integrated with the tablet, it did have some lag time.  My biggest hope is for the tablet to merge with the laptop.

I was unsure of how long it would take for this to happen until the release of the Microsoft Surface tablet.  It has a keyboard built into its cover.  This is the catalyst that will nudge tablets towards a hybrid laptop/tablet deal.  I’m really excited about this new development because it eliminates the need for both a computer and tablet, adds portability, and increases accessibility.

Now, to my point.  Rumors are indicating that Amazon is set to release a 10.1 inch Kindle Fire.  How much of this is just wishful thinking, it is hard to tell.  I have no doubt that the online retail giant can create a competitive larger tablet, but will they lose their original focus?

The competition gap and functionality of large and small tablets is widening.  Larger tablets more computer like in terms of power, whereas smaller tablets such as the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are more for gaming, reading, and internet browsing.

I would love to see Amazon create a Kindle Fire that would provide both an optimal reading experience and serve as a multi purpose device.  There really aren’t that many major adjustments for e-ink Kindles left, at least not any that we know of at this point.  We’ll get a glowlight version this year, and maybe color next year.

Maybe a few years from now, the technology will be there to do a hybrid e-reader and tablet.  But, considering how quickly technology changes, there may be something completely different hitting the big market by then.

So, basically, I think Amazon definitely has the resources to build a larger tablet that will sell well.  But, I would like to see them hang on to their core mission: a better reading experience. Better to excel at one or a couple of products than to make a slew of mediocre ones.

 

10.1 Inch Kindle Fire, is it a good idea?

I have watched so many people who otherwise wouldn’t consider a tablet purchase a Kindle Fire this year because of the great price and good company brand.  In addition to the $199 regular price, you can find deals for refurbished Fires for $139.  The Kindle has certainly come a long way in 5 years.

The Kindle Fire took the tablet out of the niche market and into the hands of your average consumers.

The 7″ Kindle Fire is a good compromise for those who want the advantages of a smartphone and tablet in one device.  You don’t have to worry about a data plan, and the app store boasts a robust collection of Android based apps for the tablet.  It is portable and less than half the price of the low end model iPad.

With all of that said, I question the need for a larger Kindle Fire at least for the time being.  I don’t doubt that Amazon has the means to produce a good quality, competitively priced one.  There is a rumor going around that a 10.1 inch Kindle Fire will be released later this year, and plans for a smaller, second generation one will be put on hold.  That is the part I’m skeptical about.  If Amazon wants to reach out to a full audience, it needs to appeal to both markets.

Larger tablets lose portability.  The iPad is not easy to hold for long periods of time.  The computing power would need to be stronger.

So, to sum it up, I think that the first generation Kindle Fire fared quite well with room for improvement.  Those improvements such as a built in camera, faster browsing, screen quality, etc, can all be addressed in the next generation.  Working from that, a larger version is a good goal to work towards.

But, that’s just my opinion on it.  The tablet market as a whole is exploding.  The competition is fierce and we are most likely headed for tablet centered computing.

Rumors will fly and lots of times you can take them with a grain of salt, but it will be interesting to see what really happens in the next few months.

 

How the Digital Revolution has Changed the Nature of Reading

I’ve been reading a lot of good books lately.  Some kept my attention better than others though.  I just finished Tina Fey’s hit autobiography, Bossypants.  It has been awhile since I’ve laughed out loud so much while reading a book.  I highly recommend this one.

After reading an article about how distractions from social media and YouTube have changed the nature of reading, it made me realize how true that is just from observing my own recent reading habits.  The whole social media is distracting concept is not new, but sometimes we just have to be reminded how much of a time suck it really is.

I have always been a voracious reader.  I used to could lie on a couch immersed in a book, or in more recent years, my Kindle, for hours on end.  I have always liked how the e-ink Kindle has managed to continue to create a quality, relatively distraction free reading experience. Enter the iPhone, and later the iPad and those days were mostly gone.

Books don’t grab my attention like they used to.  I’m finding that it is harder and harder for me to focus on one book for a length of time.  Even with one as good as Bossypants, I was still mindlessly checking my email or Facebook every so often.

So what will instant access to other forms of media do to reading?  It has and will continue to become more fragmented.  Twitter has introduced the idea of saying what you need to say in just 140 characters.  We go in to get what we want, and move on.  The good thing about this is that more people than ever before have access to information.  Most people are reading something, even if it is just blog articles.  So, this is a big step in the right direction for literacy efforts.

With that said, I do hope that good books hold their charm for years to come.  There are times when our overstimulated brains just need a break from the mindless social media checking.  I sometimes like to leave everything behind and go sit in a park on a nice day and just read.  Hide your phone, or revoke your Kindle Fire’s wi-fi access, and escape into another reality for awhile.

Last Minute iPad 3 vs Kindle Fire Thoughts

I am writing this on the eve of the launch of the next generation iPad. So speculations on what new features the iPad 3 will offer  and what it means for tablet competition is definitely on my mind.  As anyone who keeps up with tech news knows, the rumors get pretty wild in the days leading up to big announcements like these.

