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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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Pottermore Brings Books To Kindle, But Leaves Fans Open To Scams

As most of you will almost certainly be aware by now, the ever popular Harry Potter series is on its way to the Kindle.  The author, J.K. Rowling, is keeping control over the distribution of the books by attaching her sales platform to the Pottermore companion web site that will be opening this coming October.  While the combination of extra content and fan loyalty will certainly make the site and eBook sales even more of a success than we expect, in the meantime the anticipation building around the site has left over-zealous fans open to scams built around the pre-release proceedings.

You see, a lucky few have managed to secure invitations to experience the Pottermore site well ahead of time.  There was a contest of sorts that allowed the truly interested to get their names in, but it was arranged in such a way as to technically allow somebody to get multiple invites.  This, of course, opens to door to eBay sales even if they are technically against the site’s Terms & Conditions.  Sadly as we all know by now, I hope, where there are electronic invitation sales, there are scams.

Harry Potter fans hoping to get in have been singled out for everything from hundred dollar fake early access accounts to total identity theft from some fairly convincing dummy sites asking people for far too much information in order to gain entry.  Pottermore admins have, naturally, warned people against falling for these scams and have pointed out that even if people do manage to find a legitimate account transfer they will still be banned for breaking the rules, but when people are trying this desperately to get around existing restrictions and rules there is little chance of such advise from the people creating the barriers being heeded.

If you are one of the millions looking forward to the Pottermore site, whether for access to Kindle versions of the books or to enjoy the content, your best bet is to just wait it out.  The only worthwhile avenues at this point are the official ones, so if you don’t see what seems to be your way in written about on the Pottermore placeholder like ‘The Magical Quill’ contest has been then you are inviting trouble by pursuing them.

When the site does open up, Pottermore will be completely free to the public.  Users will be able to access it in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish, with more options coming within the year.  There will be over 18,000 words of new material for you to read through, a shop to purchase things like eBooks from, a number of simple games that go along with events in the books, and a generally social experience through which to share your enjoyment of the Harry Potter series.

There is a lot there to get excited about, and if you are a big enough fan to be interested in paying large amounts of money just to get into a soon-to-be-free site then you’re probably very excited indeed, but wait it out.  Rowling, Harry Potter, and the Pottermore site will all come together in just a couple more months.  No book is important enough to risk identity theft or large sums of wasted money.

Kindle Cloud Reader Frees The eBook From The App

Kindle Cloud Reader

Kindle Cloud Reader

Following the recent move by Apple to cripple any iBooks competition via billing requirements, it really isn’t much of a surprise to see Amazon pushing the Kindle Cloud Reader to what seems like it might be an early release.  What is surprising is how functional it is at launch and how familiar it will feel to many people.  Now users can read their Kindle eBooks on any device they happen to have a browser on, at least theoretically, with no need to even think about downloaded Apps.

Right now users can only access the Kindle Cloud Reader through either Apple’s Safari browser or Google Chrome, which is what leads me to believe that this is an early release.  The fact that users will be able to pull this up on iPads but not on Android based Tablets would not make much sense otherwise.  If you attempt to access the service through an alternative browser, you will see nothing but a splash screen for it with a bit of the basic information and links to currently supported choices.  Since Android users still have access to a fully functional Kindle for Android app, however, it makes sense to prioritize elsewhere.  The ads for the service have definitely been making a big deal about the integrated shopping experience for iPad users, which is what distinguishes it from the iOS app.  Without something to make it at least equal to the existing Android Kindle app, not many people should feel the lack.  Support for Firefox, Internet Explorer, the Blackberry Playbook browser, and more have been promised in the months to come.  Given how excellent this early version is already, it’s something to look forward to.

To get started, head to https://read.amazon.com in either of the supported browsers (if you do not have either Chrome or Safari, they are both freely available and linked at the end of this posting). When asked to log into the service, simply enter your usual Amazon.com store account.  Should you like to have your Kindle content available locally even when you are not connected to the internet, which I strongly recommend since it seems to speed things up a bit so far on my end, you will be given the option.  All of your Kindle Edition purchases will be immediately available in a familiar layout, either way.

The Library view is easy to use and will be quite familiar to anybody who has used the Kindle apps before.  You have a couple sorting and arrangement options in the upper-left corner and a size slider when you’re in grid view.  Assuming you decided to enable offline reading via downloaded texts, you should see a Cloud/Downloaded toggle at the top of the screen.  By default, you will not have all of your eBooks downloaded.

Any book that you want to save a local copy of will have to be acquired manually.  Simply find it in the Cloud view, right-click on the cover art, and select “Download and Pin Book”.  Each one takes perhaps ten to thirty seconds on an average internet connection.  According to the Amazon help page for this app, you can store 50MB locally on your iPad.  There are no posted restrictions for people using PC browsers.

