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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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January 2018
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Kobo To Take On Kindle Fire With New “Vox” Tablet

The Nook Color might have been the first tablet to come from a major eReader maker, but the Kindle Fire has clearly set the tone for devices in its size / power range.  Amazon’s new media tablet hasn’t even shipped yet and people are scrambling to match prices or rush out competing product.  For the most part, there isn’t really any obvious reason for Amazon to be concerned, but the new Kobo Vox is an imitator with impressive potential.

Kobo’s new Kindle Fire competitor, marketed as a color eReader much like the Nook Color, will be a 7″ Android 2.3 device with comparable specs, expandable memory, and a small selection of colored quilted backs to choose from.  The single core processor might end up being a slight negative, but this was never intended to be a powerhouse anyway.  Oddly enough, both the major strengths and the major shortcomings come in on the software end.

When Barnes & Noble started out with the Nook Color, they tried to keep it almost entirely about the reading.  It was only relatively recently that their app selection started to improve.  Amazon avoided that mistake by building up a huge App Store for the Kindle Fire before it even existed.  Kobo seems to feel like it isn’t worth the trouble.  Rather than a heavily customized, or even locked version of Android, they have decided that Vox users can just grab what they want through the default Android Marketplace.  The OS seems to be pretty much just basic Android 2.3 with some Kobo Apps.

On the one hand, this is genius.  It gives them the ability to offer customers access to the largest selection of Android apps in existence without having to jump through hoops.  At the same time, however, it means that Kobo themselves will not be making any money off of anything but the books.  Whether or not this proves to be a smart business move remains to be seen, but it will definitely appeal to a certain segment of the customer base.

What really makes the Vox a major player among eReading companies jumping into tablet production is Kobo’s international presence.  More than pretty much anybody else so far, Amazon included, Kobo has managed to make sure a wide selection of books is there in any market they can get their hooks into.  The Kobo eReader is widely available and has been for some time.  It would not surprise me even a little bit to discover that when Amazon manages to get the Kindle Fire out to markets outside the US, especially those new sites like Amazon.es, the Kobo Vox is already a common sight.

It isn’t the best option in terms of hardware or software in the US right now, even for the $200 price, but for users who want just a cheap, effective 7″ Android device it might fit the bill.  In areas where the tablet market has yet to really take off, though, I expect to see the Vox make a huge impression.  Let’s just hope Apple can hold off on the anti-competition lawsuits?

Could Amazon Create a Kindle Phone?

The Kindle Fire is not even released yet, and there are already speculations going around that involve the possibility of an Amazon smartphone. More information on Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) smartphone predictions can be found here.

Now that Amazon has an appstore and an Android OS, they are much closer to putting all of this together into a phone than ever before. Amazon also has a contract with AT&T for their 3G service on the Kindle.  Amazon’s appstore also includes daily free apps.  This gives them an edge over Apple.

I just hope they don’t get so bogged down by creating all of the different devices that they neglect the device that they’re most well known for. That is the Kindle e-reader. Books and reading are the core of Amazon’s services.

I think the main thing that Amazon has over everyone else with their products is how inexpensive they are. They can design a cheaper smartphone, and that would allow consumers who wouldn’t otherwise be able to get a smartphone, be able to have one. I come to this conclusion from looking at the current tier of prices for the new line of Kindles, and the $200 Kindle Fire.  It is $300 less than the cheapest iPad.

Speaking of Amazon being inexpensive. I was in a used bookstore the other day, and compared the price of a book there versus the same book available on Amazon. The new version was cheaper on Amazon.  If used bookstores have such high prices, they’re never going to be able to compete.

So, in summary, I’m all for an Amazon smartphone that would open up the smartphone market to consumers looking for a more affordable phone. They have the means to do it, but I only if it will not compromise the quality of the original Kindle e-reader devices.  I would hate to see Amazon to lose sight of what they stand for, yet they have so much potential on a lot of device fronts.

