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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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February 2017
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Amazon to Launch Kindle Store in Brazil, but No Other Services

The Brazilian market has not seen an entry from Amazon so far, but that looks like it is about to change.  It seems that the Kindle will be launched in Brazil by the holiday season, along with a store that they hope to full with at least 10,000 titles.  Oddly, in what I believe is the only instance of such a thing happening so far, there will be no other Amazon services entering the market at the same time.  That means that for the time being the eBook store will have to stand on its own.

While a full retail store is definitely in plans for Brazil, at the moment there are apparently too many potential dangers in the notoriously complex commercial markets there.  By going entirely digital, many of the shortcomings in infrastructure and tax codes can be somewhat sidestepped.  It’s interesting timing given the fact that Brazil’s consumer growth seems to be trailing off after a decade of impressive growth, but Amazon is far from the only company interested in cashing in on Latin America’s most prosperous economy.

The motivation behind this move is Amazon’s expectation that the Kindle could quickly come to dominate the eBook market.  Apparently some research has indicated that a fairly large number of Brazilian readers already own imported eReaders, including the Kindle, and go out of their way to purchase and download books through stores that are not technically open to the country at this time.  By moving the Kindle Store in, Amazon expects to immediately grab as much as 90% of the country’s eBook sales.  The same source that released this information also mentioned that Amazon is hoping to expand eBook sales from 0.5% of the Brazilian publishing market to 15% within the first year of operations.

We can expect the basic Kindle model to be the first thing released through the new store.  It will likely be selling for approximately 500 reais, equivalent to $239, which is obviously higher than many other markets are seeing but still cheaper than the competition currently available in Brazil.  Naturally prices will drop as competition strengthens, but there has been some indication that even this high price is being subsidized by Amazon thanks to the added expense of doing business in this area.

There are already contracts in place with around 30 publishers as Amazon gets ready for the release.  There is also word that there are still ongoing talks with several that are not included in that list.  One publisher said that the current plan is to offer titles at 70% of their paperback price, allowing for a profit margin of 40-50%.  That would not translate to much revenue for the wholesalers, in this case publishers, but they are still interested in signing up for the platform as a means to expand interest in their books.

This will probably end up being the slowest expansion that Amazon has undertaken to date.  Entering into the Brazilian economy will be rather unpleasant for them and clearly they are aware of that.  By leading with the Kindle not only will they avoid some of the headaches associated with local shipping and distribution of assorted retail products, they will also be putting the best foot forward by providing interested customers with one of the best products in production today for reading.  It seems to be a smart choice.

$79 Kindle Gets a Tune Up

The basic, non touchscreen version of the Kindle just got a new update.  The update includes improved readability, parental controls, and better support for graphics.  Good to know that this model is still getting some attention since most of the focus seems to be on the Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire.

The text display is supposedly sharper and intends to provide better readability.  I have a Kindle Touch.  I am curious to see how the displays compare for both versions.  Since the $79 Kindle has physical buttons, it probably doesn’t experience the issue with text trails or shadows that the Kindle Touch does.

The best part of the update in my opinion, is the ability to view comics in side view.  The e-ink Kindle is so close to the nature of traditional comics, as opposed to the bright tablet screens, that it is only natural that it would include accommodations for better viewing.

For children’s books, the update includes Kindle text pop up, the ability to zoom into part of the screen.

Books that allow zooming have that capability.

I’m not sure how important adding parental controls is because the web browser isn’t all that easy to use to begin with.  However, a lot of young kids got this model since it is inexpensive and simple to use, so having parental controls is a nice feature to have.

With all of that said, the manual download is available for those who want to go ahead and get the new update.  This is also handy for those who don’t have wi-fi access.

If you’re willing to wait, the update will download automatically onto your Kindle sometime soon.  In their usual fashion, Amazon is being vague about when exactly it will happen.

Stay tuned.

$79 Kindle Gets Software Update Bringing Parental Controls and More

The most inexpensive member of the Kindle family has just been upgraded a bit.  Amazon has released the new 4.1.0 software update for the Ad-Supported $79 Kindle.  It comes with a few useful features that customers have been asking for as well as compatibility improvements that get the device ready for upcoming developments in Kindle books.

The update includes a new high contrast font meant to improve the reading experience.  Supposedly this will create a more “paper-like” appearance and address some of the concerns that customers have had about the basic Kindle’s display quality.  How much of an improvement it is will be for you to judge.

