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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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October 2014
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Can the iPad Mini Give the Kindle Fire a Run for its Money?

In Steve Jobs’ biography, he repeatedly stressed the importance of creating fewer, top of the line products, rather than a slew of mediocre ones.  Apple has always thrived on branding and staying ahead of the game.

It surprised me that the iPad Mini is not only real, but it is named exactly what rumors called it.  Is Apple getting too predictable?  Now we have a big variety of sizes for tablets and smartphones in the Apple lineup.  Most people can reconcile having both an iPad and an iPhone, but can you do that for the iPad Mini and the iPhone?

I don’t see it taking the hold of the 7″ tablet market like the original 10″ iPad currently has on the larger tablet market.  Obviously, price is one factor.  The iPad mini is $329, whereas the Kindle Fire HD, Nook Tablet, and Nexus 7 are all $199.  So, they will attract different types of consumers.

For thee moment, I don’t think the Kindle Fire HD has too much to worry about from that end.  The Nexus 7 is proving to be a solid competitor, but competition is good because it make the devices strive to get better and better with each generation.

It used to be that the major tech giants excelled in different areas.  Google held the monopoly on search engines, Amazon was the pioneer for ebooks, Microsoft reigned over the PC market, and Apple took control over computers, and later music.

Now, they’re all trying to one up each other by creating competing products.  This can be quite overwhelming for the consumer!  Maybe it is best to just let them duul it out, and see what the winners are.

As far as choices go, longevity is a good thing to consider.  The Kindle Fire is in its second generation, and has ironed out some issues that the first generation had. The new Kindle Fire family includes better display, better designed hardware, and a camera.  Amazon also has a good sized marketplace with a free app every day.

For the 10″ inch tablets, the iPad still dominates that market, and has had a couple of years to improve.  Apple of course has a huge appstore, and includes a number of business apps.

Only time will tell what the winners will be in the tablet market.  It is sure to be a wild ride.

Nexus 7 Thoughts

I have to hand it to Google.  They, along with Asus have put together a tablet that should do well in the market.  Based on my experience with an Asus laptop, it is a great company.  According to reviewers who have had a chance to get their hands on the Nexus 7 claim it is solid and easy to use.  It is going for a competitive $199 price, the same price as the Kindle Fire.

Good news for Android lovers.  The Nexus 7 will run on the latest Android operating system, Jelly Bean.

Here’s the catch. Google has a tendency to release a lot of projects that show promise, then they fizzle.  Note Google Wave, and Google Buzz.  Even Google Plus hasn’t found a strong footing.  They’re very innovative with their ideas, but they don’t quite follow through from start to finish.  If the tablet went in the same direction, technical support would be mediocre at best.

An advantage that Amazon has over Google as far as tablets are concerned, is seniority. Over the past year, Amazon has built up a robust app collection for the Kindle Fire.  It is also the front runner on books, which is the way it should be considering that books are what Amazon is most known for.

The 2nd generation of the Kindle Fire is expected to release on July 31 with a camera and other much needed tune ups.  So, if you can wait a month,  see what this new version has to offer, and then weigh it with the Nexus 7. Chances are that Amazon will include a lot of the features that the Nexus 7 currently offers that the first generation Kindle Fire doesn’t, such as a camera.

When it comes to buying technology, I try to wait til the 2nd generation or later.  I did this with my Kindle, iPad, and phone.  The price goes down and the device gets a tune up.

Google’s biggest asset is search engine technology.  Different companies excel at different things.  I think they have what it takes to make a good 7 inch tablet that can be competitive.  The question is, will they go the extra mile and make it better than good?

As consumers we have options that can fit different preferences as opposed to being locked into one device, which is awesome. I’ll be watching closely to see what happens with the new Google tablet, and how it will fare in the tablet market.

 

10.1 Inch Kindle Fire, is it a good idea?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How the Digital Revolution has Changed the Nature of Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sony to Launch a Foldable Tablet Later this Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What the Future Means for E-Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kindle Fire was Top Selling Item on Amazon This Holiday Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kindle Fire a Huge Hit This Holiday Season

Amazon reported record breaking Kindle sales this holiday season.  The Kindle Fire was a major player in making those sales possible.

