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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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January 2018
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Worldreader.org: A Library at your Fingertips

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

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

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

Scribd mega catalog only “two clicks” away for Kindle users

Amidst the price wars of content between Amazon and Apple, Scribd, the giant content sharing site, has launched a program to make its 10 million books, articles and documents compatible with the full spectrum of readers and mobile devices. Once considered to be the “YouTube” of document services, Scribd has become a hub for authors who can’t afford to self publish, and a social network for readers of similar interests. The site is currently home to more than 200,000 books, and is growing by about 10 percent a month.

CEO Tripp Adler describes a two pronged “mobile deployment” program. The first part of the attack is to make Scribd books compatible with Amazon’s Kindle and other mobile reading devices. Currently, Kindle owners can download from Scribd by using the wireless connection. Amazon charges 15 cents per megabyte for the transfer. This month, Scribd will release software that can be embedded into devices to give users “two click” access to its catalog. The second part of the program is an assortment of device specific applications that will allow smartphones to store the books on the phone’s hard drive.

Even though Amazon and Apple might not welcome all that free content to compete with their not-so-free offerings, Scribd has found a way to get around their approval. And they’ve done it by cutting software syncing tools and extra computers.

Tech savvy college students and campus librarians embrace Kindle as way of future for textbooks

The transition to electronic textbooks, once thought to the next big boon for publishers, is meeting with surprising resistance among students and professors. Studies conducted on the Kindle DX at business schools across the country showed an overwhelming–90%–support of the ereader by students for casual reading. However only the tech savvy “power users” embraced the device for academic work. Many students and their professors, used to highlighting text and making notes in the margins, were unable or unwilling to use  Kindle DX’s annotation functions. But they may be forced to catch up.

With their relative low cost, electronic textbooks are an inevitable part of higher education’s future. Not withstanding the initial purchase price, the cost storing and maintaining electronic books is less than half that of paper books. Campus librarians have already foreseen the death of the traditional library. Rather than a storehouse for large numbers of paper volumes, the library of the not-too-distant future will be place for students to use their laptops to access the college’s digital collections.

Technology aside, there are immediate benefits that are impossible to overlook. It’s easier to haul a Kindle than the hundreds of pounds of books and study materials it replaces. Even considering the initial cost of the device, it can save money on text book costs. And it’s greener on the environment, an important consideration for academics. Lev Gonick, vice president of information technology services at Case Western Reserve, likened the resistance to ebooks to that seen with any new technology. College students, recognized for their trend setting nature, will soon become converts.

See Your Notes and Highlights Online

http://kindle.amazon.com

http://kindle.amazon.com

If you’ve made notes or highlights in your Kindle books, you can now see them online at http://kindle.amazon.com/

At the moment the service if quite limited. You can see your notes and highlights but can’t edit or share or even email them as I’ve hoped but this is definitely step in the right direction and I hope more will follow…

This was one of the issues I’ve submitted feedback to Amazon in the past and it looks like I wasn’t the only one. So now I’m going to take some time to write them once more and thank them for this feature and hopefully it’ll get more traction… I encourage you to do the same.

Wireless Data Costs – Kindle Economics #1

Recently MediaShift blog mentioned some interesting numbers related to Kindle wireless data pricing:

> Avg. file size = 1.2MB
> Bandwidth cost = 12 cents MB
> Selling price = $13.99 month
> Monthly bandwidth cost = $4.32

I tried really hard to track down the source of this information but all I could find was indirect hearsay statement confirming it:

According to a reliable source in the know, The New Yorker’s Kindle split is divided 33% New Yorker, 33% Amazon, and 33% wireless carrier.

At first 12 cents / MB may seem a little steep given that most mobile companies nowadays offer 5GB wireless broadband plans for $60/month (1.2 cent / MB). However bandwidth economics are a bit more complex. Sprint already has a 3G network and costs of operating it are fixed whether it’s utilized as 1% or 100% capacity. Therefore it’s in the best interest of the carrier to sell all of the bandwidth even if some of it is sold at a huge discount. Most individual users would use only a fraction of these 5GB and will subsidize users who use it all. With wholesale customers as Amazon there is no subsidies and Sprint would charge highest price Amazon would be willing to pay.