In an effort to make the Kindle more family-friendly, Amazon has also finally introduced some Parental Controls.  These controls will allow parents to restrict access to the web browser, Kindle Store, and the account’s Archived Items.  This will be a big help for anybody who keeps their family on the same account.  It should also allow for less caution in purchasing for customers otherwise worried about privacy and propriety.

Dictionaries have been given their own category by default.  This makes organization a bit simpler.  Look for “Dictionaries” in your Home and Archived Items.

Everything else that has been included in this update is meant for supporting new book features.

In book that support such things, Amazon has added improved functionality for viewing images and tables.  Panning and Zooming should be somewhat smoother as well.

More complex layout options, largely related to Kindle Format 8, are now supported.  While KF8 is still in Beta, it is already supported on the Kindle Fire and Amazon seems serious about making the transition in a timely manner.

Possibly connected to the Kindle Format 8 compatibility is the inclusion of support for Kindle Text Pop-Up and Kindle Panel View.  Children’s books in the near future will begin to feature Kindle Text Pop-Up, though it is still in question whether these will be optimized for E Ink Kindles.  Color is usually the preference when we’re dealing with kids.

Kindle Panel View is intended specifically for comics, which have not as yet had a major presence in eReading.  Assuming Amazon can persuade comic publishers to adopt a format so rigid as to allow each individual panel to be viewed sequentially rather than as part of a page, this will change things a bit.  In many cases the feature will already work and Panel View titles are already available through the Kindle Store.

Kindle owners should be seeing the update arrive on their device in the next couple weeks via WiFi.  If you do not have access to WiFi, keep it turned off the majority of the time, or simply don’t feel like waiting then you can download the update manually.

Check out the Kindle Software Update page for more detailed instructions.  Any side-loaded updates will require a USB transfer cable and a computer with an internet connection.

Kindle Faces Major Competition Internationally

While the Kindle name is practically synonymous with eReading for many people, it has been confined largely to the US for a rather long time now and as such Amazon may have lost a chance to build the same momentum in other markets.  Much of what made them so successful was being the first company on the scene ready to get eBooks out there when customer interest began to stir.  The situation will be a bit different moving forward.

When it comes to international market coverage in eReading, Kobo is the name to reference.  They haven’t had the same impact in the US that Amazon has managed with the Kindle, but the Kobo Touch eReader has been available in areas where a Kindle was hard to come by for quite a while now.  They have recently partnered up with WHSmith in the UK in an effort to gain more coverage.  The Kobo Vox, essentially their attempt to match the Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet, is just £149.99 (by comparison, the Kindle Fire is not even available).  That’s not to mention the fact that Kobo devices are already available in 190 countries with expansion still ongoing, or the newly revamped  self-publishing platform that they are having some success with.

Sony is also making something of a comeback.  While they were possibly the first company to launch a major eReader line with the Sony PRS series, they have failed to stay relevant in recent years.  Their new Reader Store has finally opened (months behind schedule) in the UK and they have a fairly substantial presence in select other markets where the Kindle is just beginning to move in.

Even Barnes & Noble is going to be something of a threat, potentially, in specific international markets.  Well, one specific international market if they’re lucky.  The much-reported partnership that the company has with Waterstones has produced very few results so far.  The partnership is still likely to happen, but they are taking their time about it.  This is most likely a matter of developing relationships for content to fill UK eBook stores with and could be held up at least partially due to the chance of the Agency Model being abolished in book publishing by ongoing lawsuits.  This would naturally have widespread implications.

None of this is to say that the Kindle won’t be able to make it outside the US.  If anything, the international launch of the Kindle Touch and Kindle Touch 3G enjoyed such popularity that even Amazon was shocked.  Since the creation of a real, local Kindle Store in any given market is likely to be a major undertaking, however, anybody who has already got their store and device out there for customers is at a distinct advantage.  Amazon certainly has enough weight to throw at the problems they encounter, and they will do so without much hesitation as the recent small publisher negotiations prove, but it may be a long process at best with all the other big names already at work.

Amazon Kindle vs Acacia: Patent Troll Tries Again

By now Kindle users have become familiar with the idea of sponsored screen savers on their eReaders when the devices are on standby.  They are generally unobtrusive, don’t get in the way of the reading experience, and can even offer some decent deals from time to time when you get lucky.  Not many people argue against them anymore, especially since Amazon now allows users to pay the price difference between a Kindle with ads and a Kindle without ads to have the whole mechanism disabled entirely.  Unfortunately, the idle screen’s ads have opened Amazon up to a claim of patent infringement from one of the biggest “Patent Trolls” in operation.

