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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April 2010
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Changing the Feel of Kindle

The move from paper books to eReader devices might have been inevitable, but that doesn’t always make it easy. In a lot of ways, we’ve been fairly lucky. eInk displays make the pages read like paper, current technologies allow us to hold something the size of a book in our hands as we read, in a lot of ways it isn’t that much of a difference to read a book now than it ever was once you get used to the little things.

The one bit that I found the most difficult to deal with, at first, was the feel.  There’s just something about holding that brand new hardcover straight from the store or an old favorite pulled off the shelf for the twentieth time.  It’s got a pleasant, almost nostalgic feeling to it that the Kindle can’t really match unassisted.  My way around this was to take advantage of the cover options.

There’s a company I found a while back called Oberon Design that is in the business of making, among other things, eReader covers.  They’ve got them for all the varied Kindle versions, as well as a couple other devices, but I personally went with the Kindle 2 cover since that’s where they had the most designs to choose from so far.  It’s hand-tooled leather, feels good in your hands, and brings back some of the sensations that are lost in the move to synthetic media.  Can’t say it hurts to know that I can drop the thing in a parking lot(and I have) without damaging my favorite toy either.  The $75 price tag whether you’re going for a Kindle, nook, or Sony PRS cover is definitely a little steep, but it seems more than worth the money for the improved experience and security that the cover brings.

Upcoming Kobo Release Draws International Attention

As the May 1st release date for the Kobo eReader from Canada-based Indigo Books and Music Inc. draws near, people have begun to take notice.  The $149 price tag alone would seem to many to be the biggest draw, but the full picture is a little bit larger.

In keeping with the company’s goal of promoting content over gadgetry, anybody using the Kobo Store can expect to have access to their purchases available on any number of platforms from eReader to computer to cellular phone.  This should hold true not only in North American markets but around the world, as Indigo has brought in partnerships to expand their presence into the US, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and Europe.

The device itself is simply a basic reading platform without any of the frills and features that a device like the Kindle boasts, but it provides an affordable option to people at a time when the eReader market is taking off and pulls in a large selection of international literature that is otherwise rather hard to come by.  There are reports of an impressive showing of Korean-language content on the horizon, for example.

If you find yourself interested, check out the National Post’s book blog, The Afterword, where’s there’s a contest going on all week to give readers the chance to win a Kobo eReader of their own to enjoy.  All it takes, it seems, is a few minutes, an email, and some luck!

nook on the Web – First Impressions

Today the latest content patch for the B&N nook rolled out and it’s made a fairly impressive showing.  I played around with it for a while earlier and found little to complain about.

The most important point is, of course, performance.  The screen refresh isn’t any faster, but navigating the device has been sped up considerably.  There is nearly no discernible delay moving from one menu to the next anymore.  Adding onto this the fact that the update is supposed to fix the freezing of nook units(couldn’t say since mine never froze in the first place), and I think many people are going to like the upgrade for this alone.

The most widely touted feature of this update was the web browser.  Now, as you would expect from the first release of a browser for a device that was never really an optimal sort of avenue for that sort of thing in the first place, there are some bugs.  First, page navigation is a bit slow.  Both moving from page to page and simply scrolling from one part of the page to the next.  I love that I can check my email easily through the device.  In fact, that was the first thing I did, just to make sure I could.  It causes problems when you try to do anything involving a pop-up or new tab though.  Just bumps you out to the main menu.  Personally I’d rather just get a message saying “No, go do something else instead.”  Anyway, it’s still a nice addition.  With the color on the touchscreen, the web isn’t nearly as bland as it could be.  It’s a small window to the full color spectrum of the web, but it makes a big difference.

Finally, we have the games.  Why did B&N add games?  No idea.  Not that they’re bad.  I mean, they’re really not.  Heck, the sodoku is one of the most pleasant versions to play that I’ve ever found, and I hate sodoku.  I just don’t exactly see the point just now.  Maybe when downloadable games demonstrate the potential better somehow?

I’d say nook owners should be very pleased for a bit.  This is a major improvement in the device.  I still feel the lack somewhat, since the keyboard is a little less sensitive and harder to use than my Kindle‘s, but it isn’t too bad.  This eReader’s definitely going to get a bit more use than it has been for a while now though, I can assure you.

Audible Incentives

There are a lot of good reasons to pick up a Kindle.  It’s neat to read, occasionally very useful for its ability to be a portable internet device, and it saves on effort and potential injury when you compare it to the hundreds or thousands of paperbacks you might otherwise have to carry down a flight of stairs on moving day.  One of the less talked-about uses, however, is as a vessel for audiobooks.