When it comes to the actual reading experience, you have pretty much everything you can expect from an eReading application.  On the PC browsing is achieved using the mouse, arrow keys, PgUp/Down buttons, or space bar.  Nothing standard is left out, even if you can’t necessarily map your own keys yet.  There are five font sizes to choose from, adjustable margins that do a good job of accommodating most screen sizes and orientations, and three color schemes.  While there isn’t any finely tuned personalization included, the setup makes the best of the fact that you’ll be reading on an LCD while keeping everything as simple as possible.

The only really major shortcoming right now, aside from the already mentioned lack of universal browser compatibility, is the limited integration of extra features.  For example, there does not seem to be any real way to perform a text search, which rules it out as an app substitute right now for a number of uses.  Also, while you can sync all of your annotations and highlighting, you can’t make any new changes to any of it at this time.  All that really seems included right now is bookmarking and syncing of last pages read.  Given that the whole Whispernet setup makes up a core feature set of the Kindle experience it seems pretty likely that fixing these shortcomings will be happening in the very near future, but this is something to be aware of.

Overall, this is a great offering.  The idea is clearly to stick it to Apple for bringing things to the point of conflict with their App Store purchasing rules, and I would say that even if things never went beyond their present state it would still be enough to be attractive for the majority of iOS Kindle users.  There is literally nothing that Apple can reasonably do to block out Amazon’s control of the platform when it goes through something like this, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot that the browser based nature of the Kindle Cloud Reader would force the company to leave out.

As the application develops, it would not be surprising at all to learn that Amazon intended to replace their entire app presence with Cloud solutions.  The Amazon Cloud Drive and Cloud Player, both of which obviously precede the Kindle Cloud Reader, do a pretty good job of demonstrating the potential.  Perhaps after the success of those it was only a matter of time.  Stay tuned for any updates to the browser app as the feature set and browser compatibility are improved.  We’ll do our best here to keep you abreast of any changes and improvements.

Get Google Chrome Browser

Get Apple’s Safari Browser

In case you have missed it, here’s a post by Andrei with some speculations about where Kindle Cloud Reader came from and where it might be headed.

 

 

 

Blossom

Blossom is an interesting puzzle game. You connect pipes and rotate tiles so that you can water your flowers. The Kindle platform works well for this kind of puzzle game because it is on a grid. Your goal is to connect all pipes to the watering can so that your garden can be irrigated.

There are 120 puzzles to choose from and you can choose levels of difficulty ranging from easy to expert. Blossom is the classic computer puzzle game. You’ll be navigating through twists and turns all over the “garden.” The flowers bloom when you connect them to the water supply. Watch how they bloom differently depending on what end you connect them to.

Gotta love those addictive games that don’t require too much brain power…

Jody

“Connecting the pipes and flowers to the watering can in Blossom is a nice balance between easy and challenging. It’s involving without requiring too much brain power and it’s possible to spend way too much time playing without realizing it. The five-way button on the Kindle is a satisfactory game control, though it’s easy to hit the wrong button and pause the game. That’s OK. I love this game!

Pluses: The game keeps track of time elapsed. A hopelessly fouled up game can be reset, and once all 120 games are played it’s possible to go back and replay.

Minuses: Color would be nice, but we’ll have to wait for the Color Kindle for that. ”

The following review is a good suggestion for future updates to Blossom.

Anniepoo

“The game only uses the 5 way pad and the space bar to continue after completing a puzzle. I suggest to the developers that the game would be improved by combining the game time screen with the completed puzzle … maybe just add the total time under the flower field … and ask the player to click the 5 way to continue instead of the space bar … it is just soooo much effort to move my thumb ;-)”

So, great game, and quite reasonable at around two bucks. The Kindle game collection has certainly grown over the the last year or so. I love seeing old computer game favorites being added to the Kindle so that they can be enjoyed on the go.

Kindle Cloud Reader brings Kindle books to the Web, iPad, Chromebooks

 

Kindle Cloud Reader

Kindle Cloud Reader

Kindle for the Web has been around for almost a year and it seemed as it wasn’t going anywhere at all. Seemingly nothing happened even when Google came out with their online eBook offering. Then some more time passed and Apple started pressing eReader apps into selling eBooks via Apple app store. This would mean 30% commission for Apple but it would also cause eBook sellers like B&N, Sony and Amazon to loose (even more) money on eBook sales. Moving to the web seemed like a logical choice. Eventually Apple backed out and thing returned to status quo. However a few days ago Kindle did significantly expand their Web presence by releasing Kindle Cloud Reader (https://read.amazon.com/).

