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 2009
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Microsoft Unveils Their Tablet

Bill_Gates_World_Economic_Forum_2007There’s been a lot of talk about the Kindle’s potential death at the hands of the near-mythical Apple Tablet.  But it looks like the real threat may not be what people were expecting.  Microsoft has just unveiled the Courier, which is essentially their version of a tablet PC.

I have to say that, at the very least, it looks very cool.  Whether or not it will be part of a wave of change that destroys the eReader industry is yet to be seen.  As much as you may want to get your hands on one (I suggest you check out the video at the link above), the device only exists in prototype.  By time there’s a version of the Courier that you can actually buy, Apple will have probably gotten a foothold with their tablet.  Also, the technology Microsoft is demoing won’t be as whiz-bang amazing in the year or so it will probably take Microsoft to go to production.  By then all devices will be a little more fantastic then now, including eReaders.  This is like if Amazon demoed prototypes for a full color Kindle 3 before they could actually manufacture them at a feasible low cost.

On the other hand, Microsoft’s demo does demonstrate the idea that a multipurpose device would make an excellent eReader.  While the Courier is hardly designed to specifically read books, it does replace manage to replace lots of book like media.  The video shows the use of ‘journals’ you would write in and a daily planner analogy that somewhat mimics a traditional book planner.  The device is even shaped like a book, with two screens and a hinge in the middle.  It’s every pen and paper organizational tool you’ve ever used, only better.  This includes double screened eReading that very much resembles a traditional book.

Either Jobs is right, and eReaders will be replaced by devices like this, or eReaders will find a way to innovate and stay alive.  My guess is that the Kindle won’t die so easily.  Each generation will slowly pile on new features and at a price cheaper than a tablet.  This won’t work forever, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Kindle someday evolves into some sort of Amazon owned tablet computer itself.

Wireless Kindle Charging by WildCharge

WildCharge for Kindle

WildCharge for Kindle

By the looks of it, WildCharge products are going to be a hit. As reported by netbook-expert.com, wireless inductive charging soon is going to be available for over 500,000 products of all sorts and shapes.

It works like this: WildCharge pad is connected by wire to a power outlet and acts as power transmitter. There are several power receivers available that when placed on the charge pad will provide power for the devices they are connected to. For phones (including iPhone and iPod Touch) everything is nice and simple – there are neat thin sleeves that have the power receiver integrated in them and also protect your phone from scratches.

For other devices there is PowerDisc with PowerLinks that allows system to be used with a wide range of devices with standard connectors. Kindle (except for first generation) is one of such devices as it uses micro-USB connector for charging. Unfortunately this has little advantage over plugging it into AC outlet or PC since you are unlikely to carry around Kindle with this thing dangling from it. However the fact that they chose Kindle as an example device allows me to hope that they will come up with sleek Kindle sleeve soon enough. The moment it hits the market I’m buying it.

Just placing the Kindle on a mat would be some much easier than plugging it in twice a week. It would also help me develop a habit of piling up all my electronic gadgets in one place so that I don’t have to look for them all over the house.

Opening the Kindle to Third Party Developers

The Kindle is great for what it does, but it is by design somewhat limited to Amazon’s vision.  I’ve written on this blog before about allowing third party developers on the Kindle.  It looks like with the upcoming holiday season, talk over whether Amazon should release an SDK has started again.

New York Times makes the argument that since Amazon won’t likely release any new hardware (Both the Kindle 2 and DX are new enough that they’ve never been holiday gifts), it may be beneficial for them to find some new way to innovate before the holidays.  Creating an SDK where anyone could make and sell applications would not only increase the Kindle’s possibilities, but also give it a sort of iPhone recognition for innovation.

Of course, Amazon hasn’t already done this for a reason.  Perhaps over the worries of the publishers, or fears of piracy that could result from opening up the ecosystem, Amazon has not allowed third parties into the Kindle.  But here is where the iPhone example really applies.  iPhone apps undergo a nearly draconian review process, yet the iPhone and its apps continue to be a commercial success.  Amazon could easily decide to create a Kindle app marketplace where they vetoed any programs that, say, abused the wireless or allowed ePub on the device.  Some people would definitely gripe about the restrictions, but the sdk would still be an overall success.  Like the NYTimes article suggests, apps could be created for medical or other specialized niches.  The apps would be in high enough demand and would still be okay with Amazon.

