On e-Reader Tech News we track down the latest e-Reader 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 e-reader tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest devices and accessories.

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November 2009
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Kindle sales set a new record in November 2009

Amazon may face tough competition from Google in the year to come but now they seem to be on top of things as Kindle eBook Reader sales skyrocketed in November.

Amazon.com said on Monday that its Kindle electronic book reader posted its best sales yet in the month of November, as rivals struggle with fulfilling their customer orders.

The online retailer said shoppers were buying several Kindles at once as holiday gifts, while businesses and organizations were buying the device “in large quantities” for employees or clients. Amazon does not provide precise data on Kindle sales.

via Reuters.com

Kindle’s main competitors, Sony and Barnes&Noble on the other hand reported their new products sold out and shipments delayed even before the holiday season actually started. While this indicates high demand for their products, it would give them little comfort as some of “could-have-been-their” customers are going to instant gratification here and now with Amazon as they have no other option for wireless-enabled eReaders.

B&N is new to eReader market and it’s understandable how they could mess up on their first entry attempt. Sony on the other hand has been in the exact same situation before when they released PRS-500 in 2006. The device was immediately sold out on US market and unanavailable internationally for months to come. A friend of mine who back then lived in Europe via community forums tracked down a US store that had a whooping 5 units in stock of which I bought all to be sent to my friend and his coworkers. Back then scalpers were making a killing on eBay as Sony PRS-500 sold for 150%+ of retail price.

This time around though there is Amazon that is more than willing to sell Kindles to anyone who is not willing to wait for Sony eReader or a Nook.

Sony PRS-600 Touch Edition Review

Sony PRS-600 Touch Edition

Sony PRS-600 Touch Edition

I’ve had the Sony reader for more than a week now so it’s time to write a proper review and compare it to Amazon Kindle… So let’s start from the beginning.

Unboxing and installing: If you have ever unboxed Amazon Kindle you know how easily it goes once you get past the FedEx box. You can get by without any tools and be reading books within minutes of opening the box without ever having to touch your computer. With Sony packaging some cutting is required. Since PRS-600 is not bundled with AC charger and the device locks up while it’s connected to the PC, there is no way you can start reading books until the battery is charged. While this doesn’t matter in the long run it shows how good Amazon is at packaging, selling and creating a first impression and how much Sony has yet to learn in this regard.

Sony reader needs PC to buy books. eBook library software needs to be installed for this to work. Conveniently the installer is located inside the reader itself so when you plug it in, one of the disk drives would contain the setup file. So all you need to do is click the appropriate button on one of the AutoPlay dialogs that pop up. What is not so convenient is that the installer disk keeps popping up every time you connect the reader even after the software is installed.

I browsed through the menu trying to disable this behavior and when all else failed I turned to the User’s Manual. Alas! It wasn’t there on the reader. It actually was, but inside one of the language specific ZIP files on the reader. So to read it you need to unzip it. Not a big problem for me but for someone who is not computer savvy it might be. However even with User’s Manual I wasn’t able to turn the annoying setup disk off.

There were some more hiccups related to the software installation and creation of the Sony eBook store account but I’m not going to mention them. After all you only need to go though this process once per OS install which is not that bad.

Display: Sony PRS-600 uses the same kind of eInk screen as Kindle 2 so there is little difference there. Sone screen has a resistive touchscreen layer on top of it. Some people claim that it takes away some of the contrast. In fact there is a noticeable difference between Kindle 2 and PRS-600. To prevent my eyes from playing tricks on be because of different frame color I took a piece of paper and cut two identical rectangular holes in it. Then I compared “white” portions of the screens by looking though these holes and I still found Sony screen to be darker.

Ergonomics: Sony PRS-600 is smaller than Amazon Kindle due to lack of keyboard. Although the weight is the same, Sony feels heavier because of the smaller size (I guess more dense would the correct way to put it). It could be a matter of habit but I find Kindle paging buttons more naturally placed than on PRS-600. PRS-600 fits nicely in most pockets which is convenient.

