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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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November 2014
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SolarFocus Kindle Cover Revealed

Recently revealed at CES and available for sale on the 14th of January, the new SolarFocus Kindle cover seems to be an interesting solution to a problem that few, if any, people have run into.  This doesn’t mean that it will fail to impress as a gadget or that it is in any way useless, but one has to wonder how big the market will be for something like the SolarKindle cover.

Essentially this cover is meant to serve as recharging station, backup battery, and book light all in addition to the normal screen protection function.  Certainly not a bad thing.  The case’s internal battery carries a charge sufficient to add an additional three months of battery life to the Kindle 4 and can be recharged over the course of eight hours of direct sunlight exposure if you don’t have access to a powered USB port or adapter.  Even one hour is supposedly sufficient for as much as three days worth of reading time.

Sadly, there are any number of drawbacks.  In terms of basic use, there are a few obvious problems.  The addition of this cover more than doubles the weight of your Kindle, along with doubling its thickness and increasing the size of its footprint to slightly larger than the Kindle Keyboard.  The added size and weight remove a great deal of the appeal that the $79 Kindle carries.  The SolarKindle case itself also appears fairly unappealing, though some might disagree with me if they find solar panels and white plastic pleasant.  Perhaps the most striking thing about this case, however, is the pricing.  At $79 itself, it will double the cost of owning a Kindle.

I have nothing against a desire to be environmentally friendly, but this doesn’t make sense to me.  Given the fact that the Kindle 4 already runs for a minimum of three weeks at a time between charges (based on regular personal use on my part), how could it possibly be worth the inconvenience of the bulk and weight just to avoid having it find a wall outlet?

As of the Kindle 2, we already have analysis indicating that eReaders become environmentally friendlier than buying new books as of the 50th title or so.  Probably safe to assume that things have gotten even better by now, but even ignoring that entirely we have to assume that the impact of manufacturing these covers will be sufficient to increase the numbers.  How quickly can saving $0.25 or less per month in electricity help this case start to pay for itself under any metric?

Despite the hype surrounding the CES reveal, it seems unlikely that the SolarKindle will take off.  The price is too high and the benefits too few.  It isn’t as if you were adding months of battery life to a tablet or smartphone.  If you spend months at a time without access to power, this might be the case for you.  For anybody else it is not much better than an ostentatious nod toward “Going Green” that the Kindle, despite having numbers to support such a claim, fails to advertise on its own.

To Touch, or Not To Touch: Choosing Kindle 4 vs Kindle Touch

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.

Displays: Tie

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.

Interface: Kindle Touch

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.

Storage: Kindle Touch (Barely)

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.

Battery Life: Kindle Touch

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.

Price: Kindle 4

Obviously the Kindle 4′s price is its biggest advantage.  An $80 price tag makes it the cheapest major eReader on the market.

Form: Kindle 4

The Kindle Touch weighs slightly over 25% more than the Kindle 4.  It’s a fairly negligible amount, and both devices are comfortable to hold in one hand, but every bit helps.

Extras: Kindle Touch

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.

Recommendation: Kindle Touch (Mostly)

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.

Special Offers Now Available For All Kindle eReaders

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?

Meet the DecalGirl Artists

This is the 5-th post in  the series of weekly giveaways sponsored by DecalGirl.com here on BlogKindle. According to our tradition let’s start this post with the winner name. Our congratulation to @Sweepgurl. I’ve sent the redemption code via Twitter.

Just to remember for our regular readers and new visitors: to be in the game you need to do the following: click on the twitter button on the left to retweet this post and follow @BlogKindle so that I can send you a personal message on twitter with redemption code in case you win. A winner will be randomly chosen next Friday and announced in the next post. Be with us on twitter.




Over the past few weeks I have shared with you some of the “nuts and bolts” of the DecalGirl operation:  The origin and history of the company, how to navigate the website, and how to find resources to help you install DecalGirl skins.  I also showed you some of our seasonal art for Halloween.  For the next two or three weeks I would like to introduce you to some of the artists who produce the magnificent works that we put on DecalGirl skins.  We couldn’t do it without them!
(Click on any of the images mentioned in the post to visit that artist’s page at DecalGirl.com and see all of his or her available designs.)

Al McWhite has been licensing designs to DecalGirl since 2009.  The ocean has always been one of his big sources of inspiration.  “I had no plans of being an artist,” he says.   “I thought I was going to be an ocean exploring marine biologist.”  It wasn’t until his high school art teacher recognized and helped him develop his talent that he realized that his career path lay in the arts.  After high school he received a scholarship to the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah Georgia, where he double majored in graphic design and illustration.

Al has since combined his passion for the ocean with his artistic abilities.  You will see that beach, surf, and aquatic elements are major themes in most of his work.  “Sunset Flamingo,” shown here is one of over 40 designs by Al offered on DecalGirl skins.

Jackie Friesth is a self-taught watercolor artist living in Colorado.  She holds a bachelor of arts degree from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  When she was in high school she took as many art classes as she could.  She helped paint murals on the school walls, and even painted one on her bedroom wall.  Living in Colorado provides her with a great deal of inspiration for her paintings, which typically feature natural subjects and landscapes.  “Grandmother’s Rose” is one of 14 of Jackie’s designs currently available at DecalGirl.

Julie Borden is a DecalGirl “local” of sorts, as she operates her gallery out of nearby Rehoboth Beach, also known as “The Nation’s Summer Capital” thanks to all of the visitors from Washington D.C. who arrive every summer.  Julie earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the prestigious Rochester Institute of Technology in 1987.  To date she has produced over 700 commissioned works of art.

Julie’s art spans a wide variety of styles and subject matter.  Music is a popular theme with her, and “Music Madness” shown here is a great example of her work.  There are currently 30 of her designs at DecalGirl.com.

Vlad Gerasimov lives in Irkutsk, Russia.  He plays piano and guitar and dreamed of being a rock star.  In 1998 he started to design user interfaces for websites and software applications, and when he had some free time he created desktop wallpapers.  Over time his hobby has grown into a full-fledged business, and today he works from home full time creating wallpapers for computers and mobile devices.

Vlad creates whimsical, brightly colored art with a variety of themes.  “Cheshire Kitten” is just one of over 40 designs from Vlad Studio that you will find at DecalGirl.

That’s a glimpse of a few of our artists.  We have designs from over 80 artists from all over the world, so unfortunately we won’t be able to showcase all of them here, but you can visit their galleries and read their bios at DecalGirl.com.  We’ll look at four more of them in this space next week.

Amazon Kindle Special Offers Still Picking Up Steam

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.

Installation Tips For DecalGirl Skins

This is the 4-th post in  the series of weekly giveaways sponsored by DecalGirl.com here on BlogKindle. Here is the answer for the question – who is the lucky man? His tweeter name is @LGM777. I’ve sent the redemption code via Twitter. To be in the game you need to do the following: click on the twitter button on the left to retweet this post and follow @BlogKindle so that I can send you a personal message on twitter with redemption code in case you win. A winner will be randomly chosen next Friday and announced in the next post. A tip – tweet more and you will have more chances.


I hope everyone’s Halloween spirit was stimulated by last week’s post! We’re definitely in the mood for some trick or treating here at DecalGirl. As I write this we are preparing for our annual Halloween costume contest. Right now there’s Edward Scissorhands, a Hula girl, Gumby, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Raggedy Ann, a mad scientist, a jellyfish, and lots of other interesting characters roaming our halls!

But now on to something new….

DecalGirl skins are amazingly easy to install, and when you decide you are ready to change your look with a new one, they come off clean as a whistle, with no residue left behind. People occasionally ask “Are they reusable?” The answer to that is “no” for a couple of reasons. First, most anything made from vinyl is going to stretch a bit when it is removed from something, especially if it has adhesive on it and you have to peel it off. Second, our proprietary adhesive is designed to come off of your device with no residue, but, like most adhesives, it will not be as sticky and it will not adhere in the same way a second time.

Having said that, you should know that our adhesive does give you a “do over” if you try to place your skin and you don’t get it quite right the first time. If things don’t line up quite right for you, you do have a short time window to carefully remove the skin, line it up, and try again.

