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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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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.

Special Offers Now Available For All Kindle eReaders

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?

Kindle Keyboard 3G On The Way Out

In the past several months, especially since the announcement of the Kindle Touch, I’ve mentioned regularly that I expected the Kindle Keyboard to be a thing of the past by early 2012.  While nothing concrete has happened just yet, there are beginning to be small indications that this is beginning to happen.

The most obvious early sign was the fact that the Kindle Touch’s 3G option did not include the same freedoms that we have come to expect in previous models.  Where up until now you could browse freely, albeit in a limited fashion due to the nature of the Kindle’s screen and experimental browser, now users are stuck with only Wikipedia and Amazon’s own store.  Given the size of the ongoing 3G bill that Amazon has to have been racking up over the past several years, this change should be no surprise.  Lifetime 3G for free is going to be hard to keep going without limitations.  What is surprising and makes this stand out is the fact that the Kindle Keyboard did not start having the same restrictions.  If this was really the direction that Amazon has chosen to go, the only easy explanation is that they were waiting to run out existing stock.

More recently, the Kindle Keyboard WiFi w/ Special Offers has silently disappeared from the Kindle Store.  You can still get the more expensive ad-free model, but somehow I doubt that is because Amazon has suddenly decided to drop their advertising subsidized eReader plans.  Not only is it gone, but the newer versions of the sales banner for the Kindle Family are now focused entirely on the newest devices and don’t display the Kindle Keyboard at all.

It would not be surprising to find that even more signs have been given that were just too subtle to be noticed at the time.  I seem to recall there being white versions of both WiFi and 3G Kindle 3 models, for example, but now that is only available for the 3G model.  Hard to say for certain at this point since the graphite frame was so appealing at launch that I didn’t bother picking up a white edition.

Will this be the end of eReaders with physical inputs?  Quite possibly!  The major competition has already moved to entirely touchscreen, though the Nook Simple Touch eReader still has some actual page turning buttons.  The virtual keyboard allows for a lighter, more compact device that is even less intrusive than previous Kindles.  I’m still dealing with mixed feelings regarding this move, having gotten used to my keyboard and not quite having had the same amount of exposure to the new design, but it does seem the way of the future.

If you are still interested in the Kindle Keyboard (formerly Kindle 3), now is really the time to buy.  Lefties will find it especially valuable since the Kindle Touch requires swiping if you want to flip a page forward with your left hand. It offers pretty much everything that the Kindle Touch does aside from X-Ray and the ease of use in highlighting and annotation, but you get the reassuring presence of buttons.  The option won’t be around much longer, I’m sure, but for now you can get either the normal Kindle Keyboard or the Kindle Keyboard 3G w/ Special Offers for just $139.

Amazon Kindle Special Offers Still Picking Up Steam

One of the ways that Amazon has managed to bring down the price of their Kindle eReader to a point that nobody else has been able to match is through their Special Offers.  This feature saves customers $30 – 40 on their new Kindle by displaying advertisements in place of the otherwise uncustomizable screen saver images that the device carries by default as well as on the bottom of menu screens.  In doing so, Amazon makes enough off the ads, in theory, to offset the discount and maybe even get word out about useful offers they could be interested in.

One of the most notable initial offers was that of a $20 Amazon.com gift card for only $10.  This was only available to active Kindle w/ Special Offers owners and got a fair amount of press at the time as a smart move on Amazon’s part.  Other ads have included Buick, Olay, Visa, ABC, and more.  There was, and for some still is, some question as to how effective this advertising method would prove to be in the end, but responses are coming in from Advertisers that put that to rest for the time being.

For example, while Buick was mainly concerned with building a connection in customers minds between their brand and what they viewed as an innovative new product (the Kindle), they have been reported as noting that their customer engagement matched what they’ve come to expect from other, more established media.  ABC’s promotion also went well, with over 24,000 people taking advantage of their free script offer in support of new show “Revenge”.