One easy entry into Kindle apps could be board games like chess, go, checkers, monopoly, etc. These can be computationally light, especially if you are playing against the Internet server or another human, cause minimal wireless traffic and look well on Kindle’s eInk display. Right now there are two games on Kindle DX – minesweeper and Gomoku. More can be easily added – either free or for a charge. The ecosystem need not be as open as iPhone from the start and can still bring Kindle success. Lets not forget that even for iPhone it took a year for App store to materialize.

Will this really happen? In my opinion it’s a coin toss. Amazon has to come up with something to generate some Kindle buzz this holiday season when competition is stepping on it’s heels. And I’m pretty sure they will. But it might not be an app store.

Also, just wanted to say thanks to the New York Times for linking to Blog Kindle.  Hello any new readers!

Best Buy Will Sell Sony Reader, iRex

800px-Best_Buy_Logo.svgHere’s some bad news for Amazon and the KindleBest Buy is planning on selling the iRex and Sony Reader in their stores.  Now not only will customers be able to see the eReaders physically on display, but many people will just come upon them out of happenstance.

This blog has made the point before that Amazon should sell the Kindle in more places.  Best Buy is the perfect kind of place to sell eReaders to people who would normally not even think about them.  Best Buy, after all, is not generally thought of as a destination for tech-savvy people.  Their bread and butter customer is someone who comes in wanting a computer/tv/etc, but doesn’t know a lot about it.  Now with the iRex and Sony Reader, people who would never normally be early adopters will hold the devices and have a sales rep walk them through the features.  I wouldn’t be surprised if eReaders become a big holiday gift this year, even among those with no interest in gadgets.

According to the article, the iRex’s wireless will also be entirely paid for in the cost of the device.  But, in a followup to Andry’s comments, it turns out that the iRex will not include web browsing functionality.  So when they say the cost of wireless is included, they really mean the cost of downloading books that you are already paying for.

The Lost Symbol – Kindle version no longer has the lead

The Lost Symbol BestsellerAs of 26th of September 2009, the Kindle version of The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown is no longer outselling the hardcover on Amazon. Perhaps all of the Kindle crowd who wanted it purchased the book and already have it so the sales peaked and the dropped while folks who read paper books are still generating the steady demand for the hardcover.

Refurbished original Kindle is back in stock

Amazon Kindle 1

Amazon Kindle 1

After being sold out since September 21st,  refurbished first generation Kindles is back in stock again. You can it for $149 .00 while supplies last. Last batch of refurbished Kindle 1s lasted around one week.

It looks like Amazon is reconditioning these in batches but they seem to sell faster than they are being reconditioned. Which is no wonder given the low price point. Here’s why refurbished Kindle 1 may be a good idea to buy. I have one as a loaner to give to friends who don’t have a Kindle but I want to share books with. While this has the limitation that I can only share books with one friend at a time, the upside is that we can both read the book at the same time and share notes.

I’ll be monitoring stock status of refurbished Kindles from now on as frequently as I can and will keep you updated.

iRex Gets Verizon As 3G Carrier

300px-Verizon_logo.svgiRex’s latest attempt to best the Kindle just got a little more legitimate.  While early specs on the latest iRex Reader promised 3G wireless capabilities, actual plans for a carrier were up in the air.  That’s all changed with the announcement that iRex will be the first eReader to use the Verizon network.

The reader has now managed to duplicate many of the important features the Kindle offers.  Not only can it download books wirelessly from anywhere with cell reception, but it also is connected to the Barnes & Noble store.  Of all of Amazon’s competitors, I have to say that Barnes & Noble seems to do the best at challenging the entire Kindle experience.  In the future, buying and reading books from either company should be fairly similar.  Amazon’s strength lies in early dominance, but B&N may be able to make up for this through brand recognition and their ubiquitous brick and mortar stores.  For people who are reluctant to switch to an eReader, being able to associate with a familiar, non-cyberspace chain is going to go a long way.

But one question I have is how much customers will need to pay for data transfer.  On the Kindle, Amazon pays Sprint for all the bandwidth their customers use.  As far as I can tell, this isn’t going to happen with the Barnes & Noble store.  Not only is their store compatible with eReaders from two different companies (iRex and Plastic Logic), but both companies use different wireless providers (Verizon and AT&T, respectively).  This seems to suggest that business surrounding the wireless faculty of the readers will be handled completely separate from the B&N store.  Does this mean that wireless costs will be different for either reader?  Or that customers will need to sign contracts for service agreements?  In general, cell phone companies aren’t very well liked by consumers.  If customers are made to sign up for a data plan when buying an eReader, I think they will be more likely to consider the Kindle instead.