Having worked with the Kindle while helping out students with learning disorders, I can tell you that this is a really useful feature.  It’s also proven helpful with an elderly relative of mine who sometimes has trouble even with the device’s largest font sizes, but who still really loves her books.  The Text-to-speech feature isn’t bad, though it can trip over some words in odd ways sometimes.  I personally prefer to go with actual narrated book readings.  It adds something that, if you’re forced or inclined to be listening to a book rather than reading it yourself in the first place, helps significantly with personal immersion.

Since I’m sure there are those of you out there who agree with me, as there are certainly those who find my position ridiculous, I figured it was worth pointing out the current incentive for people still on the fence about the usefulness of eReaders.  For the moment, Amazon is offering a discount of $100 off their device if you sign up for a year of Audible.com membership.  I don’t really know how limited a time this offer is, but I’d guess not terribly.  It’s been around a while.  I personally consider it a worthwhile investment if you’re interested in audiobooks.  Audible provides good prices on good readings of good books.  What more can you ask, really?  Chances are that if you’ve read this far into the post, you’re interested in audiobooks anyway.  Might as well get a discount on your Kindle and a new source for your reading all at once, right?

Kindle Available at Target Stores April 25

It looks like Amazon is taking a page from Sony and Barnes & Noble’s book by offering the Kindle in a retail outlet.  The Kindle will debut in Target Stores April 25.  The good part about this strategy is that customers will finally be able to test a Kindle before they buy them in a secure environment.  According to this article from Wall Street Journal, Amazon previously recruited volunteers to go to public spaces such as coffee shops and showcase their Kindles.  However impact of these activities was limited. More than two years of what everyone believes to be stellar sales have passed and as I use my Kindle in public places some people still ask me “what is this” having no clue about Amazon Kindle specifically or eReaders and eInk in general. Clearly Kindle needs more public exposure.

Until B&N Nook came about much later, Kindle was the only device that could work without PC at all. So technically one could by it like a cell phone, have store associate set up amazon.com account with payment information and then read books without ever having to use a computer for that purpose. This way Amazon would be able to pick up some customers who never shopped online before. It’s a win-win situation all around. Why did it take Amazon 2.5 years to finally get there is a total mystery to me.

However, don’t rush to your nearest Target tomorrow. Chances are you will not find Kindle there. The plan is to pilot this in a limited number of stores with broader roll-out to follow sometime later.

Improved eInk Displays

Well, the news of the day revolves around the recently announced improvements to the eInk technology.  Honestly, it looks like good news.  I know, many people are holding out for color, but this is still something to be excited about.

According to information from the recent Red Ferret interview, we’re looking at the potential for significantly higher contrast and refresh rates on eInk displays being made available by the end of the year, as well as some noticeable improvements in durability not too far off beyond that.  Comments were made regarding the potential for animation now that the refresh rate has been improved so significantly, but we can probably take that as more of an example case than a real goal for the technology.  Maybe for scrolling effects?  I can certainly see those being a major boon for eInk based web browsers, if nothing else.

Anyway, good news for the future of eReaders in the face of the increasing competition from the tablet market.  It comes at an especially good time, we can hope, with the prevailing opinion being that the next generations of both the Kindle and the nook are probably coming in the next year or so.

Kindle Book Prices Starting to Climb

With the recent launch of the iPad and battle with book publishers, Amazon’s Kindle book prices are starting to rise.  Books on the bestseller list that used to cap at $9.99 now start at $9.99 and up.  Bestselling author Jodi Picoult’s latest novel, “House Rules”, is available for Kindle at $12.99.  Others such as “The Bridge,” by David Remnick is $14.82 and “Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang,” by Chelsea Handler is $12.99.  More info is available in this article from The Baltimore Sun about the Apple iPad’s influence on e-book prices.  There are still a good many bestsellers holding at $9.99, but it remains to be seen what the future holds in terms of e-book price inflation.

It will be interesting to see what the reader response is to the price hike in the long run.  Based on observations of the comments on the Kindle forums, they are not happy campers.  There are many mass market paperbacks available for nearly half the price of the Kindle versions of the same books.  According to the article about the new e-book prices, publishers claim that paperback versions are often printed by different publishers than the Kindle version, thus leading to inconsistent prices.  Time will tell whether the price hike will be a short term or long term issue.  If they stay high for long term, it will be interesting to observe the impact on e-book and e-reader sales.

eInk in the Military

I’ve always been fascinated by the way in which new applications drive new developments in technologies.  What’s got me interested today is the military applications of eInk.  The potential benefits are clear.  Low power draw, huge standby times, clear to read in pretty much any conditions, and far more durable than your average LCD.  If production costs on the material itself can be driven down sufficiently, this technology could significantly reduce the average infantry load of batteries and equipment at a reasonable price without costing functionality.