Storage: Sony PRS-600 comes with 512Mb usable storage that can be expanded to 16Gb via SDHC and MMC cards. Since PRS-600 lacks wireless connectivity it’s likely that you’ll be carrying most of your books around so it makes sense to stock up on flash memory. This is different from Kindle way of always being able to download books you’ve purchased before via the WhisperNet. If you work with large PDF documents or images you will find swapping flash cards convenient.

Getting books:

  • Buying books: Using the eBook library is relatively straightforward and easy. You only need to enter your credit card information once. After that you can buy books with one click pretty much like on Amazon.com. Several times the application failed to transfer purchased books to the eReader but reconnecting the device fixed that too.
  • Free books: Free Google books are integrated into the eBook Library software so getting them is easy
  • Library books: Getting library books was easy once I learned that the service is located at www.Overdrive.com from another PRS-600 review. I entered my ZIP-code to find my local library, browsed though the list of eBooks and audio-books. After choosing the book I was asked for library card number, Adobe ID that is used in ePub DRM. Then Sony eBook library downloaded the book which I then transfered to the PRS-600 and started reading. Straightforward and nice, given that it is free.

To tell the truth some libraries now offer eBooks in DRM-free mobipocket format that Kindle can use as well, though selection of such books is smaller while selection of library books is small to begin with. So library book access (at least the way it is now) is a nice perk but nothing major since most of the books you would want to read you’ll end up buying anyway.

Reading books on the Sony PRS-600: Experience is mostly similar to the one of Kindle. Flipping pages with gestures is fun at first but I then switched to using buttons as you need to press the finger pretty hard to the touchscreen. If you are using stylus this is not an issue but why would you want to take out a stylus for reading? Navigating table of contents and links is easier than with 5-way controller. However if you are using finger rather than stylus, not all of the touches will register. PRS-600 is not nearly as finger friendly as an iPhone.

Looking up dictionary definitions is easier with the touchscreen however Sony PRS-600 suffers from two significant drawbacks when it comes to using the dictionary:

1) Sony PRS-600 doesn’t recognize alternative forms of all the words. For example if you try looking up the word “puzzled” it will yield no results while looking up “puzzle” will work.

2) The navigation within the dictionary is limited to the hyper-links  between the articles. In contrast Kinde dictionaries are treated like regular books so you can get a dictionary definition for any word within any other dictionary definition.

While it may not look like a big deal to some people for non-native English speakers such as myself it is.

Reading books on the PC: You can actually read complete books in Sony eBook library software. With Amazon you are limited to “Look inside this book” feature on Amazon.com. If you don’t have an eBook reader – this is a great feature. If you do then most likely you would choose eInk over backlit LCD screen for reading. Clipboard is disabled (least for copyrighted books). This would have been a nice feature for PC users, especially for academics. However it’s not there. You would have more luck copying the book text from Amazon Kindle books by highlighting it.

Taking notes: There are two ways in which you can take notes on the books and documents that you work with on Sony PRS-600. You can either scribble or type using the on-screen keyboard. Typing is a very bad experience. Touchscreen, eInk and on-screen keyboard are a horrible combination. The lag is just too great and typing becomes too slow to be efficient. Kindle keyboard may not be too comfortable but it’s way better than this. Scribbling is fun but these notes are not usable or transferable.

Viewing PDF: This is one area where Sony PRS-600 beats Amazon Kindle hands down. Table of contents and internal hyper-links work and are easy to select on a touch screen. You can either increase font size and the reader will reflow the text, or dynamically zoom in and drag the page around. Surprisingly the refresh rate is pretty fast. Although it doesn’t have an accelerometer like Amazon Kindle, Sony reader also supports landscape mode that you can enable via the options menu. This is definitely better than document conversion that is available in Kindle 2.

If you just need to read the PDF in a linear fashion then large screen of Kindle DX has an advantage. However if you need to navigate the document a lot, it’s much easier to do on Sony PRS-600 with the touchscreen even tough the display is smaller.