E-book industry in one picture

If you are new to eBook industry and would like to catch up on all of the relationships between different Amazon Kindle and other different devices and companies in the e-Book universe. This picture created by techflash.com is just the right thing for you. There is also PDF version available that has every arrow linking a related story on techflash.com. You can download it by clicking on the picture below. It will really be worth your time.

eBook Universe by techflash.com

eBook Universe by techflash.com

I guess this picture really is worth a thousand words… Great work, TechFlash!

Sony Reader Touch/Pocket vs. Kindle

Sony Reader Touch

Sony Reader Touch

Sony’s latest competition against the Kindle are the  Sony Reader Touch and Sony Reader Pocket.  Here’s a quick roundup of various reviews of these new products from around the net.

  • Gizmodo – Glare ruins the Reader Touch, Pocket is short on features but cheap price.
  • ZDNet – The Reader Touch works great, glare isn’t much of an issue.
  • CNET – Reader Touch get 3 out of 5.  Better to get Kindle at this price.
  • CNET – Reader Pocket gets 3.5 out of 5.  Good deal for the price.
  • Financial Times – Touch screen more natural to use than Kindle controls, but misses wireless.  Reviewer likes free Kindle iPhone app over Reader Pocket.
  • Mobile Tech Review – Reader Touch has caught up with Amazon and may even get some Kindle defectors.
  • iReaderReview – Reader Touch gets 7.75 out of 10.  Doesn’t quite beat the Kindle but Sony is getting really close.
  • iReaderReview – Reader Pocket vs. similarly priced Kindle 2 refurb.  Pocket is better for basic reading, but Kindle 2 has better additional features.

Theory Of Nothing – Free Kindle Books (PDF)

Theory Of Nothing By Russell K. Standish

Theory Of Nothing By Russell K. Standish

“Theory of Nothing” by dr. Russel K. Standish is a tour into many worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics as opposed to Copenhagen interpretation. This book came up in one of the discussions I’ve had with my friend. I’ve looked around and although Amazon only sells the paperback version, there is freely available PDF on the authors website that can be read on Kindle DX or any other device that supports PDF.

I’ve paged though the section on Quantum Theory Of Immortality (QTI) and, personally, found the ideas too wild to believe but interesting. I’ve put this book in my reading list. Here’s what the author himself has to say about it:

The Theory of Nothing was a book I published in 2006, in which I explored the consequences of assuming:
Everything exists, and
The reality we observe must be compatible with our existence within that reality.
The title “Theory of Nothing” came from the observation that the more inclusive a scientific theory, the less specific its predictions can be without additional ad hoc assumptions. The ultimate theory of everything is just a theory of nothing. Yet surprisingly, the theory in Theory of Nothing does have some explanatory and predictive properties, which follow from the second assumption, which links the laws of physics to the laws of psychology.
Most of the ideas I discuss in that book were discussed on the Everything List, an internet forum inhabited by some of the brightest minds I know. Since the list discussions tended to be quite technical, and often refer to previous discussions, there is a need for some kind of summary, like a FAQ of the list discussion. The trouble is, nobody seems to have time to write one. As part of my book project, I attempted to summarise and make accessible the everything-list discussion, as well as position the topic within the broader philosophical literature.

The Theory of Nothing was a book I published in 2006, in which I explored the consequences of assuming:

  • Everything exists, and
  • The reality we observe must be compatible with our existence within that reality.

The title “Theory of Nothing” came from the observation that the more inclusive a scientific theory, the less specific its predictions can be without additional ad hoc assumptions. The ultimate theory of everything is just a theory of nothing. Yet surprisingly, the theory in Theory of Nothing does have some explanatory and predictive properties, which follow from the second assumption, which links the laws of physics to the laws of psychology.

Most of the ideas I discuss in that book were discussed on the Everything List, an internet forum inhabited by some of the brightest minds I know. Since the list discussions tended to be quite technical, and often refer to previous discussions, there is a need for some kind of summary, like a FAQ of the list discussion. The trouble is, nobody seems to have time to write one. As part of my book project, I attempted to summarise and make accessible the everything-list discussion, as well as position the topic within the broader philosophical literature.

If you have enjoyed “The Elegant Universe” and “A Briefer History Of Time” that I mentioned before, Theory Of Nothing should also interest you.

Amazon Expands Their Private Label to Include Electronic Goods

Picture 3Amazon first gained notoriety as a bookseller, but soon became famous as the most prominent general online retailer.  On Amazon, someone can buy goods from a large array from companies: everything from iPods to T-Shirts.  But when it comes to products manufactured by Amazon themselves, the only product that readily comes to mind is the Kindle.

