The most recent round of updates to the Kindle platform has begun to expand beyond the realm of Amazon-designed hardware. Users of the Kindle for iOS and Kindle for Android are now enjoying updates to their software. This comes as part of Amazon’s transition to the new Kindle Format 8 system which, while still an ongoing process, will eventually offer superior formatting control to publishers on every supported device.
The Kindle for iOS update makes this version 3.1 of the app. The most notable changes are specifically meant for users of the iPad. On the tablet, this app now supports KF8 formatting already in use in many children’s books and comics. These include Kindle Text Pop Up and Kindle Panel View. iPad users will also get to have a bit more control over their general reading experience. You get smaller margins and an overall cleaner look to the page, which should help in any book.
The update wasn’t just for iPad users though. Everybody running Kindle for iOS will now once again be able to look up words via Google and Wikipedia again. The loss of that ability was a matter of some annoyance for many a while back. Navigation should also be somewhat improved for all thanks to a search function allowing users to access specific titles and authors.
Kindle for Android didn’t get quite so extensive a treatment this time around, but what was changed will be important for some. Assuming you are running Android on a tablet, version 3.6.0 will allow for more extensive formatting controls. These include similar improvements in margin control as on the iPad, but also line spacing and landscape optimization controls. If you choose to, you can now view two pages side by side in Kindle for Android to better simulate the experience of reading a paper book. From experience, including but not limited to the Kindle Fire, I can say that this has a hugely positive effect on landscape formatted tablet reading.
No word has been given just yet about whether or not the KF8 features that have now made their way to the iOS app, along with the Kindle eReader and more, will be coming to Android in the near future. I would say to expect them around the same time as the new Kindle is released at the latest, but we don’t know when that will be beyond that it is most likely before the end of July.
While I am a huge fan of the dedicated eReader for any sort of extended reading experience, the Kindle apps add a level of convenience that you really have to appreciate. Not every occasion for reading requires pulling out the Kindle and sitting for hours poring over your favorite book. These improvements are a good sign that Amazon is paying attention to the way their apps present themselves on various platforms and device types, as well as signaling that they have every intention of optimizing things for as many users as possible.
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.
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.
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.
Yep, you are reading this right. It’s actually quite easy now to get Kindle books on Nook color and have both eBook stores available to you on a single device. This is possible because Nook Color is more of an entry level Android tablet than a dedicated eReader. As it comes out of the box it just happens to start the Nook application by default and not let users run anything else.
However that can easily be fixed by rooting the device and enabling the Android Market. With Andoid market you can install all kinds of applications, including Kindle, Kobo reader. You would also be able to play Angry Birds and watch Youtube videos. Installing the Kindle application for Android will let you read Amazon Kindle books on your Nook Color device.
The downside however is that as with all hacks, you risk bricking the device and voiding the warranty. You may also lock yourself out of future updates from Barnes and Noble. So it’s a trade off but in my opinion a profitable one.
It took me less than 5 minutes to execute all rooting instructions from NookDevs.com to root the device, enable Android Market, download Kindle for Android and have WhisperSync open the book I was reading on the same place I left it off on my Kindle device.
Here’s what you will need in terms of hardware:
- NookColor device with USB cable
- microSD card that is larger than 128MB (if you are in a rush and have Amazon Prime, amazon will overnight it to you for additional $3.99)
- SD card reader if your computer doesn’t have one.
In terms of software you’ll need:
- On Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 32 or 64 bit – Win32DiskImager.exe
- On Mac or Linux you can get by with tools that ship with the operating system.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Before rooting make sure that you’ve registered the device with B&N as it might not work after rooting.
- Download nooter that corresponds to you Nook version. You can check your Nook version by pressing Nook button, selecting “Settings” >> “Device Info” >> “About your NOOKcolor” >> Software version:
- for 1.0.0 – GabrialDestruir’s auto nooter 2.12.15 file 15 Dec 2010
- for 1.0.1 – GabrialDestruir’s auto nooter 2.12.25 file 25 Dec 2010
- Unpack the file
- On Windows use Win32DiskImager to write the image to microSD card (please note that all data on the card will be lost). For Linux or Mac, check out NookDevs.com for detailed microSD imaging instructions.
- Completely power off NOOKcolor by holding the power button until the screen blurs and “Power off NOOKColor” dialog appears. Select “Power Off” and wait for the device to shut down completely.
- Turn device face down and open the microSD card container in the lower right corner. Push the card in with metal contacts facing down.
- Connect the device to your computer via USB cable. The device will power up and book from the SD card but the screen will not turn on. This is normal.
- After about a minute your computer show detect the new device. This means that the rooting is complete. Your Windows computer will complain about missing drivers. This is normal.
- Disconnect the USB cable and remove the card from the reader.
- Power cycle it by holding the power button for 20 seconds and then releasing it. The press the power button briefly to power the reader on.
- As the reader boots you will see a red splash screen.