Assuming 12 cents/MB is correct here’s what we get:

  • Average Kindle book is 0.7..2MB – Sprint gets paid 10..25 cents per download. Download doesn’t mean sale as customers can buy once and download multiple times.
  • Average Kindle book sample – 0.2..0.6MB – it costs Amazon 2..7 pennies every time you download a book sample. This is comparable to click price in pay-per-click advertising and given that customers “target” themselves, conversion rate should be very high
  • WSJ subscription – numbers are very similar to ones in MediaShift example – Amazon pays 4…5 USD per month for delivering the content.
  • Personal document conversion – you pay Amazon 15 cents per megabyte, Amazon pays Sprint 12 cents. Consider that resulting document same size or smaller than then original because of data compression and you get a sustainable revenue model for Amazon even in the unlikely case of bandwidth price going up.
  • Web browsing – free for users, same 12 cents per MB to Amazon. But how many customers really use it? I don’t. Whenever I need to browse the web on the go I turn to either iPhone or netbook if WiFi hotspot is nearby.

In 2002 1 megabyte of wireless data used to cost more than a dollar. If this trend continues, wireless data costs will stop being a significant factor in Kindle economics 3-4 years down the road.

However with current prices it’s quite possible that Amazon may get unhappy about Savory hack that allows users to download large PDF files and convert them on the fly directly on Kindle.

Kindle DX, now with 9.7″ screen

kindle dx

Remember me speculating about 9.7″ screen in Kindle 3? Well, the only difference is that it’s called Kindle DX!

Today Amazon announced availability of Kindle DX: Amazon’s 9.7″ Wireless Reading Device. It will start shipping sometime this summer and is available for pre-order now. As I’ll definitely would like to write a hands-on review of it I’m preordering one right now…

2 major differences in Kindle DX compared to Kindle 2 are: 9.7″ 16 shades of gray eInk screen that runs at 1200×824 resolution and native PDF support. Other notable new features include iPhone-like auto-rotate and  flash-memory upgraded to 3.3 gigabytes.

Kindle DX is actually much anticipated “Kindle textbook edition”. According to Wall Street Jounal Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland along with 5 other universities will start piloting Kindle DX as a universal textbook. With 4 major textbook publishers (Addison Wiley, Prentice Hall, Person and Longman) on-board long with several smaller ones it’s expected that Kindle DX will have 60% of textbooks available when it ships. Larger screen would also be a bonus to people who are used to reading regular newspapers.

Here are all features and specifications of Kindle DX that I could dig up so far:

  • Size: 10.4″ x 7.2″ x 0.38″ (Kindle 2: 8″ x 5.3″ x 0.36″)
  • Display: 16 shades of gray eInk 9.7″ 1200×824 pixels (Kindle 2: 6″ 800×600)
  • Weight: 18.9oz (Kindle 2: 10.2oz)
  • Storage: 3.3GB (Kindle 2: 1.4GB)
  • Battery life: 4 days with 3G modem on, 2 weeks with modem off (really it’s limited just by the number of page turns). This is pretty much the same as Kindle 2
  • Connectivity: 3G wireless modem, USB 2.0 port and 3.5mm audio jack

Kindle Warranty

I just had to exercise warranty on my Kindle 2. Hence the reduction of the number of posts on this blog…

The quality of the warranty service was a very pleasant surprise to me indeed. It goes way above and beyond of what I’ve experienced with other companies:

  • Phone wait was less than 3 minutes
  • The only thing I was asked to verify was that my Kindle 2 was fully charged and rather than telling me to do it anyway and call back in 3 hours like some other companies did. They took my word for it and emailed me the RMA shipping label. Easy and simple.
  • Now for the best part – Kindle warranty replacement uses one-day shipping and cross-shipment. This means that if your Kindle needs to be replaced – you’ll most likely get it within 24 hours and before you actually send the damaged unit back to them.
  • Since I wasn’t expecting such fast turnaround (in the past I had to wait for weeks for my electronics to come back from warranty repair) and I had several long trips planned for the next week I actually ordered another Kindle 2 with one-day shipping so that I’ll not have to spend days in planes, trains and automobiles without my books. When I called the warranty I was told “no problem”. They refunded me the shipping charge and set up RMA as return for refund.

kindle 2 year warrantyNow does this rock or what? Hopefully other companies will use Amazon as example.