It looks like Amazon is planning to change this by selling a new line of electronic accessories under the name, “AmazonBasics.”  This isn’t the first time Amazon has created their own private label.  Amazon actually owns the Pinzon, Strathwood, Pike Street, and Denali brands.  This, however, marks an important move by Amazon in the electronics market and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they are now deciding to use the “Amazon” name outright.

The Kindle has been successful in sales, there’s no doubt about that, but it has been even more successful in garnering press for Amazon.  Even when the Kindle has had its share of controversy, the news covering it can’t be said to be a bad thing for the brand.  If nothing else, the Kindle has put Amazon in the public consciousness as a decent electronics manufacturer.  The reason why AmazonBasics now exists is probably directly related to the Kindle coming first.

I’m also hoping that first party Amazon gear will have a positive impact on the Kindle in the future.  Future eReader accessories could be created and sold under the AmazonBasics brand.  And while manufacturing of generic cables is most likely outsourced to another company, the line itself may help encourage a larger diversity of Amazon gadgets.  If the Apple Tablet is really the Kindle-killer we are supposed to believe, I don’t see any reason to keep Amazon from selling Amazon branded tablets or netbooks themselves to keep the Kindle platform going.

Refurbished Kindle 1 update

Amazon Kindle 1

Amazon Kindle 1

It looks like Amazon is currently sold out on refurbished first generation Kindles. If you follow this link, the only buy options are from third parties and the price is actually around $225.00. Refurbished Kindle 2 is still in stock however and you can get it from Amazon for $219.00 with warranty and all. Consider this an Amazon “certified pre-owned” program :)

I’ll periodically monitor refurbished Kindle stock status and will keep you updated.

Thanks to Jerry who pointed out the current stock change.

Apple iPod Touch 32GB outsells Kindle DX on Amazon

Apple iPod Touch 32GB

Apple iPod Touch 32GB

Take a look at the list of best selling products in electronics section on Amazon.com. As of recently 3rd generation Apple iPod Touch 32GB has climbed to the second place. Currently it is outsold only by Kindle 2 and is trailed by Kindle DX. This is interesting since Kindle has had prime advertising spot on Amazon.com homepage for quite some time now, while the Apple product generates sales only because of this popularity and the fact that Amazon sells it at $20.00 discount compared to the official Apple store and provides free shipping.

Technically it also can be considered Kindle related merchandize since it can run Kindle application that is available in Apple app store.

While it has been widely rumoured that Apple will release tablet PC type device that will compete with eBook readers, the fact that two companies cooperate this much indicate that Apple will not be competing with Amazon in this space. Just look at all the current news about Apple Google feud around Google voice application for iPhone. There’s clearly competition there and no cooperation at all.

What Needs To Be Changed In eBook Publishing

The Kindle is a great device.  It’s owners are by and large satisfied with their purchases and no one will argue that the Kindle makes eBook reading anything but a breeze.  But what about the eBooks themselves?  Is the format innovating at the same pace as the devices we read it on?

There’s a great Op-ed at Computer World about how eBook publishing could be improved.  It isn’t an attack on the Kindle, or other eReader devices, but more a critique on the eBook publishing industry.  The largest point of the article is that publishers should offer bundles where a customer can buy all versions of the book (physical, eReader, mobile phone, audio) for one discounted price.  The full list of suggestions is:

  1. Bundles of all book versions
  2. On the fly revisions/corrections to books
  3. Audio books that can be borrowed (Sony will be supporting loans of eBooks, but there is no word for the future of audio books)
  4. Social networks created around each book’s reader base
  5. Early release for the eBook edition
  6. Make audio books cheaper

I agree with these arguments for the most part, but I want to point out that Amazon already does some of this.  You can’t get audio books as part of a bundle,  but audio books have to go through a whole extra set of production in addition to the physical/digital versions.  Amazon does let you, however, buy books for the Kindle and then access the same books on your mobile phone.  Whispernet will even keep your current page number synced between devices, so transitioning back and forth is effortless.  Also, Kindle additions can have corrections made to them without buying a new edition.

I would however like to see some sort of digital tie in with physical book sales.  You can walk into a record store and buy a new album on vinyl, and half the time it will include a code to download a free digital version.  The music itself has already been paid for and the record label can eat the minuscule overhead that digital downloads add.  Why can’t Amazon throw in the Kindle version for free every time someone buys a physical book?  Not only would the cost to them be relatively small, but it would also encourage customers to take a closer look at eReader devices.