HP’s prototype, according to the Wired article on the subject, should be available starting next year.  They have some thoughts on how to make the production more efficient, the basic idea being to use the flexible nature of the material to print continuous runs of the displays instead of small batch jobs.  Take these, power them with portable solar panels sewn into fabric to charge on the go and you’ve got some really impressive versatility.

This excites me as a consumer, honestly.  Yeah, I’ll still want a Kindle or something similar for reading books, but the idea of my next road trip’s GPS being something I can strap to my wrist and forget about when it isn’t in use is quite appealing.  A decade ago we started having entertainment technology that was small and thin enough to conveniently fit in a pocket, a decade from now we may have some that can be sewn right into things.  Definitely a fun idea.

B&N Steps Up the Competition

In recent days, as Apple steps into the market and eReaders are practically falling out of the rafters, one of the major points of comparison that has kept the Kindle on top has been the subscription-free 3G connection complete with web browser.  Nobody has ever claimed that it looked wonderful, but it does the job and who doesn’t occasionally love the option to check Wikipedia on the fly?

Well, it seems that Barnes and Noble has finally caught up with the crowd.  According to recently released rumors, we could be seeing a full web browser added into the feature list as early as next week in a downloaded firmware update.  Now, it would be reasonable to expect perfection right out the door, but any nook owner will tell you that this has been a long time coming.

Even assuming that the main purpose will be for text-based web pages such as Wikipedia or the many online dictionaries, there will be several unexpected side effects that could benefit owners.  Travelers in areas without 3G coverage who wish to use their devices in the airport, hotel, or coffee shop have often found themselves out of luck up until now, since many such places require navigating an internal web page to gain access to the connection itself.  If this rumor proves true, nook fans have some fun things to look forward to as the eReader feature gap closes up a little bit more.

New York Times Hikes Kindle Subscription Price

New York Times has recently announced that it is raising the price for Kindle subscriptions from $13.99 to $19.99 – a rise of whopping 43 percent. There is some respite for current Kindle subscribers, who will continue to be billed at $13.99 for the next six months. The Kindle edition of New York Times app has been very popular and allows readers to get news coverage of exceptional depth and breadth, as well as opinion that is thoughtful and stimulating.

The timing of this announcement is very interesting and coincides with the launch of Apple iPad in United States. In a related move, an iPad application for New York Times hit the iTunes App Store yesterday. The current NYT iPad app is free and offers a limited selection of automatically updated news, features, videos, etc. laid out with a newspapery feel and offline reading capability; it’s sponsored exclusively at launch by Chase Sapphire. It is expected that a full-fledged paid NYT app for iPad would be launched soon.

The New York Times subscription on the nook is also going up from $13.99 to $19.99. Like with the Kindle, existing nook subscribers will get 6 months at the old price. Many print media veterans have argued that digital subscriptions should be less than their analog counterparts, however the prices for digital editions continue to rise. I wonder if the Kindle vs. iPad battle will help the customers or will it further aggravate this pricing war?

M-Edge Latitude Kindle Jacket

The Kindle is difficult to carry around without worrying about whether it will be scratched or dropped.  There are a lot of covers available to choose from so choosing one can be overwhelming.  The M-Edge Latitude Kindle Jacket for the Kindle 2 is a great choice.  It fits the latest generation Kindle perfectly.  It is a little pricey at $34.99, but this jacket’s sturdiness and durability will allow it to last for a long time.

The jacket has a zipped up pocket in the front where the user can store the Kindle charger and accessories, and then another pocket in the back for more accessories if needed.  I often flip the front flap behind the back so I can hold my Kindle easier.  It gives the impression that I am holding a real book, instead of a fragile electronic device.  This way, I don’t have to worry about losing my grip on my Kindle.  There are four small mounts in the jacket that keep the Kindle in place and they work very well.

When traveling, the jacket has a hidden double zipper to allow easy access for charging.  The M-Edge Latitude Jacket comes in a variety of colors.  The bright orange and green ones are easy to keep up with, whereas the darker colors, such as black and navy, are for those who would prefer colors that blend in with their other accessories.  So, this Kindle jacket has something available to everyone.  The reviews of this product are overwhelmingly positive, so it is a win-win purchase for all.

