Bringing Windows 8 into the Kindle App family didn’t take long. Amazon has already got a polished version of the reading software in the Windows Store and ready to use. As always, it’s free of charge. Those familiar with the workings of Kindle apps, including the Kindle Cloud Reader, will find themselves right at home here. There are, however, some peculiarities that make the Windows 8 offering stand out.
All of the standard features are present here. The app can open any document associated with your Amazon account in either Cloud view or locally once you’ve downloaded it. Whispersync takes care of updating your notes and maintaining your position in the document. There are a number of options to customize parts of the display including the margins, font size, and color scheme. A selection of fonts would have been nice, but that’s my only major complaint.
Basically you can assume that this app is a portal for the Kindle Cloud Reader without being too far off. The visual style of the library is more in line with the Windows 8 aesthetic and some of the capabilities the app offers are specific to Windows 8, but once you are reading a book all of that falls away and it’s the same familiar experience.
The Windows 8-specific features are worth bring aware of, though. Amazon has done a good job of integrating the hooks that make Microsoft’s new interface distinct.
The Charm Bar, largely the way you handle searching, sharing, and settings in any Windows 8 app, is the first thing to be aware of. Searching the Kindle App will first pull up your library, making it handy for anybody with a large selection on hand, but will also show the top twenty search results from the Kindle Store. Clicking on any of these will open a browser for shopping. This searching is available even if the app itself isn’t currently open thanks to the way the Charm Bar works, taking a step out of the process of opening or shopping for a book.
Since Charms are the way that all sharing is handled, this is also where you go for that. My first attempt allowed me to share the title of the book I was reading, a note to go with that title, and a link to the book in the store. This function will probably get more robust once Amazon figures out how to handle the even-handed treatment of all social sharing options in Windows 8.
It is also possible, and quite obvious, to “pin” a title to your Start Screen. Any time you select a book or open the app bar while reading, this option is presented. What this means is that the book will show up as a tile in the Start Screen, allowing you to jump directly into your book without worrying about navigating the library. It’s a handy way to keep your current books readily at hand.
Basically, while the Kindle for Windows 8 app doesn’t accomplish anything revolutionary it also doesn’t have any obvious problems. For a launch app, you’re not going to find many better implementations. Check out win8review.com for more information.
While the news that Amazon had jumped at the chance to update the Kindle for iPad app to take advantage of the new Retina display being included in the iPad 3 was interesting, it didn’t accomplish a whole lot in terms of feature improvement for the end user. In fact, many complained that they noticed some small but useful options having been taken away quietly in the course of the update. One might expect that this is an effort to draw slightly more attention to the usefulness of Kindle eReaders, or at least the Kindle Fire, but with their newest release of Kindle for Android Amazon has demonstrated that they are still interested in making sure that users stay satisfied.
The most important feature update by far is the new ability to use Amazon’s Send-to-Kindle application to transfer files between your PC and your Android device’s Kindle app. Say what you will about the inconvenience of wireless transfers of large quantities of files, it will never be anything but a major advantage to be able to instantly move any compatible file right to the device you want to use it on. Nobody really likes having to keep track of their data transfer cables or swapping SD cards around, as far as I can tell.
While it will probably come up slightly less, at least right away, the inclusion of Kindle Format 8 compatibility for the Kindle app should make a big difference going forward as well. This format, announced in October of last year but only released officially back in January, gives the person generating each title far more control over the way their work is displayed than ever before.
This format has met with mixed responses, given that for many the advantage of the eReader will always be its ability to reflow text to meet the demands of the reader in terms of font, text size, spacing, etc., but it does allow Amazon to add some content to the Kindle Store that would otherwise be difficult at best. Among those titles that Android users will now be able to make use of are thousands of comics, graphic novels, children’s books, and more. All forms of image heavy composition should benefit from improved use of the newer HTML5 based format.
Kindle news is going to continue to center around the ongoing push to improve the Kindle Fire and its anticipated successor for quite a while, it seems. This is only natural since it is a huge undertaking that has thus far met with almost unbelievable success for a company so new to hardware development. It is reassuring to those who bought into the Kindle line as a reading method that this side of things is not being lost in the rush of things.
By improving the Kindle Apps and further supporting the new Kindle file format, Amazon improves the reading experience for millions of people and attracts even more high quality content for readers to enjoy. With luck the trend will continue and more effort will be put into improvements across the board in months to come.