The company making the accusation, Network Presentations Solutions, is a shell company operated by Acacia Research Group.  Acacia Research Group, as some might remember from last October, has taken on Amazon before with regard to Kindle devices.  Last time it was a variety of issues regarding the Kindle Fire.  This time around, they have acquired the rights to a patent for any personal computing device that shows ads on a screen after a certain designated period of idling.  Naturally this would include all recent Kindle offerings, in addition to other companies such as Kobo that have followed in Amazon’s footsteps, one would think.

What are they hoping to accomplish with this suit?  The requested ruling would require Amazon to pay a substantial penalty, recall and destroy every Kindle device ever sold with the Special Offers screen savers, issue a copy of the court ruling along with an admission of wrongdoing to everybody who has ever owned a Kindle, and generally appear contrite and humbled.  More realistically, Acacia is hoping for a substantial payday when Amazon settles to avoid the potentially huge ramifications of losing.  Patent Trolls are not held in particularly high regard at the moment, but that doesn’t mean they always lose in court.  Amazon isn’t exactly the most beloved company around at the moment either, after all.

While there seems to have been no word as to what, if any, progress has been made on the last Acacia vs Amazon lawsuit, it is a fair assumption that Amazon is not in the habit of quietly accepting this sort of thing.  They have placed a great deal of faith in the Kindle line, both eReader and Tablet offerings, and such vaguely applicable patents have questionable standing when held up to scrutiny.  Remember that a software patent holder needs to be able to prove that its patent involves a non-obvious solution to a problem.  It is hard to say whether or not advertisements in place of screen savers would really qualify in the eyes of the court.

Chances are good that this is not the last time we’ll be seeing Amazon hit with patent litigation.  Patent Trolling is huge money and there is a lot of profit to be made in anything somebody can make stick to the Kindle.  With the next generation of Kindle Fire just around the corner and the possibility of a Kindle Phone being whispered about in vague rumors about the distant future, Amazon is just going to be even more open to these things.  Hopefully the added expense of an occasional settlement or legal dispute won’t be enough to scare them off of ongoing hardware development.

Thoughts on Kindle Publishing

When it comes to publishing an indie book, the Kindle Direct Publishing program has done wonders for new authors all over the place.  Some, like John Locke and Amanda Hocking, have manages to hit it big as a result.  In spite of these examples though, it is impossible to deny that for the most part people don’t take most self published works too seriously at first glance.  There are a few big factors that I believe play into this.

The first would be, as sad as it is, poorly designed cover art.  Even if you are writing for the Kindle, the first thing people are going to see will be the cover you have chosen to represent your work.  A piece of clip art or quick Photoshop-ed photo will only serve to indicate that you couldn’t be bothered with quality control.  Nobody will deny that marketing is the most important of making an indie book take off and your cover is the most basic piece of marketing.

Second, and somewhat more intuitive, is editing.  If you get comments in reviews about having a poorly edited book, that will work against you.  Nobody really likes to read badly written prose even when it tells an amazing story.  It can completely destroy immersion at key moments.  Now, obviously nobody is perfect and even the best books slip through to print with errors, but that doesn’t mean there is any excuse for failing to triple-check your work and find somebody else to look over it for you too.  You’re expecting people to pay money for this in the end, so it should be worth a little extra effort.

Third and finally, is the quick release schedule.  While it has become almost commonplace to hear the advice that Kindle publishing requires you to release a book every 6-12 months to retain reader interest, this should be considered very carefully.  While you will definitely start making money faster the more of a back catalogue you have going for you, it is more important to make sure that the best possible product is going out.  Five poorly reviewed books will not only earn you less money than two well reviewed books in the same time period, they will pull you down even if later works improve dramatically.  When you write you are building your name into a brand.  Keep in mind how you want that brand to be perceived.

Naturally this is all fairly general and there are a few reasons that all of these points, especially the last one, can be less important for certain projects.  There is significant potential in self publishing these days thanks to the Kindle though, and it is painful to see potentially great authors being ignored thanks to missteps made in the rush to get a piece of the readership.  Just remember that readers are going to keep reading.  The Kindle is more popular all the time and unlikely to fall away as the most widely used eReader in the world any time soon.  Take your time and make something you can be proud of.

SolarFocus Kindle Cover Revealed

Recently revealed at CES and available for sale on the 14th of January, the new SolarFocus Kindle cover seems to be an interesting solution to a problem that few, if any, people have run into.  This doesn’t mean that it will fail to impress as a gadget or that it is in any way useless, but one has to wonder how big the market will be for something like the SolarKindle cover.