My sister got a Kindle Fire, so I thought I’d grab it and give my thoughts on it.  First off, I was shocked at how small it is.  It is not that much bigger than my Kindle Touch.  I guess the size came as a shock because I’m used to the iPad.

The Kindle Fire is the best of two worlds.  It is compact enough to tote around in your purse, but it yields a bigger screen than a smartphone.  So, you don’t have to squint to see what you’re reading.  Plus, there’s no data fee each month on top of the fact that the Fire is the same price as most smartphones with a contract.

The display is as crisp and vibrant as described in the product description.  I like how some of the most prominent navigation buttons are bold or in a different color to make sure you don’t miss them.

Now, here’s where the Fire could use some improvement, and I have to say that I am biased because I am a staunch advocate for user friendly technology.  The Kindle Fire is very appealing to the masses because of its price and features, which is Amazon’s goal.  That sentiment can certainly be proved with the rush of new Kindle Fire owners this Christmas.  However, there are a few aspects of it that make it counter intuitive.

The app wheel that spins the apps on the home screen is cool, and it allows you to quickly zoom into the app that you want. But, the home screen in general is a bit cluttered with apps and links.  It took me awhile to figure out where I needed to go first.

There is only one button that switches the tablet in and out of sleep mode.  My first instinct was to find the physical “home” button, but that is actually on the screen in the bottom left corner.

As for the web browser, I like that the text does not require scrolling, and it reads down the page regardless of whether you flip the tablet vertically or horizontally.  I am visually impaired, so I have to zoom in on the text that I am reading.  I couldn’t find an easy way to do so in the Kindle Fire’s web browser.  I also had a little trouble with the tabs.

Accessibility is something that Apple excels at, and integrating it would take a little more effort on Amazon’s part.  It would probably also ramp up the price because of the extra time.  But to truly appeal to everyone, a device has to include features that make it usable for people who cannot access it the conventional way.

So, to sum it up, there are aspects of the Kindle Fire that are awesome, and there are others that need improvement.  It is just like any other new technology that will improve over time.  So for now, I am quite pleased with my Kindle Touch, and with my iPad for more heavy duty stuff.

So, new Kindle Fire users, what do you have to say about it?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Kobo To Take On Kindle Fire With New “Vox” Tablet

The Nook Color might have been the first tablet to come from a major eReader maker, but the Kindle Fire has clearly set the tone for devices in its size / power range.  Amazon’s new media tablet hasn’t even shipped yet and people are scrambling to match prices or rush out competing product.  For the most part, there isn’t really any obvious reason for Amazon to be concerned, but the new Kobo Vox is an imitator with impressive potential.

Kobo’s new Kindle Fire competitor, marketed as a color eReader much like the Nook Color, will be a 7″ Android 2.3 device with comparable specs, expandable memory, and a small selection of colored quilted backs to choose from.  The single core processor might end up being a slight negative, but this was never intended to be a powerhouse anyway.  Oddly enough, both the major strengths and the major shortcomings come in on the software end.

When Barnes & Noble started out with the Nook Color, they tried to keep it almost entirely about the reading.  It was only relatively recently that their app selection started to improve.  Amazon avoided that mistake by building up a huge App Store for the Kindle Fire before it even existed.  Kobo seems to feel like it isn’t worth the trouble.  Rather than a heavily customized, or even locked version of Android, they have decided that Vox users can just grab what they want through the default Android Marketplace.  The OS seems to be pretty much just basic Android 2.3 with some Kobo Apps.

On the one hand, this is genius.  It gives them the ability to offer customers access to the largest selection of Android apps in existence without having to jump through hoops.  At the same time, however, it means that Kobo themselves will not be making any money off of anything but the books.  Whether or not this proves to be a smart business move remains to be seen, but it will definitely appeal to a certain segment of the customer base.

What really makes the Vox a major player among eReading companies jumping into tablet production is Kobo’s international presence.  More than pretty much anybody else so far, Amazon included, Kobo has managed to make sure a wide selection of books is there in any market they can get their hooks into.  The Kobo eReader is widely available and has been for some time.  It would not surprise me even a little bit to discover that when Amazon manages to get the Kindle Fire out to markets outside the US, especially those new sites like Amazon.es, the Kobo Vox is already a common sight.

