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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 2017
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Can Microsoft Surface Inspire Kindle Interface Enhancement?

The introduction of eReaders into the portable electronics world immediately led to prophetic statements declaring them irrelevant in a world that already had access to tablets.  The Kindle vs iPad debate was long and monotonous, but over time people have generally come to accept that there is a distinction between the two types of device.  While most tablet functions would be more or less ridiculous to add to a dedicated reading device like the Kindle, however, Microsoft’s upcoming Surface tablet has introduced a useful concept that may have important implications for the future of electronic reading devices.

The Surface will incorporate technology that separates general touch recognition from stylus recognition, making it possible to take notes conveniently on the screen of the tablet without having to worry about where your fingers are positioned.  As anybody who tries to write naturally on a tablet for the first time will likely be immediately aware, it can be quite difficult to manage without either setting the device down or letting a thumb wrap around onto the screen.

Amazon has already done something great for Kindle users with Whispernet.  Having all of your annotations saved, along with bookmarks, page position, and so on, regardless of where you are loading your content from allows the Kindle platform to be device independent and convenient for just about anybody.  Unfortunately, taking notes on an actual Kindle eReader is a huge inconvenience.  Even with the keyboard provided by the Kindle Keyboard (or the virtual one on the Kindle Touch), it’s a slow and annoying process that will usually result in there being few such notes taken.

While it would definitely mean a slightly higher production cost, and would probably require a greater expense as far as data transfer and storage in concerned due to the increase in use, Amazon would be wise to adopt a similar option in their next Kindle upgrade.

The last remaining hurdle for eReaders at this point is their inability to match the convenience of paper books when it comes to direct interaction.  Annotation is part of that.  This would not make it any easier to flip rapidly from place to place in your favorite book, but that is not a sensation that can be replicated on a screen.  The pleasure of making one’s own contribution to a personal copy of a book is far simpler to bring to the new medium.

There is no indication that Amazon is going to make this sort of change.  This is merely speculation about what could eventually become a major selling point.  Until color E Ink style screens advance to the point where they are worth integrating, there isn’t a lot that can be done to make the Kindle a better reading tool.  The screen is already offering basically the same reading experience that you get from paper.  It’s not easy to find ways to make paper replication an exciting new thing once you reach this level of sophistication.  Improved writing inputs could be just what the Kindle needs in that respect.

Security Flaw Makes Browsing Risky For Kindle Touch Users

The Kindle isn’t ever considered the most secure of devices.  Even here on this site you’ll find many hacks for Kindles from the first generation forward.  Still, this might be the first time I can think of that there has been a hole in the device’s security that poses a genuine problem for both users and Amazon.

heise Security has recently released some proof of concept code that demonstrates the potential for remotely exploiting Kindle Touch devices.  This is a problem occurring in the most recent Kindle Touch 5.1.0 firmware.  The vulnerability allows commands to be injected into the eReader through the WebKit browser.  These commands are then executed at the root level, essentially giving malicious code total control over your Kindle.

Amazon is aware of the problem and working on a patch.  Considering the first indications that there might be a problem to fix came up as early as April, according to the MobileRead forums, they are clearly taking their time about it.  Various reports indicate that there may be some difficulty getting the patch pushed to Kindle Touch users, but until we know more about Amazon’s response that may be speculation.

There are no indications at this time that anybody has managed to create malicious code directed at Kindle Touch users.  While some speculation has revolved around turning Kindles into nodes in massive botnet attacks, that is just potential at this stage.  There are, of course, measures you can take to protect yourself.

The most obvious solution to keeping safe until this is fixed would be to avoid the internet.  Turning off your wireless connection, whether WiFi or 3G, will save you battery life and put your mind at ease.  If you don’t find that appealing, sticking to Amazon’s services and trusted sites will also go a long way toward security.

If that is not enough and something more drastic is desired, there is a way to patch the hole yourself.  For complete instructions, head over to MobileRead and learn about jailbreaking your device.  Ironically, it seems that the most common jailbreaking method right now also uses the exploit in question.  Once you have gained root privileges for your Kindle Touch, however, a tool has been uploaded in this thread that should disable browser-based exploitation from remote sites.

This is probably not a big deal for most users.  It has the potential to turn into something major for Amazon.  A properly made piece of malware could theoretically turn their Kindle Touch line into an internet attack network.  This would be a PR nightmare and cost an unbelievable amount thanks to the free 3G these devices enjoy, but the limitations of the exploit as it is currently understood make it unlikely that any personal information could be stolen or that users could in other ways be easily harmed.