Aside from the new launch, there are two speculations that might have a more direct implication for the Kindle Fire.  The first is the possibility of a 7.85 inch iPad Mini.  Honestly, I can’t really see this fitting into the scope of Apple’s products.  I could be wrong, but right now, there is a big enough gulf between the iPad 2 and the iPhone that consumers can reconcile having both.  They serve different functions.

An iPad Mini would blur the lines a bit and give consumers less of a reason to have both.  So it would cause internal competition for Apple.  However, it would add some worthy competition to the smaller tablet market.

The other option is a budget version of the iPad 2.  This assumption seems more viable because Apple has done this in the past with the iPhone, and has had good success with it.  This would be an 8GB version as opposed to 16 or 32GB.

It depends on how much cheaper the iPad 2  is, but this is what could really give the Kindle Fire a run for its money.  Right now, Amazon’s bestselling tablet’s biggest asset is that it packs a lot of features for a rock bottom price.  Competitors certainly recognize that.  Just look at the recent price drop on the Nook Tablet.

In the next few years, I would love to see a tablet emerge that has computing power comparable to the PC.  Apple has that ability to to that with the iPad, but isn’t quite there yet.  That leaves room for the smaller tablets to serve consumers who want something more portable, inexpensive and multipurpose without too much processing power.

So, I don’t really think the iPad 3 will have too much effect on the Kindle Fire competition wise.  It serves a different market.  The thing to watch will be the introduction of either a budget iPad or a less probable iPad Mini.  So, all we can do at this point is sit back and see what happens.

 

 

Amazon to Sell E-Books Non Exclusively

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has sold e-books in the Kindle Store using its own formatting style ever since the Kindle was introduced in 2007.

That will change next year when a new program is launched called Amazon Lives.  This program will debut with biographies that will be available in multiple formats as well as places outside of the Kindle Store.

Amazon has been stepping out into a lot of new markets lately.  The online retailer is planning to open a boutique in Seattle to sell the Kindle and other products.  The company that started the online buying revolution will now have a tangible, brick and mortar presence.

We’ve also seen Amazon challenge Netflix with free movie streaming for Prime members, and take a stab at Apple’s iPad consumer market with the Kindle Fire.

Now with Amazon Lives, the line blurs as Kindle e-books lose their exclusive formatting identity.  Amazon Lives is just starting out with biographies, but I doubt it will take too long to branch out into other genres.  Barnes & Noble and Books a Million recently stated that they would not sell Amazon books in their stores, but the launch of this new program might affect that sales strategy.

The technology market in general involves a lot of cat and mouse type competition.  I’ve seen this ramp up a lot with the entrance of e-readers and tablets.  Competition is healthy in most respects because it makes the products better.  Take the Kindle Touch for example.  This version followed suit after other e-readers started adopting touch screen technology.  However, if a company wants to try to take over so many different areas of the market, then they risk losing quality in their products.

So my hope is that Kindle e-books will maintain their good reputation while serving the broadest audience possible as they venture into the new realm of non exclusivity.

Sony to Launch a Foldable Tablet Later this Year

The Sony Reader was the first to get touch screen technology.  It set off a big touch screen craze that included all of the major e-readers: Kindle, Nook, and Kobo.  The Kindle Touch in turn became Amazon’s bestselling e-ink Kindle.

So, Sony has a some good ideas going as far as e-readers go. I happened upon an article about a foldable tablet that the company is currently preparing for release next week.

The new tablet, called the Tablet P, will have dual screens, one on each side of the foldable hinges.  My biggest question in regards to the screens is how they will mesh together for the display.  Will they show separate content?  Do they somehow come together to create a larger display?

The odd thing is that the Tablet P will feature last year’s Android operating system, Honeycomb.  That will be a big drawback right there.

By making this table foldable, it is protecting the screen from scratches and dings, so that is a big plus.   Although Apple was onto something when it created a smart cover to protect the iPad’s screen .  Sony’s new tablet also includes a camera, which is not currently available on the Kindle Fire.

Obviously, there are some real winners in the e-reader and tablet market, most notably,  the Kindle and iPad, but is still fun to explore the other ideas are floating around.  Despite the Tablet P’s lack of computing power and poor sales outlook, it sparks an idea that can be developed further to grab the attention of consumers.

I would really like to see the major players in the tablet and e-reader world become powerful enough to handle heavier computing.  It would be nice to have the benefits of both in one device.  The foldable tablet could emerge as a hybrid laptop/tablet device.  The tablet would be hinged to a keyboard, but also removable.

So, we’ll see what happens.  It is always fun to speculate on the future of technology.

 

Color E-Ink Kindle on the Horizon?

Don’t give up on e-ink Kindles yet.  After the success of the Kindle Fire and the tablet boom, I was beginning to think that e-ink was on its way out.  However, there are new speculations floating around in the tech world about Amazon’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) supposed order of color e-ink  screens.

If that is so, we might be seeing a color e-ink version of the Kindle sometime next summer or early fall.  The timing is based on the past yearly refresh of the Kindle lineup.