It isn’t the best option in terms of hardware or software in the US right now, even for the $200 price, but for users who want just a cheap, effective 7″ Android device it might fit the bill.  In areas where the tablet market has yet to really take off, though, I expect to see the Vox make a huge impression.  Let’s just hope Apple can hold off on the anti-competition lawsuits?

Could Amazon Create a Kindle Phone?

The Kindle Fire is not even released yet, and there are already speculations going around that involve the possibility of an Amazon smartphone. More information on Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) smartphone predictions can be found here.

Now that Amazon has an appstore and an Android OS, they are much closer to putting all of this together into a phone than ever before. Amazon also has a contract with AT&T for their 3G service on the Kindle.  Amazon’s appstore also includes daily free apps.  This gives them an edge over Apple.

I just hope they don’t get so bogged down by creating all of the different devices that they neglect the device that they’re most well known for. That is the Kindle e-reader. Books and reading are the core of Amazon’s services.

I think the main thing that Amazon has over everyone else with their products is how inexpensive they are. They can design a cheaper smartphone, and that would allow consumers who wouldn’t otherwise be able to get a smartphone, be able to have one. I come to this conclusion from looking at the current tier of prices for the new line of Kindles, and the $200 Kindle Fire.  It is $300 less than the cheapest iPad.

Speaking of Amazon being inexpensive. I was in a used bookstore the other day, and compared the price of a book there versus the same book available on Amazon. The new version was cheaper on Amazon.  If used bookstores have such high prices, they’re never going to be able to compete.

So, in summary, I’m all for an Amazon smartphone that would open up the smartphone market to consumers looking for a more affordable phone. They have the means to do it, but I only if it will not compromise the quality of the original Kindle e-reader devices.  I would hate to see Amazon to lose sight of what they stand for, yet they have so much potential on a lot of device fronts.

Kindle Fire Review (Pre-release)

I’ve been speculating here about Amazon’s entry into the Tablet PC marketplace for months now.  Finally, we have the Kindle Fire to actually look at.  Sure it might not be here in person to play with yet, but what we know now is enough to come to some real conclusions for a change.  Obviously this new Kindle is going to have a big market, and has already been changing the way tablets are priced, but what will it really bring users that is worth the hype?

The first thing to do is figure out what you want from a Tablet PC.  To me, they are designed perfectly for passive computing.  That is, anything you choose to do that requires minimal user input, be that movie watching, reading, listening to music, or browsing the web.  I would not, for example, prefer to be writing this review on any tablet if I could help it.  It is nice to have the option to do things like play games or edit documents when necessary, but there are (and in my mind will likely always be) better-suited choices for those activities.  This assumption will color my perceptions here, and should you have other preferences my points might not make sense.

That said, I think that what Amazon is bringing to customers with the Kindle Fire is the cohesive media consumption experience.  Most passive computing tasks obviously revolve around media.  The Fire’s default UI  highlights magazines, books, music, and videos without preventing more interactive usage.  It is an all-in-one platform for shopping and usage tightly integrated with the Amazon store.  That said, everybody will be using their tablet differently so it might be helpful to break down the potential uses and how they stack up for the price.

Video

This is clearly where Amazon has been going with the Kindle Fire.  Not only has the Amazon Instant Video service been significantly beefed up recently with selections from big names like CBS and Fox, but the Prime Instant Video streaming options are being highlighted through the bundled Amazon Prime membership preview every tablet will come with.  While I am a big fan of the benefits of the Prime membership anyway, right now it doesn’t do much in terms of digital content distribution besides facilitate movie watching.

The Kindle Fire has a 7″ display with the same sort of wide viewing angle technology that the iPad makes use of.  It’s supposed to be fairly anti-reflective, though that’s something better inspected in person, and looks to provide a great picture.  Its local storage is sufficient for a few hours of video when you’re away from reliable internet connections, and the streaming through the service has proven reliable on other devices already.  While it is a small screen and it would be nice if they had included some form of HDMI output, the video experience should be excellent.