Exercise safe browsing habits and wait for Amazon to issue a firmware update.  New Kindle Touch units are already shipping with 5.1.1 firmware and that will likely be making its way to existing customers soon enough.  Some reports indicate that this update will patch the security hole, though that is not yet confirmed.

Kindle Touch Hidden Gem

There is one issue with my Kindle that I wish Amazon would make more intuitive.  That issue is deleting books directly from my Kindle.  I understand that there is a lot of room for books on the device itself, but often, people would like to get rid of books that aren’t really serving any purpose anymore.

On my Kindle 2, I just slid the 5 way toggle button to the side and it gave me a menu option to remove a book or game from the e-reader.  I just figured out how to do this randomly when I was maneuvering around on it.

Figuring out how to delete books are little more difficult on the Kindle Touch, but once you know the trick, it is quite easy.  If you have an iPad or iPhone you have to press down the app for a few seconds, and an x will pop up and allow you to close or delete the app.

Using this same idea based on the iPhone delete commands, I pressed down on a book on my Kindle’s Home screen for a few seconds and sure enough, a dialog box popped up giving me an option to delete the book.

So why is this worth mentioning?  Now that you can check out Kindle Books from the library or Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, there are a lot of books coming and going.  When you return a book, the title still shows up in the list, and says “recently returned.”

Frankly, they are annoying, and can really clutter up the device’s library.  They also hide the books you actually need or want.

A friend asked me once how to do this, so I thought I’d pass it along in case you were wondering the same thing.

And don’t worry, even if you delete a book from your Kindle, it remains stored in your account on Amazon.  You can always re download it on any Kindle or Kindle app supported device at any time.

 

 

Kindle Touch Travel Review

While I’m mostly a fan of the Kindle Touch, I’ve largely seen little reason to upgrade from the Kindle Keyboard in day to day use.  The darker frame is nice, the keyboard works well for any shopping I have to do, and it has generally proven reliable for quite some time now.  Since I knew I would be on the road for about a week recently, however, I decided I would give the Kindle Touch a thorough test.  You never know what you might learn by trying, right?

Connectivity

One thing that surprised me was that I was generally able to get a better 3G signal through the Kindle Touch than through my Kindle Keyboard.  The Keyboard model is definitely far more broken in, so I can’t necessarily count this as a side by side comparison of new devices, but I was able to get more reliable, faster connections at nearly every stage of a 3,500 mile trip with the Kindle Touch.

Screen Quality

I expected that the lighter case on the new Kindle Touch would be a pain compared to what I was used to.  This was somewhat accurate.  While reading in the majority of indoor lighting situations was fine with either eReader, I noticed that it was much easier to use my Kindle Keyboard in bright sunlight.  I’m sure this was an optical illusion rather than actual quality differences, but the lighter frame around the screen left the Kindle Touch looking washed out in truly bright light.

Reading Experience

Quite frankly, I love the physical page turn buttons.  I still get annoyed at Amazon for removing them.  That is literally my only complaint about the general reading experience on the Kindle Touch, though.  It is quick, light, easier to hold, and generally everything you want in a reading device.  The preference for physical buttons aside, I will admit that after a few page turns I stopped noticing that I was having to touch the screen and things moved quite naturally.  This could be a matter of my own preconceptions as much as anything.

Navigation

The place where I really appreciated having a touch screen was in PDF navigation.  Things went much more smoothly than I’m used to.  The same is true of in-line annotation in Kindle documents.  While it is slightly faster to type on the physical keyboard, that advantage is negated by the fact that the Kindle Touch allows for quick placement of your cursor rather than a slow movement via 5-way control pad.  The point here has to go to the Kindle Touch on both issues.

Battery Life

You can’t really complain about the battery life on any Kindle product.  I used each of my Kindles for about 4 hours per day across a seven day period.  They both still had just under half their batteries left when my drive was over.  The charger that was packed could have easily been left at home.

Conclusion

My Kindle Touch is going to be seeing a lot more use.  The lighter weight and smaller form made it stand out in a lot of ways and the fact that note taking was so much faster than I expected has persuaded me to make this my daily eReader.  There are still many reasons to prefer the Kindle Keyboard, the keyboard among them, but it is not as clear a choice as I had expected.  I will try to follow up on this in a few weeks to see if extended use is still preferable when both are available.

A First Hand Look at the Latest Kindle Touch Update

The Kindle Touch just got an automatic update.  A manual update was released about a month ago, but it is usually worth it to just wait for the automatic one.  Kindle Touch Update 5.1 includes several important fixes such as better wi-fi, landscape mode, KF8 publishing, and text to speech.

The Kindle Touch recently arrived in Europe.  How fitting that this update also includes more language support and instant translations.  Amazon is finally getting going with reaching out to the global market.