Free Classics on the Kindle

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, is a childhood favorite for many young girls and women.  On the Kindle, you can get this cherished book for free.  The best part is that the book doesn’t get worn out or become unreadable from the usual wear and tear of reading it over and over.

In addition to Little Women, there are many other classics available for free to download on the Kindle.  These books include Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Charles Dickens’ Hard Times and Homer’s the Illiad just to name a few examples from the selection. 

Charles Dickens' Hard Times

Charles Dickens' Hard Times

Classics in general are relatively inexpensive to purchase, and many are available in paperback.  On Amazon, a copy of Little Women costs about $3.95, but for college and university students, this small expense can add up.  Many of these classics are required readings for English Literature courses and students often have to purchase other, much larger and more expensive textbooks.

Often, after the course is over, the book never gets picked up again.  Can you imagine reading  Hard Times for pleasure?  Downloading it for free on the Kindle saves the expense and the student can put the money towards something else.  Another great advantage of accessing free classics for the Kindle is that they can be viewed on other platforms such as the PC, Mac, iPhone and Blackberry.

New Budget-Conscious eReader Enters the Market

Slated for release this May and already available for pre-order, the Kobo eReader provides an inexpensive option for those looking to enjoy the eReader option without breaking the bank. It’s not a Kindle-killer or even trying to be a contender in the recent eReader/Tablet competition being played up all over the internet at the moment, but rather a basic, simple take on reading a novel.

It’s really quite a deal at just $149, honestly. The physical specifications are similar to what is already out on the market:

120mmx184x10mm w/ 6″ eInk Screen
221g / 7.8 ounces
1Gb Internal Storage with an SD Expansion Slot
Bluetooth Compatibility, including Blackberry sync
Compatible with ePub, PDF, and Adobe DRM files

You can get books in these standard formats from pretty much anywhere on the net, including all the popular sources for free literature like Project Gutenberg and Manybooks.net, but the main promoted source will clearly be the Kobo website. No shortage of reading material is always an upside! The downside however, from the gadget lover’s point of view, is that they make no attempt to turn the device into a catch-all for every day tasks. This is quite plainly an ebook Reading Device. Nothing more. No 3g coverage, no downloadable apps, nothing but what you need.

We have only pre-release reviews and technical specs to go by at this point, but it looks like a promising addition to the eReader scene. If you or somebody you care to buy for likes to read a lot for pleasure, this will almost certainly be a welcome product. It won’t check your email, find you a path to the movies, play your home movies, or run games. If that doesn’t turn you away, it might be worth a close look.

Sony Reader PRS-505 and Amazon Kindle 2

This is a guest post from my friend sharing his experience using Sony Reader PRS-505 for 2 years.

I recently gave him an Amazon Kindle to test and he agreed to share his thoughts about both of them on Blog Kindle. Even though both devices have been on the market for quite a while lots of people don’t have good idea what are the differences between them from a regular user point of view.

Below are his impressions from both:

Hi folks, this is not going to be an official Kindle vs Sony Reader review so don’t expect professional advice from me – just my impressions.

I purchased Sony Reader PRS-505 couple years ago when it just became available. So there wasn’t much choice during that time. Even Kindle wasn’t available back then. I haven’t upgraded it since then – I guess it was enough for my needs so far.

Right from the beginning I wan’t to post a disclaimer that since I used Sony Reader a lot I know lots of its negative and positive sides and I just had Kindle 2 for several days which was not enough to get complete impression of it. So consider my post as Sony Reader PRS-505 review with side comments about Kindle.

Amazon Kindle 2 and Sony PRS-505 Reader Side by Side

Amazon Kindle 2 and Sony PRS-505 Reader Side by Side

Sony Reader PRS-505 positive sides

2 years already passed and device is still functioning. Our Sony Reader was used for 2 years in quite harsh travel conditions and I still can read on it. I read on Blog Kindle that Kindle devices have a tendency to die during air travel. My Sony Reader survived lots of air trips.

It can read PDF files (I know lots of other readers can do it too but back then it was a unique feature). Since I read lots of old books in russian language PDF was the best way for me to transfer books on Sony Reader (I know that there are some hacks may be available to add language support there but encoding book to PDF is easier for me). Until recently I had to use CutePDF printer installed into Microsoft Word to print documents into PDF and it required some skill to make it print to the right page size for Sony Reader. But now there are several sites on internet which provide PDF files with russian books both in Sony Reader and Kindle formats.