Audio

There’s not too much to say about the anticipated audio capabilities of the device.  It will have internal speakers and a headphone jack.  Music will be playable both from local storage and through the Amazon Cloud Player.  I think it is a safe assumption that the App Store will fill in gaps with things like Pandora and Last.fm, so selection and affordability probably won’t be too much of an issue, and Amazon regularly runs promotions for free songs along with larger purchases if you happen to do much shopping through the main site.

Reading

There are two sides to the question of reading that have to be talked about.  First is the standard reading experience such as we are used to with existing Kindles.  This will almost certainly be less enjoyable on the Kindle Fire due to its back-lit display, but since it uses the Kindle Cloud Reader the experience will be familiar and enjoyable aside from that.

In addition, we finally have real color reading capabilities.  This means the Kindle Fire is the Kindle of choice for all sorts of things from Kid Books to Magazines that wouldn’t work quite right on the monochrome Kindle.  Expect to see a big push with regard to these types of publications in the weeks leading up to the launch of the device.  Amazon has already got a number of deals going, including exclusive deals on a decent selection of magazines and comics.

Web Browsing

The big surprise at the press conference announcing the Kindle Fire was the Silk web browser.  It is essentially a modified Android browser that will offload most of the work to Amazon’s servers.  This has the potential to speed up browsing significantly and may even reduce load on the device itself, increasing battery life.  The biggest advance that it brings to browsing is a predictive analysis of browsing habits that Amazon claims will speed things up even more by preemptively caching the data you are most likely to need next.  We’ll see how it pans out, but it’s a great idea in theory.

Applications

Beyond making the observation that the Amazon Android App Store already has a great selection of apps to choose from, there’s not much point in talking about the app experience.  It’s just too large a topic to generalize on.  From what we have seen, though, the Kindle Fire will be bundled in with an email app and document reader app, both of which seem to be capable of doing the job as well as might be hoped for while maintaining the overall theme of the OS.  Hard to argue with that.

Overall, this is a $200 tablet that seems to offer more functionality than anything else available for less than $500.  It isn’t perfect.  There is no 3G option, the hard drive is small enough that people without reliable internet connections to take advantage of the cloud storage might want to think twice, and the fact that it is a first generation device might mean there are some bugs to iron out in the first months after release.  Even so, I’m of the opinion that the Kindle Fire offers great value for what it does and will make users very happy so long as they know what it can do and what they want out of it going into things.

Thoughts on the Latest Kindle Releases

I want to add my two cents here on the newest upgrade on the Kindle product line.  I am excited about the much anticipated Kindle Fire, the Kindle Touch, and the fact that the prices have taken a huge nose dive over the past two years.  Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has done a great job of addressing competition and listening to what its customers want.

It is hard to believe that in December of 2009, I got my Kindle 2 for $259.  Now the cheapest Kindle is a very affordable $79.  It is overwhelming to observe how quickly the competition has ramped up and caused such a dramatic drop in prices.

The Kindle is very much a reading device to me.  I curl up on the couch with it and treat it as I would any old book. I don’t want it to serve as a computer.  I have my own PC and iPad for that.  So, I have been eagerly awaiting to release of the touchscreen version of the Kindle in November.  I look forward to quietly turning pages with my fingers instead of the click of the page turner buttons.  The e-ink display has improved dramatically over the past two years to become much crisper, clearer, and easier on the eyes.  All of these factors create a pleasant reading experience.

I think deciding on whether you want a Kindle Fire, Kindle Touch, or mini Kindle is determining what YOU want from it.  Some go for the visual, interactive, multifunctional feel of the Kindle Fire.  Others, just want a device that serves one purpose: reading.  Then there’s wi-fi and battery life to consider…

I think the Kindle Fire is awesome and has a lot to offer, especially considering how much cheaper it is than the iPad.  I think the Kindle gaming platform is going to really take off here.  Not to mention audio, video, and internet access.  There are a couple of things that it would need to have in order for me to consider it in the place of my iPad: external keyboard compatibility and long battery life.  I use my iPad as a laptop to write with an external keyboard, and that has worked very well for me so far.  Who knows what I’ll be saying in a  couple of years.

So, all in all, it doesn’t really come down to “iPad Killer”, “tablet wars” or even “price wars”.  It just boils down to what the users want from the device.