I think this would give e-ink a much needed jump start to reclaim its place in the electronic sales market.  Tablets are showing unprecedented success, and are threatening to leave the e-ink devices behind to become a niche market unless they don’t do something about it.

The biggest advantages of a color e-ink Kindle over an LCD tablet are that it doesn’t cause eye strain and suck up battery life.  I love my iPad, but I can’t sit and read it for longer periods of time.  My Kindle’s battery lasts for a couple of months, whereas my iPad’s battery lasts about 10 hours or less depending on use.

Looking at it from an accessibility standpoint, there are certain vision conditions that cause the user to be sensitive to bright lights.  E-ink is obviously a lot friendlier to that type of condition.

The e-ink Kindle began as a single service device designed for reading.  The electronic paper style that the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and other e-ink readers use is designed to simulate the experience of reading a real book.  Adding color would provide better graphics for comics, newspapers and magazines.  To me, comics are a better fit for paper rather than LCD.

I am excited about this new development.  I think in the long run there will be hybrid e-ink and LCD tablets out there on the market.  I don’t know about you, but it can get cumbersome toting around several different gadgets that each fulfill a different purpose.   By adding color, e-ink is a step closer towards making a device like that a reality.

 

Will A New iPad Kill The Kindle Fire?

Over the past several weeks there has been significant speculation over the possibility of a newer, smaller iPad on the horizon that is intended to compete directly with the Kindle Fire.  As much as it sounds plausible when looked at in a certain light, I just fail to see it in the end.  There are a few reasons, but in the end it comes down to different audiences.  For Apple to seriously put a stop to the popularity of the Kindle Fire, they would have to address Amazon on completely different terms than has previously been the case, and it is not a stretch to assume that Apple has no intention of fragmenting their product line in such a way.

The value of the Kindle Fire is precisely that it does not attempt to be a fully functional tablet.  Sure, it can do a lot of what any other tablet can do, but in the end there are few competitors that fail to beat it out on paper in terms of performance.  What it does do is provide a channel for Amazon’s digital services.  Anything that Amazon wants to serve up to customers is immediately in front of them just a click away and always works on the first try.  Everything else is just left hanging under the Apps tab to work with as best you can.

The iPad, on the other hand, is trying fairly successfully to replace the home desktop as a center for leisurely computing.  Short of playing highly demanding games or manipulating images and video, there is little that Apple’s tablet is unable to take over with moderate success.  You can even use it as a word processor thanks to various Bluetooth keyboards designed specifically for such a use.  The iPad does serve as a conduit for digital purchases, but it is more than that.  You can use it to create and manipulate various types of projects rather than simply consuming.

Yes, Apple could easily cut into Kindle Fire sales with a 7” iPad 3 priced in the $200-300 range, but it would take more than just having the hardware available.  They would have to prove to customers that they could focus it entirely on convenient consumption.  It is almost counter-intuitive to phrase it like that, but the focused experience is what Amazon successfully leverages in the lack of computing power and I think they would have to be beaten at the game they have helped to define.

This isn’t to say that a smaller iPad would not succeed.  It would probably be huge and have a devastating effect on the emerging budget Android tablet market.  Those most hit by it would be along the lines of the Samsung Galaxy Tab though, not the Kindle Fire.  Until and unless Amazon goes out of their way to pick the fight in a Kindle vs iPad standoff, I think they are fairly safely entrenched for the immediate future.

iPad 3 Release Date Rumors Flying, What will this mean for the Kindle Fire?

If you are familiar with Apple’s PR strategy, you’ll recognize the hype that goes along with each potential new product release.  Speculations fly while Apple stays tight lipped until the product is launched.

That trend continues with the much anticipated release of the next generation iPad. March 29 seems to be the latest “magic date” for the release of the iPad 3.  This goes along with the usual spring release date of the highly sought after tablet.  So I wouldn’t be surprised if this release date was at least close to the actual one.

So, what will this mean for the Kindle Fire?  In the beginning, I don’t see it being affected too much because it seems to appeal to a different market than the iPad.  A big reason for that is the price.  The iPad is also geared more towards heavy duty computing, and includes a camera and bluetooth compatibility.  The Kindle Fire is great for browsing the internet, videos, reading and games.  It is just a matter of determining what you will use the tablet for and what you want it to do.

Apple has been known for top quality devices without too much cap on price.  Despite the $500 price tag on the iPad, consumers know they are going to get a top notch product.  Amazon designs the cheapest device they can that is still functional so that it can reach out to the biggest number of users possible.  I don’t see the price of the iPad 3 dropping a whole lot, at least not anywhere near the price of the Fire.

The Kindle Fire is the second best selling tablet after the iPad, and has been the only tablet to show a margin of success comparable to the Apple tablet, but the iPad’s sales hit record numbers in recent months.  So that just proves the point that both can exist and do extremely well.

Let’s take a look at a longer term effects. Now that so many consumers own a tablet, they will want to move up in features and quality.  Amazon will need to continue to try to integrate more features at the lowest cost for the Kindle Fire to show strong sales figures.  Another key factor is maintaining a strong Android Marketplace.  So, once Amazon achieves that, then they can release a second generation Kindle Fire.