I have noticed that my Kindle Touch has a crisper display.  I was disappointed to see that there were still shadows of the previous page text.  Does anyone else with a Kindle Touch see this issue as well?  This is one thing that I keep hoping will be resolved with each update.

I like the landscape option a lot, especially since I have to blow up the text size.  It allows more room for the text, and also provides another option for holding the e-reader.  It also adds more flexibility when holding the device for a long period of time.

To access landscape mode, you have to tap the menu and turn it on.  Maybe one day the ability to just turn the Kindle sideways will trigger it.

If your Kindle is using wi-fi, then the update should automatically download.  Otherwise, turn on wi-fi, go to menu, then settings.  Once in the settings, tap menu again and select “Update Your Kindle.” This option will be greyed out if you already have the latest update.

If the success of the Nook GlowLight is any indication, the next big update to the Kindle Touch will be a built in light.  I look forward to being able to read in all lighting conditions without the added hassle of extra accessories.

 

 

Kindle Touch International Release Begins Ahead of Schedule

The Kindle Touch and Kindle Touch 3G have begun to make their way to customers outside the US a full week ahead of schedule.  Some may already have them in hand.  The company mentioned on Friday that they had begun sending out the new Kindles for pre-order customers.  Shipments are being mailed in the order those pre-orders were received.

The enthusiasm from customers outside the US has apparently exceeded expectations by quite a bit.  Since there has already been a well observed secondary market for Kindle re-sales emerging in areas that did not have access to the device previously, this could indicate a more active expansion on the international scale than we have seen so far.  Much of that will depend on how much ongoing popularity the Kindle enjoys now that it is past the pre-order stage, but it’s safe to say that Amazon will expand to pretty much any area they see the potential for profit in.

At the moment the Kindle Touch and Kindle Touch 3G are, as Amazon claims, the only more or less globally available eReader in the price range to offer such a wide range of features.  While some of them are not fully functional in all circumstances yet, such as the newly introduced translation ability from the last firmware update, the important parts are all still there.  Users will still be able to enjoy the high contrast E Ink screen, two month battery life, and all the other basic eReading functions that we’ve come to expect even in cases where the more creative new abilities have not quite become available.  On top of that, the optional 3G connectivity will work all over the world and remains free of monthly charges no matter where you’re ordering from.

So far we have no word on the possible international release of the Kindle Fire media tablet.  Surely there will be some effort to bring this branch of the Kindle line to a wider audience at some point in the relatively near future, but it could be a complicated enough problem to work through that delays until the next generation of the product would not be surprising.  If nothing else, securing rights to media streaming over a variety of different media forms will tend to involve time-consuming  negotiations of a sort that many publishers don’t want to be in with Amazon given their recent tactics.

Check back here for more information on Kindle Fire international release schedules, tech specs for the Kindle Fire 2, and generally anything Kindle related that I can come up with.  There should be no shortage of such information over the next several months.

Kindle Touch Update 5.1 Adds Landscape Mode, Language Support, and Translation

The Kindle Touch has had its firmware updates in preparation for a multi-national release, it seems.  Version 5.1 actually brings us a number of useful features that users have been vocal about desiring for their eReaders.  While the removal of the physical keyboard may have opened the door for Kindle availability in languages besides English, this is probably the biggest step we have seen so far in terms of making that a reality.

Here’s what we’re looking at right now (Amazon Support Page):

  • Landscape Mode

It is finally possible to switch back and forth between portrait and landscape orientations on the Kindle Touch.  While this has long been an option for Kindles, for whatever reason it has taken until now for the Touch to get with the program.  Good news since there are situations where you can’t reasonably  do without it.

  • Added Language Support

Kindle users can now choose from English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, or Portuguese according to personal preference.

  • Instant Translation

While reading, you can now highlight a word or selection and have it translated for you on the spot.  Translations go through Bing Translator and are obviously going to be imperfect, but this is both fun and useful.  Unfortunately, it won’t work very well if you like to read with the WiFi turned off to improve battery life.

  • Improved WiFi

Connectivity has been improved and users have more options.  Connect with WPS and some WPA2 Enterprise setups.

  • Read-to-Me With Text-to-Speech

This one is restricted to English for the moment, but the Kindle Touch can now read to you, including some magazine and newspaper articles.  Perhaps more robust language support will come later?

  • Expanded Sharing

This will basically just tell people what you’re reading, should you feel like sharing.  It fills in a feature missing in comparison to Nook and Kobo options, but doesn’t excite.