Kindle Fire Review (Pre-release)

I’ve been speculating here about Amazon’s entry into the Tablet PC marketplace for months now.  Finally, we have the Kindle Fire to actually look at.  Sure it might not be here in person to play with yet, but what we know now is enough to come to some real conclusions for a change.  Obviously this new Kindle is going to have a big market, and has already been changing the way tablets are priced, but what will it really bring users that is worth the hype?

The first thing to do is figure out what you want from a Tablet PC.  To me, they are designed perfectly for passive computing.  That is, anything you choose to do that requires minimal user input, be that movie watching, reading, listening to music, or browsing the web.  I would not, for example, prefer to be writing this review on any tablet if I could help it.  It is nice to have the option to do things like play games or edit documents when necessary, but there are (and in my mind will likely always be) better-suited choices for those activities.  This assumption will color my perceptions here, and should you have other preferences my points might not make sense.

That said, I think that what Amazon is bringing to customers with the Kindle Fire is the cohesive media consumption experience.  Most passive computing tasks obviously revolve around media.  The Fire’s default UI  highlights magazines, books, music, and videos without preventing more interactive usage.  It is an all-in-one platform for shopping and usage tightly integrated with the Amazon store.  That said, everybody will be using their tablet differently so it might be helpful to break down the potential uses and how they stack up for the price.

Video

This is clearly where Amazon has been going with the Kindle Fire.  Not only has the Amazon Instant Video service been significantly beefed up recently with selections from big names like CBS and Fox, but the Prime Instant Video streaming options are being highlighted through the bundled Amazon Prime membership preview every tablet will come with.  While I am a big fan of the benefits of the Prime membership anyway, right now it doesn’t do much in terms of digital content distribution besides facilitate movie watching.

The Kindle Fire has a 7″ display with the same sort of wide viewing angle technology that the iPad makes use of.  It’s supposed to be fairly anti-reflective, though that’s something better inspected in person, and looks to provide a great picture.  Its local storage is sufficient for a few hours of video when you’re away from reliable internet connections, and the streaming through the service has proven reliable on other devices already.  While it is a small screen and it would be nice if they had included some form of HDMI output, the video experience should be excellent.

Audio

There’s not too much to say about the anticipated audio capabilities of the device.  It will have internal speakers and a headphone jack.  Music will be playable both from local storage and through the Amazon Cloud Player.  I think it is a safe assumption that the App Store will fill in gaps with things like Pandora and Last.fm, so selection and affordability probably won’t be too much of an issue, and Amazon regularly runs promotions for free songs along with larger purchases if you happen to do much shopping through the main site.

Reading

There are two sides to the question of reading that have to be talked about.  First is the standard reading experience such as we are used to with existing Kindles.  This will almost certainly be less enjoyable on the Kindle Fire due to its back-lit display, but since it uses the Kindle Cloud Reader the experience will be familiar and enjoyable aside from that.

In addition, we finally have real color reading capabilities.  This means the Kindle Fire is the Kindle of choice for all sorts of things from Kid Books to Magazines that wouldn’t work quite right on the monochrome Kindle.  Expect to see a big push with regard to these types of publications in the weeks leading up to the launch of the device.  Amazon has already got a number of deals going, including exclusive deals on a decent selection of magazines and comics.

Web Browsing

The big surprise at the press conference announcing the Kindle Fire was the Silk web browser.  It is essentially a modified Android browser that will offload most of the work to Amazon’s servers.  This has the potential to speed up browsing significantly and may even reduce load on the device itself, increasing battery life.  The biggest advance that it brings to browsing is a predictive analysis of browsing habits that Amazon claims will speed things up even more by preemptively caching the data you are most likely to need next.  We’ll see how it pans out, but it’s a great idea in theory.

Applications

Beyond making the observation that the Amazon Android App Store already has a great selection of apps to choose from, there’s not much point in talking about the app experience.  It’s just too large a topic to generalize on.  From what we have seen, though, the Kindle Fire will be bundled in with an email app and document reader app, both of which seem to be capable of doing the job as well as might be hoped for while maintaining the overall theme of the OS.  Hard to argue with that.