Kindle Version of The Lost Symbol is Outselling the Hardcover on Amazon

The Lost Symbol By Dan Brown Kindle vs. Hardcover

The Lost Symbol Bestseller

The Kindle edition of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol seems to be outselling the Hardcover edition of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol as was first discovered by Kindle Nation Daily. At the time I’m writing this, the Kindle version is still ahead on Amazon’s sales charts.

The main thing to take away from this is the growing power of the Kindle and other eReaders.  Having the Kindle sales best the physical sales is the latest step in publishing’s gradual move towards digital media.  If more books follow suit, and the gap between digital and hardcover sales widen, digital versions will slowly begin to take precedence over printed ones.  I’m going to guess that hardcovers will be the first victims of eBooks, eventually being limited to small, collector-oriented runs.

Of course, the Kindle edition’s success needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  Amazon sales charts are updated frequently, so whoever hasn’t necessarily sold more copies overall.  In this case, preorders for the hardcover started earlier than preorders for the eBook, somewhat skewing the results.  I’m not saying that this means the Kindle version didn’t sell more, but it is something to consider.  Also, hardcovers never sell anything close to paperback numbers, which may be much higher than the Kindle sales once they become widely available.

But, at least for now, the Kindle is dominating in the Amazon book store.

Another interesting thing about The Lost Symbol is that it has been made widely available by pirates in ePub and PDF forms. But this didn’t stop the eBook version from outselling the hardcover. This proves my point that people would follow the path of the least resistance. In the case of Kindle buying is easier than stealing so they buy. Back in the time of Audiogalaxy.com it was far easier to download the newly released album (without leaving your home) several days before it hit the stores (that you have to visit in person or wait for several more days before it’s delivered) so people pirated like crazy. Therefore the ease of purchase that is central to Amazon Kindle is the strongest form of DRM.

Google Releases a New News Reading Interface

Google Book Store

Google Book Store

Google has unveiled their newest addition to Google news: Fast Flip.  Fast Flip is really just a nice, snazzy interface to browse through Google news feeds, but the best way to describe it is to have you try it yourself.  So go ahead and check it out a bit before reading on.

Fast Flip seems like it’s trying to be the end-all solution for newspapers’ transition to digital.  Users can quickly browse and scan articles until they find something they want to read in depth, and then they can open the article itself.  It’s a perfect example of mimicking, and even improving, some aspects of the hand held tree paper experience.

Fast Flip has also been optimized for Android and the iPhone, which means that smart phone owners can comfortably browse their news on the go.  Google’s emphasis on mobile devices means that Fast Flip is, in a way, a competitor to current eReaders.  Instead of paying for a subscription to one newspaper and reading it on a device like the Kindle (or the Kindle iPhone app), many people may prefer the ability to skim across articles that Fast Flip provides.  Really, it’s this kind of interface innovation that is going to help newspapers stay afloat in the digital age and it’s now up to the eReaders to respond.  Some sort of application like this on a Kindle DX would be a killer news app.  Sure, the slow refresh rate of eInk would mean no fancy transitions, but a sampling of articles across that huge screen would help close the gap between digital and print news.  Let’s hope Amazon can produce something like this with the next generation of Kindles.

Price drop on refurbished Kindle

Amazon Kindle 1

Amazon Kindle 1

Recently Amazon dropped the price on refurbished first generation Kindles. You can now get one for $149 .00 while supplies last. It looks like Amazon is trying to stay competitive in the cheaper eReader niche. Don’t let the word “refurbished” set you off. In my opinion it is a great deal. Here’s why:

  • You still get 1 year warranty from Amazon just like with new Kindle. In one year from now Amazon will likely be out of 1st generation Kindles so warranty exchange will very likely become an upgrade.
  • You get same scree resolution as Kindle 2, fewer shades of gray but better contrast according to many users.
  • By spending additional $9.90 on 4GB SD card you will get more on-device storage than in Kindle DX.
  • Not that it would matter, given that K1 just like all other Kindles has free lifetime Internet access.
  • Personally I like select wheel and cursor bar of K1 better than 5-way controller of K2.

All in all just like Kindle DX isn’t better or upgraded compared to Kindle 2, Kindle 1 is more different from Kindle 2 rather than inferior or outdated. The only real drawback of K1 I can honestly admit is that page turning buttons are too soft and therefore are prone to be accidentally pressed when you pick up the device. However if you strongly feel that Kindle 2 is the way to go for you, then by adding $70.00 you can get refurbished Kindle 2 for $219.00.

eBook reader market has come a long way since originally Amazon Kindle retailed for $399.00 when it was launched two years ago. Now you can get the same device for nearly 1/3 of that price.