I can read blogs on it too and for free. Even though it doesn’t have 3G connection like Kindle there is a possibility to read blogs and some websites on Sony Reader and do it free. Well not 100% free because you’ll be paying with headache :). But using Calibre software you can transfer 100′s of blogs to your Sony Reader within reasonable time. You just need to connect it to computer once a day and press Start button. For 20 blogs that I follow it takes 30 minutes. So if you have 3-5 blogs you like to read it will take less than 10 minutes. Negative side of it is when Sony Reader has too much complex information in its storage it will start to freeze during boot. And unfreezing it could take days (I’m not exaggerating here). You need to completely discharge it sometimes to get rid of the freeze. But good moment is that I was able to unfreeze it every time it froze.

Before going to negative sides I want to notice that I never upgraded firmware on my Sony Reader PRS-505. So I guess some glitches may have been patched by Sony. But I think 90% of users have no idea what is firmware and how to upgrade it and another 9% know it but have no desire to do it.

Sony Reader PRS-505 negative sides

Dead time while charging: one of the big disappointments with Sony Reader (not sure if it applies to Kindle) is dead time during charging. When it is completely discharged and you want to start reading a book you need to wait for an hour until it actually boots. Before that all you can enjoy is a red light on top of it notifying you that at least something is happening. But it really prevents you from reading when you want – because there is never guarantee that device is charged enough to read.

Faster battery drain: While using Kindle 2 that Andrei borrowed me I also noticed that when Kindle 2 is off it doesn’t drain battery while Sony Reader tends to do it and within a week I usually have to recharge it. Maybe it is just my unit but it is definitely a problem.

You need to check on it when it is charging: and if you don’t do it you will loose the charge. So here is a story. When you plug in Sony Reader to computer USB port it starts charging and when charge is strong enough to turn on the display it does so. The problem is when display is on in Sony Reader it drains the battery and if you turn off the computer to which it is connected it will start discharging unless you turn it off manually. So every time you charge it you really have to watch it. I would say it is one of the most disappointing problems with it.

PDF files problems: Yes it is also a negative side. After 500 page it starts to turn pages very very very slowly… I don’t know what the problem is there but it is better to split large PDF into two files rather than wait for 2-3 seconds for a page to turn.

Freezing on complex stuff: When I tried to upload 30 blogs from Calibre it started to have boot problems from time to time. Couple times I thought that we lost it.

Similar Features:

Weight is about the same. Kindle feels slightly different as it is thinner but wider and longer.

Not much difference in display quality. Both eInk screens look the same to me in size, contrast and readability.

Kindle positive impressions

One of the main reasons why I borrowed Kindle 2 from Andrei was its dictionary support. My wife studies English and she needs a dictionary while reading English books. With Sony Reader I haven’t found any solution to on screen dictionary. I know that Sony has a touch screen version now but I weren’t able to confirm that it has a dictionary. Kindle 2 has a great feature where you can move the cursor to the word on the screen you want to translate and you’ll see a translation within a second. This makes Kindle 2 a clear winner for our next purchase unless some reader could do it cheaper or better.

Amazon Kindle 2 Translation Feature

Amazon Kindle 2 Translation Feature

I also learned that you can send files that you want to read right from your computer to Kindle devices. This is a great feature even though I was a bit disappointed that I need to pay 15 cents for each transfer.

Kindle negative impressions

Wireless charges. I get this negative impression from almost every modern device like iPhone, iPad, Kindle. They all charge me for 3G traffic. It is more or less ok for me to pay $30 for unlimited traffic on iPhone. But I don’t want to pay additional $30 for iPad and then more dollars to read blogs on Kindle. I want a single unlimited data plan that I purchase from wireless provider like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc. that could be used for any 3G device I own. Unless they will figure out how to do it 3G option will be a nice but rarely used feature for me on such devices.

Here is all that I can say about both devices so far. Once I get more time with Kindle I’ll try to write some more.

Kindle app for iPad goes live

Though Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad are touted to be arch rivals in the e-Reader segment, it hasn’t stopped Amazon from building a Kindle app for iPad. Amazon previewed the Kindle iPad app a couple of weeks ago and yesterday, the app made its way to the Apple iTunes Store. The Kindle app for iPhone has been around for a while now and is very popular amongst iPhone users. The iPad Kindle app is a logical extension of the iPhone Kindle app and its release was on the cards after Apple announced the launch of iPad on April 3. However, there’s one major limitation of using Kindle on iPad – Books bought through Kindle app must be read within the app itself. These books will not be viewable in Apple’s iBooks app.