This is all speculation base on the 10″ iPad.  If the rumored iPad Mini shows up, then Amazon will really need to get into gear to present a Kindle Fire version that can compete with it.

Until I see what the new iPad will look like and the price, it is hard to tell exactly how it will affect the status of the Kindle Fire.  So, more concrete observations to come after March 29, or whenever the official release date is.  Stay tuned.

 

Kids Videos for Kindle Fire

The Kindle Fire and other tablets currently out in the market are full of great videos and offer unprecedented portability.  You can curl up on the couch with your Kindle Fire and watch YouTube or Netflix.  This is great for adults who have the ability to use discretion on what they can or want to watch.

For kids, the the portability and easy video access can cause issues.  Content meant for mature audiences are everywhere.  Controlling what kids watch and the constant worry over whether they might stumble over something inappropriate can be exhausting.  You can check what they’re watching on a TV or computer, but a tablet can be easily concealed.

The good news is that MeFeedia has developed an app called Kids Videos for the Kindle Fire and iPad.  The app includes family friendly videos from YouTube, Vimeo and DailyMotion.  So parents can get peace of mind knowing what they kids are watching is appropriate and even educational.

Kids Videos allows you to search by genre, “like” your favorite videos and save for later.  The videos are pulled from all over the web so there is a huge library to choose from.  Watching educational videos on the Kindle Fire makes learning so much more fun and interesting.

At the time of writing this app was available for free in the Amazon Appstore.  There are other kid video apps available for the Kindle Fire, but this is the first one that has shown real promise with highly favorable reviews.  For the most part the reviewers echo what the product description says.  So it appears to do what it set out to do.

The age range for tablet users has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few months.  The Kindle Fire is inexpensive enough for the average consumer to justify.  It also offers a lot more kid friendly content thanks to apps like Kids Videos, games, and e-books written for children.  What used to be a niche market is fast becoming the norm.

 

 

Apple Attacks Kindle Publishing With iBooks Author, Drama Ensues

We are well aware now what the big Apple announcement for January was: their new iBooks Author program.  It is a program that allows for easy creation of books, most notably textbooks, for free.  iBooks might have failed to kill the Kindle platform, even given the whole Agency Model collusion with publishers (the legality of which we’ll have to wait and see about), but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to give up.  After some experimentation with the new program I find myself conflicted.  I wanted it to be mediocre, but it’s not.  And therein lies the problem.

You see, there is a bit of a problem with the program’s EULA.  It won’t be a deal breaker for just anybody, but there is definitely important information to be aware of.  By using the iBooks Author program, you are agreeing that not only will anything you sell be available in Apple’s eBook store but also will never never be sold for the Kindle, Nook, or any other non-Apple device.

Before going into the subtleties of the wording, and there are a few arguments with varying degrees of merit that have been made toward the harmlessness of this clause, consider that this can definitely be read as a response to the recent Amazon effort to gain author exclusivity.  The only difference is that Amazon brings in authors with a chance at more money while Apple just quietly restricts their distribution rights with a clause that users not only never explicitly accept, but don’t even see unless they go out of their way.

That said, there are a few situations where I think this will be an extremely valuable thing to have.  If you are planning to create and distribute your work permanently free of charge, I have yet to find a more intuitive, affordable tool for making textbooks or manuals.  If your book was always intended to be marketed primarily to users of the iBooks store, this probably won’t have much of an impact on you.

Now, let’s acknowledge some ambiguities in the wording and clarify some of the many common points of contention:

Restrictions Only Apply To iBook Format:  FALSE

The definition of “Work” used in the EULA clearly indicates that anything generated using the software counts.  It does not matter if you export to PDF, for example.

Apple Is Stealing Author Copyrights:  FALSE

Anything you create is yours from the moment you create it unless you explicitly hand over permission.  What Apple is doing is telling you where you can sell it.  Using iBooks Author allows them to restrict distribution of your work, but otherwise seems to offer them no rights to it.

All This Applies To Is The Formatted Product, Not The Content:  AMBIGUOUS

Leaving aside the textbook for a moment and assuming we are talking about a book that is completely text based.  If you want to release a Kindle version, it would seem possible to just copy the text and reformat.  The wording of the EULA describes “Work” recursively as “any book or other work you generate using this software”.  This can, and hopefully would be, read to mean that only the final, fully formatted output is affected, but the ambiguity is troubling.

It Is Free Software, They Have A Right To Expect A Return:  TRUE-ISH

Nobody is forcing you to use this program.  It is being provided free of charge by Apple and provides far greater functionality than any other free program out there for the same purposes.  Most such restrictions are aimed toward restriction the active use of the software rather than restricting how a creator can manage their own work, though.  Neither illegal nor unprecedented, but odd and somewhat troubling.

Not A Consumer Targeted Software Anyway:  FALSE

This one comes up a lot.  Despite the large number of advertisements being done involving the cooperation of such publishers as Pearson and McGraw Hill in the iBooks Textbook initiative, there has been no indication that they are contributing work under the same agreement.  This is free software pointed at teachers and authors in the advertising (particularly the promo video).  It has bundled templates to simplify the work, a simple drag and drop interface, and tons of automation.  There is depth for those who need it, but definitely not aimed solely at experienced professional textbook publishers.