In the past month, however, people in supported areas might note having seen a focus on the new Amazon Local service.  This is meant, by all appearances, as Amazon’s own competition for the popular Groupon site.  Nationwide offers in such areas have been somewhat scarce as a result.  This has led some to jump to the conclusion that Amazon has been having trouble finding people interested in advertising via Kindle.  One Amazon advertising VP, however, was able to come right out and say that there has yet to be a drop in the number of interested advertisers.

In spite of the fact that this appears to be a fairly narrow media venue to exploit, the Kindle has brought reading back to the front of peoples’ minds in a way that many wouldn’t have believed possible five years ago.  Millions have been sold and, while Amazon does not and is unlikely to ever, release sales numbers for the Kindle, it is safe to say that several of those millions had the Special Offers included.  These devices are cheap, allow for an unhindered reading experience wherein ads will never appear to disturb you, and can even come in handy when bringing deals to your attention.  Personally, I was just glad to stop seeing the same dead author portraits over and over again.  It seems clear that while there is expansion to be done and experience to be gained, this was a smart move on Amazon’s part.

AmazonLocal, Meet Amazon Kindle

Anybody remember not too many months back when I speculated that the coming of the Kindle w/ Special Offers meant a strong possibility of an Amazon move against the Groupon dominated local offer business?  Yeah, I’m definitely taking full credit for the idea and feel that I am sure to be getting royalty checks any day now.  Well, maybe not…

Anyway, as was previously speculated would be the case, the popular ad-supported Kindle will now be playing host to a series of locale specific deals through the AmazonLocal program.  The AmazonLocal program, for those who have yet to get any information about it, is a local deals web service that offers customers as much as 75% off of various goods and services in their areas.  They launched it earlier this year, and have been spreading the service’s influence throughout the US.  So far, 44 locations across 15 states are covered and more are popping up all the time.  While it is separate from the Amazon owned LivingSocial deal site, many deals sourced through LivingSocial can be found in both places.

The initial Kindle deals will be limited to New York City customers.  Kindle owners in Downtown, Midtown, Uptown, and Brooklyn will get to take advantage of a few offers over the next couple weeks that should make the idea of ads on the Kindle even more attractive.  According to the recent press release, the first few big offers for New Yorkers will include:

  • $7 for a one-hour bike rental in Central Park ($15 value)
  • $5 for $10 at Dangerfield’s Comedy club
  • $59 for one month unlimited yoga classes at Bikram Yoga Grand Central ($180 value)
  • $5 for $10 worth of ice cream and ice cream cakes at Coldstone Creamery
  • $45 for lunch at City Winery ($98 value)

The major attraction of the Kindle integration with AmazonLocal will be the completely computer-free access to the service.  Not only will potential customers be able to encounter new deals as a matter of course without going out of their way, just by closing their books and glancing at the screensaver, but even the purchases will be taken care of.  Customers wanting to make the purchase offered through this program will be able to grab it through the eReader and present the redemption voucher as an item displayed on the screen to the business in question.

This functionality, while not yet a part of the Kindle experience, will be included in an upcoming software update.  Once again, it seems that devices that do not have the integrated Special Offers will be left out of the promotion, increasing the overall appeal of an ad supported eReader.  Given the unobtrusive nature of the advertisements while reading, and the value of the advertisements that have been and will soon be offered, it will be no surprise if the Kindle w/ Special Offers is appealing for far more than simply the associated price cut.  Should you be somebody who is both interested in the offers and uninterested in ads on your Kindle, make sure to check out www.AmazonLocal.com!

Notable Kindle Special Offers

There are a few Kindle Special Offers out there that I thought were a really good deal, especially for Kindle book and accessory purchases.  Writing this makes me really wish I was a Kindle Special Offers owner!  Definitely on my list for the holiday season because I’m up for an upgrade.

Buy $20 worth of Kindle Skins and Save $15

This offer ends July 29, so not much time left.  Kindle Special Offers owners can purchase $20 worth of Kindle skins created by Amazon and save $15.  All of the skins are around $19.99, so basically you buy one, get another for $5.  There are some skins with some cool looking designs on them.  Dress your Kindle up a bit!