The Kindle app for iPad lets people enjoy the best of both worlds – easy to use Kindle app interface and supreme performance of the iPad. Further, it gives the users a choice to read books from either Amazon or Apple. Customers always want more choices and e-Readers are no exception to this rule. I’ve come across many voracious readers who are addicted to kindle interface and therefore, they are reluctant to try out the iPad. The Kindle app for iPad is welcome news for all such readers.

While a lot of people have been debating the fortune of Amazon Kindle after the launch of Apple iPad, I believe that Amazon will emerge as the major e-Book provider for iPad. Since iBooks is not pre-installed on Apple iPad, many users might prefer to install Kindle app for iPad as compared to iBooks.

I’ll publish a review as soon as 3G-capable version of iPad hits the stores that I intend to get for myself.

Brick & Mortar eReader Sales?

One of the biggest impediments to eBook Reader distribution has always seemed to be exposure. Those of us who enjoy such things were forced, with each product that arrived on the market, to weigh the pros and cons of each device based on rumors, specs, and buyer feedback without, in most cases, ever having the chance to see a device in person. New reports indicate that this is going to be a phenomenon of the past, however!

Now, I’m not saying that this was a problem for everybody. Originally those who were close enough to a Sony run store had this luxury, of course, and in fact still do. Hell, the Sony Readers have long since come to Target stores around the country as well. Today, however, the eBook market is heating up based on distribution models and 3g devices like the nook and Kindle have center stage as they make the move to the big name storefronts.

Later this month, the 25th if reports can be believed, we should be seeing the Amazon Kindle popping up at Target stores all over the place. In what may be a coincidence, but is probably a reaction, Best Buys will in turn be picking up sales of Barnes & Noble’s nook. This should be a fun time.

Worldreader.org: A Library at your Fingertips

Worldreader.org is a nonprofit organization that provides e-book readers such as the Kindle for children in poorer areas who have limited access to books and libraries.  Their first trial took place in Barcelona, Spain, and they are currently conducting another trial in Ghana.  Follow their blog for recent updates and testimonies by the children who received Kindles. According to their website, Worldreader.org “is a US- and Barcelona-based not-for-profit organization founded by Colin McElwee, ex-Director of Marketing of ESADE Business School, and David Risher, a former executive at Amazon.com and Microsoft Corporation.”  It is certainly a plus to have an Amazon.com former employee on board.

Providing the Kindle for children in Spain, Ghana, and any future locations opens up a whole new world for reading.  Providing books in print makes a small dent in crossing literacy barriers, but often leads to a limited selection because books take up so much space.  The Kindle is the size of one book, but provides access to many, many books.  Amazon’s Kindle store currently carries 450,000 books, many of which are free.  The Kindle is a reader’s treasure trove right at your fingertips.

The cost is a factor, but Amazon donated ten Kindles to Worldreader.org to start their project.  The organization currently purchases the Kindles with local government and donated money.  With the e-reader competition heating up, the price of the Kindle will surely drop significantly.  Once that happens, there is great potential for organizations like Worldreader.org to take literacy via the Kindle to many more areas that otherwise would not have a chance at breaking down literacy barriers.

Kindle for Children: A Whole New World

Some children are voracious readers.  They look beyond the vast size of the Harry Potter or Twilight series and focus on the stories themselves.  They see reading as an adventure, and the bigger the book, the bigger the accomplishment.  Other children are reluctant readers.  They read what they have to for school and nothing else.  They see reading as a chore instead of a pleasure.  The Kindle has the ability to change that mentality.  Readers see the book one page at a time on the Kindle, instead of a large 500 page book.  By breaking the book down into smaller chunks, the book is perceived as less intimidating.

On the Amazon Kindle forums, there is a story written by the mother of a young teenager who does not like to read.  But once she tried the Kindle, she was hooked.  The post on the forum also pointed out the font adjustment feature on the Kindle.  Setting it to a larger font size equates to easier reading.  Many posters in the forum alluded to the fact that making the font larger does the trick.

Considering that the Kindle is not a book, but a container for many books, kids can find their niche in reading.  They have a large selection to choose from.  So, if one kid likes fantasy, they can quickly choose Harry Potter, or if another prefers the Chronicles of  Narnia, then it is right there as well.  The Kindle has great potential to be incorporated into the classroom.  Young readers will have vast libraries of books right at the click of a button.