If you need some help installing your skin, you are in luck! There is a page on the DecalGirl website that is filled with installation tips. Or, if you are the type of person who prefers audio/visual help, pay a visit to YouTube.com, do a search for “DecalGirl skin installation” and you will find several pages of videos showing skins being installed on various devices. Please note that some of these are official DecalGirl productions; those are the ones that are by “DecalGirl Support.”

There are also a lot of others made by third parties. While most of them are pretty good and you’ll hear a lot of positive comments about DecalGirl skins, when it comes to installation advice you should probably stick to the ones that are officially from DecalGirl.

Just a quick note in closing today… We are already getting questions about skins for the new Kindle Fire. We would like everyone to know that we are planning to have skins available for it within hours of its release. Scattered through this post are some of our more recent skin offerings for Kindles. All of these, as well as any other design you find on our site will be available for the Fire. Talk to you next week!

Halloween Skins From DecalGirl

This is the third post in a series of weekly giveaways sponsored by DecalGirl.com here on BlogKindle. As usual we start it by announcing the winner of last weeks giveaway: @MRSHRAINEY. To be a winner as @MRSHRAINEY you need to do just a few steps: click on the twitter button on the left to retweet this post and follow @BlogKindle so that I can send you a personal message on twitter with redemption code in case you win. Winner will be randomly chosen next Friday and announced in the next post. Chances of winning are pretty high, especially if you participate several times :)

I’ll let Bill take over from here…


“Halloween is coming, and soon the doorbells will be humming….” Sorry, I slipped back into my former career as a music teacher for a second. As you probably know, DecalGirl.com offers skins for almost every taste, and designs featuring fantasy, macabre, or Gothic art are no exception. Halloween is getting very close, and in honor of the dentist’s favorite holiday I am going to show everyone a few “creepy crawly” designs from DecalGirl.com and tell you a little about the artists who created them.

Before we get started, just remember that you will not find all of these designs on the Kindle skins pages at DecalGirl.com. If you read last week’s post you will recall that you can shop by design and select any of our available designs for any device. If something you see here strikes your fancy, click on the image and you will be taken to the page for that design at DecalGirl.com. From there it’s a simple matter to select your device from the drop down menus, and your options for gloss or matte finish will appear along with the price. Make your selections, add the skin to your cart and you’re good to go!The first design is called “Hallucination” by Ross Farrell Design. The skull is a persistent theme for Ross, as you can see if you visit his artist page at DecalGirl.com. Ross uses media such as sculpture, oil, and acrylics to produce much of his work. He believes that “the single most important thing about art is interacting with it.” Ross currently has 20 designs available at DecalGirl.com.Next we have “Angel vs. Demon” by James Ryman. DecalGirl.com currently offers 13 designs by James. His focus is on fantasy art, and his work features images such as fantastic creatures, skeleton musicians reminiscent of Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix, and supernatural femmes fatales.

The third design is called “AFS-1” by Robert Steven Connett. Robert offers fantastic looking creatures in science fiction style settings. He cites as inspiration the work of H.R. Giger, Chris Mars, and Heironymous Bosch. Those familiar with the work of H.R. Giger will probably see some of his influence in Robert’s work. There are currently 11 of Robert’s designs available at DecalGirl.com.

For some seasonal art in a lighter vein, there’s “Succubus” by Chrissy Clark. Chrissy works in digital media, producing anime/manga style drawings that usually feature innocent looking females in a variety of settings from fairy tale to sci-fi. DecalGirl.com currently offers 29 of Chrissy’s designs.

This is just a small sample of some of the macabre and fantastic art available on skins for Kindle and other devices at DecalGirl.com. They have been greatly reduced in size for this post due to limitations on file size, but you can click on any of the images here to see them full size on our site.Have a great week, everyone!

Kindle Fire vs Kindle eReaders: Interface Differences and Why They May Matter To You

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.

Getting Around at DecalGirl.com / Kindle 4 Skins

This is the second post in a series of weekly giveaways sponsored by DecalGirl.com here on BlogKindle. I’ll start it by announcing the winner of last weeks giveaway: @nbrown1981. I’ve sent the redemption code via Twitter. This weeks giveaway works in a very simple way (same as the last one): click on the twitter button on the left to retweet this post and follow @BlogKindle so that I can send you a personal message on twitter with redemption code in case you win. Winner will be randomly chosen next Friday and announced in the next post. Last week only about a dozen people participated in the giveaway so chances of winning were pretty high.

I’ll let Bill take over from here…


This week I would like to start by introducing the DecalGirl website to those who have never been there before, and showing everyone some of the ways to navigate and quickly find what you are looking for.

If you click on the images of Kindle 4 skins below (more about them in a bit) you will be taken to a page for that particular design. Let’s take a look at various ways to find what you are looking for from there.

You can make a selection from the main menu and the drop down sub-menus at the top of the page. Those will help you navigate to the main pages for each device where you can see all of the stock skins for that device. (Don’t forget, you are not limited to the skins you see on this page. More about that later, too.) There is also a “directory listing” type menu just above the content area of each page that allows you to jump back over multiple levels with one click if you so desire.

If you look over the skins on any particular page and you don’t see anything that really tweaks your interest, or if you just want more choices, you can go to the right side of the main menu and click on “More ways to shop.” If you select “Shop by artist” you will be taken to the main artists’ page, where you can select an artist to view his or her gallery. If you select “Shop by design” you will be presented with all our current designs, which can be sorted by “Freshest,” “Best Sellers,” or “Name.” There’s a filter option on the left that lets you filter by artist, color, or style of art.  Any design can be put on a skin for any device.  When you choose to shop by design or by artist you will be presented with a menu to select the type of device, and then the specific device you would like skinned.  After making those selections you will be presented with a choice of gloss or matte finish, you will see the price, and you can add the skin to your cart.

We are occasionally asked about custom skins.  It’s a little hard to find information about it on the website, so let me make everyone aware:  Yes, DecalGirl can do custom skins.  If you want a picture of your favorite pet, or your daughter, or whatever on a skin, all you need to do is email [email protected].  We will send you a photoshop template via email.  Put your art on that template, send it back to us, and we will create your skin.  There is an additional $5 charge for custom skins.  You can also request to have color changes made or text added to any of our stock designs.  We will soon be streamlining this process by adding an online customizer tool to our website.

Still can’t find what you are looking for, or have questions? You can contact DecalGirl in several different ways. Go to the bottom left of any page to find our customer service links. From there you can send us an email or find our snailmail address, as well as our toll free customer service telephone number. Live customer service is available Monday-Friday from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM Eastern. When you call you will be talking to a friendly helpful customer service representative who is right here on site at DecalGirl, not someone at a foreign outsourced call center! (You’ll be talking to Amy, Keith, or Erin, not “Peggy!”  For anyone not in the U.S., this video will introduce you to “Peggy.”)

Now let’s talk about the skins for a bit. We have most recently added skins for the Kindle 4, and you can expect to see skins available for the other new Kindles in the near future. Right now there are 157 skin designs available on the Kindle 4 page, but remember you can shop by design or artist to select any of our more than 2200 skins to cover your Kindle 4. Here are three of our currently most popular designs. Click on any of them to visit the page for that design.

The first design is called “Library,” by Vlad Studio. Could there be a more appropriate skin for an ereader than this one?  Vlad lives in Irkutsk, Russia. He produces clever designs on a variety of subjects – from inanimate objects to stylized animals and people.

The next design is by one of our newer artists, Kate McRostie, and it is called “Fresh Picked.” Kate lives in Wilmington, North Carolina and gets her inspiration from people and things around her. “Fresh Picked” is reminiscent of the upholstery on an old fashioned chair, or perhaps decorative wallpaper.

The third and final design I want to share this week is called “Infinity” by David April. David is a software developer who produces fractal and photographic art. “Infinity” has multiple layers that give it an almost 3-D look.

Next week I’ll share some of our designs that will get you in the mood for the Halloween season. Have a good week, everyone!