New Cool-er Reader on the Way

There’s a new Cool-er Reader coming, and it’s supposed to give Amazon a run for its money.  According to the Mirror, the new device will not only have wireless, but also a full color screen.  And possibly a touchscreen.  All from a company that has made a profit selling budget eReaders.

Further details won’t be released until CES in January, but I have a feeling that any rumors surrounding the device are way overblown.  If the new device is still in the budget range and does feature everything its supposed to, then it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call it a Kindle killer.  But I’m not sure how Interead could possibly pack in more features than the Kindle and still beat the Kindle on price.

It is possible that Interead is planning something that isn’t an eInk device at all, but something with LCD.  Of course, that would stretch the definition of eReader since the device would feel like a tablet PC with most its features missing.  I could be wrong though, and it might be possible that Interead comes out with something that is a mind blowing success.  Especially now that Coolerbooks has gained additional support from Google.

If Interead is planning a color eInk device, then Amazon may also have a color Kindle around the corner.  Amazon has been waiting on color because the quality of color displays from E-Ink Corporation isn’t up to their standards.  Since everyone is basically using the same E-Ink technology, if one company can do color others probably can too.

Time Inc. Creating Their Own eReader?

According to a leaked internal document, Time Inc. may release their own eReader device.  Consumers would be able to buy subscriptions to Time publications (such as Time, Sports Illustrated, and People) in bundles that would be delivered to the device together.  Time’s plans also mention the strategy of forming a joint venture with other companies to share the new platform.

Besides the bundling of subscriptions, and a desire to create a “consumer-facing brand” for the gadget, it’s not really clear what the marketing strategy will be.  If Time tries to sell the device for super cheap, or even give it a way for free, they will need to rely on a surge of subscriptions due to the ease of “bundling.”  If the device is too expensive, people either won’t be convinced to switch to eInk or they will choose a more general device like the Kindle.

Speaking of which, Time magazine is already available on the Kindle.  Since eReaders are already available that offer magazine subscriptions, anything produced by Time will need to find a way to compete against Amazon.  A full color reader that completely mimicked a real magazine could be successful, but I’m not sure how they could keep the price of the device low enough.  Nobody will shell big bucks for something that is limited to only a handful of magazines.

August 2009 Summary

It’s time to publish previous month stats and summaries again.

Kindle book count had several ups and downs during the month of August, finally settling at 349,610 (just 390 books shy of 350K) for an overall increase of 13,713 that translates to 442 books per day on average. This is 3 times lower than previous month gain, in fact this is the slowest growth I’ve observed since I’ve started counting Kindle books this year. I hope Amazon will pick up it’s pace or my book count predictions might be off. If I were to speculate, I would guess that Amazon is periodically prunning self-published books to avoid incidents similar to the one with Orwell books.

Kindle Book Count August 2009

Kindle Book Count August 2009

Kindle blogs, on the other hand, saw a healthy increase of 807 (almost twice as many as in July) ending at 7,171. This is 26 new blogs per day on average. Although if you look at the chart you can see that majority of the blogs were added on the 12th. If I were to speculate again I would guess that Amazon was holding off on approving blogs until they’ve internally decided on some kind of policy. Either that ot they’ve struck some kind of wholesale deal with some blog mogul.

Kindle Blog Count August 2009

Kindle Blog Count August 2009

And now a brief recoup of August 2009 Kindle news:

Recently Lose a Kindle in New York? CNET Might Have It


From Sarah Tew at CNET. Kindle has big scratch on screen.

If you were visiting or live in New York and recently forgot your Kindle in a taxicab, one of the editors at CNET may have it.

The Kindle belongs to a John and has the device name of “John’s Kindle.”  If you think it is yours, you can Email the article’s author and verify your identity.  Apparently, CNET decided to not even attempt to contact Amazon because they assumed Amazon would be unwilling to cooperate in giving out customer information.  Maybe that’s the case, but if I found a Kindle I would at least try to return it through Amazon’s customer service.  I don’t understand why Amazon couldn’t just act as a middleman and have you ship it without any idea who the owner is.

Returning the Kindle was also made more difficult because the owner didn’t put any of their personal info in the device.  It may seem pointless, but the Kindle can store your personal info for a reason.  This is it.