Apple Can Prevent A Finished Book From Ever Being Sold:  TRUE

All that is required for a book to be covered by these restrictions is that it be a product of iBooks Author.  Publication is neither automated nor guaranteed, and just because Apple turns you down does not mean that you are free to market your work through another platform or sell through your own means.

Apple Offers Better/Worse Royalties Than The Competition Anyway:  FALSE

Apple is effectively offering the same cut of all sales to authors as the vast majority of authors receive when selling for the Kindle and nearly the same (within 5%) as that offered to Nook sellers.

Now, I’m not about to claim that this is the most horrible thing ever done to authors or even that it is deliberately malicious.  Some have claimed that just as this is a 1.0 software, so is the EULA in early versions too and ambiguity will inevitably be removed.  If so, and there was no intent to deceive or control, so be it.  It is already a complicated enough process to get anything out of your eBooks that authors should be aware of what they are getting into, though.  I, for one, wouldn’t want to be locked out of the Kindle platform by accident when that’s where all the readers are.

This is good software.  Possibly great software.  But the limitations aren’t the same as you get when publishing a Kindle Edition, where all you need to worry about is not selling things cheaper elsewhere.  Under the current wording it seems to literally stop you from reaching an audience.  That’s just unpleasant, and something that people need to be aware of when deciding whether or not iBooks Author is for them.

“Send to Kindle” First Hand Review

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) just released a new software program called Send to Kindle that makes it easier to send most printable documents to both the e-ink Kindles and the Kindle Fire.

I downloaded the new “Send to Kindle” app on to my Kindle Touch with ease using the detailed instructions that Amazon provides and the prompts from my browser.

Right now this program is only available on Windows, but a Mac version is coming soon.  Once downloaded, you can access the application in two ways.  Through Windows Explorer, you can right click on the document and select “Send to Kindle”.  You can also go into a program such as Microsoft Word that supports printing and select “Send to Kindle” from the list of printer options.

To test it out, I sent my resume to my Kindle.  It appeared on my home screen within seconds, and formatted nicely to fit the screen.  Just make sure the Wi-Fi or 3G access is enabled.  Something like this is much more useful for sending documents like articles set up as a PDF that would be easier to read on the Kindle than the computer.  I could have used this during graduate school when all of my classes required reading a lot of PDF articles.

The Send to Kindle program is also great for storing documents and can be used to email the documents to contacts on your pre approved contact list.  Instructions on how to manage your Kindle’s email address are available as a link from the Send to Kindle page.  Just search for send to kindle in the AMazon search box.

Send to Kindle works on all Kindles and devices that support it such as the iPad, iPhone, and iPod.  There’s no mention of Blackberry or even Android yet.

As with all of your other Kindle content, any documents you send to your Kindle is stored in the archives for retrieval from your Amazon account anytime.   Send to Kindle also saves your last page read, bookmarks, and highlights and includes the ability to sync across devices.

With such easy access to portable storage and unlimited cloud storage, there should be no more excuses for losing a document again.  So much for the “the dog ate my homework” excuse.

 

Apple Launches E-Textbook Service

Apple launched a new e-textbook service last week that is claiming to “revolutionize the textbook industry.”  With major partners as McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton-Mifflin on board, the service is poised to offer a robust collection of e-textbooks in the updated iBook store.  In addition to purchasing textbooks educators can create their own textbooks using iBook Author.  The lure of lighter backpacks is a pretty good one.

My initial question is, how are schools going to be able to afford an iPad for every student?  Will this be an expense put on parents?  If Amazon starts a competing service with the Kindle Fire, price would not be as much of an issue.  The Kindle Fire is less than half the price of an iPad 2.

Prior attempts at using the Kindle for textbooks have been somewhat successful with a few schools here and there using it for pilot programs.  There were also attempts at using the Kindle DX to hold college textbooks because it has a bigger screen.  Despite positive reviews on the programs, they never really took off.

Right now, the new e-textbook service seems to be focusing on the K-12 market with high school textbooks going for $14.99 or less.  What about college textbooks?  They’re the ones that students have to fork over the money for themselves.  They can also be expensive.  Professors have a lot more leeway on what they can teach so they will probably benefit more from iBook Author than K-12 teachers will.

I think that e-textbooks are going to play a larger role in the future, but I don’t see it taking off just yet.  Aside from the price still being steep for the iPad, there is still a learning curve and adjustment period for both teachers and students.  Tablets are already being  used as valuable tools in education through apps.  It just takes time figuring out how to utilize them the most effectively.

Will Amazon launch an e-textbook service to compete with Apple, or will it continue to appeal to the “masses” with the vast collection of books available in the Kindle Store?  I would say the latter for now, because Amazon’s strategy is to reach out to everyone, not a niche market like Apple does.  As e-textbooks become more mainstream and in higher demand, it will be more in Amazon’s best interest to provide them for the Kindle platform.