Overall, this is a $200 tablet that seems to offer more functionality than anything else available for less than $500.  It isn’t perfect.  There is no 3G option, the hard drive is small enough that people without reliable internet connections to take advantage of the cloud storage might want to think twice, and the fact that it is a first generation device might mean there are some bugs to iron out in the first months after release.  Even so, I’m of the opinion that the Kindle Fire offers great value for what it does and will make users very happy so long as they know what it can do and what they want out of it going into things.

Thoughts on the Latest Kindle Releases

I want to add my two cents here on the newest upgrade on the Kindle product line.  I am excited about the much anticipated Kindle Fire, the Kindle Touch, and the fact that the prices have taken a huge nose dive over the past two years.  Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has done a great job of addressing competition and listening to what its customers want.

It is hard to believe that in December of 2009, I got my Kindle 2 for $259.  Now the cheapest Kindle is a very affordable $79.  It is overwhelming to observe how quickly the competition has ramped up and caused such a dramatic drop in prices.

The Kindle is very much a reading device to me.  I curl up on the couch with it and treat it as I would any old book. I don’t want it to serve as a computer.  I have my own PC and iPad for that.  So, I have been eagerly awaiting to release of the touchscreen version of the Kindle in November.  I look forward to quietly turning pages with my fingers instead of the click of the page turner buttons.  The e-ink display has improved dramatically over the past two years to become much crisper, clearer, and easier on the eyes.  All of these factors create a pleasant reading experience.

I think deciding on whether you want a Kindle Fire, Kindle Touch, or mini Kindle is determining what YOU want from it.  Some go for the visual, interactive, multifunctional feel of the Kindle Fire.  Others, just want a device that serves one purpose: reading.  Then there’s wi-fi and battery life to consider…

I think the Kindle Fire is awesome and has a lot to offer, especially considering how much cheaper it is than the iPad.  I think the Kindle gaming platform is going to really take off here.  Not to mention audio, video, and internet access.  There are a couple of things that it would need to have in order for me to consider it in the place of my iPad: external keyboard compatibility and long battery life.  I use my iPad as a laptop to write with an external keyboard, and that has worked very well for me so far.  Who knows what I’ll be saying in a  couple of years.

So, all in all, it doesn’t really come down to “iPad Killer”, “tablet wars” or even “price wars”.  It just boils down to what the users want from the device.

I am so glad we, as consumers, now have such a huge variety of e-reader and tablet choices at the prices to beat!

Kindle Cloud Reader Frees The eBook From The App

Kindle Cloud Reader

Kindle Cloud Reader

Following the recent move by Apple to cripple any iBooks competition via billing requirements, it really isn’t much of a surprise to see Amazon pushing the Kindle Cloud Reader to what seems like it might be an early release.  What is surprising is how functional it is at launch and how familiar it will feel to many people.  Now users can read their Kindle eBooks on any device they happen to have a browser on, at least theoretically, with no need to even think about downloaded Apps.

Right now users can only access the Kindle Cloud Reader through either Apple’s Safari browser or Google Chrome, which is what leads me to believe that this is an early release.  The fact that users will be able to pull this up on iPads but not on Android based Tablets would not make much sense otherwise.  If you attempt to access the service through an alternative browser, you will see nothing but a splash screen for it with a bit of the basic information and links to currently supported choices.  Since Android users still have access to a fully functional Kindle for Android app, however, it makes sense to prioritize elsewhere.  The ads for the service have definitely been making a big deal about the integrated shopping experience for iPad users, which is what distinguishes it from the iOS app.  Without something to make it at least equal to the existing Android Kindle app, not many people should feel the lack.  Support for Firefox, Internet Explorer, the Blackberry Playbook browser, and more have been promised in the months to come.  Given how excellent this early version is already, it’s something to look forward to.

To get started, head to https://read.amazon.com in either of the supported browsers (if you do not have either Chrome or Safari, they are both freely available and linked at the end of this posting). When asked to log into the service, simply enter your usual Amazon.com store account.  Should you like to have your Kindle content available locally even when you are not connected to the internet, which I strongly recommend since it seems to speed things up a bit so far on my end, you will be given the option.  All of your Kindle Edition purchases will be immediately available in a familiar layout, either way.

