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

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September 2016
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Kindle App Updates Hit iPad, iPhone, and Android

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.

Kindle for iPad App Updated To Use Retina Display

While customers have barely had time to wipe the first set of fingerprints off their brand new iPad 3 purchases, Amazon has prepared to take advantage of the improved screen quality that the device incorporates by updating their Kindle reading application.  Users will find their reading experience in this release, Version 3.0, noticeably crisper, cleaner, and with a couple useful new features.  Magazines and other publications that choose to use high resolution color imagery will be right at home on the platform now, thanks to these changes.

There is now a tab available at the bottom of the screen, clearly borrowed from the Kindle Fire’s native interface, which allows easy switching between locally stored and cloud based books currently available to the account.  This should make it easier to manage content on the most basic level.  Things are also displayed in the same grid view that the Kindle Fire interface relies on for eBook navigation.  In terms of the general reading experience the update is a step forward and does good things for new iPad 3 owners.

That is not to say that there are no complaints about the new release, of course.  While they made no real note of the alterations to the way the app works, a few useful features were quietly removed.  Customers have been complaining, for example, that the ability to search from the dictionary to Wikipedia and Google has been removed since Version 2.9 of the app.  This seems to be a very strange change given the potential usefulness of this feature and the seeming lack of effort that would have been required to maintain it once developed.  It certainly has nothing to do with bringing the Kindle for iPad experience in line with the Kindle Fire, as the Fire still has this ability.  There is also still no ability to organize one’s library via the app itself, as well as no folder or tag system.  While this is true of everybody using anything Kindle related besides the eReaders themselves, which at least have the Collections system, it remains a source of frustration.

Overall the consensus is that this brought the new iPad a superior aesthetic experience compared to what is available elsewhere, but that it failed to improve functionality in any major way.  Perhaps this is to be expected, given that with the need for a completely external iOS Kindle Store there must be little pressure to release innovations on that platform first, but it does lessen some of the enthusiasm for the first real app update to bring readers the advantages of the iPad’s improvements.

Realistically, especially with the second Kindle Fire release expected right around the corner, any major improvements along the lines of function will probably come through their Kindle for Android or Kindle Cloud Reader options first.  The stylistic changes that bring the Kindle for iOS app closer to the Kindle Fire’s appearance only serve to highlight how important it is for Amazon to unify their platform.  In the end we can probably expect to see any major changes radiating out from Kindle Fire updates except when, as in this case, those changes are to take advantage of hardware capabilities that the Kindle Fire simply lacks.

Kindle Cloud Reader Frees The eBook From The App

Kindle Cloud Reader

Kindle Cloud Reader

Following the recent move by Apple to cripple any iBooks competition via billing requirements, it really isn’t much of a surprise to see Amazon pushing the Kindle Cloud Reader to what seems like it might be an early release.  What is surprising is how functional it is at launch and how familiar it will feel to many people.  Now users can read their Kindle eBooks on any device they happen to have a browser on, at least theoretically, with no need to even think about downloaded Apps.

Right now users can only access the Kindle Cloud Reader through either Apple’s Safari browser or Google Chrome, which is what leads me to believe that this is an early release.  The fact that users will be able to pull this up on iPads but not on Android based Tablets would not make much sense otherwise.  If you attempt to access the service through an alternative browser, you will see nothing but a splash screen for it with a bit of the basic information and links to currently supported choices.  Since Android users still have access to a fully functional Kindle for Android app, however, it makes sense to prioritize elsewhere.  The ads for the service have definitely been making a big deal about the integrated shopping experience for iPad users, which is what distinguishes it from the iOS app.  Without something to make it at least equal to the existing Android Kindle app, not many people should feel the lack.  Support for Firefox, Internet Explorer, the Blackberry Playbook browser, and more have been promised in the months to come.  Given how excellent this early version is already, it’s something to look forward to.

To get started, head to https://read.amazon.com in either of the supported browsers (if you do not have either Chrome or Safari, they are both freely available and linked at the end of this posting). When asked to log into the service, simply enter your usual Amazon.com store account.  Should you like to have your Kindle content available locally even when you are not connected to the internet, which I strongly recommend since it seems to speed things up a bit so far on my end, you will be given the option.  All of your Kindle Edition purchases will be immediately available in a familiar layout, either way.

The Library view is easy to use and will be quite familiar to anybody who has used the Kindle apps before.  You have a couple sorting and arrangement options in the upper-left corner and a size slider when you’re in grid view.  Assuming you decided to enable offline reading via downloaded texts, you should see a Cloud/Downloaded toggle at the top of the screen.  By default, you will not have all of your eBooks downloaded.

Any book that you want to save a local copy of will have to be acquired manually.  Simply find it in the Cloud view, right-click on the cover art, and select “Download and Pin Book”.  Each one takes perhaps ten to thirty seconds on an average internet connection.  According to the Amazon help page for this app, you can store 50MB locally on your iPad.  There are no posted restrictions for people using PC browsers.

When it comes to the actual reading experience, you have pretty much everything you can expect from an eReading application.  On the PC browsing is achieved using the mouse, arrow keys, PgUp/Down buttons, or space bar.  Nothing standard is left out, even if you can’t necessarily map your own keys yet.  There are five font sizes to choose from, adjustable margins that do a good job of accommodating most screen sizes and orientations, and three color schemes.  While there isn’t any finely tuned personalization included, the setup makes the best of the fact that you’ll be reading on an LCD while keeping everything as simple as possible.

The only really major shortcoming right now, aside from the already mentioned lack of universal browser compatibility, is the limited integration of extra features.  For example, there does not seem to be any real way to perform a text search, which rules it out as an app substitute right now for a number of uses.  Also, while you can sync all of your annotations and highlighting, you can’t make any new changes to any of it at this time.  All that really seems included right now is bookmarking and syncing of last pages read.  Given that the whole Whispernet setup makes up a core feature set of the Kindle experience it seems pretty likely that fixing these shortcomings will be happening in the very near future, but this is something to be aware of.

Overall, this is a great offering.  The idea is clearly to stick it to Apple for bringing things to the point of conflict with their App Store purchasing rules, and I would say that even if things never went beyond their present state it would still be enough to be attractive for the majority of iOS Kindle users.  There is literally nothing that Apple can reasonably do to block out Amazon’s control of the platform when it goes through something like this, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot that the browser based nature of the Kindle Cloud Reader would force the company to leave out.

As the application develops, it would not be surprising at all to learn that Amazon intended to replace their entire app presence with Cloud solutions.  The Amazon Cloud Drive and Cloud Player, both of which obviously precede the Kindle Cloud Reader, do a pretty good job of demonstrating the potential.  Perhaps after the success of those it was only a matter of time.  Stay tuned for any updates to the browser app as the feature set and browser compatibility are improved.  We’ll do our best here to keep you abreast of any changes and improvements.

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In case you have missed it, here’s a post by Andrei with some speculations about where Kindle Cloud Reader came from and where it might be headed.

 

 

 

Why We May Not See Any Changes To Kindle For iOS

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.