Use Visa and Get $10 Amazon Credit

Use a visa card on select Kindle books, and you get $10 in Amazon credit.  This offer ends on August 21.  There are a good number of bestsellers and big name authors such as Sara Gruen, Mary Higgins Clark, Michael Connelly, and Suzanne Collins in the selection.

Save $10 when you spend $20 on Kindle Accessories

If you purchase $20 worth of Amazon’s Kindle accessories, you can get $10 back.  This offer expires August 19.  Looking for a cover or light for your Kindle?  Here’s your chance to save.  Amazon has a cool looking Kindle cover that also includes a light.  It comes in many different colors, and doesn’t suck up the Kindle battery too much.

All of these promotions are restricted to one code per Kindle Special Offers account.  I also noticed that not all KSO owners get the same codes.

In addition to the Kindle related deals, you’ll find offers on camping, beauty products, video games and smartphones.  So, there’s a good variety to choose from.


 

 

 

 

Kindle 3G w/ Special Offers Now Only $139

Looks like the Kindle 3G has just become that much more affordable. Apparently, thanks to an agreement with AT&T involving Kindle advertisements, Amazon has been able to drop the price of their 3G model noticeably. Now, for $139, just $25 more than the Kindle WiFi w/ Special Offers, you can’t really argue with the cost of convenience.

The move is well timed, given the current level of competition in the eReader world.  While the Kindle is still pretty much on top, especially internationally, the new Nook Simple Touch and Kobo eReaders are heating things up.  Since there are a few months to wait before the next iteration of the Kindle hits shelves, so to speak, it is important to emphasize the things that they have and nobody else does.  Things like the only really useful 3G connection on an eReader.  There isn’t one at all on the new Nook or Kobo releases, and the Nook 1st Edition is very limited in many ways including the 3G, by comparison.

This also does a lot to demonstrate the potential in the Kindle’s advertising support system.  A surprising number of people got upset at the Kindle w/ Special Offers being discounted rather than entirely free on release.  While I believe that to have been a bit optimistic for something being subsidized by an untried source of revenue, as advertisers catch on the prices will continue to drop.  In addition to the new deal with AT&T, the details of which have not been publicly released to the best of my knowledge, the Kindle is currently being sponsored by such companies as General Motors, Proctor & Gamble, and Chase.  If they were not seeing positive results, it would seem unlikely that even another big advertising partner would be enough to bring a price drop along with it.

For those who are in the market for a new eReader, the Kindle 3G w/ Special Offers retains all of its original functionality.  The screen, battery life, interface, and general readability are all as great as ever.  Even the ads, as much as they are conceptual abhorent to many when talking about their inclusion in a reading experience, are unobtrusive and never even hinted at while you are looking at a book.  The only major differences over the Kindle 3G are that this one is $50 cheaper and gives you something besides the slideshow of author portraits to see as screensavers.

For now this discount only applies to the 3G option, leaving the Kindle WiFi w/ Special Offers witting at $114.  Still a great price, but I would not be at all surprised to see a major sale in the near future.  While it is conceivable that the extra discount has at its core a service agreement that makes the 3G coverage on new Kindles cheaper for Amazon to maintain, which would in turn not apply to the WiFi models, a $25 difference doesn’t exactly set the two Kindles apart much and a $99 Kindle would make for some truly excellent sales numbers if analysts are to be believed.  Something to keep an eye on in weeks to come.

Can the Kindle Out-Deal Groupon?

I’ve been giving some thought to the implications of the still fairly new Kindle w/Special Offers as far as directed marketing goes, especially in light of the increasingly common speculation about Kindle Tablet PCs. The fact that this made such a splash, both in terms of controversy and in its success, only serves to emphasize the importance of the concept they are dealing with. It seems like Amazon is in a good position to capture the attention of huge numbers of deal seekers, and that there is some reason to believe that this is exactly their intent in the near future.