The Library view is easy to use and will be quite familiar to anybody who has used the Kindle apps before.  You have a couple sorting and arrangement options in the upper-left corner and a size slider when you’re in grid view.  Assuming you decided to enable offline reading via downloaded texts, you should see a Cloud/Downloaded toggle at the top of the screen.  By default, you will not have all of your eBooks downloaded.

Any book that you want to save a local copy of will have to be acquired manually.  Simply find it in the Cloud view, right-click on the cover art, and select “Download and Pin Book”.  Each one takes perhaps ten to thirty seconds on an average internet connection.  According to the Amazon help page for this app, you can store 50MB locally on your iPad.  There are no posted restrictions for people using PC browsers.

When it comes to the actual reading experience, you have pretty much everything you can expect from an eReading application.  On the PC browsing is achieved using the mouse, arrow keys, PgUp/Down buttons, or space bar.  Nothing standard is left out, even if you can’t necessarily map your own keys yet.  There are five font sizes to choose from, adjustable margins that do a good job of accommodating most screen sizes and orientations, and three color schemes.  While there isn’t any finely tuned personalization included, the setup makes the best of the fact that you’ll be reading on an LCD while keeping everything as simple as possible.

The only really major shortcoming right now, aside from the already mentioned lack of universal browser compatibility, is the limited integration of extra features.  For example, there does not seem to be any real way to perform a text search, which rules it out as an app substitute right now for a number of uses.  Also, while you can sync all of your annotations and highlighting, you can’t make any new changes to any of it at this time.  All that really seems included right now is bookmarking and syncing of last pages read.  Given that the whole Whispernet setup makes up a core feature set of the Kindle experience it seems pretty likely that fixing these shortcomings will be happening in the very near future, but this is something to be aware of.

Overall, this is a great offering.  The idea is clearly to stick it to Apple for bringing things to the point of conflict with their App Store purchasing rules, and I would say that even if things never went beyond their present state it would still be enough to be attractive for the majority of iOS Kindle users.  There is literally nothing that Apple can reasonably do to block out Amazon’s control of the platform when it goes through something like this, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot that the browser based nature of the Kindle Cloud Reader would force the company to leave out.

As the application develops, it would not be surprising at all to learn that Amazon intended to replace their entire app presence with Cloud solutions.  The Amazon Cloud Drive and Cloud Player, both of which obviously precede the Kindle Cloud Reader, do a pretty good job of demonstrating the potential.  Perhaps after the success of those it was only a matter of time.  Stay tuned for any updates to the browser app as the feature set and browser compatibility are improved.  We’ll do our best here to keep you abreast of any changes and improvements.

Get Google Chrome Browser

Get Apple’s Safari Browser

In case you have missed it, here’s a post by Andrei with some speculations about where Kindle Cloud Reader came from and where it might be headed.

 

 

 

Sony Planning August Reader Release To Compete With Amazon Kindle

Long before the Kindle had a firm grasp on the eBook market, and even before the term eReader had much meaning in the minds of the public, Sony had started up their line of Sony Readers.  They were the first company that not only did the job, but did it well.  In time, unfortunately, they seemed to fall behind.  Too many other consumer choices and an ongoing failure to present competitive prices have led to the whole product line struggling to expand its business.

Recent information reveals, however, that Sony is definitely not at the point of giving up just yet.  A Bloomberg report provided indications that Sony will be upgrading its current line with both hardware and software improvements, probably before the end of August.  There are no indications at this time to indicate that price drops will be accompanying the upgrades, but it can be assumed that if there are any, they will be small.  The upcoming release of the new Sony S1 and S2 Tablet PCs will be intended to target “a more status-minded customer”, according to a recent CNN report, and it is likely that they will similarly weigh the prestige of owning a Sony Reader as a more important factor than matching the price of the increasingly inexpensive Amazon Kindle.