Tomorrow we will finally get a chance to try out the new Blackberry Playbook 2.0, but we already have a bit of a surprise regarding its features. According to an advertisement that seems to have inadvertently been slipped onto Best Buy’s Canadian site, for the first time ever Playbook users will have their own Kindle app. There is a great deal of speculation at the moment over whether or not the Blackberry Tablet OS 2.0 update (now Blackberry Playbook OS) will be what makes the brand relevant again after their abrupt decline in recent years, and this would definitely be a good sign.
While many reports are taking it as a given at this point that the native Kindle app will ship with the hardware, there is still plenty of reason to be skeptical. One of the big features of the update is that it will allow Android developers to easily port their apps for use on the Playbook. Given that opportunity, it is easier to see Amazon just converting their Kindle for Android offering than making the effort to develop native software for an operating system with a comparatively narrow user base and uncertain future.
It is also possible, given the phrasing of the advertisement that has spurred all of this speculation, that it meant nothing more than that Playbook users will be able to make use of the Kindle Cloud Reader web app. The exact lines in question read:
“Plug in to BlackBerry App World and read, write and game like never before. With thousands of apps for every use, you’ll never run out of new and exciting options. Pick up Angry Birds or Cut the Rope, read the latest magazines, or connect online with Facebook and Twitter apps. With access to Kobo and Kindle, you can enjoy new late night reading without ever leaving your living room.”
While this says there should really be something, it doesn’t rule out any of the options. The current Twitter “app”, for example, is simply a link that takes users to their web interface. Since the language in question has since been removed it may even have been in error completely, but this wouldn’t be the first time that early leaks like this turned out to be accurate.
There has been a series of announcements about RIM’s policies with regard to apps, including imported Android apps, that lead some to question the ongoing viability of the platform. When the tablets finally start getting out to the public it will be more possible to gauge their impact on the market as a whole. For those Blackberry fans who pick up the new Playbook, however, it is definitely good news that there will be some method for accessing Kindle libraries. With luck, this will be the start of a resurgence of the Blackberry line as a major contender in the smartphone and tablet markets. More competition generally means better products for everybody. The Kindle Fire is my current favorite for the price, but nothing is ever perfect.
Earlier this month the Kindle for Android app got a bit of an update. While nothing huge, it did finally bring the Real Page Numbers to Android users. In addition to this, they managed to pare down the size of the download required to use the Kindle platform from 10+mb to a more manageable 8mb. This might seem rather minor, but considering the lack of space on many Android devices as well as the fact that some users have reported sizes of up to 25mb (can’t reproduce that, but the claim has circulated), this is a definite improvement.
Much as I like the Kindle app however, and I do, there are some things that I would like to be able to do that it does not provide. Real Page Numbers are nice, but situational at best given that they still only exist in a fraction of the available Kindle Editions. Now, I have posted here before about the ability to download and install the Nook app through non-Amazon sources and this works quite well. Sadly I believe that the specific method I mentioned several months ago has been blocked off, though. This difficulty became a non-issue thanks to Good E-Reader being kind enough to open up their own free app store.
While you can find a fair selection of general purpose apps present that they felt were worth keeping around for people, the folks over at Good E-Reader are concentrating mostly on reading. This covers books, magazines, comics, and all such things along those lines. There are only free apps, but this allows the site to operate without adding in any of the inconvenient restrictions that currently plague locked-in Android device owners wishing to pick up something useful. It is definitely worth checking out.
In terms of reading on your Kindle Fire, for example, some people find it more convenient to have access to the Nook app’s extra level of brightness control than to be able to simply invert the contrast of the page. Others will appreciate the level of social media integration offered by the Kobo app. In either case, at least you will be able to open EPUB formatted eBooks, which the Kindle Fire lacks any form of native support for at the moment. You won’t have luck with everything (Google Books, for example is still not working in my experience) but for the most part they’re doing a good job of making the latest popular selections available without all the hassle.
Overall Amazon has done a good job of giving customers what they want, both in terms of the software they provide and the hardware they sell. I can understand the urge to retain control over what gets installed on Kindle Fire devices, especially since if anything goes wrong it is likely to be Amazon’s Customer Service that gets the call. They have left the door pretty wide open to install most things, though, provided you know how to find them. In some cases, it’s more than worth the effort it takes to get the most out of your experience. Kindle Fire software updates do not remove any apps when they occur, so it shouldn’t be an ongoing hassle.