- Once the reader boots, you will be prompted for you Gmail account (as usually with Android) and some initial settings. This will only happen once.
- As you open the extras folder you will see that it now contains Android market icon and some extras (Youtube, Gmail, etc)
- You can now start the market app and download other apps that you like. You will need to reboot the device for apps to appear on the extras page. The apps themselves can be used right away just as with usual Android apps.
After that the sky is the limit.
First thing that I did was to download Kindle application and verify that it works – it did. See – for yourself.
While this works, it’s not 100%. Initially I had some problems with apps not downloading via the market app. Reboot fixed that. Kobo app for android logs in and displays the list of books but then all books get stuck in “Waiting for download” state. Kindle app didn’t have such problems.
I also tried Youtube, remote desktop, Gmail and Angry Birds and that worked well.
All-in-all, I’m quite happy with this experiment as it shows once again that Kindle books can cross device boundaries and run even on competing devices. Does it add value to Kindle or NOOKcolor? I think both. If you have Barnes&Noble LCD eReader you can now get books from either store. Kindle opponents meanwhile have one less reason to complain about device-restricting DRM system.
I wanted to do Kindle vs. NOOKcolor review first, but this post turned out more about how these two devices cooperate rather than compete. The comparison review will be posted sometime early next year. I promise.
Unrooting and updating
Some people claim that using NOOKcolor can be “unrooted” by “Settings” >> “Device Info” >> “Erase & Deregister Device” but I haven’t tested it yet. I’m quite happy with my rooted NOOKcolor. Another method is to hold power, nook and Volume+ buttons pressed until you are prompted for device reset.
I’ve tried both methods and both reset the nook but apps were still present on the “extras” screen.
The official 1.0.1 update got installed without problems and after rebooting all rooting extras were completely gone.
I then went ahead to re-rooted the device and installed the Kindle reader apps back.
There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind at this point that Kindle eBooks are here to stay, right? I mean, I’m pretty sure we’ve made that point before, so why dwell on it? Well, think for a minute how many people have traditionally done most of their reading in things besides books. Obviously magazines and newspapers are an impressively large market to extend the concept into. Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN), similar to B&N and others, has been making a push to get a hold on this new market. We’ve recently seen a rather extensive update to the Kindle Magazine marketplace in the form of Kindle for Android compatibility updates.
The Kindle for Android app, in addition to and much like the Kindle device itself , now allows its users to subscribe to over a hundred different periodicals and newspapers through the Amazon site. The basic format is nice, and pretty well suited to the devices most likely to be displaying these publications. It is primarily text-based, of course, which works out really well given the small amount of screen real estate you’re dealing with. Images such as those you’d see on the existing Kindle publications are still included, but now they’re in color. As is not at all surprising, magazines and color get along well. Subscriptions come automatically delivered to your device, and you can even sign up for more material through the built-in store right in the app itself. The implementation isn’t disappointing in the slightest in spite of the transition to a small screen by what has long been a fairly large-format type of publication.
This update could be seen, in many ways, as a response to the recently released Nook Color eReader. While many reports (and I’ll admit that my own experience supports this and might add slightly to the bias here) indicate that the screen is anywhere from mediocre to horrible for lengthy book reading, the full color screen and quick refresh rate make it perfect for quick reads like magazines, recipe books, and kids books. Since Amazon doesn’t have a similar product on the market right now, they can at least allow for development of their marketplace by capitalizing on the abilities of the many Android based devices that have sprung up left and right since the dawn of the Tablet PC marketplace. Not a bad idea to be having.
It’s fairly widely perceived to be inevitable that Amazon will eventually come up with a full color eReader display for future Kindle releases, so this will also hopefully go some way toward having a fleshed-out marketplace ready for the new capabilities. I don’t mean to deride the capabilities of the Kindle device in the slightest, it’s the best for what it does by a fair margin in my opinion, but there’s just something lacking in the magazine presentation on the existing eInk screen. If you’re an Android user, give it a try. Amazon offers a fair selection of magazines to grab in free trial to see if this is something you’d be interested in. Chances are good that you won’t be disappointed.
Plenty of people out there have been looking forward to the Kindle eReader app for the Android OS for some time now and the waiting has come to an end. Honestly, it looks really good. Users will find all the usual features they’ve come to expect from the kindle platform, including a great selection, displays in portrait or landscape orientation, multiple text sizes, the ability to bookmark your books, and of course the ever-popular WhisperSync feature for those who move from device to device as their situation demands.
The App can be acquired free of charge by searching for “Kindle” in the Android Market or by scanning the QR Code provided for you on the Kindle for Android page, assuming you have Android OS 1.6 or later on your phone. For situations when you can’t carry your Kindle with you, this seems to be about the best you can get as far as portability goes. Not going to compare this application to the iPhone/iPad parallel, since I don’t have that handy to make any direct comparison, but it seems to be pretty much the same features and experience spread over the less hardware-restrictive landscape of Android. Give it a try and see for yourself!