I am so glad we, as consumers, now have such a huge variety of e-reader and tablet choices at the prices to beat!

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.

Get Google Chrome Browser

Get Apple’s Safari Browser

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.

 

 

 

Sony Planning August Reader Release To Compete With Amazon Kindle

Long before the Kindle had a firm grasp on the eBook market, and even before the term eReader had much meaning in the minds of the public, Sony had started up their line of Sony Readers.  They were the first company that not only did the job, but did it well.  In time, unfortunately, they seemed to fall behind.  Too many other consumer choices and an ongoing failure to present competitive prices have led to the whole product line struggling to expand its business.

Recent information reveals, however, that Sony is definitely not at the point of giving up just yet.  A Bloomberg report provided indications that Sony will be upgrading its current line with both hardware and software improvements, probably before the end of August.  There are no indications at this time to indicate that price drops will be accompanying the upgrades, but it can be assumed that if there are any, they will be small.  The upcoming release of the new Sony S1 and S2 Tablet PCs will be intended to target “a more status-minded customer”, according to a recent CNN report, and it is likely that they will similarly weigh the prestige of owning a Sony Reader as a more important factor than matching the price of the increasingly inexpensive Amazon Kindle.

Both eReader and Tablet ownership continue to rise and are expected to continue doing so through the immediate future, but it remains to be seem whether or not Sony can grab a piece of this momentum.  There will likely be two major factors contributing to their success or failure.

The biggest thing that they have working against them, aside from unit price, is their eBook store.  Unlike the Kindle and Nook, each of which is coupled with a truly impressive selection of titles available for purchase, the Sony Reader Store has not developed an impressive following.  The selection has gotten better over the years and, thanks to the Agency Model of eBook pricing, nobody has a significant advantage over them when it comes to prices.  Nothing has made their store particularly unique, however, and without some sort of reason for it to stand out, the Reader Store is just another random eBook store among many in the eyes of the potential customer.

On the other hand, the hardware will likely be a major advantage.  Say what you will about the Reader line, Sony has proven willing to experiment and innovate.  They not only essentially started the eReader business as we know it, they made many of the mistakes and some of the successes that have made eReaders into what we know and love today.  The first touchscreen eReader was a Sony, I believe, even if they didn’t pull it off quite right.  Their early PRS-505 model was impressive enough that a reasonably cheap copy of it with a more modern display would immediately be a step up from many of the recent options we’ve seen, even years after it became officially obsolete.

It will be interesting to see if there are any really significant updates in the latest batch.  The Kindle Competition has been great lately and it’s nice to see some truly superior options make their way to the top.  I’ve always loved my Sony Readers.  A comeback at this point is more than welcome.

So Many Gadgets! What Do We Choose?

As I read the article about the new Kindle upgrades coming up in October, I started to feel really overwhelmed.  There is so much to choose from these days.  So, I thought I’d break it down a bit.  It is all a matter of what type of operating system you prefer (Android or Apple iOS) and what uses you have for your devices.

E-Readers

The Amazon Kindle has been out since 2007 and has evolved a great deal over the last four years to compete with the growing e-reader market: Nook, Kobo, Sony, and most recently, Google’s iriver Story.  It has been interesting to watch how obvious the competition is which all of the companies dropping prices and mocking each others’ style.  Note the latest touchscreen craze.

Then we have the NookColor, a mixed tablet and e-reader that has succeeded in knocking the Kindle off of it its pedestal.

In terms of e-readers, to me, the Kindle wins hands down.  I’ve really enjoyed my Kindle and am looking forward to a new touchscreen version.  Amazon has excellent customer service, and shows no sign of crashing and burning anytime soon, unlike Barnes & Noble and Borders.  If prices keep dropping the way they have, they’ll be pretty cheap here soon.  Now, if only we can stop the rising e-book prices.  But, library lending and all of the free and reduced priced e-books available out there might just take care of that.

Tablets

The iPad wins here.  I am not an Apple fiend by any means, but like the Kindle, the iPad has been around for over a year and offers a lot of different apps for various purposes.  I use mine as a laptop basically.  I also love that I can enlarge the text so easily.  Give me a year and I might be saying something different, but for now, I go for the iPad.  Other tablets to watch: Acer Iconia, Samsung Galaxy Tab, and of course the Kindle Tablet.