Kindle 4 vs Kindle DX: Where To Find The Most Value

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:

Kindle 4 Kindle Touch Kindle DX
Display 6″ E INK Pearl 6″ E INK Pearl Touchscreen 9.7″ E INK Pearl
Connectivity WiFi WiFi + Optional 3G 3G
Battery Life 1 Month 2 Months 3 Weeks
Weight 5.98 Ounces 7.5 – 7.8 Ounces 18.9 Ounces
Storage 2GB (1,400 Books) 4GB (3,000 Books) 4GB (3,500 Books)
Price $79 $99 – $149 $379

Kindle 4

Pros:

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.

Cons:

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.

Kindle Touch

Pros:

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.

Cons:

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.

Kindle DX

Pros:

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.

Cons:

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.

Recommendations

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.

A Kindle 3 vs Kindle 4 Comparison

While the new Kindles have been announced, right now all we have to choose from if we want to read something right this minute are the Kindle Keyboard (formerly the Kindle 3) and the Kindle (or Kindle 4 as we were calling it to differentiate).  While neither one is a bad option at all, it wouldn’t have been worth announcing new versions of the Kindle if the old ones weren’t going to be exceeded in some ways.  What makes this launch unique, however, is that rather than simply improving on just about everything, such as in the jump from second to third generation devices, here we have a variety of different feature sets to choose from, each with some merit.  It seemed worth a look at the two we can get our hands on for comparison.

Superior Reading Experience: Kindle 4

As might be expected, the Kindle 4 definitely seems to offer the better reading experience.  It is smaller, lighter, slightly faster, and somehow just more comfortable to hold.  This is not to say that there is any problem with the Kindle Keyboard, but if all you care about is the feel as you flip from page to page, the Kindle 4 has an edge.  This is especially noticeable in the reduced page refresh time, though even on the Kindle Keyboard it is fast enough to be a non-issue.

Book Browsing: Kindle Keyboard

Whether you’re talking about searching your library for a particular book you’ve been wanting to read or finding a passage in that book that you were hoping to share with some friends, it is simply easier to do on the Kindle Keyboard.  Being limited to nothing more than a directional controller and an on-screen keyboard makes that sort of thing quite tedious on the Kindle 4.  If you have a particularly large library then navigating without searching might take you quite a while. This is also, incidentally, the case when it comes to annotating your books as you read them.  Obviously, anything involving text will be simpler when you can type, though highlighting is about the same.  Of course this ease of use will likely be surpassed by the Kindle Touch, but that’s a whole other blog.

Shopping & Internet Browsing: Kindle Keyboard

This essentially comes back to the same point as before.  While it is certainly possible to use the Kindle 4 to do all the things that the Kindle Keyboard can do, it is slower and more obnoxious.  Unless you are prone to buying nothing but bestsellers, for example, you’re better off hopping on a computer to do your Kindle Store shopping rather than using the actual eReader.  The Kindle Keyboard also offers optional 3G coverage with full internet connectivity for life (albeit in the rather limited experimental browser) where the Kindle 4 does not, which is worth taking into consideration.

Battery Life: Kindle Keyboard

Battery life is an important factor in some ways, but might be trivial here.  If I were comparing the iPad and any Kindle device, it would be a major difference since the E INK screen allows for battery life measures in weeks rather than hours.  When comparing the Kindle 4 and the Kindle Keyboard, however, it’s the difference between one month and two between charges.  I don’t know about anybody else, but if I only have to charge once a month my biggest problem becomes remembering where I put the charger rather than getting the most possible life out of the battery.  I only point it out because the Kindle Keyboard is supposed to last twice as long, making it slightly superior for heavy readers or long term travel.

Adaptability to User Preferences: Kindle 4

Not only is the Kindle 4 the smaller, lighter device, it is also available to a wider audience right out the door.  By doing away with the English keyboard, Amazon gave themselves an opening to allow language changing in the device’s OS.  If you like to enjoy non-English books for any reason, this can make a difference in avoiding jarring language switching while navigating.  Also, perfect for non-English speakers.  Sadly Amazon has not yet found a good way to allow customers to move from one country to another with their Kindles, which really removes some of the appeal for this feature.  We can hope that this is on the horizon, though.

Price: Kindle 4

This one is probably a bit obvious, but the Kindle 4′s ad supported model is 20% cheaper than the Kindle Keyboard’s.  While they are both incredibly affordable, it’s a factor that many people will want to take into account.  Also, be aware that should you decide to remove the Special Offers feature from your device, it will be $10 cheaper to do so on the Kindle 4.  You are required to pay the difference between ad supported and normal models when you make the switch, which in this case makes a bit of a difference.

Summary

When it comes right down to it, these devices are hard to compare feature for feature because they are essentially the same thing.  The keyboard is nice if you’re the sort of person who uses it (once you get used to it), but most people won’t need it at all.  Unless you have a good use for it, need to use your eReader via 3G due to lack of WiFi connectivity, travel enough (and lightly enough) to have trouble charging more than every 6 weeks or so, or just plain hate the new aluminum casing on the Kindle 4, there isn’t a compelling reason to prefer the Kindle Keyboard.  That said, if you truly want a stand alone device for reading then the Kindle 4′s lack of ease in shopping might be a major problem for you.  Trying to find the book you want using the directional controller to peck at an on screen keyboard is painful and will likely put you off entirely unless you know in advance exactly what book you want to purchase.  There are definitely good cases to be made on both sides of the comparison.

Kindle Touch Review (Pre-release)

As might be obvious based on the posted release dates at this point, it would be very unlikely for me to have a Kindle Touch handy to review right now.  That’s OK!  I won’t let anything as minor as that stop me.  We already have some media to work with, and there’s a lot of information to be gleaned if you look for it.

The basics are still in place, of course.  The display is the usual E INK Pearl screen technology that all current generation eReaders are pretty much required to have.  The battery life is just as good as the Kindle 3 (or the Kindle Keyboard as we’re now supposed to refer to it I suppose) and will give users weeks or months between charges even during periods of heavy use.  The connectivity includes built in WiFi and optional 3G coverage depending on which model you go with.  Storage will remain more than sufficient for carrying a library worth of reading material while also allowing you to offload extra books to the Amazon servers.  Whatever springs to mind when you think “Kindle” will probably be pretty accurate still.

There are obviously a few things that are new and unique to this Kindle family addition, though.  The obvious one is the touch screen.  It will be making use of the increasingly popular IR touch system also utilized by the competing Nook Simple Touch eReader.  This avoids the problems that Sony had with their early touchscreen eReaders, where the extra layer required for the touchscreen reduced readability on the device.  It also allows for the use of gloves, which many of you will be aware can be problematic on devices like the iPad unless you get specialty products to compensate.

Along with the new screen technology, Amazon has clearly sped up the refresh rate on the new Kindle.  It is “optimized with proprietary waveform and font technology”, which I am taking to mean that they have worked out a process to absolutely minimize the refreshed area of the screen during each page turn.  The extra speed is quite noticeable and again seems comparable to the Nook Simple Touch based on the currently available video footage.

The only other immediately obvious difference from the Kindle 3 is the physical presence of the device itself.  The Kindle Touch is smaller, lighter, silver, and lacks any form of mechanical button.  Everything is tied into the touchscreen, so there is no need for anything extraneous.  While the new Kindle 4 without a touchscreen manages to be even smaller and lighter, this is a noticeable improvement over the Kindle 3 and will likely improve long-term reading experiences somewhat.

At a glance, this new addition to the product line is a perfect response to the competition.  It is light, fast, attractive, and has a touchscreen display.  I will admit that I wish there were physical page turn buttons as a matter of personal preference, but that’s hardly a deal breaking factor.  Most of what makes it such an attractive deal, however, is how little they have had to change since the last Kindle.  It seems to basically be a new screen on an old device.

In terms of functional differences in the software, we’re left without much right now.  The EasyReach feature will partition off the screen in such a way as to make page turning more intuitive and less dependent on swiping than might otherwise be the case.  That’s a nice addition.

There is also “X-Ray”.  X-Ray is a feature that will allow users to quickly scan passages containing references to particular keywords while drawing upon information from Wikipedia and Shelfari.  It is hard to anticipate exactly how well this will work in practice, but Amazon has proven fairly adept at making use of predictive algorithms.  While I don’t believe they will be able to, as they claim, find “every important phrase in every book”, this could be a great reference tool.