Essentially this cover is meant to serve as recharging station, backup battery, and book light all in addition to the normal screen protection function.  Certainly not a bad thing.  The case’s internal battery carries a charge sufficient to add an additional three months of battery life to the Kindle 4 and can be recharged over the course of eight hours of direct sunlight exposure if you don’t have access to a powered USB port or adapter.  Even one hour is supposedly sufficient for as much as three days worth of reading time.

Sadly, there are any number of drawbacks.  In terms of basic use, there are a few obvious problems.  The addition of this cover more than doubles the weight of your Kindle, along with doubling its thickness and increasing the size of its footprint to slightly larger than the Kindle Keyboard.  The added size and weight remove a great deal of the appeal that the $79 Kindle carries.  The SolarKindle case itself also appears fairly unappealing, though some might disagree with me if they find solar panels and white plastic pleasant.  Perhaps the most striking thing about this case, however, is the pricing.  At $79 itself, it will double the cost of owning a Kindle.

I have nothing against a desire to be environmentally friendly, but this doesn’t make sense to me.  Given the fact that the Kindle 4 already runs for a minimum of three weeks at a time between charges (based on regular personal use on my part), how could it possibly be worth the inconvenience of the bulk and weight just to avoid having it find a wall outlet?

As of the Kindle 2, we already have analysis indicating that eReaders become environmentally friendlier than buying new books as of the 50th title or so.  Probably safe to assume that things have gotten even better by now, but even ignoring that entirely we have to assume that the impact of manufacturing these covers will be sufficient to increase the numbers.  How quickly can saving $0.25 or less per month in electricity help this case start to pay for itself under any metric?

Despite the hype surrounding the CES reveal, it seems unlikely that the SolarKindle will take off.  The price is too high and the benefits too few.  It isn’t as if you were adding months of battery life to a tablet or smartphone.  If you spend months at a time without access to power, this might be the case for you.  For anybody else it is not much better than an ostentatious nod toward “Going Green” that the Kindle, despite having numbers to support such a claim, fails to advertise on its own.

To Touch, or Not To Touch: Choosing Kindle 4 vs Kindle Touch

Let’s say that you know you want to buy a brand new Kindle eReader.  It could be for a Christmas gift, a charity donation, or just because you’ve been wanting one.  Technically I suppose you could just have a desire to use the new Kindle to wedge under the leg of a desk to stop it from wobbling, but if so then we have different priorities and budgets.  Anyway, there are a couple options right now as far as which to buy, so it’s important to know what you want to get out of it.

Displays: Tie

This part doesn’t matter too much.  Basically any modern eReader will be making use of the E INK Pearl display and the Kindle family is no exception.  Unlike an LCD, you can read on this type of screen with no eye strain in any sort of lighting that would work with a normal paper book. In an extremely minor way the Kindle Touch might be at a disadvantage here since there is a likelihood of fingerprints, but in practice they are surprisingly minimal and don’t have an effect on anything that quickly wiping the screen down every couple days or weeks won’t fix.

Interface: Kindle Touch

The Kindle Touch is far superior in terms of interacting with your books.  If you have any interest in taking notes, highlighting, or just about anything else besides flipping pages while you read, then the touchscreen will be practically necessary.  The Kindle 4’s directional control is fine for choosing a book, but using the virtual keyboard is tedious at best and you’ll find yourself avoiding it quickly.

Storage: Kindle Touch (Barely)

The storage space on the Kindle Touch is effectively twice that of the Kindle 4.  While this might seem at a glance to be a big deal, in actuality it won’t come into play much.  There are only so many books you can easily navigate at a time anyway which means most people hit their limit well before the Kindle’s storage fills up and start archiving titles that aren’t needed.

Battery Life: Kindle Touch

The battery life is also doubled on the touch model by comparison.  Once again, however, it doesn’t much matter.  The cheaper model still gets a month of use in between charges.  When you hit the point where your biggest problem is remembering where the charging cable was after such a long time has passed, it stops mattering much which eReader wins.

Price: Kindle 4

Obviously the Kindle 4’s price is its biggest advantage.  An $80 price tag makes it the cheapest major eReader on the market.

Form: Kindle 4

The Kindle Touch weighs slightly over 25% more than the Kindle 4.  It’s a fairly negligible amount, and both devices are comfortable to hold in one hand, but every bit helps.

Extras: Kindle Touch

Hands-down, the Kindle Touch provides the most extras aside from simple reading.  It has text-to-speech, audio playback, optional 3G, simple PDF zoom and scroll control, and Amazon’s new X-Ray feature.  While none of these is likely to be enough to sell the device on its own, the ability to access audiobooks and PDF documents easily is likely to be important for some people.