 

What the Future Means for E-Readers

The tablet market is off and running and the Kindle Fire is doing very well. I have often wondered what the future of the original e-reader will look like.  Now that the Kindle, Nook, and Kobo e-readers are all touchscreen, what is the next big update?

I’m not saying they’re perfect by any means.  The page transitions could be smoother, and the page turn buttons could be arranged a little better to make things more comfortable for lefties.  Then of course, there’s always the potential for faster browsing in the Amazon Store.

Right now to me at least, my Kindle and iPad serve completely different purposes.  I have tried reading a book on both an iPad and Kindle Fire, and the screen is just too bright for me to read for a long time.  My Kindle Touch isn’t really a gadget to me that I feel like I need to separate myself from like the computer or phone.

A hybrid tablet and e-reader has been mentioned in the past, and I think this is most likely what will happen.  The trick is designing one that can create the same effect that both an e-reader and a tablet can.  I’m not exactly sure how far off this possibility is, but it would be nice to be about to just carry around one device that does multiple things.  At the same time though, if that device is stolen, you lose everything.

With the Kindle Fire out now, I’m not sure I really see a point in creating a color e-ink Kindle.  Most books, regardless of whether they are print and electronic don’t use much color.  I can see it being used for highlights and annotations, but how high is the demand for that?

In the short term, I would love to see a light built into the Kindle.  I don’t mean a backlight necessarily, but perhaps a light that is built in at the top that can flip in and out when needed.  There are a number of good clip on lights available, but having one that fits seamlessly into the device would be ideal.

E-readers are continuing to show strong sales, and now that the prices are lower than ever, many more consumers are able to jump on the e-reader bandwagon.  In the next year or two at least, I think e-readers like the Kindle and Kindle Touch will draw sales from these new consumers.

Looking ahead 5 years or so, I predict that the hybrid e-reader/tablet will emerge and take a share in the market.  But who knows, there may be something completely different around to shake things up.  Technology progresses incredibly fast these days.  To say the pace of technology competition and updates are overwhelming is a major understatement.

Barnes & Noble Considering A Nook Spin Off

After reporting less than stellar stock returns, Barnes & Noble is seriously considering spinning off, or even selling its expensive, but popular Nook business to allow the Nook to ramp up its competition with Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad.

Right now, the tech world is weighing three options with the pros and cons of each.  This article does a good job of breaking all of it down.  Barnes & Noble can keep an active role in the business as it is now, which is not likely, it can take a backseat, yet still hold the reigns, or it can sell the business entirely.

Sales of all Nook e-readers combined were up 70% during the 2011 holiday shopping season, compared to a mere 2.5% growth of regular book sales.  That definitely goes to show that something needs to change, or the retailer will end up with the same fate as Borders, which declared bankruptcy earlier this year.

I think that Barnes & Noble’s best bet would be to stay invested somewhat in the business because the e-book is the way of the future.  Despite the lackluster reception of the Nook Touch, the Nook Color and the Nook Tablet have been doing very well.  I am not saying that print is dying out by any means, but e-books are definitely going to take an increasingly larger role over the next few years.  Consumers are already flocking to Amazon for both print and e-books because the prices are better.  So, the Nook would be a lifeline in case the print side of the business suffers.

Barnes & Noble recognizes that there is work to do to catch up with the Kindle, so the competition is going to get much more intense if the Nook gets more attention via a spinoff or separate company.

It will be interesting to see what this potential new development means for the Kindle.  Amazon reported record breaking Kindle sales in 2011 because of the much anticipated Kindle Fire and by offering the prices to beat,  All three members of the Kindle Family took the top selling spots on Amazon. The Kindle will most likely remain firmly on top of the e-reader market for the time being.

 

Kindle Success Spurs Apple To New eBook Moves

Recent reports indicate that later this month we can expect to see Apple host a press conference related to, of all things, eBooks.  After news that the Kindle Fire has had a noticeable impact on iPad sales this past quarter, clearly something has to be done.  This is not official as of yet, but multiple sources in positions to be aware of such plans have passed along the same information.  While we have no way as of yet to know for sure where this will lead, the most common rumors seem to point to Apple’s launching of a digital self publishing platform to compete with the Kindle Direct Publishing program.

In reality, such a move on Apple’s part would be quite surprising.  In addition to the fact that simply matching the competition seems to offer far less reward than the effort would be worth given that the iBooks store has failed to really take off so far anyway, Apple is already making about as much on each book sold to owners of their devices as they would be likely to make off a program competitive enough to draw in new authors.  Keeping in mind the fact that anybody publishing through Amazon’s KDP program, or even Barnes & Noble’s slightly less popular PubIt, will already be available to iOS users, the only real motivation for Apple here would be to draw authors into an exclusive arrangement in some way to enhance the iBooks selection.  Amazon has already begun a similar effort tied into their Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, so this would not necessarily be a shocking move, but there is little reason to suspect that Apple is desperate to suddenly push into the eBook market in a major way.