Amazon Kindle 2 Growing in Popularity in China

Amazon Kindle is gaining immense popularity in China these days even though Kindle and Kindle 2 are not officially shipped there. While buying a Kindle online on Amazon Store, if you enter the location as ‘China’, it shows a regret message – ‘Unfortunately, we are unable to ship Kindles or offer Kindle content in China’.

However, Chinese are known to be avid technology lovers and true gadget freaks. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that Kindle is selling in large volumes in Chinese Gray Markets, stalls in Beijing electronics bazaar and other Chinese websites including Taobao.com, an auction site similar to eBay. PC World reports that Kindle 2 was on sale for 2,600 yuan (US$380) and the Kindle DX for 4,300 yuan ($630) at the Beijing bazaar. In fact, many people in China get the Kindle through their friends and family in United States by ordering the Kindle online, having it delivered to an address in United States and then having it mailed to them in China. e-Readers are quite popular in China these days and it is expected that sales of e-readers could reach 3.5 million units in China this year, up several fold from around 400,000 last year. Though there are numerous Chinese e-Readers in the market, Amazon Kindle stands its ground against one and all.

It is not hard to imagine that as and when Amazon Kindle starts shipping in China, it is bound to be a monumental success.

Kindle App. vs. Apple iBook App.

PC World has a good article that compares the Kindle application and the Apple iBook application.  The Kindle is not a device, but a platform, that runs on multiple devices such as the Blackberry, iPhone, PC and Mac.  That is one advantage that Amazon has over Apple because currently,

Kindle for iPad

Kindle for iPad

Apple’s new iBook application is only limited to the iPad.  Amazon recently unveiled plans to provide an application for the Apple iPad, which demonstrates that Amazon’s strives to reach out to the widest audience possible.

Considering that the iPad is a newly launched device, and that the price tag is pretty hefty at $499, Apple’s choice to keep the iBook application exclusive does not appear to be a very smart one.  However, eventually, there will most likely be an iBook application available for the iPhone and iPod touch.  It will be interesting to see if Apple branches out to allow an iBook application on Blackberry and Android.

Another marketing strategy that Amazon has going for it in terms of the Kindle platform is the amount of e-books available to download.  The iBook application only has 60,000 titles currently available.  This number will surely increase over time, but Amazon is ahead of the game at the moment with its much larger selection  of 450,000 titles available for readers.

According  to ReadWriteWeb’s article on comparing the two applications, the Kindle application is simple to use and doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles that the iBook application uses.  For example, the user sees one page at a time on the Kindle application, whereas with the iBook application, the user can see two pages at a time and the pages turn in a more “engaging” format.  From a user’s standpoint, simplicity is key to create an easy, pleasurable reading experience.

eBook Education May Be Catching On

Where earlier attempts to target students via eBook readers may have failed to gather steam, as in the case of the Kindle DX, the iPad seems poised for success as prominent universities such as Seton Hill and George Fox have begun programs to provide all incoming undergraduate students with iPads for the upcoming school year. Perhaps part of the appeal for the moment lies in the expanded capacity of the tablet over a dedicated reader device, but it cannot help but give eBooks a boost along the way, especially given the fairly overwhelming response to the offering of the Kindle app for the new device.

Certainly it can’t hurt to be getting the device out there and in the hands of students who might not otherwise be able to justify such an untested product as an academic expense. This sort of widespread exposure, while providing a nice bonus for students, also serves as a motivation for teachers who might have been on the fence regarding the move to digital since it ensures that all their pupils will have uninterrupted access to the new medium.

Will this solve all the problems and do away with the paper textbook altogether? Not a chance. But where one program succeeds, others are bound to follow and therein lies the chance for a real change for the students.

When do eBooks out-”Green” paperbacks?

This has been a question that I’ve been wondering about for some time.  As an avid reader with a habit of finishing at least a book or two per week, I’ve often wondered if, as seemed logical from a knee-jerk instinctive point of view, I was actually saving resources by switching away from printed material in favor of a Kindle. I’m sure many of us have. The answer is a little bit surprising.

A recent article broke things down for me in terms of resource extraction, environmental impact of manufacturing and transportation, energy usage and disposal, within the limits of general understanding since the composition and manufacture of individual screen types and such are often not a matter of public record. Apparently, depending on what factors you choose to gauge your green-ness, an eBook Reader gains the edge after between 50-100 books. This seemed like a lot at first glance, but since that’s about a year of a book per week(not something I consider an unreasonable rate of consumption) it’s easily less than what I plan in the life of any eBook Reader I might happen to pick up. That doesn’t even begin to take into account the resource savings on things like periodical and newspaper subscriptions, which are an area in which the Kindle shines.

