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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
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.
Kindle users can now choose from English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, or Portuguese according to personal preference.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
In order to attempt this Jailbreak (Which neither I nor this site recommend or take any responsibility for as it voids the warranty and may render your Kindle unusable if something goes wrong), head to this site and follow the instructions included in the Zip Archive’s README file. This involves nothing more than connecting your Kindle to a computer, copying a .mp3 file to your music folder, disconnecting from the computer, and running the music player. A button pops up labeled “Press to Jailbreak!” and you’re done.
My trial of this process went smoothly and did pretty much nothing. It is definitely anything but an urgent need or an inherently beneficial act for most people. All you are doing is enabling root access to your device, which means that among other things installing third party software will be possible. Chances are good that even with this it will not be possible to open up general 3G internet access, use of neglected hardware like the internal mic, or removal of advertising, but other than that there shouldn’t be many limits.
If you are interested in the potential that the process opens up, I would recommend both acquiring your Kindle Touch in the near future and making sure not to allow any software updates on the device until it is certain that the changes will be kept around. While Amazon has been incredibly open in their lack of interest in securing the Kindle Fire in any significant way, they have a history of being somewhat more closed with their eReaders. Not the least important reason for this is the heavy investment the company has made in their proprietary format, the evasion of which would likely be the first thing that customers use their new found freedom to achieve.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Obviously the Kindle 4’s price is its biggest advantage. An $80 price tag makes it the cheapest major eReader on the market.
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.
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.
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?
This is our last Friday post in the series of weekly giveaways sponsored by DecalGirl.com. The winner of prize is Foneb with the following comment “Well same as before: since I’m not…” Our congratulation to him (her). So you have the last opportunity to try to get a new case to your Kindle Fire for free. You need only to leave a comment what you think about Kindle Fire on our site to be in the game. In the next Friday we will announce and send a personal message on email with redemption code in case you win. Remember, it is your last chance.
“And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain….”
This is my last post for Blogkindle, and our skin giveaway promotion is coming to an end. I have enjoyed sharing some information about DecalGirl and our products with readers, and I hope you have enjoyed my posts. I’d like to finish up with a re-cap of some of the things I have shared, and tell you a little more about where DecalGirl is going from here.
DecalGirl has been around since 2003, and has grown from a small, two person operation to a business that employs over 30 people. We are located near the small town of Milton in southern Delaware. In this time of economic hardship for many, DecalGirl has bucked the trend of many businesses and is expanding and growing, putting more people to work and contributing to the economy.
If you have been following this series of posts for the past couple of months, you know that DecalGirl stays on the cutting edge when it comes to producing skins for new products. So we were ready to roll with skins for the new Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch, and in many cases customers were able to get their new reader and their new skins delivered at pretty close to the same time. You will find new art and skins for more devices offered almost every week on our site.
We love to hear from you, too! Tell us how we’re doing. There’s contact information on the website, or you can check us out on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/decalgirl) or Twitter (www.twitter.com/decalgirl).
So where to from here?
As I mentioned last week, our big push for this year and next is licensing. We have licensing deals with the U.S. Army, Mossy Oak, and Moto GP in place, with more companies to come in the near future. So in addition to our large variety of custom artwork, your devices will soon be able to sport skins with logos and images from a number of popular products. We’re also expanding our galleries with the work of more artists. We have added over eight new artists in just the last few months.
On a personal note, here is why I love the fact that I work at DecalGirl. It is a time of globalization, and I know that the internet is accessible to people all over the world. It’s great that businesses can market to and connect with a worldwide audience. But I believe that no matter where your business is located, and no matter who you do business with, you have a responsibility to support your local community. This is what DecalGirl does. Our products are 100% made on site in the United States, from American made materials. As I have said, DecalGirl employs over 30 people. We do not outsource. When you call customer service, you speak to someone who is here on site to help you. If you have a concern or problem when you call, if it cannot be resolved immediately, it will be resolved in a very short amount of time because we don’t have to wait to hear from a customer service representative who is in another location. In addition, DecalGirl contributes to the well being of our state and our country by the taxes paid by our business and the income taxes paid by employees. At a time when many businesses seem to be looking for the cheapest labor, and the cheapest materials, DecalGirl has made a commitment to producing a first class product from top quality materials manufactured by top quality American labor.
Thank you to everyone who has read these posts, visited our site, or participated in the skin giveaway contest. We hope you are enjoying your DecalGirl skins. From all of us at DecalGirl to all Blogkindle readers, wherever you are, best wishes for a peaceful holiday season, and a prosperous 2012!
This is our traditional (8-th) Friday post in the series of weekly giveaways sponsored by DecalGirl.com. The winner of prize is Marty with the following comment “So far I am pleased with my kindle fire. My first kindle…” Our congratulation to him (her). You need only to leave a comment what you think about Kindle Fire on our site to be in the game. In the next Friday we will announce and send a personal message on email with redemption code in case you win. It is good chance to get a new case to your new Kindle Fire. Do not lose it.
Getting ready to hit the stores for Black Friday? Have you made your list and checked it at least a dozen times? Do you have extra coffee and energy drinks in the pantry so you can stay wide awake during the midnight sales? Or would you rather avoid the whole thing altogether?
Well, it’s important to patronize your local stores, especially the small businesses, but there are some things it is better to shop for online, and for some you simply have no choice. Sure, you can stand in line for hours at Target or Best Buy, or Walmart to get the new Kindles for yourself and all your friends and family, but do you really want to do that? Really??
If you are reading this, there’s a good chance that you will be joining millions who will be spending, in all likelihood, over $1 billion online on Cyber Monday. So get a good night’s sleep on Thursday night…perfect after eating all of that turkey…and laugh at everybody who is waiting to be trampled by the rush at the midnight sale. Rest your fingers, get a manicure, and then hit the keyboard for some serious online shopping.
Once you have stocked up on new devices of all kinds (but especially those new Kindles!) you may want to look for some stocking stuffers. DecalGirl would be happy to help you with that! Just click on over and shop to your heart’s content! The best thing about internet shopping is that you can do it on your schedule; websites are always open. And of course we have prepared for the season with a bunch of great new designs that will put you in the holiday spirit. Here are just a few of them. Click on any of the images to take a closer look.
Heidi Dobrott’s rendering of the “jolly old elf” himself is very modern and traditional at the same time. Heidi hails from Southern California where she lives with her husband and dog. She is a graduate of UCLA with a degree in design and graphic arts. She has produced designs that can be seen on everything from paper goods to dinnerware to textiles (and of course, skins!). “Santa” is only one of several new designs by Heidi offered at DecalGirl for the holiday season.
Kate McRostie, whom we introduced you to a couple of weeks back, likes to work with traditional subjects in a traditional manner. So if you are a traditional sort of person, you might enjoy Kate’s work such as “Christmas Wonderland” shown here.
We haven’t introduced you to Iveta Abolina yet. Iveta started drawing as a child by tracing over pictures from books and magazines. This background has given her a great attention to detail that you can see in all of her work. Her work has been described as “imaginative, colorful arrangements of abstract floral shapes with intricate detail and vivid colors.” You can see her attention to detail in her work “Crème de la Crème.”
Our last holiday image is from Digital Blasphemy, aka Ryan Bliss. Ryan discovered his talent for art when he received his first computer in 1995. He likes to create desktop wallpapers, and he designs his work to both draw the eye from across the room and stand up to close inspection. The work shown here is called “Magi.”