Steve Jobs Continues to Dismiss eReaders

Steve Jobs had some harsh words to say about the Kindle, and eReaders in general, in a recent interview with David Pogue.  Jobs had previously stated his view that eReaders weren’t a viable product, but this was before the success Amazon has had.  Yet, even with the profit the Kindle has made, Jobs’ view is the same now as it has always been:

I’m sure there will always be dedicated devices, and they may have a few advantages in doing just one thing … But I think the general-purpose devices will win the day. Because I think people just probably aren’t willing to pay for a dedicated device.

Jobs also goes on to imply that since Amazon doesn’t release exact sales figures, the Kindle hasn’t been as successful as people believe.  Of course, this is just marketing bravado on the part of Jobs.  Sure, there aren’t as many Kindles out there as iPods, but no one would truly believe that Amazon hasn’t benefited from the eReader market.  Besides the devices themselves, Amazon takes a huge share of the profits from everything people buy to read on it (So huge that some publishers have started to complain).

It’s also pretty easy to jump to the conclusion that Jobs is hinting at the fabled Apple tablet.  While still existing mainly in the form of rumor, the tablet is nonetheless expected to have a huge impact.  Since its a portable device which will, among many other things, be able to read books, it’s expected to be the killer eReader device.  Some have even gone so far as to preemptively call it the Kindle-killer or attempt to forecast its effects on Amazon’s sales.

Both Jobs’ statement and they hype around the tablet come down to the same question of design philosophy: dedicated vs general-purpose devices.  While Jobs may be right that general-purpose devices have the long term advantage, the Kindle won’t be in any real danger unless the tablet can pull in enough customers from across the board.  Someone who likes the idea of an eReader, but already bought a tablet for other reasons, will likely keep the tablet.  Someone specifically shopping for a reader could still be swayed by the Kindle’s advantages, however.

Embracing the Wide Sky, Good Kindle Books at a Glance #19

Embracing The Wide Sky

Embracing The Wide Sky

I’ve discoved “Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind” by Daniel Tammet entirely by chance. As I was touring the UK in a car, my favorite radio station of choice became BBC Radio 2. I specifically liked the Jeremy Vine show. During one of the shows Jeremy interviewed the author of this book. The show really caught my attention as Daniel was nothing like “The Rain Man” , a stereotypical autistic savant as depicted by Hollywood. Just by listening to the interview you wouldn’t be able to tell that the person speaking memorized 22,514 digits of the number Pi. So as soon as I could get my PC connected to the Internet I checked Amazon for Kindle version of this book and downloaded it.

“Embracing The Wide Sky” is a book about human mind and how it works in general. Daniel also goes into some detail about his special abilities related to math and linguistics. This book contains collection of interesting facts and factoids related to human mind and percenption. An example of such factoid would be: “Russian language speakers are on average better at distinguishing shades of blue than English speakers, which is most likely due to the fact that Russian language contains two distinct words for “blue”: “синий” which correstponds to the darker shares and “голубой” which corresponds to the lighter shades as opposed to one commonly used work in English”. Things like that made me think about how I think and perceive the world around me.

Entire chapter of the book is dedicated to the topic of how to treat everyday life analytically, mathematically and statistically and why being innumral is almost just as bad as being illeterate. The same chapter also goes into exploring things related to chance and coincidence such as lottery, elections etc.

“Embracing the Wide Sky” is however much more than collection of peculiar factoids. And while I personally disagree with the author on the point of human brain having nothing in common with a computer that was stated several times thoughout the book I still enjoyed reading it a lot and would highly recommend it for reading.

Mini-comparison to Sony PRS-505

Kindle DX, Kindle 2, Sony PRS-505

Kindle DX, Kindle 2, Sony PRS-505

It so happened that I purchased Sony PRS-505 for my Dad. I chose Sony eReader because my Dad living outside WhisperNet coverage and having very little knowledge of English language (and therefore no interest in any books that are sold on Amazon.com) effectively negated all benefits of Amazon Kindle.

On the other hand Sony eBook reader is extensively used by Russian community so on top of Unicode fonts there’s also complete localization of UI available in Russian (and in many other languages). A lot of credit for this should be given to Igor Skochinsky who also made Unicode Font Hack possible by figuring out a way to create custom updates for Amazon Kindle.

Therefore I’ve had a chance to briefly compare the Sony reader with both Kindle 2 and Kindle DX side-by-side. I would like to share my impressions on the subject. It is in no way a complete review – just an opinion. But perhaps someone will find it useful.