As many of you may be aware, the deadline for app developers to comply with Apple’s new competition stifling rules is the end of this month. So far, no changes are evident in either the Amazon Kindle for iOS app or even the Barnes & Noble Nook app. While it would seem odd for this to be the case this close to the deadline, I’m thinking it might be a carefully made decision on Amazon’s part.
We know by now, or at least are overwhelmingly confident, that there will be a Kindle Tablet coming later this year. By releasing something like that, Amazon sets themselves up for a far more justified version of the old Kindle vs iPad debate. They need to set themselves apart as a device company. The way I see it, Android isn’t enough at this point. Too many other people are already working with it. Even having their own on-site app store won’t necessarily wow anybody. Some good publicity would help though.
Assume for a moment that the Kindle for iOS app doesn’t get changed in any way before the June 30th deadline. Apple will then have two choices. They can either follow through on threats to remove apps in violation of the new rules or they can publicly admit that they need what these developers bring to the table. I think it’s likely that banning will occur.
Amazon’s response to this, if planned correctly, could be huge publicity. I would expect something along the lines of a public statement explaining that the Kindle Store simply cannot productively operate under the restrictions that Apple is trying to place on it, but that as a service to their loyal customers the app will be chopped down to comply with the new rules enough so that existing customers can still read what they’ve bought while Amazon examines other solutions. Then, a month or two down the line, a full roll-out of Kindle for the Web that completely bypasses the need for apps.
Yes, under the new rules Amazon could just raise prices of in-app purchases to make up the margin that Apple is demanding. This would bring them nothing but ill will from the average Kindle for iOS user, though. With the new line of Kindle Tablets pending, these are the same customers that Amazon has to be hoping to win away. Probably not the smartest thing to pass on fees to them.
They could also choose to simply announce that all purchases must be done on the website and do away with the in-app purchasing links. I think that’s probably what will happen with the post-banning reboot of the app, should my scenario prove true, but it would cause the loss of impulse buying opportunity for a large portion of the Kindle user base without also providing any sort of good PR. I just don’t see that making sense right now.
We’ll know by the end of the month, of course, but right now there hasn’t been any intention to comply expressed by Amazon. Most likely, they’ll just stand by and watch Apple shoot themselves in the foot while pointing out that the Kindle makes a great, affordable eReader alternative to putting up with that sort of ridiculousness. The Kindle for iOS app doesn’t seem likely to be as profitable for the company under the new guidelines anyway, so they might as well get that preemptive jump on Apple in the public eye.
The status of the iOS Kindle App has been in question for a while now, after Apple’s announcement that they were going to begin enforcing some highly restrictive app store regulations. eBook retailers would have been forced to offer all products that could be accessed through their app as a purchase through the same app and at the same price that these eBooks were sold elsewhere. Bad news for companies like Amazon that often only make 30% on a given eBook sale, since Apple gets 30% of everything sold through their app store. It was beginning to look like it would not be worth their time to continue maintaining an iOS presence. Fortunately for lovers of the Kindle for iOS, Apple had an incredibly small and clearly grudging change of heart.
It is all in the phrasing of the rules. The original cause for concern:
11.13 Apps can read or play approved content (magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video) that is sold outside of the app, for which Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues, provided that the same content is also offered in the app using IAP [in-app purchase] at the same price or less than it is offered outside the app. This applies to both purchased content and subscriptions.
The slightly revised rules:
Apps that link to external mechanisms for purchases or subscriptions to be used in the app, such as a “buy” button that goes to a web site to purchase a digital book, will be rejected.
11.14 Apps can read or play approved content (specifically magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video) that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app, as long as there is no button or external link in the app to purchase the approved content. Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues for approved content that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app.
Essentially, Amazon and the rest of the eReading crowd can continue to let users read their books and shop through the website so long as they don’t have a direct link away from the app to make sales. Sadly, this comes too late and does far too little for some app providers. A number of apps, including the popular iFlow eReader, felt compelled to shut down after Apple essentially destroyed the viability of their business. This was clearly supposed to be a way for Apple to take all of the customers who came to their devices at least in part for their eReader usability and cut them off from their providers of choice, thereby increasing the user base of the less than successful iBooks store.
If it had come a year ago, I think it might even have managed to go through. Right now, though, we have Kindles and Nooks that are affordable enough to supplement an iPhone or iPad. Google’s Android is taking off and tablet choices are increasingly plentiful. Most importantly, people are becoming more aware of the restrictive nature of Apple’s business practices. They would have lost customers over the move. It isn’t a big change in the rules, and it still gets in the way, but at least it shows that Apple can’t completely disregard the opinions and demands of their customers and developers without backlash.