Why have a tablet AND an e-reader?  I don’t think of my Kindle as a computer. iBooks does not have nearly the book collection that Amazon does, and reading on the iPad Kindle app does not feel the same.  I can still curl up with the Kindle in bed or on the couch, and it isn’t hard on the eyes.  I love how both Kindle and iPad can fit easily into a tote bag.  Plus, e-readers are getting to be cheap enough that it wouldn’t be a huge setback to have both.

And then there are smartphones…but that market is a whole niche of its own.

 

 

Kindle Tablet to Hit the Market in October

I haven’t seen an official Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) announcement yet, but according to the Wall Street Journal, the Kindle Tablet and two other Kindle upgrades are set to arrive in October.  The Kindle Tablet that has been under speculation for months will directly compete with the iPad, while a new touch version of the Kindle will compete with the Nook and Kobo Touch editions.

To be honest, in a matter of personal preference, I am more excited about the possibility of a touch version of the Kindle because I’m not a big fan of the keyboard.  Whenever this does get release, I’ll be ready to upgrade my Kindle.  The keys are way too small and somewhat difficult to press.  However, when the touch version does arrive, there will need to be some kind of audio enabled to make sure it is accessible for people with disabilities.

As for the tablet.  This is exciting news, but the iPad has a pretty solid hold on the tablet market, and is said to be successful on into the next year.  So, I think that it will be awhile before the Kindle Tablet will make a huge dent in iPad sales.  There are also a number of other tablets to choose from as well.  Although, I will say, a much cheaper Kindle Tablet might just give Amazon a good start in the tablet game, as will the well liked Android operating system.  I see the iPad to the tablet market as the Kindle is to the e-reader market.  They are both the inventors of their own niches, and were the only ones to hold their niches for a good length of time.

Lastly, there will be an upgrade on the current version of the Kindle.  It will be similar in structure, but include better features and a lower price.  Prices are dropping constantly.  Amazon just dropped the Kindle 3G Special Offers version from $164 to $139.  So, perhaps a $99 or less version of the Kindle is in the near future?  We can only hope!

Free Kindle Giveaway!

BitDefender, an antivirus and internet security software company, is currently hosting a giveaway series that includes a chance to win 2 free Amazon Kindles.  Other prizes include tablets, laptops, smartphones and many other gadgets.  The grand prize is a BMW 3 Series.  Entering into one contest puts your name in for the grand prize.

Here’s how to enter the contest:

Access the Facebook Application: BitDefender fun4fans.and the contest asks that you connect a set of paragraphs to complete a story.  The application does a good job of explaining how to complete the contests.  From February 18-May 29, there will be weekly draws to win gadgets including the Kindle.  Each week has a different theme.

And yes, I know Facebook applications can be annoying, but this one might just get you a fun gadget to play with.

 

Kno Finally Ships

Remember the Kno?  It was an interesting idea that was taken by many to be an impossible or doomed project many months ago.  The basic idea was that a tablet PC optimized for educational needs and being about the size and weight of a standard undergraduate textbook would go over impressively in the same market where the Kindle failed to make an impression in early tests.  Well, as of 12/21 the thing has actually entered the market!

The major selling points seem to be the focus on textbooks and note taking.  Looking through the initial offerings, there seems to be quite the selection of digital textbooks already and supposedly more deals are on the way.  Particularly interesting for many will be the textbook rental option which will allow students to grab their texts for just a semester at a time for a reduced price.  How many people end up needing their Biology 101 text after their first year anyway, right?  Right along with that, the fact that you can write directly on the screen, allowing the potential for easy margin notation or a virtual notepad will address one of the problems with the Kindle‘s classroom usefulness.  Ease of use on what is among the most important study related activities for many will help.

Beyond that, a lot is riding on the as-yet unrealized potential offered by the app market.  Since the whole system is essentially built on the WebKit browser engine, development should be impressively simple and offer a variety of possibilities.  The initial offerings of book reading, web browsing, and note taking apps will fill most basic needs, but it’s always best to see some development after the devices have seen some time in the wild, so to speak.

