Kindle Paperwhite Update Improves Overall User Experience and Comic Reading Specifically

We already know that Amazon intends for the Kindle Paperwhite to set the new standard for eReader hardware in every way they could manage.  Some people might still wish for physical page turn buttons (I certainly do) but other than that it is a clear step ahead of all of the competition right now.  That’s referring entirely to the US markets, of course, which may be a good reason that they have decided to update the Paperwhite firmware with some specific comic-related improvements in mind.

On a November 8th release, the new software improvements were made available for download.  If you have a Paperwhite and haven’t gotten everything automatically delivered to your device at this point, check out the side-loading instructions located here.

Foremost in the advertised improvements is the list of optimized fonts.  Palatino, Baskerville, and Futura have all been made sharper and smoother.  It’s a small thing in many ways, but the change will stand out for anybody who prefers to use these fonts regularly.

The ability to remove Recommended Content from your Paperwhite’s home screen is now also included.  This has become a point of annoyance for many users, but the ability to remove this particular advertising stream was added not long ago to new Kindle Fire models and was inevitable here as well.  A more interesting update would have been producing the same stream for older models on demand, honestly.

The settings menu has been brought to the front of things a bit more as well.  You can now jump straight into this menu directly from the menu while reading a book with no need to return to the home screen.

Perhaps most importantly, given the recent push into Japan, is the improved manga/comic display capability.  A new Fit-to-Screen option will stretch images to fill the entire screen, addressing many situations where small panels were practically unreadable previously.

The Paperwhite is also now able to retain a manga/comic specific setting for page refresh preferences that is completely separate from the same options for book reading.  This makes it easier to choose the proper setting to maximize both battery life and reading quality in two areas with distinctly different visual representation needs.

In preparation for a move beyond Japan into China, Simplified Chinese is now included as a font option.  It’s a small note now, but could be vital in the long run.

The only other really notable change is in book samples.  When picking up the full version of a given book after reading the sample you will now start off at the last position accessed in the sample.  The sample itself will be removed from the library.  Organization will be greatly improved as a result for anybody who regularly samples their books. Learn how to open ICA file.

Many of these updates are small things, but added together they make for a great update.  There is more than can and likely will be done to improve things, especially with regard to comic-reading.  Now that we’re seeing a much bigger effort to get graphic storytelling into the Kindle marketplace, however, it’s safe to assume that a wider audience will demand attention and genre-specific features that will quickly optimize the eReaders as best a black and white display can be optimized.

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. Learn how to open WPS file and how to open AAE file.

  • 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.

Kindle Fire 6.3 Update Adds Sharing, Book Extras, Silk Browser Improvements, and More

At this time, Kindle Fire owners should be well on their way to downloading the newest update to their device’s firmware.  It began rolling out on Wednesday, but it usually takes two or three days for everybody to notice these given the way Amazon rolls them out.

This update brings a few features to the Kindle Fire that improve large portions of the user experience.  The WiFi connection seems to be more stable now and restores itself more quickly after the device wakes up.  Overall the whole UI seems somewhat smoother and faster now.  More than that, specific uses for the device have been fixed up.

Movie rentals through Amazon now actually make sense thanks to this update.  Rather than starting the rental period as the download for the media begins, Kindle Fire owners who rent will now begin their period when the first instance of playback takes place.  This should eliminate a number of complications that have seemingly caused the service trouble in catching on with customers.

The reading experience in general got an even more thorough look.  It is now possible to use sharing through the Kindle Fire just like they can when using Kindle eReaders.  There is definitely some appeal to many in being able to make the reading experience a publicly engaging one through Facebook and Twitter.

Book Extras, an integration of Shelfari much like the Kindle Touch’s X-Ray feature, are also accessible now.  This allows for a quick look at characters, locations, glossaries, and many other bits of information that may come in handy while reading.  It’s an especially handy tool for students, in many ways.

In another nod to students, Amazon is now making it possible to access what they are calling “print replica textbooks”.  These will basically be the equivalent of PDF texts that have been optimized for the Kindle platform.  It isn’t exactly a step forward for the eReading experience, but it will allow for greater compatibility between paper and digital texts and should encourage classroom use of the Kindle Fire as a result.

Probably the most important addition for many people will be the update to the Kindle’s Silk browser that adds in “Reading View”.  By clicking on the icon shaped like reading glasses in any Silk tab’s menu, you can do away with ads, images, formatting, and everything else that gets in the way of the text.  Browsing news sites and blogs is far more pleasant now and the ability to resize and reflow the text in this mode doesn’t hurt either.

If you have not yet received the option to automatically download Kindle Fire firmware v6.3, there are a couple things to try.  First, make sure you are fully charged and do a full reboot by holding the power button down until the option to shut down is given.  After loading the system up again, select “Sync” from the menu bar.  If this does not work, check out Amazon’s update page and download the update manually.  Just move the file to the Kindle Fire’s base directory, reboot again, and everything should happen automatically.