  • Onscreen Keyboard Suggestions

Let’s face it, onscreen keyboards are annoying.  On the Kindle Touch it is even worse because of the refresh rate of E Ink.  Now typing is far more manageable.  Huge improvement!

  • Kindle Format 8

This one was pretty much just housekeeping for Amazon.  If you’re going to try and build a new standard, the least you can do is make sure that the latest generation of the device it is being designed for can handle it.  Might make periodicals more readable, but overall reflowable text is still the biggest advantage of an E Ink Kindle.

The Kindle Touch just plain works better now, really.  They added enough that there should be reason for users old and new to be excited here.  Landscape mode might have just been crossing an essential fix off the list, but things like keyboard suggestions and translation on demand change the experience for the better.  I’m definitely looking forward to the next generation of Kindle now that we have an idea what the innovation it brings to the table will be, but for now I may finally be recommending the Kindle Touch over the Kindle Keyboard for the first time.

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.

Kindle Touch Will Launch Amazon’s eBook Efforts in Japan This April

Recent reports via The Nikkei indicate that Amazon will finally be bringing their bestselling Kindle eReader line to Japan in April of this year with their newest model, the Kindle Touch 3G.  It will carry a  20,000 yen price tag (~260USD), which seems a bit high compared to what the same model is going for elsewhere, but this will actually be rather competitive with existing 3G eReader options in Japan.  Amazon has teamed up with Japanese cellular carrier NTT DoCoMo to offer 3G access which, as with all other Kindle 3G products, will require no data plan or monthly fee of any sort.

This will be a big step for Amazon in a number of ways.  Not least of these is the fact that they are entering into an uphill battle against both established competing hardware providers and a whole new publishing industry that has demonstrated a tendency to be far more resistant to the eBook as a medium than their US counterparts.  Sony and Panasonic are among the more recognizable names that already have a presence but this will also involve going up against Japan-based Rakuten, the company that recently acquired Kobo as a subsidiary and which has an impressive presence in the market already.

When dealing specifically with the issue of eBook supply, many have noticed that Japanese selections are pointedly missing from current Kindle Store offerings.  This is not really a coincidence.  Even localized Japanese eBook stores, such as that offered by Sony, reportedly tend to offer tens of thousands of titles compared to hundreds of thousands in other markets, and these don’t always even include bestsellers.  Either there are some accommodations already planned for building relationships with Japan’s book publishers, or Amazon intends to rely even more heavily than usual on their ability to attracted talented self publishing authors to the Kindle Direct Publishing program.

While this will be a great thing for fans of eReading in Japan, there is unfortunately not yet any real reason to get hopes up regarding a Kindle Fire offering.  Currently it is expected that the UK will be the first to have access to the Kindle Fire outside of the US and even that is taking an absurdly long time for many peoples’ tastes.  The transition to Japan would require a far more extensive localization effort than even the Kindle Touch 3G will require as well as an impressively large amount of infrastructure development for Amazon.  That says nothing about the complications of digitals video rights acquisition, which one would imagine to be a major concern in this case but which I lack the ability to offer any informed commentary about at this time.

Regardless of how much of the Kindle Family makes the trip, it is good to see Amazon expanding their efforts in non-Anglophone countries.  While this tends to provide more complications at first, it’s worth it to get the Kindle out there.  Hopefully this effort in particular will be more than just a passive offering of Kindle hardware and KDP, so as to draw more publisher attention to the potential for digital publishing in Japan.

Kindle Touch 5.0.3 Update Available for Automatic Download

Just wanted to let you know that you should be able to download the latest update: 5.0.3, for the Kindle Touch via Wi-Fi.

Here’s how to do it:

While in your Kindle Touch’s home screen, tap “Menu”, then “Settings.”

Once you are on the Settings page, tap “Menu” again, and go to “Update Your Kindle”.

Your Kindle will take it from there.  Just make sure that it remains turned on so that the update can be fully implemented.  The whole process only takes a couple of minutes.

Prior to the update, my Kindle was running really slow.  I had a difficult time trying to get to the different menu options.  There have been reports of page turn lagging slow navigation to the home screen.  Now that the update is complete, it does seem to run faster.  The real verdict will come once I get the chance to use it for a longer period of time.

Overall, this update is minor but it makes some much needed adjustments that will make your navigation and reading experience better.  Generally speaking, it is always good to keep the software up to date for top performance and security.

Suggestions for future updates.

Eliminate the shadowing that appears when transitioning between pages and the home screen.

Provide clearer navigation commands.  Sometimes I try to move to the next page in my list of books on the home screen, and it clicks into the book itself.

Lastly, page turns for lefties.  That is the one thing I miss about my older generation Kindle.  It had page turn buttons on both sides.