It might be a small change, but it’s nice to be aware that in a world increasingly aware of resource deficits and “green guilt” hitting me left and right, I can be proud of this rare intersection of technical convenience, enjoyment, and ecological soundness. Not quite as proud as if I were to start walking to the used book store every week instead, but we all have to start somewhere, right?

Living in the future

I know it hasn’t occurred to me alone, partly because I have seen the idea expressed by others before, but I think we often overlook the wonderful fact that we live in the future. Remember those old films about the promises of the next century? Well, I look around in the distant future of Twenty-Ten and realize that we got a few of them right.

Sure, we don’t have flying cars. I could care less about that. The first time my gas light came on in the middle of nowhere, I’m pretty sure I’d swear off them permanently anyway. What we do have is the Kindle. Think about it.

Every day, I can wake up and have the newspaper already sitting on my desk in the form of a piece of “paper” that changes on a daily basis or whenever I happen to need it for something. I carry around the better part of a library in my pocket, and when I find I’m lacking something it’s the matter of a few moments while it is beamed to me from far off locales to prevent me the inconvenience of getting up and driving to the store. In moments of curiosity, this wonderful device can get me answers to most any question by accessing one of the largest knowledge bases in existence from nearly anywhere in the world at no charge with no questions asked.

It’s so mundane right now, too. That’s quite possibly the most surreal point of all. We have devices like the Kindle and nook and a dozen others to choose from, the main difference between them often being aesthetics and level of convenience, and nobody even realizes what they mean!

I’m still holding out for an affordable version of the house that wakes me up and cooks me breakfast every morning, but I’m willing to let that one slide. So long as I can sit here with an eReader and enjoy, the future is good.

eBook emphasis plays to iPad’s weaknesses.

In an bizarre way, people seem to be looking to devices such as Apple’s new iPad as the future of electronic book technology.  This seems…shortsighted.  Let’s take a moment to look at a couple of the major complaints people have had regarding eReader adoption.

The lack of the “feel” of a book while reading is a very common theme.  Nobody can deny that a Kindle in your hand isn’t quite the same thing as a paperback.  Fortunately, after a few minutes of reading, the weight and display size are close enough that you hardly care.  What are the chances this will prove true with a 1.5lb half inch thick tablet?

As a tablet, we also have to consider the fact that eInk isn’t involved.  For many people this will initially seem a good thing.  After all, what complaints about the Kindle don’t begin with the words “no color screen” or “slow page turns”?  As anybody who has spent some time with the Kindle can tell you, however, the perception of “staring into a screen” that so many people are concerned with never seems to arrive with the eInk screen.  Will the benefits outweigh the loss for iPad owners?  How many people do you know who can spend hours a day reading books on their laptop?

Sure, Amazon is hedging their bets with the new Kindle software app for the iPad, but it seems unlikely that it will end up being necessary in the long run.

Kindle Font Size Feature Makes Reading Easier for Visually Impaired Readers

Since the Kindle was introduced in 2007, it has eased the burden on visually impaired readers considerably by incorporating six font size adjustment options.   The font size adjustment on the  Kindle is a great feature because it eliminates the need to buy heavy, cumbersome large print books.  Large print books are often very expensive and are not readily available.  However, more can be done to make reading more pleasurable for this group of readers.

In addition to large print books, visually impaired readers use another device called a CCTV.

CCTV Video Magnifier

A visually impaired user uses a CCTV to enlarge the font on her book.

These devices tend to run in the $4000 price range, which is a pretty hefty price tag. The reader places the book on a platform under a computer screen and adjusts the font size and color schemes to fit their reading needs.  If the Kindle can include more font sizes into its options available, just imagine how much easier, less expensive and more portable reading would be for these readers!

The dream takes a closer step towards reality this summer.  Amazon plans to make more font size options available during the summer of 2010, according to this WebProNews article .   The amount of font size options will increase from six to eleven. The seventh font option, a “super font”, will be double the size of the largest font size currently available on the Kindle.  At last, visually impaired users will be able read with comfort and not have to worry about eye strain and muscle soreness from lugging a large book around.  The expense of purchasing large equipment such as the CCTV will be drastically cut by purchasing a $259 Kindle.