Annotation may also be significantly improved by the addition of the new input.  Highlighting, placing the cursor, and generally navigating in small motions is problematic on the Kindle Keyboard’s 5-way controller.  It isn’t bad, but it’s too slow to be used as extensively as some may want.

I would claim that the new personal library browsing has been improved by the inclusion of a cover display shelf type of interface, but I don’t really consider this a useful feature.  While for some titles it is perfectly simple to pick out their cover from the crowd, many still have not been optimized for E INK’s monochrome displays.  Even more problematic is the importing of titles from other sources.  If the focus of the Kindle is really going to be the reading experience, highlighting the pretty pictures should not be a major sales point.

While this is only a minor hardware and firmware improvement over the last model and competing devices, it addresses demand and gives customers access to one of the cheapest, most useful eReaders available today.  Keep in mind that the Kindle platform brings huge value to the table as well with the inclusion of Whispersync, library lending(yes I know it’s new and late in coming, but it’s definitely the easiest to use at the moment now that it’s here), cloud storage, and perhaps the most impressive eBook store currently open.

So, is this a better eReader than its main competition in the US?  The Nook Simple Touch is the obvious point for general comparison.  Barnes & Noble took everything they learned from the original Nook, copied a few more things from the Kindle, and created a really fine eReader.  I would say that the playing field has tipped slightly in Amazon’s favor, though.  Not necessarily because of the superior physical properties of the device, but because the Kindle Touch brings equivalent hardware to the table and leaves the Kindle’s superior software and content to win out.  This isn’t to say that a major B&N update can’t change things, but for now they might have a problem with Amazon.

Kindle 4 Cost Breakdown

Recently Andrei managed to thoroughly break a perfectly good new Kindle 4 in his quest for ever more complete understanding of what’s going on inside our favorite devices.  The information and photos accompanying these posts got me thinking about Amazon’s new pricing gambit.  There’s a lot of focus right now on how cheap the Kindle Fire is being sold at, especially in light of the fact that recent reports have Amazon selling it at a loss, but nobody is really talking much about the fact that there is now a fully functional eReader connected to a major platform available for only $80.

Are they still making any money at all, or is this Kindle even more heavily subsidized than the Fire?  Let’s look into it a bit.  I’m not claiming any inside information beyond a working knowledge of searching the Internet, but what I found was fairly interesting.  The component list is based on the disassembly I mentioned:

  • 6″ E INK Display – ED060CF(LF)T1 REN60B7075(C62)
  • ARM Cortex-A8 CPU – MCIMX508CVK8B N78A 8TFC1130E
  • WLAN 802.11 b/g/n – Atheros AR6103T-BM2D 26AR0620.142D PAF284.1B 1126
  • Flash – SanDisk SDIN502-2G
  • Memory – Hynix H5MS2G22AFR E3M 129A
  • E INK Controller(?) – Winbond W25Q40BV
  • Power Management Chip – Texas Instruments SN92009 A4 TI 18IG2 AOR5 G4
  • Battery Controller – Freescale MC13892AJ CQQD129D
  • 30 Day Lithium Polymer Battery – 3.7V, 890mAh, MC-265360
  • Aluminum Case

Some of this was hard to find.  Other bits, like the Atheros AR6103T, don’t really seem to exist as far as the internet is concerned.  Where necessary I’m using best guesses, product families, and superficially equivalent parts for comparison.  After a bit of inquiry, here are the numbers I’m coming up with:

  • Display: $48 (Based on similar 6″ E INK Displays, no bulk pricing calculations)
  • CPU: $13
  • WLAN: $6 (Based on Kindle Fire breakdown by iSuppli. May be cheaper here since performance matters less)
  • Flash: $2.50 (Assuming similarity with previous models)
  • Memory: $1 (Researched as low as $0.01 in bulk orders.  Rounding up)
  • E INK Controller: $9
  • Power Management: $4 (Assuming similarity with previous models)
  • Battery Controller $3.50 (Rounding up from $3.32/1000 units.  Probably cheaper in batches of millions)
  • Battery: $3
  • Case: $5 (Assuming slightly more expensive than older Kindle models based on materials used)
  • Manufacturing Costs: $8 (Based on iSuppli Kindle Fire breakdown)
  • Other Materials: $10 (I’m sure I missed something)
    • Total Costs: $113

Given that I have done my best to be extremely conservative in these estimations, this should probably be considered an upper limit of the actual device costs.  Amazon will probably be quite a bit better at finding component discounts at this point than I am after my 48 hours or so of experience.  Even so, given that the basic model with no Special Offers integration is going for $109, I think I got pretty close.

One of the biggest things that I think we have to keep in mind with this new Kindle is that there is every indication this device is not meant to be serviced under any circumstances.  According to multiple reports so far, it is almost impossible to open the case without damage even if you know exactly what you are doing.  Even if that is accomplished, there was more glue used in this Kindle than makes sense.  It is clearly not meant to be serviced, either by customers or by Amazon themselves.  That means it has to be cheap enough for outright replacement of the hardware in the case of necessary servicing, with salvaging of little more than the E INK screens likely.

With this information, I think it is safe to say that Amazon won’t be throwing any money down a hole by subsidizing the Kindle 4.  They have gone above and beyond to build a new generation of the line that is far more cost effective than before while still offering maximum reading functionality.  Some money was definitely able to be saved by the exclusion of audio and touchscreen capabilities as well, of course.

The largest expense remains the E INK screen, but since this is the essential component of what makes a dedicated eReader worth having, it is hard to underestimate the importance.  You really can’t do without it and as yet I haven’t heard of any worthwhile substitutes.  For the moment this may mean that any further price drops will rely on the success of Kindle-based advertising.  With the baseline model already available for under $100, though, there’s not really much room left to complain about price.

Verdict: Amazon doesn’t loose money on Kindle 4 non-touch. Even with retail component prices, manufacture costs come very close to what device sells for. Kindle with special offers has been around for a while so it is safe to assume that Amazon know how much money they are going to make from advertising in the long run and it is reflected in $30 discount and the fact that you can remove special offers from your device for the same price of $30. It also seems that there is still room left for price reductions in the future.

$80 Kindle 4 Might Be Problematic For Amazon’s School Penetration

It is no secret that Amazon has its eyes on getting Kindles into schools.  That was pretty clear even before the Kindle DX pilot programs and Kindle textbook rentals.  The best part of that for them is that many students and teachers would just love to adopt the new technology.  Unfortunately the issue of accessibility has gotten in the way of such efforts in the past and seem likely to intrude even more so now with the release of the $80 basic Kindle.

The initial efforts to get students and teachers to adopt the Kindle met with some complications.  There are objections to the eReader in general, based on the idea that, since students are trained from early on to highlight and annotate their books while reading actively, they will find themselves less engaged than usual in non-paper books.  This isn’t unreasonable, but it basically amounts to the argument that things shouldn’t change because things have always been this way.  A bit circular.  At best, this side implies that early adoption is essential.

We also get people concerned that a Kindle will be a bad long-term investment due to the stranglehold of the Agency Model on pricing, which results in less substantial savings than seem reasonable.  This was more of a concern in the past, and will probably come up rarely now that an $80 Kindle is available.  The fact that students now have an extremely cheap option open to them that can borrow library books and rent texts from Amazon will likely be a big draw.

Official endorsement, and the potential for textbook replacement that that would provide, is still unlikely.  The legal complication regarding accessibility remains a large one.  Since eBooks cannot provide equal access for the visually impaired, they can’t replace textbooks in most school systems.  The Kindle seemed to be on its way to addressing these concerns with features like Text to Speech, but even that isn’t quite there yet.  It doesn’t help that publishers can turn the feature off, of course.

With the new Kindle’s complete lack of audio capability, the existing objections gain even more traction.  Now even if Amazon did find a reasonable way to address the conversion of print to audio that satisfied opponents, there would still be the problem of it not being applicable to the most affordable level of the price tier system.

If I had to make a guess, honestly, I would say that Amazon seems to have given up on the idea of formal adoption by the school systems.  The new approach, which definitely seems to have more potential, is a direct marketing to the students and parents of students.  It avoids bureaucracy and still manages to save everybody money in the long run.