On the negatives side, we still have a very narrowly purposed device and a comparatively high price point.  There is no usable USB port, so you’re stuck with the on-screen keyboard or a stylus.  It’s a bit on the heavy side as far as something you’re hoping to do any reading is concerned.  Also, I have to emphasize that based on the specs this is definitely a reading and web browsing device rather than a PC replacement.  It has limited hard drive space, unimpressive speed, and no real expandability.  For full tech specs, click here.

Overall, I like the product though.  As the developers emphasize on the sales site, your investment(whether it be $599 for the single screen 16GB unit or $999 for the dual screen 32GB unit) will pay off over the course of a year or two, assuming the student using it is able to get the majority of their textbooks through the Kno’s text store, which is something you’ve got to hope to be able to do for this to make sense in the first place.

It isn’t going to be for everybody.  This isn’t a Kindle for book reading or an iPad for general use tablet applications.  It’s strictly academic.  That said, we can only hope that it sees some success.  It would certainly be great to have access to something like this that would really allow eBooks to make a splash in the textbook market.

Amazon Launches Kindle for the Web Beta

kindle for the web screenshot

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) recently launched a Kindle for the Web application that allows the reader to preview the first chapter of a book for free.  The application is currently in Beta stage.  If you like to try before you buy you might like the ability to just quickly access the application and preview the book.

Kindle for the Web also allows the reader to share book samples with friends on the web or through social networks.  I think that in order for this feature to be fully utilized, Amazon needs to release the whole book, but I’m sure this feature will come soon with the full release.  Kindle for PC and Mac already allow this option, but just don’t allow the computer to computer mobility that a web browser would.  Installation is required for the Kindle for PC and Mac software and is not for the Web application.

Over the past week I spent a lot of time reading my Kindle, and really enjoyed the break from the glare of the computer screen.  For pleasure reading I definitely think the Kindle itself still has a good foothold.  The Kindle for the Web application will be great for short term reading or to grab samples to share with friends.

After checking out the interface for the application, I was pleased to find that it includes a font enlargement selection, and that all of the navigation and menu options are intuitive and easy to use.

On another note, Amazon has already announced plans to create an application for the new Blackberry Playbook tablet projected to come out in early 2011.  It looks like the tablet market is finally beginning to heat up and competition for the iPad is on the horizon.  I’m sure Amazon will be well equipped to provide Kindle applications for any future devices.

Amazon Commercial Pokes Fun at the iPad

Kindle 3 vs Apple iPad

Kindle 3 vs Apple iPad

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) recently released a commercial that pokes fun at the iPad.  The commercial features a nerdy looking iPad user struggling to read under direct sunlight, and a bikini clad Kindle user who has no trouble reading at all.  The Kindle doesn’t have backlighting, and is designed for easy reading under direct sunlight.  The Kindle 3′s sharper e-ink display makes the reading experience even better.

The iPad is a computer.  Its high resolution display renders it difficult to read under bright conditions, just like any other laptop.  When it is dark, the opposite is true.  When I tried the iPad, I immediately noticed how bright the screen was, and can definitely see how it can lead to an uncomfortable reading experience.

The Kindle user in the commercial remarked that the Kindle was only $139, which was less than her sunglasses.  Amazing how something like sunglasses cost more than the Kindle, which seems a lot more useful.

Amazon is definitely getting more aggressive with its advertising, but the Kindle is doing amazingly well.  The Kindle 3 was sold out when released.  Amazon has a great selection of e-books in the Kindle Store that includes most best sellers and new releases.  There are also Kindle applications available for the iPad and iPod Touch, which draws in e-book sales for the Kindle Store.

Comparing the iPad and Kindle is a bit like comparing apples to oranges.  The Kindle is only for reading.  It should be designed to be functional in bright, sunny conditions.  The iPad is a tablet computer.  It is a multipurpose device, and the e-book reader part of the device is simply one of the many functions that the iPad has.  The iPad is great for internet browsing, watching videos, sharing photos and playing games.  None of these actions are what the Kindle is designed for.  The price difference: $499 for the iPad, and $139 for the Kindle Wi-Fi definitely reflects on the nature and function of each device.