Both eReader and Tablet ownership continue to rise and are expected to continue doing so through the immediate future, but it remains to be seem whether or not Sony can grab a piece of this momentum.  There will likely be two major factors contributing to their success or failure.

The biggest thing that they have working against them, aside from unit price, is their eBook store.  Unlike the Kindle and Nook, each of which is coupled with a truly impressive selection of titles available for purchase, the Sony Reader Store has not developed an impressive following.  The selection has gotten better over the years and, thanks to the Agency Model of eBook pricing, nobody has a significant advantage over them when it comes to prices.  Nothing has made their store particularly unique, however, and without some sort of reason for it to stand out, the Reader Store is just another random eBook store among many in the eyes of the potential customer.

On the other hand, the hardware will likely be a major advantage.  Say what you will about the Reader line, Sony has proven willing to experiment and innovate.  They not only essentially started the eReader business as we know it, they made many of the mistakes and some of the successes that have made eReaders into what we know and love today.  The first touchscreen eReader was a Sony, I believe, even if they didn’t pull it off quite right.  Their early PRS-505 model was impressive enough that a reasonably cheap copy of it with a more modern display would immediately be a step up from many of the recent options we’ve seen, even years after it became officially obsolete.

It will be interesting to see if there are any really significant updates in the latest batch.  The Kindle Competition has been great lately and it’s nice to see some truly superior options make their way to the top.  I’ve always loved my Sony Readers.  A comeback at this point is more than welcome.

So Many Gadgets! What Do We Choose?

As I read the article about the new Kindle upgrades coming up in October, I started to feel really overwhelmed.  There is so much to choose from these days.  So, I thought I’d break it down a bit.  It is all a matter of what type of operating system you prefer (Android or Apple iOS) and what uses you have for your devices.

E-Readers

The Amazon Kindle has been out since 2007 and has evolved a great deal over the last four years to compete with the growing e-reader market: Nook, Kobo, Sony, and most recently, Google’s iriver Story.  It has been interesting to watch how obvious the competition is which all of the companies dropping prices and mocking each others’ style.  Note the latest touchscreen craze.

Then we have the NookColor, a mixed tablet and e-reader that has succeeded in knocking the Kindle off of it its pedestal.

In terms of e-readers, to me, the Kindle wins hands down.  I’ve really enjoyed my Kindle and am looking forward to a new touchscreen version.  Amazon has excellent customer service, and shows no sign of crashing and burning anytime soon, unlike Barnes & Noble and Borders.  If prices keep dropping the way they have, they’ll be pretty cheap here soon.  Now, if only we can stop the rising e-book prices.  But, library lending and all of the free and reduced priced e-books available out there might just take care of that.

Tablets

The iPad wins here.  I am not an Apple fiend by any means, but like the Kindle, the iPad has been around for over a year and offers a lot of different apps for various purposes.  I use mine as a laptop basically.  I also love that I can enlarge the text so easily.  Give me a year and I might be saying something different, but for now, I go for the iPad.  Other tablets to watch: Acer Iconia, Samsung Galaxy Tab, and of course the Kindle Tablet.

Why have a tablet AND an e-reader?  I don’t think of my Kindle as a computer. iBooks does not have nearly the book collection that Amazon does, and reading on the iPad Kindle app does not feel the same.  I can still curl up with the Kindle in bed or on the couch, and it isn’t hard on the eyes.  I love how both Kindle and iPad can fit easily into a tote bag.  Plus, e-readers are getting to be cheap enough that it wouldn’t be a huge setback to have both.

And then there are smartphones…but that market is a whole niche of its own.

 

 

Kindle Tablet to Hit the Market in October

I haven’t seen an official Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) announcement yet, but according to the Wall Street Journal, the Kindle Tablet and two other Kindle upgrades are set to arrive in October.  The Kindle Tablet that has been under speculation for months will directly compete with the iPad, while a new touch version of the Kindle will compete with the Nook and Kobo Touch editions.

To be honest, in a matter of personal preference, I am more excited about the possibility of a touch version of the Kindle because I’m not a big fan of the keyboard.  Whenever this does get release, I’ll be ready to upgrade my Kindle.  The keys are way too small and somewhat difficult to press.  However, when the touch version does arrive, there will need to be some kind of audio enabled to make sure it is accessible for people with disabilities.