As eReaders in general and the Kindle in particular become ever more common, it won’t be too hard to get educators to be a bit more open to their presence in the classroom.  Lots has been done to make it more possible, from real page numbers to shared annotation, to make the Kindle more appealing in this market.  They’re not going to abandon it entirely.

Kindle 4 Review

My Kindle 4th generation finally arrived in the mail towards the end of the day. Here is a hands-on review based on my first impressions. If you feel geeky, be sure to check out my Kindle 4 disassembly post.

Although Amazon sticks to not adding numbers to their device names, software on the unit that I’ve received is 4.0 (1308590058). Serial number starts with B00E, leaving B00B, B00C and B00D unaccounted for at this moment. Surely some of the gaps in serial numbers are going to be filled in with Kindle Touch and/or Kindle Fire.

Kindle 4 Setup

Although Kindle 4 comes preconfigured with your Amazon.com account just like previous generation devices, it does ask you a few questions during the initial start-up:

  • Language that you prefer to use. It can later be changed in Device settings. This is a new feature of Kindle software 4.0. You can choose from German, US or UK English, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese.
  • Connect to WiFi network. This is essential for getting books and further working with the device since keyboardless Kindle 4 lacks 3G connectivity. Perhaps this feature will stay in Kindle Touch 3G as well. This will encourage more users to use their home WiFi networks to cut 3G costs for Amazon and provide better battery life and faster download times for users.
  • Confirm amazon account to be used with the device. I guess that people often gifted Kindles but still had them initially bound to their own account. This might have created extra customer support calls for Amazon and they decided to address this issue as well. Of course you can always deregister and re-register your Kindle through settings just like before.

Kindle 4 Apps and Games

Ever since the keyboardless device was announced during the press conference in NYC I couldn’t help but wonder: “what will happen to Kindle apps?”. While some of them can get by with only 5-way controller, physical keyboard is essential for many. I wonder no more – applications are disabled in keyboardless Kindle 4. If I were to venture with a guess – they will also be disabled in Kindle Touch. Touchscreen is nice, but it would still be cumbersome to use in Kindle games and apps that rely on keyboard shortcuts. It looks like Kindle Fire games and apps are “going to be the way of the future”. Rather than letting customers have a sub-par experience, Amazon decided to cut the feature altogether. Although most apps don’t work on the new device, some do. Amazon has inspected apps and certified some as compatible with devices that don’t have a keyboard. For example you can get “Jewels” and “Grid Detective” on Kindle 4 and play these games. Amazon will work with app developers to make as many existing titles compatible with Kindle 4 as possible. The same will be true with Kindle Touch once it is released. It will have a separate certification program of its own.

What is new in Kindle 4?

In terms of software – not a whole lot… Here are the things that I’ve noticed so far:

  • UI language selection. You can change Kindle UI language in the device settings. Doing so causes the device to restart. Please not that it only affects menu and UI language. Dictionary lookup will still be based on the dictionary that you currently have installed. By default this is English Oxford. If you would like to use translation dictionary (including translation from different languages) – take a look at selection of dictionaries that we offer.
  • Menus were cleaned up a bit in PDF viewer. Irrelevant controls are completely hidden rather than shown as disabled.
  • Power button is now pressable rather than slideable. Personally I like pressing more. Perhaps this is because sliding the button though zip-lock when reading in bath tub is a pain.

Kindle 4 vs Kindle 3

On the other hand, several features that were present in Kindle 3 are missing in Kindle 4:

  • Hardware keyboard. This is the most noticeable change and it truly is a double-edged sword. On one hand I really appreciate reduced weight and size while retaining the same 6″ screen (while Sony PRS-350 is lighter still, it has smaller screen that may be harder to read if your eyesight is not perfect). On the other hand you never truly know what you had until you loose it. And loosing a keyboard is a major inconvenience. While most of the time you use Kindle for reading and the only button you care about is “Next page”, you do need to type text from time to time:
    • To find already purchased book in your “archived items”.
    • To find a new book in Amazon Kindle Store and purchase it. I’m pretty sure that Amazon will soon notice reduced book purchases from keyboardless devices. And this reduction can only be partially attributed to more frugal audience. Buying books without keyboard is less convenient. On the other hand, having WiFi and not needing a PC is still a whole lot more convenient than Sony way of buying books via PC.
    • To do a quick google/wikipedia search if you don’t feel like getting up and using your other Internet connected devices
    • To use apps. Especially productivity apps like Calendar and Notepad
  • Kindle Apps are disabled. Only limited number of apps are supported at the moment.
  • There is no audio at all. Not even a headphone jack. This eliminates “text-to-speech” “read-to-me” feature and “voice guide” accessibility. It is also not possible to listen to background MP3s while reading a book or listen to audiobooks. While small – this is still an inconvenience.
  • There is no 3G version. Accessing WiFi on the go can be problematic sometimes and I would have gladly paid extra $50 for lifetime 3G and assurance that I’ll be able to get new books pretty much anywhere. According to my Kindle 4 disassembly, there is plenty of space inside to accomodate 3G modem and larger battery to feed it. So it seems that this choice was made either to cut costs or/and to make purchasing Kindle Touch more desirable.

Kindle  4 Ergonomics

Kindle 4 is one inch shorter and 1.5 ounces lighter than Kindle Keyboard. Personally I find lighter and smaller better. I don’t think that Kindle 4 is too small. While buttons are easily reachable in the center where they are, it would have been easier if they were shifted to the right. This would have made the device much less convenient for left-handed people of course. Page turning buttons are smaller than in K3. Initially I found Kindle 3 buttons uncomfortable. I’ve grown used to them since and not I don’t have a problem with either Kindle 4 or Kindle 3 buttons.

Kindle 4 Accessories

When buying Kindle 4 from Amazon you have the option of adding following items to your order:

  • Power adapter. If you plan to travel a lot – do get it. It is much more convenient to charge from the AC outlet than keep you laptop running just to let your Kindle charge via USB. If you already have USB charger for your smartphone or similar device it will most likely work with Kindle. Or maybe you will want to be the cool kid on the block and go with solar USB charger
  • Leather cover (no light)
  • Zip Sleeve to protect your Kindle from scratches.
  • 2-year squaretrade extended warranty. $25 warranty on $79 device that already has one year of top-notch Amazon support (with polite customer reps and cross-shipping replacements) doesn’t seem like a good deal to me.

Accessories

Lighted cover power connectors have moved to the back and became more exposed. So don’t throw powered on Kindle in a bag with lots of metallic things – they might short out the battery. When Kindle is powered on there is 4 volt on these contacts next to the power button and USB.

Kindle 4 Connectors

Kindle 4 Connectors

Bottom line

If you are choosing between Kindle 4 and Kindle 3 – choose based on how important to you is reduced size vs lack of apps, audio, 3G and keyboard. If these features are not important to you – you should get Kindle 4 and enjoy it’s compact size. Otherwise get Kindle Keybaord (K3) for $20 more which is a great device to begin with.

Kindle Touch, Kindle Fire – New Amazon devices announced…

Today, on September 28th, 2011, during Amazon press conference in New York, Jeff Bezos has announced several new versions of the Kindle Device: Kindle Touch, Kindle Fire and Kindle 4 mini.

Kindle Touch

 

Kindle Touch 3G

Will have a 6″ latest generation eInk. There will be no keyboard, not even page flipping buttons, with all features accessible via “easy reach” system touch interface. Touchscreen uses the same infrared technology as latest generation Sony eReaders. Kindle Touch is made of silver plastic (again similar to latest Sony eReaders). It will be available on November 21st with pre-orders starting today in two flavors – WiFi only for less than a $100.00 (!!!!) -$99 and 3G for $149. Amazon is pretty consistent with charging $50 for “lifetime unlimited 3G access available in over 100 countries”. It seems like the software has gotten an upgrade as well with the new X-Ray feature that lets you do rich text lookups that go beyond looking up single words in the dictionary. It seems to pull Wikipedia description of general concepts mentioned on the page you are currently reading.

