Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) recently launched a Kindle for the Web application that allows the reader to preview the first chapter of a book for free. The application is currently in Beta stage. If you like to try before you buy you might like the ability to just quickly access the application and preview the book.
Kindle for the Web also allows the reader to share book samples with friends on the web or through social networks. I think that in order for this feature to be fully utilized, Amazon needs to release the whole book, but I’m sure this feature will come soon with the full release. Kindle for PC and Mac already allow this option, but just don’t allow the computer to computer mobility that a web browser would. Installation is required for the Kindle for PC and Mac software and is not for the Web application.
Over the past week I spent a lot of time reading my Kindle, and really enjoyed the break from the glare of the computer screen. For pleasure reading I definitely think the Kindle itself still has a good foothold. The Kindle for the Web application will be great for short term reading or to grab samples to share with friends.
After checking out the interface for the application, I was pleased to find that it includes a font enlargement selection, and that all of the navigation and menu options are intuitive and easy to use.
On another note, Amazon has already announced plans to create an application for the new Blackberry Playbook tablet projected to come out in early 2011. It looks like the tablet market is finally beginning to heat up and competition for the iPad is on the horizon. I’m sure Amazon will be well equipped to provide Kindle applications for any future devices.
Recently we have seen the release of the first third party game to actually be sold for the Kindle. Scrabble, an Electronic Arts release, is available to US customers on their Kindle 2 or Kindle 3 for $4.99 through the Kindle store. This is not the first game to become available for the popular eReader, of course, but it is the first major production from a big name publisher.
Those who have been following these sorts of things, or who simply like word games and Kindles, will likely remember the release of two free games(Every Word and Shuffled Row) a couple months ago that were quite well executed and demonstrated the potential for development that was present in spite of the lack of a rapidly refreshing screen. This version of Scrabble operates similarly. It can be played alone in a solitaire mode for fun and practice, against the Kindle when you want a bit more of a direct challenge, and in a head-to-head competitive mode that involves passing the Kindle around. Sadly, there is no capacity for multiplayer interaction between devices. While it is understandable that the hardware limitations of the device might make such things difficult, it is certainly a disappointing and difficult to accept shortcoming that will be a major factor in many players’ purchase decisions. Overall, however, it looks at least somewhat promising if you don’t mind that.
These days there are quite a few different activities to be found in the Kindle store, from Crosswords to Sudoku, but this is pretty much the first polished experience to be found since Amazon’s initial offerings. Reviews so far are favorable in the extreme. People are finding it to be a fun game, fairly intuitive, and easy to get addicted to. As always, however, there are going to be problems and it is best to bring them out into the open.
The most common complaints so far are:
Some customers have taken issue with the way shading is used in this application. Words occasionally become hard to discern due to overly bold board markings(double word/letter scores, etc.) confusing the play area. There are also passing comments made that there is no major distinction made on the board between a space occupied by no tiles and and a filled one. Empty spaces and blank tiles are effectively identical, apparently.
While many reviews state that controls were obvious and easy to understand, there are some gamers who wish that the Kindle‘s 5-way controller was more intuitive to use. Most of those who made these complaints also went out of their way to mention that it was soon something they grew accustomed to as well. Possibly simply a matter of users trying something besides reading on their Kindle for the first time, but it would be impossible to dismiss this out of hand without more information.
There isn’t much elaboration that can be made on this. More people claimed that the interface was perfect than complained about it, but that doesn’t mean it’s fine for everybody. May well be related to the control issue I mentioned above.
One disappointed Canadian user stated that as of this moment the game is not available internationally. Definitely something to be aware of for many users.
Owners of multiple eReaders sharing one account, and therefore libraries, throughout their household may be disappointed at first here as well. One reviewer points out for us that it seems to not be possible to share the application among multiple devices as one might expect. Further reading and comments, however, lead me to believe that this reviewer simply didn’t know what he was doing, as follow-up comments indicate licensing for up to six Kindles. It might just be a bit more of a pain to manage than usual.