Viewing pictures: This is another area where Sony PRS-600 does better than Kindle. When I used small JPEG files both eReaders worked roughly the same. But when I dropped 21 megapixel JPEG from my Canon DSLR, Kindle took more than a minute to render it and you could clearly see that its dithering algorithm failed. Sony on the other hand was able display the image promptly as well as dynamically pan and zoom it. When you pan the image it looks like the eInk screen switches to monochrome mode (only 2 colors) that allows for much faster refresh that makes almost real-time panning possible.

Playing MP3 music: Sony PRS-600 has a usable MP3 player where you can navigate tracks, fast-forward, rewind etc.

Conclusion: Sony PRS-600 is a good device. You can definitely have a good time reading books on it. Unfortunately the software (both PC and eReader) has some bugs and reliability issues. Unless you work with PDF files a lot, touchscreen is more of a hindrance than a blessing. It does seem to take away from the contrast a little bit.

At a glance: So which one should you choose? It really depends on what your usage patterns are going to be.

If all you want to do is read books, then I would definitely recommend Amazon Kindle. When reading, touchscreen is more of a hindrance than help, it adds to the cost and takes away from image quality. Being able to buy books without computer or WiFi is a huge plus for Kindle.

If you work with PDF files a lot then Sony PRS-600 will be a better choice because it provides much better PDF support than Amazon Kindle does. You can navigate PDF files easily with touchscreen, pan, zoom and change font size.

If PDFs are important to you, but you still would like to have the convenience of Whispernet buying from Amazon.com you can consider Kindle DX. Although you somewhat loose portability, larger screen alleviates lack of pan and zoom functions in Kindle software.

Specification Sony PRS-600 Touch Edition Amazon Kindle 2

Sony PRS-600 Touch Edition

Sony PRS-600 Touch Edition

Amazon Kindle 2

Amazon Kindle 2

Price $299.00 $259.00
Size 6.9″ x 4.8″ x 0.40″ 8″ x 5.3″ x 0.36″
Weight 10.1 oz 10.2 oz
Screen 6″ 8 grayscale eInk 6″ 16 grayscale eInk
Screen Resolution 600 x 800 @ 170 ppi 600 x 800 @ 167 ppi
Audio 3.5mm stereo jack stereo speakers, 3.5mm stereo jack
Storage 512MB + up to 16Gb SDHC and MMC 1.4Gb
Features Access to free library DRM books via overdrive.com Can buy books without PC in 100+ countries via GSM wireless commection
Release Date August 31, 2009 February 9, 2009 / October 19, 2009

Now that I have both Amazon and Sony readers and I still primarily use Amazon Kindle. I’m keeping the Sony for the rare case of getting a book from the library (although so far it is yet to happen). My 3 year old daughter loves it for its scribbling feature. I’ve uploaded some images with “connect-the-dots” pictures and tracing letters and she has a blast with these :)

October 2009 Summary

If you recall, there was a massive drop in book numbers in the last day of September. Well during the first week of October these books came back. So if we disregard this anomaly and consider 357,724 to be the final count for September, then with the final count for October being 368,373 we get an average of 343 books per day added. Otherwise if we take 372,556 to be the initial count then average increase would be 835.

Kindle Book Count for October 2009

Kindle Book Count for October 2009

The number of Kindle blogs increased from 7,179 to 7,355 (+176) giving us 5.7 new blogs per day on average. Notice weekly sharp drops. It looks like Amazon is either reviewing blogs on a weekly basis or they are just pruning out stale/dead blogs periodically. If you know of a blog that was on Kindle and no longer is – please let me know. This blog is still there – alive and well.

Kindle Blog Count for October 2009

Kindle Blog Count for October 2009

As for events, there were several major Kindle related themes in October 2009:

I’ve been quite busy with different things during the month of November so I didn’t blog as much. I know it’s almost time to be writing November summary, but better late than never.

Mirasol v/s e-Ink: What’s The Future?


The screen is real but the housing is non-functional right now

Qualcomm is funding the development of a new type of display technology called Mirasol and it is being touted as the future of eBook readers. That means it will replace the e-Ink technology that our beloved Kindle uses. So how does it work and why is it (reportedly) so much better?