While I’m on the topic – there are some 3rd parties providing extended warranty for the Kindle:

1) 2-Year Extended Warranty for Kindle 2 by ServiceNet. They extend the basic warranty to 2 years and cover 1 incident of drop related damage.

2) http://www.squaretrade.com/ offers 2 and 3 year extended warranty options for almost all electronics, including Kindle 2. For K2 I was quoted $49 for 3-year extended warranty.

Both warranties need to be purchased within 30 days of Kindle purchase. Since my current warranty replacement is officially a return for refund and new purchase I’ll heavily consider using one of these options. I doubt that any of them would offer 1-day cross-shipping though…

Please let me know if had any experience with either of these warranties.

Kindle Battery Charger – Run Your Kindle On AA Batteries

igo-universal-battery-chargerElectronic gadgets are nice but until Witricity goes commercial there is this annoying need to recharge the things. And even when it does I doubt there will be many Witricity hot-spots in Yellowstone National Park or more remote “in-the-middle-of-nowhere’s”.

It’s not that big of a problem if gadget in question uses regular widely available standard batteries like AA, AAA, C, D etc. But some don’t. Such gadgets turn to useless paper weights once the power runs out if you are away from the power-outlet or just don’t have the proper charger available. This was the case for my iPhone and Kindle. After running out of power caused one too many inconveniences I decided to do something about it.

emergency-aa-battery-charge-extender-for-kindleI found myself another gadget that I never leave home without: iGo Universal Battery Operated Charger along with cables that connect to accessories that I carry. This was a real life-saver for me. Anytime a battery is about to run out in the middle of phone conversation or Kindle refuses to go online because it doesn’t have enough charge left to power the EVDO modem I just plug it in and it works. Because “Kindle battery charger” doesn’t need to be charged itself but runs on regular AA batteries itself I can always get more power. It also proved very handy during trip to Yellowstone National Park – I just stocked up on batteries and had all the travel guides and maps readily available on my Kindle and even internet access in select places.

There are dozens of iGo accessories available so you can pick the ones that go with your gadgets. What iGo did was a pretty obvious yet cool thing. They’ve created a modular power platform. Consisting of power sources (AA batteries, AC for pretty much any country in the world, 12V car) and power connectors for pretty much any device including all standard connectors like mini-B and micro-B USB.

Another device along the same lines is: Emergency AA Battery Charge Extender for the Amazon Kindle 1. This one however is a bit heavier as it takes 4 AA batteries.

Updating Kindle Firmware

After my last post about custom Kindle firmwares possibly making appearance soon, I received several emails with questions on how official firmware updates should be applied. Indeed there is very little information in the User’s Manual on how to update the Kindle software.

Normally Kindle 2 would automatically download appropriate software updates if it is connected to the WhisperNet and automatically intall it when Kindle goes into sleep mode. Update installation will be followed by a reboot.

If you are don’t have Sprint EVDO coverage and therefore don’t have access to WhisperNet update can be done manually by following these steps:

  1. Download appropriate update file from Amazon.com. Kindle 1 updates should be downloaded from http://www.amazon.com/update_kindle.bin. Kindle 2 users should download from http://www.amazon.com/update_kindle2.bin. It’s very important not to mix these files as you can possibly brick your Kindle by installing the wrong update.
  2. Connect your Kindle to your PC via USB cable.
  3. Once Kindle USB drive is mounted copy the downloaded file to the root folder of it.
  4. Unmount the drive using Safely remove installed hardware icon in the system tray (next to the clock, volume control icon etc)
  5. Disconnect Kindle from the PC.
  6. Go to the Home Screen, press Menu and select settings and then select “Update Your Kindle”. If your Kindle is already updated the menu item will be gray and you will not be able to select it.
  7. Once update is installed your Kindle will reboot.

Please be extremely careful when following these instructions and even then do it at your own risk!

XKCD Comic About Amazon Kindle

xkcd-kindle

XKCD, “A Webcomic Of Romance, Sarcasm, Math, And Language” recently did a comic about Kindle which I couldn’t resist posting here especially since it mentions a book that I’m very fond of personally.

If you haven’t seen XKCD before I really recommend to explore it as you are sure to have some good time. I personally would love to see it available for subscription on Kindle Blogs but I guess because it is Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License it will never happen.