Features and specs:

Kindle 4 (mini)

Kindle 4 mini

Same 6″ screen, but no touch, no keyboard, only with page flipping buttons. Because of this the device is both very compact and inexpensive. It is 18 smaller than Kindle 3 and weights under 6 ounces. Priced at only $79 with Special Offers and $109 without and shipping today. The device is actually called just “Kindle”, with Kindle 3 being creatively renamed into “Kindle Keyboard”.

Specs and feature:

  • Latest generation eInk Pearl screen (600×800 16 grayscale) – same as Kindle 3
  • Size: 6.5″ x 4.5″ x 0.34″
  • Weight: 5.98 oz. This is 2.5 ounces lighter than Kindle 3, and only 0.5 ounce more than Sony PRS-350
  • Storage: 2GB internal flash, with 1 1/4 GB available for user content
  • RAM: 512MB SDRAM memory
  • Battery: 1 month battery life
  • Wireless connectivity: 802.11b/g/n WiFi. No 3G option available at this time
  • Wired connectivity: micro-B USB 2.0 connector
  • Audio: headphone jack and built-in stereo speakers
  • Pricing:
  • Available: Can Order Now!

Kindle Fire

Kindle Fire Tablet

Amazon’s entry into the tablet market, currently dominated by Apple iPad. Kindle Fire features:

  • 7-inch color backlit LCD display based on IPS technology that allows good viewing from wide range of angles
  • LCD is protected with extra-strong Gorilla-glass.
  • Dual core ARM CPU
  • Weighs 14.6 ounces
  • Runs heavily modified version of Android operating system

Kindle Fire will have direct and easy access to a broad range of content:

  • First and foremost – over 1,000,000 (and counting…) of Kindle eBooks
  • Color versions of newspapers and magazines
  • 100,000 movies and TV shows streaming from Amazon. 11,000 of these are available for free to Amazon Prime subscribers
  • 17 million DRM-free MP3 songs
  • Amazon’s own Android app store.

Kindle Fire seems to rely heavily on Amazon Cloud Storage.

Same WhisperSync technology that synchronizes book reading position across multiple devices now works with movies and TV shows – it automatically remembers last watched position. You can resume watching the movie on your TiVo or any other Amazon-connected streaming video device.

Touch UI supports swipe gestures to bring out extra controls, very similar to Windows 8 concept. It looks nothing like vanilla Android. Homescreen features 3D carousel of most recently accessed content regardless of it’s type: in the demo Angry Birds game is shown right next to the latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine and Kindle eBooks. OS supports multitasking. So you can listen to music while you are reading a book. You can pin any kind of content (including a website bookmark) to your Home screen bookshelf. Full color magazine display seems to be much smoother than with original version of Nook Color.

Browser user interface has tabs at the top. Kindle Fire features Amazon Silk – “cloud based mobile browser”. The browser automatically off-loads part of the page parsing and rendering to Amazon EC2 servers, helping the mobile device to load desktop oriented websites heavy with dynamic content and javascript quickly.

Price point is $199 as was previously announced. This includes 30-day trial of Amazon Prime service that normally sells as $79/year subscription. Kindle Fire ships on November 15th, 2011 with pre-orders starting today.

Specs and features:

  • Screen: 7″ backlit IPS LCD with multi-touch and gestures. 1024 x 600 resolution with 24 bit color
  • Size: 7.5″ x 4.7″ x 0.45″
  • Weight: 14.6 oz. This is 1.2 lighter than Nook Color
  • Storage: 8GB internal flash memory. No expansion slots (SD/MMC/etc) are available. It does however have access to Amazon Cloud Storage which is unlimited for Amazon content
  • Battery: Up to 8 hours on a single charge. Very similar to Nook Color. There is no cheating laws of physics there.
  • Wireless connectivity: 802.11b/g/n. No 3G option at this time
  • Wired connectivity: micro-B USB 2.0 connector
  • Audio: headphone jack and built-in stereo speakers
  • Data formats: on top of supporting the usual bunch that Kindle 3 supports, Kindle Fire adds native support for DOCX and a number of DRM-free audio-formats
  • OS: heavily modified Android
  • Sensors: Accelerometer
  • Digital content:
    • 1,000,000+ in-copyright books. 800,000+ of these are priced at $9.99 or below. Millions more – out of copyright
    • 100,000+ movies and TV shows available for streaming
    • 1000s of Android apps. This is only a subset of what’s available for Android. On the other hand, acceptance criteria is much higher so overall app quality is much better than you average Android app. Nook, Kobo app availability… I’m guessing not.
    • 17,000,000+ DRM-free Mp3 songs from Amazon MP3 store
  • Email client that works with major providers like Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc. Additional email support is available though apps that can be separately purchased.
  • One month trial of Amazon Prime.
  • Pricing: $199
  • Availability: Ships on November 15, 2011. Pre-orders available now.

Amazon Kindle Fire TV ad

Size comparison

I’ve added these new devices to the eReader Size Comparison page. So now you can visually compare how they stack.

  • Kindle Mini is smaller than Sony PRS-350 while featuring same buttons and screen size.
  • Kindle Touch is smaller than Nook Color again while featuring the same screen diagonal.

Kindle Hardware Update Likely, Color eReader Not So Much

A combination of the high expectations surrounding the upcoming Amazon Kindle Tablet and the lack of substantial information regarding the expected hardware update to the existing Kindle eReader line has led to some speculation about secretly substantial change being just around the corner for the bestselling eReading device.  Domain name acquisitions have pushed some people into a belief in the importance of a touchscreen for the Kindle, but more ambitious sources are holding out hope for a truly impressive jump forward.  Wouldn’t having the first affordable Color E INK eReader be quite the coup for Amazon, after all?  It would certainly make the Nook Simple Touch a bit less shiny by comparison.

Still, and I say this with nothing but regret, there is next to no chance that we will be getting a true Kindle Color any time soon.  Sure the Kindle Tablet will have the ability to read, but only in the same way that the Nook Color or your average smartphone can technically be an eReader if the user so desires.  Until screen technology advances a bit further, nobody is likely to want to gamble on a good color reading display.

The problem right now is the tradeoffs.  To make a Kindle Color worthwhile, Amazon would need to have a vibrant color display that didn’t detract from the existing touted benefits of the Kindle’s display.  That means you can’t have a back-light, high battery draw, or less than crisp text.  Nothing currently being produced meets all those criteria while still being affordable enough to keep things competitive.  If they did, the Kindle Tablet would be looking at such a screen and would have a significant advantage over every other Tablet PC on sale today.

Naturally something has to give.  The Kindle device is going strong at the moment, but that’s mostly sue to a combination of momentum and strong backing from the platform as a whole.  If the hardware faces too much competition that can match or surpass it, Kindle sales and by extension Kindle eBook sales will suffer.  Amazon has to know this.  As such, I would say that getting your hopes up for an updated Kindle is totally safe.

What can we expect if not a color screen?  Well, a touchscreen is inevitable to match the competition from B&N, Sony, and Kobo, if nothing else.  Given the Kindle Scribe rumors, it wouldn’t be at all shocking if a stylus were included in the design.  Since nobody else is using 3G coverage Amazon could technically let that slip, but the recent ad deal with AT&T would seem to indicate that they value the ability to bring that sort of thing to customers.  Beyond these things, however, it’s anybody’s guess.  Higher resolution screens?  Bluetooth?  Strange magical powers?  All possibilities!

Current speculation places the updated Kindle‘s release in late October, but that information is several weeks old now.  Given the most recent Kindle Tablet developments, and the fact that Amazon is likely to emphasize the new branch of Kindle products heavily for this holiday season, we may not be seeing new Kindles before late November.  More updates will show up here as we dig them up.

Kindle Scribe: Something To Get Excited About?

While there have been some fairly substantial revelations recently regarding the Kindle Tablet, we haven’t been hearing much about the next generation of Kindle eReader.  It’s understandable, given the potential for some really great Kindle vs iPad competition in the near future, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything else going on.  Jeff Bezos said at one point that Amazon will remain mindful of their customers’ desire to always have a dedicated eReading device, and I think we can expect them to follow up on the Kindle 3 in a fairly substantial way.