Mirasol has been developed by mimicking a feature that makes the butterfly’s wings shimmer. It uses no back lighting, just like e-Ink and uses incidental light to reflect it back through a special layer. This layer is made up of multiple microscopic membranes that can be change through electric current. Once they change, they remain static in that state until another electric charge causes them to change again. This means they do not use electricity during a period of no change.

Their main advantage is that these membranes can produce the three main colors used in modern color displays – Red, Green And Blue (RGB) – and hence can produce a vibrant colored image. They also produce very impressive blacks (at least in theory) because in their closed state they reflect no light at all and have no other source of light.

Due to their design, they are able to run higher frame rates, thus making smooth videos a possibility on the display. Currently, pushing the frame rate up on the e-Ink would cause it to consume more battery.

That is because e-Ink uses tiny microcapsules that have three states – Black, white amd mixed. Changing them through negative and positive charges creates the same effect as LCD pixels. But since they contain physical particles, they do not need any backlighting. But making them support RGB would require highly specialized particles and higher frame rates would require much more current.

How this will affect eBook readers is still debatable but if it does become viable, then Amazon might consider switching. We just have to wait a bit more to see how it pans out. Qualcomm intends to have it in the market by the end of 2010.

Amazon Kindle Black Friday Deal Hunt!

While historically Amazon didn’t provide any Black Friday discounts for it’s Kindle eBook reader it may be possible that they’ll actually put out some kind of last minute deal in their Black Friday deals week section. Unusually high competition from Sony and Barnes&Noble along with imminent battle with Google might push Amazon to make one more move this holiday season on top of the ones they’ve done already:

  • Releasing international version of Kindle.
  • Releasing Kindle for PC application.
  • Releasing a major software update that likely cost them big $$$ that enables PDF on 2nd generation Kindles.

Although I’ll be checking for Kindle deals on a regular basis, if you spot one before me – be sure to leave a comment. To make this interesting, I’ll send a $50 Amazon gift card to the first person to post a link to functioning Black Friday discount deal on Kindle device, accessory or eBook. Discount must be specific to that item. When you post a comment, make sure to enter working and correct email as I’ll use it to contact the winner.

Deals that people reported:

Uninstalling old version of UFH

There seems to be a small problem with the latest UHF update. The newest uninstaller doesn’t remove old versions of the hack. Since all my Kindle devices have software 2.3 now I can’t debug the issue. I’ve made old version of uninstaller available that should do the job:

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Updated Kindle International Coverage Table

I’ve updated the Kindle International Coverage table. Canada is now included and most countries have 300K+ books available to them.

Unicode Fonts Hack for Kindle 2.3

This updated version of Kindle Unicode Fonts Hack works on all versions of Kindle software including the most recent 2.3 and installs on Kindle 2 US, Kindle 2 International and Kindle DX.

I’ve added more font combinations:

  • GNU FreeFont – this hack uses GNU Free Fonts that come with Linux and are free to redistribute. All font styles are preserved (serif, sans-serif, mono-spaced, bold and italic) but these fonts only support Latin, Cyrillic characters and some others (click here for full coverage data). So if you are only interested in Russian books – this is the way to go. Otherwise this patch will do you little good. Here are download links:



  • Droid Fallback Fonts (recommened for Asian glyphs) – this hack uses open-source Droid fallback font that is part of Google Android platform. Unfortunately styles and typefaces are missing completely. You’ll only get regular Sans Serif. The upside is the broadest character support. It supports Cyrillic, Chinese, Japanese and a bunch of other languages. This font also looks very good on the Kindle screen (in my opinion way better than native Kindle fonts). This is the patch I currently have installed on my Kindle 2. Here are download links:




Visit the Kindle Unicode Fonts Hack page for detailed instructions.

Kindle Software 2.3 (399380047)

It definitely looks like I’ll have to eat my words… One month ago I made a statement that there will be fewer Kindle software updates and that chances of new features being added via update are slim. At least on the second count I was wrong. Amazon has released Kindle software version 2.3 for Kindle 2 US, Kindle 2 International and Kindle DX. It added significant features to all of these devices. In fact Amazon deemed the update so significant that they’ve sent out emails to Kindle owners about it.

