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.

The Kindle Fire Sold at a Loss, But Accessories More than Make up for it.

The holiday season has been over for awhile, and the sales boom that goes with it has leveled off.  January and February are kind of a let down after the excitement of getting new gadgets for the holidays.  Kindle Fire sales are proof of this conclusion.

Does the slipping sales show signs of being short or long term? I’m not a business person by any means, but a little research and common sense shows that it is a combination of sales cycles and the novelty of a new gadget wearing off.

November and December usually have to carry a big chunk of the sales numbers for the year. Now that the Kindle Fire is in the hands of its users, it will be up to the Kindle Fire apps and accessories to carry the weight of sales revenue.

That leads into the whole “why Amazon sold the Kindle Fire at a loss” debate.  They more than make up for it in the books and other extras available on the tablet.  This model is applied to all members of the Kindle Family.  The focus on the software rather than hardware has been a trend for awhile now.

By selling cheaper devices, Amazon opens up the opportunity for more people to purchase the tablet or e-reader, then it leaves them some cash left over to buy books, apps, covers, lights, you name it. So, I can definitely see the Kindle hardware get cheaper and cheaper while sales numbers for books and accessories go up.  The key is to do cheap without compromising functionality.

But, back to thoughts on the slipping sales.  The Kindle Fire recently got an update that included some much needed bug fixes.  The update overall brought much better reviews for the tablet.  But it is still leaving its consumers wanting more.  Camera, 3G, bigger screen, and longer battery life are examples of features that would be good to have.

All of those things cause the price to go up.  What balance can be struck to still provide a cheap tablet, yet give consumers what they want?  With that said, I’ll be very interested to see what the next update, and subsequent generations of the Kindle Fire look like.