Perhaps the biggest source for speculation regarding the Kindle lately has been the discovery of some domain names secretly registered by Amazon.  Using a hole in Go Daddy’s security, since remedied, interested researchers were able to figure out that they had acquired “kindlescribe.com” and “kindlescribes.com”.  This has, as might be expected, led to quite a few people being fairly sure they know the name and focus of the next Kindle eReader.

At best, I would say this might be half right.  While the Kindle is long overdue for some intuitive and immersion-maintaining method for annotation, I can’t see the addition of a stylus being an important enough addition for Amazon to base an entire generation of their devices on.  It will probably be present as soon as there is a touchscreen to make use of, which I think we can all agree is an inevitability for any new eReader Amazon comes up with at this point, but as a focal point it would just be underwhelming.

What does make sense is a Kindle Scribe(s) service that allows for tighter integration of the Kindle and Kindle Tablet.  One of the biggest problems that the company faces with their entry into the tablet market is that of avoiding cannibalizing their own eReader sales while still maintaining strong competitive advantages.  If the only way to either access or produce hand-written noted in eBooks turns out to be via the Kindle line of devices, not only does value go up compared to the competition in both categories, but the fact that your notes can be shared between the two would encourage dual ownership for a number of applications.  If for no other reason than that a stylus will be equally useful with either new device, there’s no reason to expect a Kindle Scribe eReader.

This isn’t the first time we have heard about potential naming schemes for new Kindle incarnations, of course.  The same source also discovered “kindleair.com” and “kindlewave.com” several months ago, which led to speculation of an earth, wind, and water theme for the next big Amazon device roll out.  For all we know, those will have some applicable meaning when release day comes around too.

While none of this is set in stone and nobody outside of Amazon can really say for sure what is going to come along in the next generation of Kindles, we do know that it’s coming.  Speculation about release dates has been growing, rumors are spreading, and Amazon is selling off refurbished Kindle models for as little as $99 everywhere they can think of to clear stock before the new device is ready to go.  It’s only a matter of time now.

Refurbished Kindles Cause Customer Dilemma

I am unable to really express how often over the last year or two I have heard from people the idea that the Kindle will never hit it big until they get their pricing under the hundred dollar mark.  This has not stopped the Kindle from becoming overwhelmingly popular, but it makes a great talking point for people who want to argue for discounts or claim Tablet PC superiority in eReading.  Finally, however, we can have an end to the idea’s repetition.  There is now a Refurbished Kindle available for just $99. There are other factors involved that might make this a deal worth waiting on, though.

The $99 pricing seems appealing and probably will sway a few people.  I seem to recall that discounted refurbs toward the end of the Kindle 2′s life cycle did the same.  Still, before you jump on it, it is important to keep in mind what this move is likely to imply.  Rumors abound, both substantial and completely speculative, about the upcoming next generation of Kindle products.  We can be almost 100% sure that they will be showing up in the next three months, but beyond that there is little total certainty due to the expected overlapping release of the first Kindle Tablet and the difficulties inherent in trying to pick through the bits of information we have to determine which bit goes to which device.  Given competition in the eReader marketplace alongside some business moves that Amazon has made lately, though, we can make some pretty solid assumptions.

Amazon will, it can be assumed, be releasing a new touchscreen Kindle.  It is very, very likely that it will run Android in some form.  There are certain to be several incarnations of it to allow for choice between WiFi, 3G, ad support, and the combinations thereof that we have become accustomed to.  It is very unlikely that the new Kindle baseline model will cost more than the $114 currently being asked for the cheapest brand new Kindle on sale right this minute.

The question potential customers have to ask, then, is what factors matter in their choice.  If this is meant to show Amazon that you will not support Kindles over $100, then it is a good way to put your money into making your point while still getting a great product.  If you are in a hurry and don’t feel like waiting to get the new Kindle, then it makes sense to pick up one of these.  Never any harm in grabbing a refurbished product from a company that is known to have excellent customer service.  If you don’t have a point to make and aren’t in a rush, however, I can’t see that holding back to see how well the Kindle 4/Kindle Touch/Kindle Whatevertheycallit stacks up compared to the competition.  There’s no reason to believe that there won’t still be Kindle 3 refurbs and back stock sitting around by then anyway, probably discounted even further or sold through Woot.com.  While there are rumors going around that many customers will be getting brand new Kindles labeled as refurbished in order to be sneaky about their official new product announcement, it is hard to see Amazon running out completely in the next couple weeks.

New Amazon Kindles Coming This October?

In all of the speculation about the potential for a Kindle Tablet release later this year, few people have speculated much on the future of the Kindle itself.  Possibly we’re simply running out of good ideas to improve the device without causing a problem with the streamlined user experience?  Whatever the reason, we now have news that there are indeed two completely new Kindles on the way.  A recent Wall Street Journal article has indicated, based on sources familiar with the matter, that this October we can expect to be seeing both a newer, cheaper Kindle of the type we are already used to, and a Kindle with a touchscreen.

While at a glance the Kindle Touch, or whatever Amazon chooses to call it, seems to be a reaction to the incredibly popular new Nook Simple Touch, the timing makes that less of an issue.  October is also the anticipated release month for the first piece in the new Kindle Tablet line.  Many people have been wondering if this meant the death of the Kindle, either by way of abandonment in favor of the newer product, or simply by eroding the existing customer base by offering an affordable alternative that does more than can be handled by existing eReaders.  The latter is far-fetched, since customers have shown a distinct appreciation for dedicated reading devices so far and seem more inclined toward dual-ownership rather than abandonment of the Kindle in favor of any tablet.  The former was a concern, but by launching the new Kindles at the same time as the Kindle Tablet, Amazon has the opportunity to provide what I assume will be their first sub-$100 eReader, as well as a new more advanced model, and thereby reaffirm their commitment to providing a dedicated reading experience for their Kindle customers.

Assuming that Amazon can be counted on to take advantage of the time remaining before the release to address any remaining shortcomings in their design as compared to the competition, such as the Nook’s current superiority in terms of speed boosts and social networking integration, these new Kindles can’t really help but make a splash.  The move at least partially away from the physical keyboard will even leave open the potential for true localization of the newer model without retooling the hardware for every country they decide to open a Kindle Store in.  The fact that many expect the Kindle Tablet to come with a customized front end for the Amazon.com site that is geared toward optimized tablet shopping will almost certainly bode well for the new Kindle as well, should it prove true.

It isn’t going to be the color E Ink eReader that many people were, I think, hoping for.  It would just be too much of a shock to see the price of the Kindle’s newest model jump to accommodate the higher production costs of something like that.  That does not mean that the Kindle Tablet won’t pick up the ball as far as that demand is concerned, though.  Time will tell what needs Amazon has chosen to prioritize, but it is heartening to see that they won’t be letting eReading become a minor aspect of their bigger media distribution effort.

Does the Upcoming Kindle Tablet Mean No Touchscreen Kindle eReader?

The Kindle has been seeing a few new releases from the competition in the past couple weeks.  Some of what they bring to the table is software and such, of course, but the most visible trend has been the move to E Ink touchscreens.  Both the Kobo and Barnes & Noble’s Nook line have released nearly button-free eReaders in an effort to set themselves apart.  Ironically both of these companies tried to set themselves apart by releasing amazingly similar looking products, but that’s unimportant.  This leads to the inevitable speculation that such a design might be the future of the Kindle.  If I had to make a guess, I’d say it will be eventually but not right away.

I don’t think it will be an immediately changed design to keep up with the apparent trend for a couple reasons.  First, clearly Amazon’s focus has better places to be.  The Kindle Tablet line, whatever they choose to call it in the end, involves a number of devices in several shapes and sizes if rumors are to be believed.  None of them are likely to run the same software that is on the existing Kindle.  None of them are going to use the same hardware.  it just isn’t strong enough.  There is simply no obvious direct connection between the device offerings besides Amazon.com as a media vendor and any marketing device they might choose to employ to draw a connection for potential customers.  Given this, it seems unlikely that Amazon would want to be designing or releasing a Kindle 4 dedicated eReader at the same time.  Why would they?  The existing Kindle is doing amazingly well.  The new Nook and Kobo are basically playing catch-up and trying to match features at this point.  Nowhere in the specs of either was there an obvious point of superiority in design that Amazon would have to struggle to meet.  The only major software points involve social networking and library lending, both of which Amazon is working with already.  No need for a new device.