As of the writing of this article, the favorable reviews of this application outweigh the unfavorable by more than two to one(17=4-star+, 8=3-star-), even leaving in those reviews by people misusing the space on the product page to ask questions, complain about unavailability, and generally contribute little to the understanding of the product.
It simply looks like a good deal right now, if you’re like me and enjoy word games. It’s a gross generalization, but I’d say that likely encompasses the majority of Kindle owners. Definitely a smart move on the parts of Amazon and EA. Personally, I’m really looking forward to getting this thing on my DX when I get home. Any version is likely great, but this just cries out for a larger, crisper screen to me. If anything happens to alter my favorable outlook on all this, I’ll let you guys know. Can’t wait to see what apps hit the store in the next few months now that there’s a precedent to work with.
This is just a quick note for those of you with the latest generation of the Kindle eReader. Chances are good that that means a lot of you people reading this site, for example! Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has released a preview of update 3.0.2 for download by interested users. This update should address minor speed concerns, optimize web browsing, and just give your Kindle little a tune-up. This is a limited time offer from Amazon and there is no guarantee it will still be here for any length of time. The idea is to solicit feedback from those of you who download the update and see what the general opinion is and perhaps even what’s left to do.
I don’t know how much of a chance you’re going to get, but if you are in time then things like this are always productive. If you have a chance to submit feedback on an update then you’re expressing a voice in the ongoing state of the device. Always a precedent worth supporting. I wish you all luck with your downloading, greatly improved web browsing, perhaps even some faster reading, and a fine day in general. Time for me to go read something for a change.
Amazon Kindle 3
When I was in high school about 10 years ago, the only solution to avoid lugging around super heavy books was to make extra trips to your locker, or use a rolling book bag. Rolling book bags should have been more adequately named “rolling hazards.”
Clearwater High School students just got their own personalized Kindles Thursday that are set to replace their textbooks. It is amazing how quickly the Kindle can solve that problem, huh? Each student got a Kindle that was programmed with their own class schedule. They can take notes, look up words in the device’s built in dictionary and use the text to speech feature.
As far as cost goes, the Kindles have saved the school money because it has cut the cost of books. A Kindle is a natural fit for high school students because they are already so technology savvy with texting, Facebook and other technologies. The Kindle makes reading and education so much more engaging and exciting.
My question is, how well will these students take care of their Kindles? Regular textbooks are cheaper to replace and often suffer a great deal of wear and tear. Having a Kindle might just teach the students how to be more responsible because electronics can’t take the amount of wear and tear that regular books can.
I’m surprised that the Kindle DX has not had as much success on college and university campuses so far. I guess it is because are just not that many textbooks available yet. There are ways to digitize textbooks, but they can require destroying the book. It would also not be very cost effective in the end to digitize the book on your own.
It does look promising though that textbooks will soon be available digitally. For science majors especially, who have to lug around really big, expensive books, that would be a lifesaver.
For the Fall, check out Amazon’s Fall Reading Preview in the Kindle Book Store. Many of these books have upcoming release dates in the next few months. It has a good selection of books to choose from. It also includes a list of recommendations based on your personal reading interests.
I’m excited that David Sedaris has a new book available. It is called Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary. This is a deviation from his usual autobiographical tales, but he still uses a lot of humor and the story still applies to real life situations despite non human characters. If you aren’t familiar with David Sedaris, you should read Me Talk Pretty One Day, or his previous bestseller, When You Are Engulfed in Flames. They both had me laughing out loud while reading them.
Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom is on the list and is a popular new novel, however the reviews are all over the place for it. Oprah just selected it as part of her book club. It is an intense book that touches on issues such as marriage, infidelity, depression and teenage angst and how the characters deal with them.
If you are looking for a good thriller, you’ll find new titles by familiar authors such as Michael Connelly, David Baldacci and Janet Evanovich. Baldacci’s Hell’s Corner is a new installment of the Oliver Stone and Camel Club series. It is set in Washington DC near the White House. Oliver Stone takes on a high profile case that involves an attack against major world leaders.
Nicholas Sparks came out with a new novel, Safe Haven, on September 14. Unlike his previous sappy love story themed novels, this book has an element of danger. So that adds a twist that might bring readers back who are bored with his overused romantic plotline. I had lost interest in Nicholas Sparks until his novel The Last Song came out last year. It includes a love story, but that was not the focus of the novel. The focus was the relationship between an angry teenage girl and her estranged father and it turns out to be a very moving story. The movie based on The Last Song was good as well.
So that is just a brief glimpse of what to look forward to this Fall. Time to stock up on the fireside reading material for the upcoming chilly nights!
Being a hardcore Civilization fan (starting from the Civilization I with CGA graphics) I couldn’t resist posting this slightly off-topic post. The Civilization 5 game is scheduled to release in a few days on the 21st of September. Meanwhile game manual PDF has been made available for download. In case you just want the scoop on the new stuff and don’t want to read the whole thing – here it is: Civilization 5 Review.
This week finds the Kindle 3 back in stock and available for immediate shipping. As a result there are more reviews than ever from new users and old ones deciding to make the switch. If you are one of those unfortunate customers who ordered their new Kindle while it was backordered, you have my sympathies for any delay you might be suffering. Apparently Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) is taking their time catching up on those many orders. In the meantime, fresh orders are going out immediately even in instances of Super Saver Shipping, by many accounts.
Wondering what this new influx of Kindles will mean for the reputation of the popular eReading device? I was too. Here’s what people are saying:
The Positive Experiences
It appears that many people were put off of eReaders as a whole due to public displays of the Nook’s early poor functionality at Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) outlets. While this is understandable, given the bumps in the road that the Nook had to make it over to be worthy of a place at the top, it’s good to see people giving these things another try.
Chibacat “Chibs” wrote:
“I enjoy reading so much but my home was being overrun with books! I waited, did not let my friend talk me into buying a Nook last December and I’m glad I did. The Kindle 3 has many aspects I like…books download in seconds, so many books to choose from, free books and books self-published authors on Amazon, I can use the Internet, shop the Kindle store, not be carrying around a ton of books and so much more.”
William J. Mcgaffey wrote:
“I almost was completely turned off on purchasing an e-reader from my experience with the Nook, sure it looked pretty, it had the cool color touch screen at the bottom and a few other nice features but it felt so slow, whenever you turn the page it would flash black and a second or two later the next page would show up. Even the touch screen activity at the bottom of the device felt slow and buggy to me.” As for the Kindle? “I pre-ordered it, got free shipping and received it the very next day after it was released! I had already purchased some books for it and when I got it and set up the wi-fi the books were instantly downloaded to the device! As for the actual performance of the device and am very happy with, the page turns are extremely fast, hardly even noticeable! Wonderful battery life, have only had to charge once since I have had it! The new Kindle is an amazing e-reader and would suggest it to anyone who is looking for a superb device and experience!”
There are also some words about the potential use of the Kindle as an Academic tool, something that has often been disregarded due to the highly noticeable differences from working with a paper book or pamphlet.
“As a PhD candidate who travels a lot and has tremendous amounts of reading to do, I gave the Kindle 3 a shot as a way to be more productive. I was hesitant at first, given what other reviewers had said about difficulty with PDF files. However, after trying it myself and tinkering with the features, I am head-over-heels in love with my Kindle.”
There’s plenty more, of course, but what’s the point of simply quoting over and over again things along the lines of “I love it, I love it, I l0ve it”? I’ll admit to some surprise that the upgraded web browser is not more commonly reviewed. Personally, I can’t help but take note of how great it performs and how much of an improvement I’ve noticed over the old version. That’s just me, however.
Of course, if we’re going to highlight the good reviews then it only stands to reason that some of the bad ones might be relevant as well. This week’s complaints:
The Negative Experiences
There are two distinct categories that I’m not going to touch on here.
First is defective units. Yes, there are some. Fortunately, Amazon seems to be doing a great job getting replacements out. If you don’t panic, chances are that the worst that will come of any damage in transit or malfunction in your unit is a day or two of waiting.
Second are those reviewers who are blindly lashing out against the product by reviewing something they’ve never even seen in person. There are plenty of these people to be found on the Kindle review page complaining about everything from lack of informative commercials to not being an Amazon version of the iPad, but you can usually pick them out because they don’t list as having “Amazon Verified Purchase” under their name. If that’s not there, chances are the person has no real right to be reviewing any given thing on Amazon.
So what are the real complaints? Well, first and without any surprise is the PDF crowd. PDF conversion is tedious and complicated at the best of times, and the Amazon automated conversion only works well when you’re really lucky. Naturally there are complaints.
W. Hall wrote:
“Only problem is my existing PDF books. The text is really small. You have to zoom and navigate. Doable, but not ideal. PDF loading is very easy.”
“I initially looked into getting a Kindle because I wanted a device to read my PDF text books on other than my net book or printing and binding them.” “First I e-mailed the PDF file to my Kindle e-mail to have it converted to Kindle format. None of the text came over correctly, it was a bunch of mixed up letters. Then I tried downloading a free converter. While this worked better, the text was super small and you couldn’t really enlarge it to a readable size. (Please note that I can read small print.) Finally I transferred my book to my Kindle using the USB cable”
Long Yang “laolang” wrote:
“I received my order happily. I mainly wanted to use it for reading pdf, science/technology papers and books, which usually have a lot of figures and tables and formula.” “Perhaps I need to revisit my thinking about DX and IPAD to see whichever is better fitting my reading need.”
There are also concerns about the WiFi. Many users seem to be having trouble grasping the concept that WiFi-only means that you will not be able to access Whispernet except at hotspots or on your home network. This can hardly be considered a fault in Amazon or the Kindle, but many are trying to cast it in that light. Other WiFi complaints revolve around network security. There IS a known issue wherein WPA2 protected mixed-mode routers will be unable to connect to the Kindle. In general, if this is a concern, switching to a WEP setup or connecting via USB to your computer seem to be the only options available.
Peter C. wrote:
“It’s a great device but it won’t work with my Cisco E1000 wireless router.” “I had to return this device and spring for the extra $50 to get the 3G version. I love Kindle. This is my second one – I gave the first one to my lovely wife, who is delighted. Pity about the WiFi.”
Then we have those pleasant individuals who seem to be unable to understand the differences between the traditional LCD screen and eInk. While I do not personally consider the lack of backlighting as anything but a positive, it is important to be aware of. This is usually a feature, rather than a failing. It saves on eye strain and it increases battery life significantly. That said, word is not quite out yet, apparently.
“I don’t remember reading anything about the fact that you couldn’t use it in the dark or I never would have gotten it. There is no way to adjust the brightness or contrast at all. I do 99% of my reading indoors, so being able to see the screen in bright sunlight is irrelevant to me. They sell a lighted cover for it for another $50 – it doubles the weight and runs the battery down fast – two of the pluses I liked when purchasing it (light and one month of battery life). I wouldn’t recommend this over a regular book to anyone.”
And so, that’s where we stand at the moment. Again, the positive reviews outweigh the negative in number, length, and clarity without it even coming close. There are shortcomings, of course, and no device is perfect. People sure do seem to like their Kindles though!
Kindle 3 vs Apple iPad
Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) recently released a commercial that pokes fun at the iPad. The commercial features a nerdy looking iPad user struggling to read under direct sunlight, and a bikini clad Kindle user who has no trouble reading at all. The Kindle doesn’t have backlighting, and is designed for easy reading under direct sunlight. The Kindle 3’s sharper e-ink display makes the reading experience even better.
The iPad is a computer. Its high resolution display renders it difficult to read under bright conditions, just like any other laptop. When it is dark, the opposite is true. When I tried the iPad, I immediately noticed how bright the screen was, and can definitely see how it can lead to an uncomfortable reading experience.
The Kindle user in the commercial remarked that the Kindle was only $139, which was less than her sunglasses. Amazing how something like sunglasses cost more than the Kindle, which seems a lot more useful.
Amazon is definitely getting more aggressive with its advertising, but the Kindle is doing amazingly well. The Kindle 3 was sold out when released. Amazon has a great selection of e-books in the Kindle Store that includes most best sellers and new releases. There are also Kindle applications available for the iPad and iPod Touch, which draws in e-book sales for the Kindle Store.
Comparing the iPad and Kindle is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. The Kindle is only for reading. It should be designed to be functional in bright, sunny conditions. The iPad is a tablet computer. It is a multipurpose device, and the e-book reader part of the device is simply one of the many functions that the iPad has. The iPad is great for internet browsing, watching videos, sharing photos and playing games. None of these actions are what the Kindle is designed for. The price difference: $499 for the iPad, and $139 for the Kindle Wi-Fi definitely reflects on the nature and function of each device.
The Kindle 3 has a 3G version that is free, whereas on the iPad, 3G connection comes with a monthly cost starting at $15.
So, it just all depends on what you are looking for. When the iPad drops in price, there might be a wider set of consumers purchasing both the Kindle and the iPad for very different purposes.
Amazon Kindle 3
I’ve just checked Kindle 3G + WiFi product page on amazon.com and Kindle 3 is back in stock. You can order one now and receive it next morning with overnight shipping. Kindle WiFi was no longer on backorder since yesterday evening.
So finally Amazon has caught up with the demand. At least for the time being…
A lot has been written on how Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad is not a Kindle-killer and I don’t believe it is either. However with all major eBook stores represented on iPad in the form of apps it would be unfair to say that it is without eReader capabilities. This review aims to measure these capabilities and see compare them against eInk based devices such as Amazon Kindle and Nook.
Given the fact some eBook selection at any store/device combo is still far from perfect, eBook selection is where iPad really rocks. There are many reading applications available for iPad that give you access to virtually any store that sells eBooks online:
Apple iPad eBook Reader Apps
- Apple iBooks – Apple branded book reading application that primarily gets books for Apple iBookstore. It can display ePub and PDF files. The only solid data on number of titles I was able to find was projected 60,000 titles at the time of iPad launch in April 2010.
- Amazon Kindle for iPad – one of the many Kindle apps (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, PC, Mac) gives you access to the same selection of books Kindle eBook reader does – currently 692,000+ titles plus 1,800,000 public domain books.
- Barnes & Noble Nook for iPad – B&N app that gives you access to all books (more than a million according to B&N) available to B&N Nook.
- KOBO for iPad – ePub based application that gives you access books sold at kobobooks.com
- Stanza for iPad – multipurpose eReader application that can get books from a number of sources and works with a number of formats.
- GoodReader – it is actually more of a toolset rather than just eReader. I mainly use this app to download PDF, TXT and other files to my iPad directly rather than going via iTunes.
- eBook Reader – Simple app that gives you access to a limited set of public domain books such as Beowulf, Mark Twain’s works etc. The selection isn’t great but it’s simple and easy to use.
Apple iBooks Review
iBooks was positioned as one of the major features of the iPad. Even before iPad was officially announced it was considered to be Kindle-killer and even a product of the year by some. While iBooks is nice, Kindle-killing didn’t come to pass as of yet.
First thing you see when you launch iBooks is bookshelf with one book on it – Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne. The first thing you see when you open this book is color illustration. The second thing you see as you start paging though the book are nice, pleasant, naturally looking page flipping animations. They are detailed enough that you actually see faint text from the other side of the page. Pretty nice and it immediately conveys in a powerful way a simple point: “LCD is not eInk”. You may substitute “not” with “better” if you like.
Apple iPad iBooks Application
Apart from its flashiness, Apple iBooks has all the features good eReader application should have: selection of 6 fonts to choose from, multiple font sizes, search within a book, highlights and annotations, dictionary lookup, bookmarks, variable screen brightness and sepia options. When iPad is in landscape mode, iBooks automatically switches to a two page mode that for some irrational and aesthetic reason is very pleasing to my eye. In this mode iPad is just a notch smaller than a common paperback. In any reading mode pictures can be zoomed in to full screen.
Apple iPad iBooks Font Sizes
Another thing worth noting are Enhanced versions of some eBooks. These are books enriched with multimedia content such as audio recordings and video clips. A good example would be “Nixonland” by xxx that is enriched by newscasts and other video footage relevant to the book. Another example is “More Brothers Grimm Tales with video commentary. Nice and revolutionary as they are these books are few at the moment. Last time I looked I counted only 35.
Apple iPad iBooks Landscape and Multimedia
Although iBooks lacks text-to-speech functionality of Amazon Kindle it is somewhat replaced by VoiceOver that is generic accessibility feature of iPad. While it does read and provides accessibility I didn’t find this feature too useful because you have to manually click on each line of text in order for iPad to read it which is not convenient at all and punctuation is really messed up because sentence boundaries rarely coincide with line breaks.
Amazon Kindle App Review
Amazon Kindle for iPad was available almost immediately after iPad was released. Though it you can buy and read all books that are available for Kindle eReader. Although Kindle owners are used to seeing black-and-white books on their eInk screens, on iPad books that actually have color in them are shown in color.
Amazon Kindle for iPad
While the Kindle page flip animation is not as fancy as in iBooks, Amazon application offers a few features that Apple does not:
- Apart from sepia option there is also “night mode” with text being displayed as white-on-black.
- There is “back” button that allows you to retrace your steps though the book. iBooks can only go back once to the last location after navigating to table of contents.
Amazon Kindle for iPad: Sepia, Black, White Backgrounds
Customization options include 5 font sizes, 3 display modes (white, black and sepia) and variable brightness.
Kindle for iPad Font Sizes
You can download any of the books that you’ve already purchased to your Kindle account and you can buy new one through the Amazon store which is loaded in Safari browser.
Amazon has come out with their own equivalent of “Enhanced Versions” – “Kindle Edition with Audio/Video“. These are books that contain multimedia content that can be viewed on Kindle for iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch. Currently there are 115 such books available.
Nook for iPad Review
Nook also has application for iPad thus making all Barnes&Noble books available on the Apple tablet.
Barnes & Noble Nook for iPad
The app is a well written eBook reader. It offers more customization options that either iBooks or Kindle for iPad. There are five font sizes and five typefaces, four line spacing options, four margin settings and ability to turn full justification on or off. However what really sets the app apart from the rest is the ability to completely customize color palette and save it as a theme. For every book there are publisher presets that can be used or discarded.
Dictionary, google and wikipedia lookups are supported. So are highlights are annotations.
Kobo for iPad Review
Kobo app allows you to access content you’ve purchased in the Kobo bookstore.
Kobo for iPad
It offers customization options comparable to other eBook reader apps. However it lacks highlight, lookup and annotation support.
For some reason the book that I test purchased had words in ALL CAPS and centered text until I turned off “Kobo styling” option.
There are many other smaller eReader apps for iPad that potentially expand book selection even further. I’ll leave it up the reader to explore those.
Apple iPad Ergonomics
Weighing 26 oz, iPad is considerably heavier than Kindle 3 and even Kindle DX. Playing 8 hours of HD video on a single charge on a nice HD screen takes a lot of heavy components. Unfortunatly it makes it extremely uncomfortable to read with one hand or even with two hands for prolonged periods of time.
I’ve tried reading a book on iPad several nights in a row and constantly after about hour and a half of reading my hand would start getting numb.
iPad offers largest eBook selection because all major players in the industry released applications for it. Unfortunately reading these books for longer than 30 minutes is a very unpleasant experience. While it can display rich multimedia content it is dependent on daily battery charges unlike Kindle.
So if you like reading a lot – iPad will not be a substitute for a dedicated eInk-based eReader. I’d still pick Amazon Kindle or Nook to read books inth evening. I didn’t buy iPad for its book reading capability but for accessing web and rich app content on the go. The fact that I can peek into my Kindle books or better yet read a B&N or Kobo book that is not available on Kindle without having to buy the hardware is a major plus for me.