  • Kindle 2 International (wireless by AT&T) got a significant battery life boost. You can now go for a week without having to recharge the device and keep the wireless on. Since it doesn’t apply to the US version of Kindle 2 (that uses Sprint for wireless connectivity) it looks like Amazon didn’t change the poll frequency but either fixed some bug in wireless driver or took advantage of a technology similar to PUSH email.
  • Both US and international versions of Kindle 2 got native PDF support based on the same code that was used in Kindle DX. Now you can also manually switch screen orientation to landscape. Kindle DX style automatic switching doesn’t work since Kindle 2 devices lack the accelerometer hardware. PDF files are better cropped now as blank margins don’t use up valuable screen space. This is especially important for small 6″ Kindle screens since PDF viewer still lacks zoom feature.
  • Since all Kindle versions now support PDF, sending PDF file to @kindle.com email will no longer convert it to native Kindle format by default. If you still want the conversion to happen, you should put the word “Convert” in the email subject.
  • Kindle DX screensaver activation time was increased from 5 minutes to 20 minutes. This makes sense since larger screen can contain more text that takes longer to read.
  • All Kindle versions will not require signed update packages. This problem however has already been solved.

Normally you Kindle would update itself automatically if you have wireless connectivity. However if you do not or the update failed because you had hacks installed, you can update Kindle manually. This time around though, rather than trying to hit dynamic URLs that are supposed to always provide the latest version, you can download the update from the appropriate static location. These locations are listed on Amazon.com Help page.

By bringing all Kindle devices to the same version, Amazon will simplify software development process in the long run. They may change the update process in the future to cut the update delivery costs. 2.3 update package was around 10 megabytes large. If they keep the current method update packages will get only larger.

At the moment there is no update for 1st generation Kindle. And dare I make another prediction – the chances of it happening are rather slim.

While we are on the topic of updates. There might be another update currently in the works in Lab126. On Kindle Facebook page Kindle developers have posted the following message:

Amazon Kindle Kindle Customers, We have heard from many of you that you would like to have a better way to organize your growing Kindle libraries. We are currently working on a solution that will allow you to organize your Kindle libraries. We will be releasing this functionality as an over-the-air software update as soon as it is ready, in the first half of next year. – The Kindle Team

Personally I have just one question left: Where are the bleeping Unicode fonts? Amazon, seriously! Is it too much trouble to replace the current fonts with ones that support wider range of characters? Although with PDF support in place there is workaround via PDF font embedding, it would be nice to have native support as well.

I guess this leaves me with little choice but to recompile Kindle Unicode Font Hack to work with Kindle Software 2.3… I’ll post as soon as it’s ready and tested.

Instapaper + Kindle Problems Find A (Free) Solution

Kindle plus instapaper usb sync solution with mobi filesInstapaper lets you bookmark online content through a handy little bookmarklet that sits in your browser. Then you can log on to their website later or use their iPhone App to read the full articles in one place.

Their connection with the Kindle is simple — they have a service by which your recent articles are emailed to your Kindle or Kindle DX. You get charged $0.15 by Amazon for each email but in the end it is worth it to be able to read it on your favorite e-text reading device.

But there is a problem with this service, the emails do not reach the Kindle users every time they are sent. This is in all likelihood a technical problem between the Instapaper’s service and Amazon but it is taking its time getting fixed. So the Instapaper developer thought up an alternative solution.

Instapaper now allows you to download your 10 most recent articles to a .mobi file that can be transferred to your Kindle. You cannot go more than 10 articles per file for now but you can probably save multiple such files. Syncing is via USB, so it is not completely hassle free but it has three distinct advantages for now.

One is that you get to use this service for free. You will not be paying for the emails that Amazon relays from Instapaper to your Kindle. The second advantage is that you are guaranteed that the sync feature will work all the time. The third is that it works for International users as well. The email feature was only for US users. It is still in beta, so you might run into problems but those who use the Kindle with Instapaper know that it is a fantastic service to have. It adds to our already great Kindle experience.