Since we can be fairly certain that whatever the announcement is about will be related to publishing in some way, however, there are a few other possibilities.  Textbook rental is one of the more likely possibilities.  While Amazon’s new Kindle Format 8 provides some more robust formatting options to publishers and the Kindle Fire obviously handles the demands of textbooks more easily than E INK reading devices, so far the Kindle Textbook Rental program has failed to draw much attention.  Given the iPad’s larger screen and Apple’s strong presence on college campuses, it would make sense for them to jump to fill in this gap in the market before anybody else beats them to it.

It is also possible that this has something to do with the ongoing class action lawsuits against Apple and the Big 6 publishers over price fixing and the imposition of the Agency Model around the time the iPad was released.  In the past month the situation has become quite a bit more intense, with the US Justice Department joining in and at least 15 ongoing suits.  It would seem unlikely that the company would want to comment on an ongoing legal battle, but given claims of detailed inside information on the part of certain plaintiffs there is always the chance that preemptive spin on an anticipated settlement attempt might be in order.

The one thing everybody agrees on is that this will not be a hardware announcement.  While there is still speculation with varying degrees of believability about a smaller iPad meant to compete with the Kindle Fire, that will have to wait until later.  For now, it’s hard to know exactly what to expect.

New York Public Library Launches E-book Central

From January 4th-13th, the New York Public library is stepping up their efforts to help new owners of the Kindle and other e-readers learn how to download e-books from the library’s vast digital collection.

NYPL has over 22,000 e-books ready to check out, and in addition to on site help through trained reference librarians, the library system has also launched a website called E-Book Central.

Lending Kindle e-books in libraries is a fairly new service, but as a librarian I see first hand how much a service like E-Book Central is needed.  I get questions about it often at the library where I work.  E-reader sales this holiday season were record breaking, so the demand is  much greater.  Just like regular books, good Kindle books are snatched up quickly.

The process for checking out e-books is quite simple once you find the book you want.  The New York Public Library provides a detailed, step by step guide for downloading e-books from their collection onto any mobile device or e-reader.

Two things you need before you start: An Amazon account, and an account with your local library that supports Kindle e-books.  If you don’t have a Kindle itself, there are apps for the Mac, PC, smartphones, and iPad that you can download for free.

Kindle books from the public library appear in your Kindle’s home screen just like other books.  After the check out time is up, it will automatically disappear.  Check out times usually run anywhere from 7-21 days depending on the library.

Now that the Kindle Library Lending program is up and running, I hope more libraries will follow NYPL’s example and provide more formal e-book training for their patrons.  Many libraries don’t have the staff or time available to dedicate to a project like this, but it is something that would save time in the long run.

So, if you live in NYC, see the E-Book Central website for dates and times when training is available, or check out the guides for checking out e-books on different mobile devices.

Kindle Fire was Top Selling Item on Amazon This Holiday Season

It shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, but the Kindle Fire took the top spot as the bestselling, wished for, and gifted item on Amazon.  Right behind the new Kindle tablet were the Kindle Touch, and regular Kindle.

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN)  is keeping quiet about exact numbers, but reports are going around that they hit around the 4-5 million mark.  Around a million Kindles were sold each week in December.  The prices are said to be one of the biggest reasons for the record breaking sales figures.

In addition to the Kindles themselves, sales of accessories and apps got a big boost.

With all that said, the holidays are now over, and we’re firmly into 2012.  2011 was the year of the tablet, and 2012 will most likely continue that trend.

I think the Kindle Fire will continue to be very successful.  Reviews went up after Amazon released the update that improved navigation.  Amazon is good at listening to its consumers, so more improvements are sure to come.

I think that the tablet market has already and will continue to split.  The Kindle Fire is much smaller than the iPad and is geared for consumers who want a multifunctional, portable tablet without too many bells and whistles.  All tablets will compete for the market share, and the Kindle Fire has definitely taken a hit at the iPad’s sales.  However, the direct competition for the iPad is projected to be the new Asus Eee Transformer Prime.

The reason for this is that the Prime and the iPad have much more powerful processors, and can be used as a makeshift laptop.  They are both compatible with external keyboards.  The decision on what tablet to buy simply depends on what you want to use it for, and how much you’re willing to pay.

There are rumors about a bigger Kindle Fire, and smaller iPad in the works, but any concrete details on them are yet to be seen.

Tablets in general has a solid foothold in the market, and now it is just a matter of seeing how they will continue to develop competition and feature wise.

 

Kindle Fire a Huge Hit This Holiday Season

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?

 

Kindle Fire vs iPad: Why It’s Really A Competition

Nobody can doubt at this point that the competition for the tablet market has just gotten serious.  Apple has the iPad, which all things considered is probably the best thing on the market by a moderate margin, but now there are other options like the Kindle Fire which bring similar service for less than half the price of the cheapest Apple option.  As results have shown time and time again, though, it takes more than a lower price and a set of analogous capabilities and interface options to even out the competition.

To start with, yes the Apple iPad has superior hardware and a more polished experience overall.  It lags a little bit less, has a larger screen, and can go a bit longer in between charges.  Not a lot, but enough to notice.  It is, without hesitation, a great product that I enjoy using for just about anything besides reading.  Some people can even stand to do that on it.