Kindle Cloud Reader is named in the same fashion as Amazon Cloud Player since “cloud” seems to be the most recent “magic buzz word”. It enables Kindle users to read their Kindle books in the browser almost without having to install anything on their devices. I put “almost” because Chrome users are asked to install optional browser extension that enables offline reading and Safari users are asked to extend 50 megabytes of browser database storage to the web-app for the same purposes. The reader is based on HTML5

Currently only it only works in Google Chrome (on Windows, Mac, Linux and Chromebook) and Apple Safari (on Mac and iPad, but not iPhone and iPod Touch) browsers. It accomplishes a whole lot and really nothing at the same time. Lets take a closer look:

  • Kindle is now safe from Apple app store assaults since using the web application is a viable option. Apple blocking or otherwise preventing users from using the web application will open doors to so much legal and PR trouble that even billions of the cash that Apple stashed so far might not be enough to get them out of it. However as we’ve already seen, Apple wouldn’t go as far as removing a popular eReader apps from their app store anyway since it would accomplish nothing and hurt everyone (including Apple). The fact that Kindle Cloud Reader comes with book store “optimized for tablets” it seems very likely to me that one of the original goals behind the project was to bypass Apple app store if need be.
  • Linux users now have official access to Kindle books. However you could get Kindle on Linux in the past as well though the virtue of Wine Windows emulator. But even if it wasn’t the case, Linux market share is still so small that most companies just choose to ignore it altogether without noticeable effect on the bottom line. No disrespect towards Linux and it’s users intended – just stating the facts as they stand
  • Chromebook users can now access Kindle eBooks. Nice, but given their current market share you can’t call this anything but future investment and hedging the risks of the emerging tablet market.
  • While all platforms (except Linux and Chromebook) had official support for Kindle via apps it is nice to have the option to forgo app installation altogether. I’ve worked in the software industry for about 15 years already and my strong belief is that every application or feature is a bug waiting to happen. This is especially true in modern fast paced “release early, release often” environment in which even my TV and receiver want a firmware update (that always includes bug fixes) on a monthly basis (not to mention all apps that I have installed on either iPad or Android. So having fewer apps is better. So far browser has been the best way of isolating apps from the OS and from one another.
  • Kindle Cloud Reader will fully match what Google Books has to offer once all popular browsers are supported. However it’s not like Google Books is currently a serious player in the eBook market anyway.
  • Another benefit of not having an app is the fact that it is easier for users to get their foot into the Kindle door since you don’t even need to install an app (never mind having a Kindle device as was the case a few years back) to start reading. Instant gratification is only one click away… However Amazon Cloud Reader is not fully integrated into Amazon Kindle Store yet. Although there is “Read now in Kindle Cloud Reader” button on the thank you page after the purchase, that button is nowhere to be found on the book product page. More importantly browsers that hold the largest market share (Internet Explorer, Firefox) on the most popular operating system (Windows) are not supported! 80% of users are left out. This may be the reason for the lack of book store integration. Users are more likely to install eBook reading app than a new browser and change their year old habits.
  • While you can read the books in the browser (if your browser is supported), some features are missing such as:
    • taking new notes and highlighting (though previous annotations are visible
    • searching within the book (or your book collection). You can however search within the page using browser search function (Ctrl-F)
    • Text-to-speech is not there. Given how complex the HTML document structure is (iframes within iframes and a lot of nested tags) I’m not sure if screen reader software will be able to handle it.
  • There is only so much DRM one can put into browser app. With offline storage, pirating Kindle books would become a breeze. However it’s not like it wasn’t done before. Kindle DRM was broken in the past and even if it wasn’t there plenty of books circulating in torrents and shady websites anyway. You can find most of the books you would want with minimal effort. So not pirating is a conscious choice based on good nature and availability of legitimate purchase options rather than result of DRM.

Although it may seem that I’m overall critical and negative towards Kindle Cloud Reader, I’m not. For all it’s current shortcomings it has a great potential and these shortcomings can be easily overcome. Developing web apps is cheap if you have the right infrastructure (which Amazon certainly does) so Amazon can add all of the missing features even if there will be little demand for the Cloud Reader. They will do it just because they can or “just in case”.

Well written AJAX web application is truly cross-platform: I’ve seen the same app run on all Windows browsers, Mac browsers, iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch, Windows Phone 7, all kinds of Android devices, Linux, and even Kindle 3 browser. Not being bound by acceptance gates by numerous isolated app stores – that’s true freedom. Web app that doesn’t need to be installed and opens with a single click is also the ultimate instant gratification that will help many users get their first taste of Kindle.

All in all Kindle Cloud Reader is mostly about potential now. Whether this potential will be fully realized is up to Amazon.