We know that people get excited about a good deal, even when it is on something they don’t necessarily need.  The site Groupon has become amazingly popular recently for providing exactly this sort of deal.  You sign up, log in, grab the deal of the day in your area, and likely end up making a purchase that would otherwise either have never occurred to you or been dismissed as wasteful.  They basically rely on the fact that they can localize the deals to the point where hundreds of communities have something interesting going on in their area at any given time.  It isn’t exactly a new concept, but it can be powerful when properly executed.

Amazon is in a position to take a swing at something like this from multiple angles at once.  The most obvious approach is through the newest Kindle.  You have to have an Amazon account to use it in the first place.  Amazon has, as a result, potentially detailed information about the purchasing habits of just about any of these customers and can use something along the lines of their recommendation system to personalize deals to individual tastes.  This is on top of the more widely ranging deal options.  Already we’ve seen things like the $20 Gift Card for $10, which you can’t really go wrong with but which also guarantees Amazon a sale that might not otherwise have taken place.  They also made the acquisition of popular deal of the day site Woot.com last June that offers a framework for even more impulsive buying opportunities.  All of this is in addition to the Gold Box Deals, sales, and otherwise plentiful discount opportunities to be found on any given day on the Amazon.com website itself.  There’s a lot going on here.

If at all possible, I expect to see this concept extended to the upcoming Kindle Tablet as part of the most basic experience of using the site, whether it focuses on media, app sales, or simply referrals.  The success of such an effort would be exactly the thing to allow Amazon to undercut the competition on purchase prices without putting themselves at a disadvantage.  While I don’t expect it will be nearly this amazing, I doubt anybody would mind getting the occasional special offer screensaver on their Kindle Tablet if it means that they get iPad-like functionality for less than the cost of a Nook Color.

Kindle 3G with Special Offers at Last

kindleYay! Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) listened to its customers, and has now added the Kindle 3G with Special offers to the Kindle family.  I’ve seen a lot of comments about this on the Kindle reviews on Amazon’s site, and the Amazon Kindle Facebook page.

Amazon is offering the 3G Kindle with special offers for $25 less at $164.  It includes all of the perks of the Kindle 3G with the addition of sponsored screensavers and ads.  When I was looking at the overview of the new Kindle, I noticed how much the battery life has improved.  Three weeks with wireless on, and 2 months with it off.  That is awesome.

A couple of great special offers include: $10 for $20 Gift Card, and $100 with new Amazon Visa Card sign up.  I wish I had that offer when I signed up for my Amazon Visa Card!  These offers end June 4th and May 30th respectively.

After Amazon’s announcement, there were complaints about how people have just bought the Kindle 3G.  If you have bought a Kindle within the last 30 days, you may still send it back and get the newer special offers version.

Now, is the Kindle DX next in line?  On another note, it will be interesting to see how the tablets Amazon is supposedly working on will affect the Kindle DX.

Kindle with Special Offers Shipping Today

kindleThe new $114 Kindle with sponsored ads ships today, a week before it’s projected release date.  In addition to the usual Kindle perks, you’ll find that there are a bunch of new and improved features available.

First off, the readers have a bit of say so in what sponsored ads they want to see.  Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) will be introducing a program called AdMash, that allows the readers to pick what ads they prefer to have as their screensaver.

Also, according to Amazon, special offers include a variety of coupons such as:

  • $10 for $20 Amazon.com Gift Card
  • $6 for 6 Audible Books (normally $68)
  • $1 for an album in the Amazon MP3 Store (choose from over 1 million albums)
  • $10 for $30 of products in the Amazon Denim Shop or Amazon Swim Shop

You can find more detailed information about what the new Kindle offers on its product page.

In addition to the special offers and sponsored screensavers, the new Kindle has much needed improvements such as softer page turn buttons, audiobooks from Audible.com, and a new Kindle Library Lending program is coming soon.  Best of all, there will be REAL page numbers.  No more frustrating searches to get to different parts of a book.

This deal has me thinking it is about time to upgrade…