The Kindle 3 has a 3G version that is free, whereas on the iPad, 3G connection comes with a monthly cost starting at $15.

So, it just all depends on what you are looking for.  When the iPad drops in price, there might be a wider set of consumers purchasing both the Kindle and the iPad for very different purposes.

Amazon and ASUS Team Up

A while back, as some of you may remember, we mentioned the news that Barnes & Noble(NYSE: BKS) and HP(NYSE: HPQ) were teaming up to offer the B&N reader software as a prepackaged tool in many new HP computers.  Well, it looks like Amazon(NASDAQ: AMZN) has taken the cue and moved with it.  Today we got a press release announcing that, in the near future, Kindle software will come pre-installed on many ASUS models including the 1005PE line of Eee PC Netbooks and their UL Series of notebooks.

This isn’t necessarily quite as pointless as it seems at first glance.  While there is no doubt that preloaded software isn’t a new concept, the implied partnership in this area bodes well for upcoming months; rumors that the upcoming Eee Pad tablet device will be unveiled by the end of this month lend some weight to this development.  In spite of the shortcomings compared to an e-Ink display, these devices are useful and well-regarded as reading tools. Having an existing partnership for users’ ebook consumption needs addresses a key point in the obviously inevitable comparisons to the iPad that consumers will have to be making.  There is some hope, it can be hoped, that a valid competitor is about to enter the market.

Sony Welcomes The iPad And Predicts Death Of Paper Books

Apple iPad TabletUnlike most companies, Sony is sounding positively chirpy about Apple’s foray into the world of eBooks with their iPad, the iBooks app and the iBook Store. They welcomed Apple’s move into the eBooks domain and also predicted the imminent death of paper printed books as we know it. Steve Haber, president of Sony’s Digital Reading division told tech site Pocket-lint that a new device that has eBook reading built into as a feature is a good thing for the digital book market. He emphasized the fact that mobile devices that have this feature built in will play a key role in the paradigm shift from the analog to the digital media. So looks like Sony is actually happy that is has such great competition as the Kindle because frankly this is the device that put eBooks on the map. Even Steve Jobs acknowledged that.

Sony also mentioned that the conventional form of a book — ink printed on paper and bound together — is really on its way out. According to them, it has about 5 years of life left before everything goes digital. While that sounds really nice with so many people wanting it to go digital, I would like to remind people that similar things were said about the CD about a decade ago from this date. Yes it is dying but physical storage mediums for audio content have not gone out just yet.

So even though it is plausible that paper books will completely fade out in the near future, there is still at least a decade left for it to even start fading out. That is because the adoption curve globally on new technology is really low and it would be silly to focus only on the US.

But one thing’s for sure — eBooks are only going to become bigger and better as time goes by. The same for all other print media content. We have officially stepped into the decade that saves the print industry by, Ironically, stopping all physical printing!

Tablets Threaten To Devour eBook Readers

The Entourage Edge Dualbook

The Entourage Edge Dualbook

I finally decided to address the elephant in the room and write about the tablets that are about to burst forth on to the scene. There has been a lot of talk about whether the tablets are going to kill off the eBook readers and my answer is both yes and no. Yes, I know that’s always and annoying answer to give but that’s the way life works.

To further explain, it will interest the readers of this blog that I don’t the Kindle is in any kind of danger at the moment even if Apple really launches a tablet device this month complete with a full range of content on iTunes. Here’s why.

The Kindle started this whole eBook reader thing, even though it wasn’t the first one at the scene. Amazon hit it on the head with the Whispernet. Then, the Kindle went international, giving Amazon much greater market penetration. It is also a device that has gone through more than one product cycle and that means it is better tuned and more in sync with the demands of the market. This is not true for almost all other readers in the market.

That is why they are easy victims for the tablets to pick off. Tablets will be multimedia devices and hence much more attractive at the onset. They will have full color and everything that a portable computer does today. But they will still lack the paper like display that is easy on the eye and lasts for days on end. The two most important things that made the eBook readers click.

Still, these hurdles will slowly be overcome and we might see a tablet Kindle in the future because convergence  is where we are headed and Amazon will surely upgrade the Kindle to counter this threat. So overall, I think it will basically be the survival of the fittest, just like it always has been in a free market economy.