As for the tablet.  This is exciting news, but the iPad has a pretty solid hold on the tablet market, and is said to be successful on into the next year.  So, I think that it will be awhile before the Kindle Tablet will make a huge dent in iPad sales.  There are also a number of other tablets to choose from as well.  Although, I will say, a much cheaper Kindle Tablet might just give Amazon a good start in the tablet game, as will the well liked Android operating system.  I see the iPad to the tablet market as the Kindle is to the e-reader market.  They are both the inventors of their own niches, and were the only ones to hold their niches for a good length of time.

Lastly, there will be an upgrade on the current version of the Kindle.  It will be similar in structure, but include better features and a lower price.  Prices are dropping constantly.  Amazon just dropped the Kindle 3G Special Offers version from $164 to $139.  So, perhaps a $99 or less version of the Kindle is in the near future?  We can only hope!

Free Kindle Giveaway!

BitDefender, an antivirus and internet security software company, is currently hosting a giveaway series that includes a chance to win 2 free Amazon Kindles.  Other prizes include tablets, laptops, smartphones and many other gadgets.  The grand prize is a BMW 3 Series.  Entering into one contest puts your name in for the grand prize.

Here’s how to enter the contest:

Access the Facebook Application: BitDefender fun4fans.and the contest asks that you connect a set of paragraphs to complete a story.  The application does a good job of explaining how to complete the contests.  From February 18-May 29, there will be weekly draws to win gadgets including the Kindle.  Each week has a different theme.

And yes, I know Facebook applications can be annoying, but this one might just get you a fun gadget to play with.

 

Kno Finally Ships

Remember the Kno?  It was an interesting idea that was taken by many to be an impossible or doomed project many months ago.  The basic idea was that a tablet PC optimized for educational needs and being about the size and weight of a standard undergraduate textbook would go over impressively in the same market where the Kindle failed to make an impression in early tests.  Well, as of 12/21 the thing has actually entered the market!

The major selling points seem to be the focus on textbooks and note taking.  Looking through the initial offerings, there seems to be quite the selection of digital textbooks already and supposedly more deals are on the way.  Particularly interesting for many will be the textbook rental option which will allow students to grab their texts for just a semester at a time for a reduced price.  How many people end up needing their Biology 101 text after their first year anyway, right?  Right along with that, the fact that you can write directly on the screen, allowing the potential for easy margin notation or a virtual notepad will address one of the problems with the Kindle‘s classroom usefulness.  Ease of use on what is among the most important study related activities for many will help.

Beyond that, a lot is riding on the as-yet unrealized potential offered by the app market.  Since the whole system is essentially built on the WebKit browser engine, development should be impressively simple and offer a variety of possibilities.  The initial offerings of book reading, web browsing, and note taking apps will fill most basic needs, but it’s always best to see some development after the devices have seen some time in the wild, so to speak.

On the negatives side, we still have a very narrowly purposed device and a comparatively high price point.  There is no usable USB port, so you’re stuck with the on-screen keyboard or a stylus.  It’s a bit on the heavy side as far as something you’re hoping to do any reading is concerned.  Also, I have to emphasize that based on the specs this is definitely a reading and web browsing device rather than a PC replacement.  It has limited hard drive space, unimpressive speed, and no real expandability.  For full tech specs, click here.

Overall, I like the product though.  As the developers emphasize on the sales site, your investment(whether it be $599 for the single screen 16GB unit or $999 for the dual screen 32GB unit) will pay off over the course of a year or two, assuming the student using it is able to get the majority of their textbooks through the Kno’s text store, which is something you’ve got to hope to be able to do for this to make sense in the first place.

It isn’t going to be for everybody.  This isn’t a Kindle for book reading or an iPad for general use tablet applications.  It’s strictly academic.  That said, we can only hope that it sees some success.  It would certainly be great to have access to something like this that would really allow eBooks to make a splash in the textbook market.