Today Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) announced that they were releasing an update to their popular Kindle for Android software that would optimize it for use on tablet PCs using Android Honeycomb (Version 3.0). The new software is intended to take all of the fun stuff that users liked about the existing software, add a few perks, and generally improve the way it takes advantage of larger screens than are common on Android based smartphones. It all sounds pretty good.
The new features that users can expect from the update include an integrated storefront for the Kindle Store, an improved layout for newspaper and periodical display, an expanded enhanced dictionary with over 250,000 words, and the ability to control downloads of Kindle media. On top of this, of course, is the usual Kindle experience including single purchase reading from any compatible device and convenient access to pretty much any book you might happen to want to read. The big improvement is naturally just the fact that it is a version specifically for tablet PCs rather than a stretched version of the reading software for Android phones.
This all ties in quite well with Amazon’s increasing presence in the Android marketplace. Their app store is clearly doing well and this will be just one more thing that ties users into the larger Amazon customer experience. If there was yet any doubt as to the efficacy of Amazon’s concentration on the media consumption side of gadgetry rather than on hardware profits, then we yet again have support in their favor.
Overall, the biggest improvements seem to be those for browsing and shopping the Kindle store. It’s gone from a slightly unwieldy experience to that of literally having everything you’re likely to need at your fingertips right there within the app. The Magazine improvements are hardly surprising, but they’re more than a little bit noticeable too. Magazines and newspapers are the place where tablets really shine compared to eReaders, so it’s great to see full advantage being taken of the opportunities the hardware provides.
While I have no complaints about a better dictionary or greater control over downloading, they’re more subtle when it comes to day to day use. I never really found the existing dictionary all that lacking, nor is there much of a problem in terms of books clogging my bandwidth. I would assume the latter feature is geared toward situations where you would rather be able to download your book via WiFi or where audiobooks are simply too large to make sense to download all at once. Neither one is anything to complain about, just not the fun flashy Kindle features that people tend to get excited about.
Existing Android users will not see any loss of functionality, of course, in spite of using the same software. The smartphone friendly display mode is still present, and all the other new features are included anyway. It’s a good time to be an Android user who shops at Amazon, whether your device of choice is a Honeycomb tablet or not.
One of the major selling points of the Kindle product line has always been the ability to read your books on pretty much anything with a screen you might happen to be sitting next to. When you go with Amazon’s eBooks, what you’re doing is effectively eliminating platform distinctions, at least in theory. Of course, the recent release of Google’s entirely platform-agnostic eBook store shook things up more than a bit! Still, what gaps there are in the Kindle coverage are being filled in enthusiastically.
It would not have been entirely surprising if, after the recent unveiling of the upcoming Kindle for the Web service, we had seen a drop in attention given to platform specific software options. After all, if the idea is to be accessible anywhere, a browser-based option has you pretty much covered, right? Apparently that’s not going to be quite the direction things are taken.
The recently announced Kindle app for Windows Phone 7 isn’t likely to surprise anybody with its feature set at this point (it is just the latest incarnation of a chain of six or seven other apps depending on how you count it), but it does manage to accommodate the potential needs of a quickly growing segment of the smart-phone marketplace. As expected, you will have adjustable font sizing, background coloration, integrated eBook store access, social networking possibilities, and the ever useful WhisperSync keeping track of where you left off.
While the jury is still out as to the future of the new OS in light of its more established competition (let’s face it, you can’t really consider Windows Mobile to have been a particularly valid entry into the consumer marketplace), the potential for its inclusion in the increasingly popular tablet PC marketplace alongside Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android makes this an incredibly lucrative market for Amazon to tap, at least in theory.
With this addition to the Kindle‘s software line, they’re drawing pretty near to having an entry into every portion of the active cellular marketplace. The only really significant point to jump in would seem, from what I know, to be with Nokia’s Symbian OS. While I’m admittedly not the one to talk to about the potential technical complications of putting out something for that operating system, the demand seems to be there if the ongoing petition is anything to go by.
There’s not much more to be said about this one. As always, I can’t say that I would find myself happy with using a phone or tablet pc as my primary reading device at any point (empirical evidence supporting the eye strain complaint as it does for me), but as a supplement to my Kindle itself, these apps have frequently come in handy. Sometimes you don’t feel like carrying around that extra device that just won’t quite fit in your pocket, but who doesn’t have their phone with them at any given time? It’s a convenience, and one I’m particularly glad I don’t have to do without.