Exterior: Although I found Sony PRS-505 more visually pleasing than Kindle, I found pagination buttons of Kindle more comfortable. This is kind of a big deal since flipping pages constitutes 95% of eBook reader usage. It is nice that Sony eReader comes with protective cover included. I also purchased cover with light prism. It looked really cool all the way up to the moment when I turned it on. Then I found that it somewhat reduces text contrast. On the bright side, it leaks much less light than Mighty Bright XtraFlex that I use with Kindle. I also found 10 numerical buttons on PRS-505 handy and highly functional.

Display: Both Kindle 2 and PRS-505 sport 6″ eInk displays of the same resolution of 600×800. They differ in the number of supported colors: 16 for Kindle vs. 8 for Sony and in contrast which I subjectively found to be higher in the Sony reader.

Storage: Kindle 2 sports 1.4Gb of internal flash memory storage usable for books, while Sony device has significantly less (192Mb) but compensates for it by having 2 expansion slots that can potentially add 10Gb of additional storage. Plus you have the ability to swap memory cards that you carry in your pocket making the storage potentially unlimited. Not that it really matters because as I’ve shown in Kindle 2 vs. Kindle DX comparison, you’ll need to spend around $8,500 to completely fill up 1.4Gb of Kindle storage with books. So unless you use your reader for viewing manga as collection of JPEG files or go on solo many times around the world boat trips without a computer you really should not care either way.

Software: Sony seems to resume from sleep mode faster than Kindle. It also offers more in terms of organizing your book collection. Latter is a major pain point and probably the most requested feature by Kindle users. I would very much like Kindle to do a better job at organizing the books I purchased. There really is no reason for this feature to not be there given that Kindles have fully functional keyboard that would make naming collections and tags really easy. On the other hand Kindle sports some features that are not found in its Sony competitor like text-to-speech and web-browser.

PDF Support: While Kindle 2 only supports PDF via conversion, Kindle DX has a native support like the Sony does. While I didn’t have a chance to explore in detail PDF capabilities of Sony PRS-505 like I did with Kindle DX, I did try one PDF file. I have to admit that Sony does a better job at supporting PDF than Kindle because PRS-505 supports internal hyperlinks and table of contents as well as reflowing text to accommodate different font sizes. 9.7″ screen size of Kindle DX that can also work in landscape mode provides a saving straw because it makes reflowing unnecessary for many PDF files.

PC Software and book buying experience: I didn’t install the Sony software as my Dad would have no use for it (he only plans to read Russian classics that are freely available on the Internet) and I didn’t need to install Amazon software because there isn’t any. Although it may seem unfair (since I haven’t tried the Sony way) I’ll say that comparing book buying experience for Kindle and Sony would be like beating a dead horse. It’s the main selling point of Amazon Kindle and it’s what made it so successful.

Conclusion: Overall I liked the Sony device even tough it’s soon going to be outdated by newer models some of which will have touchscreen (another highly anticipated Kindle feature). Sony seems to have better software and both Amazon and Sony have strong and weak points in ergonomics. If I could have the same book buying experience and selection on Sony as I have with Amazon Kindle, I’d probably go with Sony eReader. However since things are the way they are, I’m staying with Kindle and my dad will use Russian-localized version of PRS-505 to read classics freely available from sites like lib.ru

P.S.: I’ve alredy finished this comparison review when I discovered a new aspect of these devices I wasn’t aware of. Kindle turned out to be much better for non-English speakers who want to learn the language than Sony PRS-505 due to built-in dictionary and text-to-speech capability. My sister started reading English books with intent of enriching her active vocabulary. Built-in dictionary lookup saved her tons of time each time the ran into an unfamilar word. Text-to-speech gave her a very good idea of how each word sounds as she read along with the device. So Kindle although lacking free Internet connectivity outside the US can still be perfect for some foreign users.

When I get my hands on newer Sony eReader models I’ll see how they stack up against the Kindle and post some reviews as well.

Make Your Own Kindle Case That Doubles as a Stand

Spent the money on a new Kindle?  Want to protect your investment, but don’t have the funds leftover to buy a fancy cover? Or worried the fancy case will break your Kindle?  Why not make your own Kindle case?

Chica and Jo provides step by step instructions, on how to make your own custom case for the Kindle 1 or Kindle 2.  If you have a DX, you will need to figure out the measurements yourself since they didn’t have access to a DX model.  The idea is pretty cool, as it is super cheap and you can use whatever design you want (I’m not particularly fond of the generic floral print used in the guide). Plus, the case also doubles as a reading stand.  This would be particularly useful if you use your Kindle for something like reading sheet music.

Here’s what the final product looks like: