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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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April 2011
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Kindle Notepad

notepadNow your Kindle can be used as a Notepad.  You can write grocery lists, to do lists, or anything you wish on your Kindle.  The great part is that it is portable, and cheap.  Cheaper than paper, and more environmentally friendly than paper.  Ever lost a grocery list?  The only way you can lose Notepad is to lose your Kindle.

Fonts

You can view your notes from two different font types, and choose from 6 different font sizes.

Searching your notes

The handy part of Notepad is that you can search your notes.  This is helpful, and prevents a lot of unnecessary shifting around.  Sort the notes alphabetically, or by entry date.

How to write your notes

Just use your Kindle keyboard to type your notes.

Reviews

KindleAmazonDude

“Earlier, I had bought an app for the same porpose and have been wishing to replace it ever since. This app is extremely intuitive, fast, and useful. The main use for me is a planner, but it could be used for writing documents, like Word, and even spreadsdheets when you format | and _ into the document. This is a great app.”

C. Miller

“Notepad goes well beyond the functionality of a memo pad. So far, I have used it as a shopping-list organizer, recipe note card, phone and address book, reminder keeper and appointment book. I can note debit card purchases for entry later so that I don’t have to carry many things with me. Recently, I was in a warehouse store and wandered into the book section. I was able to make notes on several new releases I’d not noticed in the Kindle store. I can even use it as a time card for when I’m working at home.”

A. Murray

“I love this app. I recently lost my hand written notes about the order of all of my series I have on kindle. I became frustrated having to look the order up online and jot it down again. Now I have handy little notes that I quickly refer to before taking on a new series, or a favorite that I just can’t remember the order of the titles. At the price, it’s a steal and I’m very happy with the purchase.”

Note: just be careful with the sensitivity of what you put on there.  Another reviewer made a good point about not putting passwords on Notepad because of the chance your Kindle might get stolen.

 

Kindle Calendar App

Kindle CalendarOne of the most popular items for Amazon Kindle is calendar. Since the device doesn’t offer built-in calendar functionality, a number of alternatives has emerged in the form eBooks. They were of varying quality and were mostly useful for finding out which day of week certain date falls to. If you wanted to keep track of appointments, you had to use annotations which wasn’t too handy since annotations were never meant to be used this way.

Being Kindle developers we decided to improve things by writing a Kindle Calendar application. We are happy to announce that it is complete and available for purchase in the Kindle store for a nominal price of $0.99.

Kindle Calendar Pro features several views to navigate dates and events:

  • Month view that lets you see which how dates correspond to week days, and which days have appointments or other events scheduled
  • Year view is similar to month view but lets you see whole year at a glance
  • Day view shows detailed view of your events for any given day
  • Agenda view lets you see your upcoming events no matter how far in the future they are

You can use either system menu or hotkey shortcuts to switch between views and paging buttons to navigate days, weeks, months, years and even decades (depending on whether alt or shift key is pressed)

This is just the first version of our first Kindle App. If you have feedback about the calendar or any other apps that you would like to see written – you are welcome to comment here.

PS: As I was about to publish this post, the first review of the app came up on Amazon. It is well worth reading because it provides a good overview on how to use the app (including detailed info about keyboard shortcuts). I couldn’t have written it better myself.

Kindle for Android is Now More Tablet Friendly

Today Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) announced that they were releasing an update to their popular Kindle for Android software that would optimize it for use on tablet PCs using Android Honeycomb (Version 3.0).  The new software is intended to take all of the fun stuff that users liked about the existing software, add a few perks, and generally improve the way it takes advantage of larger screens than are common on Android based smartphones.  It all sounds pretty good.

The new features that users can expect from the update include an integrated storefront for the Kindle Store, an improved layout for newspaper and periodical display, an expanded enhanced dictionary with over 250,000 words, and the ability to control downloads of Kindle media.  On top of this, of course, is the usual Kindle experience including single purchase reading from any compatible device and convenient access to pretty much any book you might happen to want to read. The big improvement is naturally just the fact that it is a version specifically for tablet PCs rather than a stretched version of the reading software for Android phones.

This all ties in quite well with Amazon’s increasing presence in the Android marketplace.  Their app store is clearly doing well and this will be just one more thing that ties users into the larger Amazon customer experience.  If there was yet any doubt as to the efficacy of Amazon’s concentration on the media consumption side of gadgetry rather than on hardware profits, then we yet again have support in their favor.

Overall, the biggest improvements seem to be those for browsing and shopping the Kindle store.  It’s gone from a slightly unwieldy experience to that of literally having everything you’re likely to need at your fingertips right there within the app.  The Magazine improvements are hardly surprising, but they’re more than a little bit noticeable too.  Magazines and newspapers are the place where tablets really shine compared to eReaders, so it’s great to see full advantage being taken of the opportunities the hardware provides.

While I have no complaints about a better dictionary or greater control over downloading, they’re more subtle when it comes to day to day use.  I never really found the existing dictionary all that lacking, nor is there much of a problem in terms of books clogging my bandwidth.  I would assume the latter feature is geared toward situations where you would rather be able to download your book via WiFi or where audiobooks are simply too large to make sense to download all at once.  Neither one is anything to complain about, just not the fun flashy Kindle features that people tend to get excited about.

Existing Android users will not see any loss of functionality, of course, in spite of using the same software.  The smartphone friendly display mode is still present, and all the other new features are included anyway.  It’s a good time to be an Android user who shops at Amazon, whether your device of choice is a Honeycomb tablet or not.

Amazon Launches New German Kindle Store

Were you aware that even people who don’t live in the United States are interested in the Kindle?  I was shocked.  Ok, well, not that shocked.  Lame attempts at humor aside, Amazon has just opened up a localized Kindle store for German readers.  While this is a mixed blessing, which I’ll get into in a moment, the fact that more countries are getting their own Kindle stores is always going to be good news for the residents thereof.

The roll-out for the German store seems to have gone fairly smoothly.  Where before the only way to get a Kindle in Germany was to order through the US Amazon store, it is now available directly through Amazon.de and ties into the associated Amazon.de user account. Customers can already choose from over 650,000 titles (including 71 of 100 Spiegel bestsellers according to the press release), thousands of self published German authors using the Kindle Direct Publishing service, and a good selection of popular international and German magazines and newspapers.  All of this is available to users of both the Kindle eReader itself and the Kindle app family, including the PC, Mac, iOS, and Android programs.

All in all, great news for fans of the Kindle outside the US.  Who hasn’t heard of the complications facing people who try to import their eReader into an unsupported area, right?  The only people who are going to end up with real problems are those who wanted one badly enough to go out of their way and grab a US release.  These “early adopters” are likely to find themselves in the unpleasant position of having to choose between the books they have already acquired through Amazon and the benefits provided by the new store. As many UK customers can attest, digital rights management in an international environment can create problems from differing availability and pricing to seemingly arbitrary exclusivity issues.  It is to be hoped that the worst of this will be avoided in this case since the Amazon.de Kindle Store is catering more specifically to German-language eBook options than the US store has so far and as such will experience minimal overlap, so maybe this won’t be quite as noticeable as the US/UK divide seems to be?

The question this inevitably seems to lead to is whether or not this sort of thing will lead to a true localization of hardware to go along with the international store presence. At the moment German customers will still receive Kindles with English keyboards and interfaces, and the same sort of issue seems to be present in the menus for the app selection as well.  Whether the Kindle line makes the move to Android, as many have thought likely, or they simply keep going on the existing modified Linux build, it would seem to be both fairly simple and a good idea to make the software as accessible to everybody as possible.  That just leaves modifying the keyboard which would, admittedly, likely cause problems with the whole form factor production. A great deal seems like it depends on the success of this and other new stores.

Kindle with Special Offers Shipping Today

kindleThe new $114 Kindle with sponsored ads ships today, a week before it’s projected release date.  In addition to the usual Kindle perks, you’ll find that there are a bunch of new and improved features available.

First off, the readers have a bit of say so in what sponsored ads they want to see.  Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) will be introducing a program called AdMash, that allows the readers to pick what ads they prefer to have as their screensaver.

Also, according to Amazon, special offers include a variety of coupons such as:

  • $10 for $20 Amazon.com Gift Card
  • $6 for 6 Audible Books (normally $68)
  • $1 for an album in the Amazon MP3 Store (choose from over 1 million albums)
  • $10 for $30 of products in the Amazon Denim Shop or Amazon Swim Shop

You can find more detailed information about what the new Kindle offers on its product page.

In addition to the special offers and sponsored screensavers, the new Kindle has much needed improvements such as softer page turn buttons, audiobooks from Audible.com, and a new Kindle Library Lending program is coming soon.  Best of all, there will be REAL page numbers.  No more frustrating searches to get to different parts of a book.

This deal has me thinking it is about time to upgrade…

 

Amazon Kindle Tablet PC Seems Increasingly Likely

Recently the speculation on the potential for a Kindle tablet has gone from considering it a good idea to considering it an inevitability.  All the signs are certainly pointing that way, and it fits in with Amazon’s established business model so far.  The only real question right now is that of what the particulars will be.

Now, we know that Amazon doesn’t really get too into the whole traditional hardware competition mindset too well.  Their only entry so far, as far as I know, has been the Kindle.  While it’s great at what it does, the functionality has always been limited to doing one thing very well rather than adding in all the bells and whistles.  It is safe to assume that the same will be true of any tablet that they bring out.  Affordability and ability to consume media are almost certain to be highlighted over any numerical comparisons of hardware superiority.

As far as software goes, the new Android store and the recent updating of the Kindle for Android software to allow for better tablet PC support via Honeycomb are both indicative of Amazon’s interest in this system.  We’re going to be looking at an Android 3.0 device.  As a result, right out the door the device should have a great selection of apps ready to go, even excluding the Kindle book apps.

One thing that I’m wondering about is whether or not it will be a part of the Kindle line or a new branch of Amazon hardware.  For the most part people have been assuming that it would just be the next generation of the Kindle.  Something along the lines of a Kindle Color to compete directly with the Barnes & Noble Nook Color.  The more I think about this, the less likely it seems.

Amazon is making their money in the Kindle Store, not on the Kindle itself.  Hardware is not what makes this so amazingly profitable for them.  The same will be true of any tablet they might come out with.  By offering their own device with a predetermined source for app purchases, they should be able to lock in that much more in terms of software sales.  The image of the product is likely to reflect this.  Just as the Kindle is advertised as having the best selection of eBooks anywhere, the predicted tablet is likely to be sold as a method to have easy access to any app you could ever need.

When you think of apps, is the first thing that comes to mind the Nook Color?  For me, not really.  While it makes sense at first glance that the smart move would be to capitalize on the Kindle brand in order to jump-start sales, I would say it’s at least as likely that Amazon will try to start off a fresh hardware line without the existing B&N rivalry to anchor this in customers’ minds as a reading device. If they’re going to try to take on the iPad, the best way to approach isn’t with direct comparisons to another product that doesn’t compete on the same level.

Hank Moody Comes to Kindle

God Hates Us AllSo, I was stuck in San Francisco airport: sitting, standing, chilling, staring blankly at my Kindle (trying to look busy). I discovered that my Kindle is full of highly sophisticated literature that I always hope to read. I also discovered that I am completely incapable of reading anything with profound literary meaning and symbolism when I’m stuck in an airport. “Gimmi something brain-numbing” – I thought, as I shook my Kindle. Nothing really fell out from the Kindle because, as we all know, shaking is not exactly the most successful strategy of uploading literature on Kindle.

And then I saw it. I saw “Hank Moody” in the author section. God Hates Us All by Hank Moody! Those who recognize this name perhaps realize how intrigued I felt.

So, I bought it. And yes, I do not think that $11.99 is particularly cheap (oh, wow, and this is the sale price), but I was stuck in the airport desperate for some entertainment – and really, it is very difficult not to be entertained by a book inspired by Californication – the profane TV show full of drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll. How could I abstain from this bundle of joy?

I finished reading God Hates Us All in one sitting. No, it is not really thought-provoking. I did see some people attempting to make this easy-to-read book into something more meaningful by highlighting trivial phrases such as “Don’t let your perceptions of your circumstances limit your possibilities” (p. 54). Seventeen people highlighted “I don’t know what I’m talking about. My brain’s been running low on oxygen from the minute I saw you tonight” (p. 89) – I’m guessing it’s more of a pick-up line to-remember than anything else.

Even though, I’m being purposefully dismissive towards Hank Moody’s creation (I do not want you to have high expectations), the book is enjoyable and entertaining. And it effectively helped me to murder some time. Also, if you are a fan of Californication – come on, Hank Moody wrote it! (wink)

Charles Martin Kindle Books

I just wanted to mention one of my all time favorite authors: Charles Martin.  He has written seven books, all available on the Kindle.  I’ve been reading his books since he just got started.  His books have grown greatly in popularity since then.

He’s been compared to Nicholas Sparks, even he mentioned that once, but his books have a backstory element that Sparks’ books do not have.  My favorites are When Crickets Cry and Chasing Fireflies.

Martin’s latest, The Mountain Between Us is the story of two people who survive a plane crash, and spend time defeating the odds of surviving the brutal forces of nature in the middle of nowhere.  I can only imagine the kind of bond that Ben and Ashley form during this ordeal.  It is a good thing that Ben happens to be an orthopedic surgeon, and can treat some very serious wounds in the process.

I love Martin’s easygoing writing style.  You really feel like you get to know the characters better that way.  I also love how he slowly unwraps the elements of their lives as the stories progress.  I got the pleasure of meeting him when he did a reading of his book, Where the River Ends, in Blowing Rock, NC.  He is very friendly and personable.  That goes a long way when an author actually interacts with their readers.  It makes the readers want to read their books that much more.

Keiki Hendrix

“All of Charles Martin’s book carry a certain unique quality; rich insights into personalities and characteristics, beautiful scenery and landscapes, and a moving and inspiring messages.”

chefbec

“WOW! Charles Martin has done it again! What a story! Have your tissues ready for this one. I loved how you were kept in suspense until the very end when everything was revealed. This book is beautifully written and the story is amazingly constructed to build you to an outstanding ending! A great story of love and devotion.”

 

Does the Ad-Supported Kindle Go Far Enough?

There have been a wide range of responses to the announcement of Amazon’s new ad-supported Kindle release this past week.  For the most part, people seem to approve.  Amazon made a smart move when they decided to have the ads be unobtrusive and potentially personalized.  This leads me to wonder what the future holds as far as advertising subsidized eReading possibilities.

Let’s face it, it’s impossible to get away from ads on a day to day basis.  They’re all over the net, the roads, buses, walls, shipping containers…I could go on.  How much do we really care anymore, though?  The reason that this was such a great move for Amazon is that people are already so used to seeing ads and simply filtering them out without giving it much thought that this small addition won’t have any major effect.  It isn’t as if they were being placed in such a manner as to interfere with immersion while reading, after all.

I wonder how long it will be before we can get books with the same advantage, though?  Obviously, some people have already caught on to the potential and made a business model out of it (WOWIO).  It is demonstratively possible, therefore, to have an unobtrusive advertising presence in a book.  Not really that much different from your average paperback’s large note that it has recently been made into a movie or television show, when you think about it.  I’m really hoping this becomes a trend for the Kindle.

While I don’t support the inclusion of ads mid-text, I think most people would be willing to glance through one or two as they flip to page one of a new book if that meant that the book was cheaper or even free.  This could definitely work as a way to alter the existing Agency Model pricing scheme that makes eBook purchasing an almost comically overpriced experience from time to time.  Give users the option of the normal book for the usual price, but a copy with ads included for 50% off.  How many people will really turn down that opportunity to save money just because ads are obnoxious?

I’m not advocating the WOWIO model, necessarily.  I see this as having potential as a flag in the downloaded file that turns ads on or off on a case by case basis.  This would allow for the updating of advertisements from time to time and avoid the problem of outdated messages.  What would be the point of a sales announcement if you didn’t get around to seeing it until two months after the fact, right?

Still, the Kindle‘s new pricing due to ad inclusion is a huge step in the right direction.  If, as has often been speculated, Amazon is selling their products at or below cost then something needs to be done to drive the prices further down.  I know we’re all really hoping for those rumored free Kindles toward the end of the year, however unlikely the prospect.

How to Productively Criticize High Kindle Book Prices

I’ve noticed no small number of negative reviews going around for Kindle books that publishers insist on pricing above their corresponding hardcover editions. I wholeheartedly approve!  What makes it worth commenting on at the moment, however, are the ones that come from verified customers.  Seriously, how does that make sense?

Let’s think about this for a moment.  When you buy an eBook, you are making a statement.  You are telling publishers that “yes, this eBook is worth at least as much to me as you are asking me to pay for it.”  If it were not, then you would have kept the money.  I can almost understand where somebody who buys an alternate edition of a given book, say a paperback, can justify popping into the reviews to talk about the fact that they would have rather had an affordably priced eBook, but once again it fails to mean anything to a publisher who is already going out of their way to encourage their customers to avoid eBooks and stick to the traditional paper medium.  The publishers simply will not care about your complaints while they can view them as confirmation of the view that readers are willing to cave to the pressures of the model they have forced on the industry.

But obviously you want to read a good book, right?  Otherwise there really wouldn’t be much of a point in having a Kindle to begin with.  If you don’t purchase something to read, you don’t get to do the reading.  Fortunately, the sheer volume of options available, especially now, should work in your favor.  This is a great chance to indulge in a collection of new authors.  I would say there’s an excellent chance that you’ll be able to find something to your taste among the increasingly prominent crowd of self-publishers, if nothing else. Personally, I also find a great deal of excellent expense-free reading material from sites like Manybooks and the Baen Free Library, although I can understand that some people might be hesitant due to their “limited” selections (Not much in the way of current Bestsellers).

Whether you like the idea of altering your reading habits or not is going to be a personal choice.  I tend to view a reason to go through the wider variety of publications as a positive rather than an inconvenience.  The alternative is to accept that when it comes down to it, the publishers have a point and you simply do value grabbing the newest books at the highest prices to the point where they can get away with continuing on the path they have been.  Complaining isn’t going to do much, as far as I can see, if it’s followed by caving in on the issue.

The Kindle offers a practically unlimited selection of eBooks to choose from.  More than any person could hope to read in a lifetime.  And that’s great, of course.  What brought many people around to the eReader alternative was the promise of less expensive reading material that reflects the lower cost of production.  The desire for, or even necessity of, that change is something that I feel should be made clear to the publishing houses, even if it means putting off grabbing a popular new book or heading to the library to read it there.