That said, there are some problems with the overall experience.  Apple’s App Store guidelines have cut off some of their most popular content providers and forced others to accept less than ideal situations, for example.  Mostly the problems are along these lines.  Apple put out great hardware, but their handling of the associated use, taken as a whole, can be troublesome.

This is where it is useful to turn to the Kindle Fire as a decent example.  Amazon is basically the first company to bring a functional, polished tablet to market so far that also had an App Store to make use of.  Not only that, they offer pretty much everything you might want to consume right there for download should you need it. They have even pulled the media experience to the front of things to try to make transitions more fluid and experiences more cohesive.

Where Apple focuses on Apps and their use, Amazon has chosen to bring media to the front and weigh apps as no more important than anything else being offered through the device’s interface.  The full functionality is there, and there are thousands of major apps available for download that will provide any kind of content you can imagine, but it isn’t the only option.  Documents, Movies, Books, Music, all get their own place alongside the Apps.  There isn’t even a standard Android home screen anymore.

This is where Amazon went right, in my opinion, and why they are likely to be a serious competitor.  It isn’t about the lower price tag.  That’s nice, of course, but it only goes so far.  It’s more that the Kindle Fire places the emphasis on what it was made to do without shoving it in your face.  It is made to consume certain content and will do so perfectly.  To get to something that might be less polished or run a little bit less well actually takes more steps out of the way to get to, if only slightly.

They made the decision to play to the Kindle Fire‘s strengths rather than make it a general purpose device that could be everything for everybody.  The Kindle vs iPad competition will come down to design philosophy more than simple processing power.

ESPN and Hulu Plus Join the Kindle Fire App Lineup

Move over cable television, the Kindle Fire is getting even more wildly popular apps: Hulu Plus and ESPN.

Hulu.com pulls together all of the latest TV show clips and available full episodes into one website.  Hulu Plus is their subscription based service that allows access to even more shows and movies.  It is better than Netflix in some respects because it provides access to TV shows soon after they air as opposed to months later.

ESPN shows live sporting events right on you Kindle Fire.  I’m a big college basketball fan, so I am especially excited about the prospect of taking the games with me wherever I go.  The only drawback is that you have to sign in using your cable provider account.  So, not everyone can use it.

Hulu Plus and ESPN join Facebook, Netflix, Twitter, Pandora, and a slew of popular games to make up a pretty powerful set of apps.  A lot of these are free, but the ones that are pretty inexpensive.

Rumors and speculations are flying about how the Kindle Fire is set to knock the iPad off the top of the tablet market list.  I don’t doubt that Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has the tools and ability to do it.  They also have a great reputation for top notch customer service, and for having much more cost friendly products than the majority of major retailers.

Right now, the major advantage to the Kindle Fire is price.  The iPad has the history and larger app store.  However with the addition of all of the major apps like Hulu, ESPN, etc, will set the Kindle Fire up to be some pretty hot competition.  I will be very interested to see what Apple does in response.  In the past they have typically come back with a better product touting improved features without budging too much on the price.

I’d love to see a future 10* Kindle Fire that includes a robust app store, external keyboard compatibility, and a reasonable price.  This future version might just become reality quite soon.

I’m eager to hear what new Kindle Fire owners have to say about the tablet once they get to finally try it out.  Will the user interface be intuitive and easy to use?  Will colors be vibrant and sharp as the description boasts?  All are questions that will be answered on the fast approaching November 15 release date.  Let the games begin.

 

Kindle Fire to Offer Apps for Pandora, Netflix, and More

As many of you know, Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has its own Android based app store that offers a free app every day.  The Kindle Fire is set to release on November 15 with a huge selection of popular apps including Pandora, Netflix, Facebook, and games from top gaming companies including Electronic Arts, PopCap and more.

Amazon is set to go with everyone’s favorite apps right out of the gate.  That’s pretty impressive considering how long it took the iPad to get a Facebook app.  But, in Amazon’s case, a precedent has been set in the android market. Whereas the iPad was the first to enter the tablet market, and is the only tablet using Apple’s app store.

EA and PopCap are known for high quality games.  A few favorites include Scrabble, Tetris, and Peggle.  Tetris has been a huge hit since the beginning of gaming systems.  Rovio is also on board, and they’re the makers of the hit game Angry Birds.  What is a tablet without Angry Birds?

Netflix and Pandora are other top apps that are available across tablet and smartphone platforms, so they are a natural addition to the Kindle Fire collection. Amazon also has its own video streaming library for Amazon Prime members set to rival Netflix.  Pandora and Rhapsody are the major players in music apps.

As far as apps go, one niche that Apple has a good hold on is Accessibility.  There are apps for the iPad that serve as decent and much cheaper alternatives to assistive technology.  I just downloaded a magnfying glass and a recorder recently. There are also caption services, and so much more.  I haven’t seen as much of this on Android systems, or on the Kindle in general.  It would be great to see apps that help people with vision, hearing, mobility, and learning disabilities.  Just another way to heat up the competition against Apple.

For more information on what popular apps will be available on the Kindle Fire, check out the latest Amazon press release.