Recommendation: Kindle Touch (Mostly)

Basically, the Kindle Touch has the most to offer you.  It does everything that the Kindle 4 can do and more, for just $20 price difference.  This isn’t to say that the Kindle 4 has many problems, because if all you want to do is read cover to cover in your favorite books then it’s wonderful, it just isn’t as versatile.  We’ve effectively reached the point where all new eReaders will be equally pleasant to use for basic reading, so I’m forced to weigh other factors more heavily.  Regardless of that, the Kindle will almost certainly be enjoyed regardless of which one is chosen.

Special Offers Now Available For All Kindle eReaders

The addition of advertisements to the Kindle line is what has allowed Amazon to drive prices down as low as they have on all eReader hardware in the US.  It’s really the only reason that the eReader was finally pushed down to the $99 and beyond.  While many people were initially upset about the idea of advertising intruding into their reading experience, something that has in recent decades proven fairly inefficient and therefore been disregarded, the way Amazon tackled the problem has left most people satisfied.  No ads in the books themselves is the most important part, of course.

The most surprising thing, in a lot of ways, is how effective the Special Offers have been in providing genuine value for customers.  Among other things, Kindle w/ Special Offers owners have had the chance to buy $20 gift cards for $10, $1 Kindle Edition eBooks, and more.  Amazon has been their own best customer when it comes to these ads despite having some big name partners join in from time to time, and recently there have even been some great local deals springing up as a result of their attempts to take on Groupon.  Naturally this has left some owners of older Kindles, as well as people who avoided the opportunity due to suspicion over the ads, feeling rather left out.

Recently an option was introduced to remove these ads from the Kindle by paying for the difference in initial purchase price.  Definitely an appealing option since it effectively allows new buyers who are hesitant to accept the idea of ongoing advertisements buy into the device now and get the rest of the experience they want when it’s affordable.  It doesn’t hurt that this makes it that much more appealing for new customers to give Amazon’s Special Offers scheme a chance to prove its worth.

The fun flip side is that they quietly introduced the option to turn Special Offers on for Kindle eReaders that either never had them in the first place or decided to buy out of them at some point.  By going into the “Manage Your Kindle” section of the Amazon.com website, most of the work is already done.  Find your eReader in the list (which may include no more than one Kindle depending on how invested you are in the line) and, under the “Special Offers” heading, choose the Edit option.  Turning the ads on and off takes place almost instantly, requiring nothing more than that you turn your Kindle on and connect it to the internet.

I no longer have a Kindle 2 to test out this process with, but I think it is safe to assume that it would not work.  The Kindle 3 (Kindle Keyboard) definitely works, and all newer devices should handle it without any trouble.  If you haven’t had a chance before now to check out the options, it might be worth a try.  Just today I’ve seen a couple tempting ones flipping my Kindle off and on.  I especially recommend if you are in an area covered by the AmazonLocal deals.  Amazon is clearly not pushing people into this, nor do they make it hard to change your mind.  If there’s value to be found, why waste the opportunity?

Kindles Make Great Holiday Gifts for Kids

I’ve seen so many reviewers say they wish that there were more books, games and activities that would allow children to use a Kindle easily.  The bestselling e-reader has mostly catered to adults in the past.

The good news is that now, there are a lot of apps and games designed with kids in mind.  They are both educational and fun.  You’ll find a growing collection of interactive fiction available for the Kindle. I’m sure parents will be very happy to see that there are games that are great for keeping kids occupied in the doctor’s waiting room or on long car rides.

Interactive fiction gives the story to the readers so that they can determine what direction it will go.  As you go through the book, it will ask you questions that impacts how the book will end.  In some of the books, you can even choose the character and setting.  A few examples of interactive fiction titles available on the e-reader include The Little Stick that Could, the Fighting Fantasy series, and the Choice of Games series.  More details on Kindle apps can be found on the Kindle App review blog.

The 4th generation Kindle is perfect for kids because of its reasonable price, and it is basic enough for them to grasp.  The user interface is primarily navigated with just one button.  The keyboard is virtual, which makes the Kindle so much smaller and lightweight.  The Kindle 4 holds about half the amount of storage that the rest of the Kindle models do, but it has access to unlimited cloud storage on Amazon.  It makes a great introductory e-reader.

I’ve heard several people say that they are going to buy a Kindle for their kids this Christmas.  This is a great opportunity to steer kids away from TV and video games, and towards reading.  There are a ton of children’s books, old and new, available to choose from.  I hope Charlotte’s Web will be added to the list sometime in the near future!