Also, the move to touchscreens by their competitors, if played with correctly, offers Amazon an incentive to stay right where they are for a bit.  As I mentioned, the new Nook and Kobo look rather similar.  In fact, it seems hard to make the hardware side of a touchscreen device particularly unique.  Nobody expects the Kindle Tablet to make a big splash for changing what it means to be a tablet, right?  For now, the Kindle will be the most recognizable eReader anywhere in a way that is only emphasized by the homogeneity of their competition.

This will only work for a while until people become more used to touchscreens in their eReaders and expect them, of course.  It seems an inevitable step at this point no matter how much one might like the more mechanical controls.  It will make particular sense for Amazon to update the Kindle to bring it in line with the Kindle Tablet line’s hardware should that take off as strongly as they’re hoping, since we have to assume that an affordable tablet PC with a non-LCD screen will finally be what makes an impact on Kindle sales.  For now, though, probably not that much of a rush.

News of a Kindle Tablet Possible for 2011

Citing certain unnamed but seemingly reliable sources, a recent report has Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) getting ready for the release of their first Tablet PC as early as the end of this year. There have been rumors and speculation flying around for months now about a possible tablet successor to the bestselling Kindle 3, but this is the first solid information we’ve had that opens the door to speculation about release dates.

Apparently Quanta Computer, a Taiwan based company, has received orders from Amazon for a new tablet PC expected to be in demand on the order of 700,0000 to 800,000 units per month during peak demand.  The same report notes that Quanta is expecting to be shipping as soon as the second half of 2011.  Definitely a good sign for people impatient to see what Amazon has up their sleeve.  The expectation at the moment is that the current supplier of Kindle screen technology, E Ink Holdings, will be tapped to provide components for the new device.  When contacted, E Ink refused to make any comment either way.  This would make it the first color E Ink tablet PC, to the best of my knowledge and assuming Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) doesn’t beat them to the punch, which would be quite the accomplishment.  It is also a safe bet that the new Kindle Tablet, whatever it ends up being called, will be running Android Honeycomb.  They’ve set themselves up an extensive app store already that should get the launch off impressively right off the bat.

While at the moment Apple holds the vast majority of the tablet PC market, there’s at least some reason for them to feel threatened at this point.  An affordable but highly functional tablet that is linked to one of the biggest distributors of digital media there is would be exactly what it takes to cut into their profits.  For all we know, this could be the driving force behind the seemingly ridiculous lawsuit Apple filed over Amazon’s use of the title “app store”.

I would not expect the Kindle Tablet to stand out based on its hardware.  Amazon is positioned in the best possible spot to take advantage of the profit potential in content distribution.  This means keeping costs down and making sure that the device gets into the hands of as many people as possible, explaining the 800,000 unit per month estimation. Chances are good that the new tablet will be just powerful enough to handle video streaming in order to pull in the Netflix and Hulu users, but nothing more extensive than that.  The Kindle vs iPad competition won’t be based on the superiority of the technology so much as who makes the better sales pitch on the software.

Amazon won’t be the first company to try to take a chunk of the tablet market away from Apple.  There are tablets aplenty to choose from these days, many of which on paper are approximately as good as or better than the iPad.  Nobody’s likely to come out ahead without a content distribution system like Amazon’s, however.  This may be the turning point.

Is the Kindle Moving to Android?

In recent days there has been a great deal of speculation on the possible implications of “Lab 126″, the Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) development group that came up with the Kindle, posting some job openings for Android developers.  The immediate speculation has been all about tablets and the potential for the next generation of Kindle to be one.  It’s an interesting thought.

Honestly, I think that at this point the evidence is fairly overwhelming that an Amazon Tablet PC is on the way.  Between this development, the opening of the Amazon App Store, and the obvious success of the Nook Color as a mini-tablet, the signs just point that way.  The big question is what this will mean for the Kindle.  It is possible that this will be a new incarnation of the Kindle, a divergent line of Kindle products, or even a completely new and independent effort(I vote for calling it the “Table” if they go this way).

The one place I personally don’t see this going is a direct sequel to the existing Kindle eReader.  While I wouldn’t put it past Amazon to have decided on a screen technology they like and attempted to never let on to anybody, by this point it would probably have gotten out in some way.  I also cannot see them moving to an LCD eReader after enjoying the kind of success they’ve had to date with the E Ink technology, especially after the last few ad campaigns.

Even if they go with a Kindle Spin-off, or even a fresh product line, however, we have to wonder if a migration of the Kindle line over to Android is in the works.  On the one hand, the existing Kindle software development has gone in another direction and it would seem a bit weird to just throw all that away.  On the other, why maintain two completely distinct software solutions when you could manage it on one?  The original Nook proved fairly well that you can run Android on an eReader without needing it to be a fully functional tablet.

The one place where all these ideas and speculations fall apart is in the fact that Lab 126 seems to be an entirely eReader centered endeavor.  Their website’s vision statement actually begins with “We develop and design wireless electronic reading devices”, so it might be a stretch to say that this is going to be a major tablet release.  Of course, that’s reflective of the current state of things.  It would seem to imply though, that anything coming out of the group will be centered on expanding the Kindle product line.  While I suppose that an Amazon equivalent to the Nook Color would probably go over well, especially with an established App Store to link to at launch already, I simply can’t see that as being the long-term goal.

My preferences definitely tend toward either a serious iPad competitor or a color Kindle that makes use of something along the lines of the Mirasol displays.  That’s just me, of course.  All this is speculation for now, but I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where this all ends up.

Kindle 4 Thoughts & Hopes

Color eReaders are getting more and more press as time goes on.  Now that we have the Hanvon release just months away, there’s not really much room left to say that non-LCD color displays aren’t ready for release into the market yet.  As such, it’s pretty reasonable to expect that 2011 will see the release of a new Kindle.  Call it the Kindle Color, Kindle 4, or whatever you want…we already had a number of excellent ideas from readers about that in another post…it’s all but to be taken for granted at this point.  What will we be getting along with it though?

Here are the major things I’m hoping to see when the time comes:

6″ Display w/ Higher Resolution

Yes, I know some people are clamoring for an increase in screen size and this isn’t really any different from what we have now.  To me, the screen is the right size already, we just need better resolution.  Also, it helps keep the Kindle distinct from your average 7″ Tablet, which I can’t help but feel is important.  eReaders have got to continue to stay their own category if we’re going to avoid major compromise in quality in favor of more tablet/phone type features.

More User Customization

User-defined nested folders, personalized screen savers, more sorting options, an improves search function, basically anything that will make the process of using the Kindle move faster and more pleasantly so I can get back to reading on it.

EPUB Support

I know, fat chance, but we can dream, right?  It would save some people, myself included, loads of trouble on eBook conversion and it would make library usage finally possible.

Optional Color and/or Media Integration

One of the things that worries me about the new release is the potential for intrusive advertising.  I’ve already said that I think WOWIO does a pretty great job of avoiding that, but they’re not the only ones out there.  Definitely wanting to avoid talking ads, horribly blatant product placement mid-text, and other such distracting things.  A setting to switch things to the classic Kindle monochrome would be great, just in case.

Restored Memory Card Slot

Much as this doesn’t come up for me personally, I used to work for a company that was trying to use Kindles to help visually impaired kids get their reading done using Text to Speech and Audiobooks.  It worked pretty well, but you could only have so many Audiobooks at a time.  What if I wanted to load a whole school year’s worth of audio books on for my kid or something?  I feel like that should be an option.  Which leads into the next point…

Improved Audio Controls

Let’s face it, what we have now is a little sparse.  I’d like to see some improvements, perhaps even when it comes to song selection while reading?

That’s all I’ve got for the moment.  Some of these are long shots, others might be already in the works for all I know.  There’s some good discussion going on over in the Kindle web forum about exactly this topic.  Check it out and chime in with your opinions, if you have any.  The way I figure it, the more input Amazon gets on what its customers want, the better the product will be in the end.