Archive for November, 2011

Flash! Kindle DX international on Black Friday sale: $259

November 24, 2011

Flash! Kindle DX international on Black Friday sale: $259

If you’ve wanted the larger screen reflective model, jump on this!

Kindle DX, Free 3G, 9.7″ E Ink Display, 3G Works Globally

It’s priced at $259, which is $120 savings…while supplies last.

This is what I suggested Amazon might do for Black Friday. The offer ends November 28…that’s long enough that it suggests to me they are clearing out this model.

That might be followed by an updated model (with wi-fi) and/or a larger screen Kindle Fire.

It does come with the US power adapter…this is not a refurb.

The KDX hasn’t been updated with some of the latest features, but I have readers who just love theirs.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Special Offer: get one of 100 humor books for $1

November 23, 2011

Special Offer: get one of 100 humor books for $1

Here’s the latest Special Offer on books from Amazon.

First, a word on that. If you have a wi-fi capable Kindle (that seems to be the determining factor), you can turn Special Offers on, get the offer, and then just turn them off again if you want.

You do that at

http://www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle

then click on

Manage Your Devices

You’ll see a place to subscribe or unsubscribe. If you paid less for your Kindle because it has Special Offers, it costs you to unsubscribe. If you didn’t, it costs nothing to subscribe and then unsubscribe again.

Here’s the kicker on this one: the deadline to accept this offer is 11:59 p.m. (Pacific Time), November 24, 2011 (Thanksgiving). You have to click it on your Kindle by then.

You’ll then get an e-mail, and you’ll enter a code (you can copy and paste it from the e-mail). You must select your book by  December 24, 2011.

For more details, see

Exclusive Offer for Kindle with Special Offers Customers: Buy One of 100 Humor Titles for $1

By the way, this one says “…limited to one discounted Kindle book per Kindle with Special Offers device.” So, that sounds like I should be able to get multiple books on the deal with multiple SO-subscribed Kindles on the account. I’ll try that and let you know. Update: I just checked that out. It says it differently in the offer on the device. There it says, “Limit one per customer and per device.” That suggests to me that, since the account is the customer, I can only get one…even if I deregister that specific Kindle and re-register it to another account. I wonder if that’s something people have been doing? I would think the device is unsubscribed when it is deregistered, and you’d have to resubscribe it.

The people making these offers (and this one could be Amazon, but they would have an agreement with the publisher) may be basing the costs for the ads on the number of devices with Special Offers…so they wouldn’t want the same device to get it twice, even if it was sold to somebody on a different account in-between. Fascinating. Now I shall have to choose more wisely…

As to the list of the books, it’s an interesting mix this time. I wouldn’t call them all humor, for one thing…I don’t think of Goosebumps as humor, personally.

Here are some notable ones from the list:

From celebrities

Is It Just Me?: Or is it nuts out there?
by Whoopi Goldberg

Pretty Good Joke Book
by Garrison Keillor

Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny
by Marlo Thomas

Holidays in Heck
by P.J. O’Rourke

Come on, People: On the Path from Victims to Victors
by Bill Cosby

This is one of the ones on the list I wouldn’t consider a humor book. It’s not listed that way on the product page: I think they just stuck this here because Cosby is a comedian, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the bargain.

===

Some other titles:

Mercury Falls
by Robert Kroese
Also available for Prime Lending (if you have a paid Prime account, you can borrow up to one book per calendar month from Amazon…that’s a limited list, and right now, this is one of them. I’m letting you know that in case you’d rather borrow it than use your Special Offer on it. Note that these titles change…I’ve got a borrowed book from Prime right now, but it is currently on Prime lending)

This is an apocalyptic (not post-apocalyptic) fantasy novel with hundreds of five star reviews.

The Ultimate Book of Top Ten Lists: A Mind-Boggling Collection of Fun, Fascinating and Bizarre Facts on Movies, Music, Sports, Crime, Ce
by Jami Frater

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
by Jane Austen and Seth-Grahame Smith

This really popularized the idea of literary mash-ups. It take the original Austen novel and adds new parts…and then eats them. ;) Grahame-Smith is a rising pop culture star.

The 2,320 Funniest Quotes: The Most Hilarious Quips and One-Liners from allgreatquotes.com
compiled by Tom Corr

I love books of quotations (I’ve been working on one for quite some time). I took a look inside this one (that’s an option on some books), and the selection looks okay. I’d like more thorough sourcing, but this could be fun on an EBR (E-Book Reader), where brevity can count.

Random Kinds Of Factness: 1001 (or So) Absolutely True Tidbits About (mostly) Everything
by Erin Barrett and Jack Mingo

Now that I see this is Jack Mingo (Couch Potato Guide to Life), it’s moved up to first position in my selection process.

Laugh and Learn: 95 Ways to Use Humor for More Effective Teaching and Training
by Doni Tamblyn

I’ve trained other trainers on using humor…this one sounds interesting, although I haven’t read it.

Stupid History: Tales of Stupidity, Strangeness, and Mythconceptions Throughout the Ages
by Leland Gregory

This has been free before, and I’ve read one of the books in the series…it’s fun little anecdotes about history, told in a snarky manner.

Inside Pee-wee’s Playhouse; The Untold, Unauthorized, and Unpredictable Story of a Pop Phenomenon
by Caseen Gaines

Oh, the reviews are good on this one…I’m tempted. I like in-depth books about TV shows, and I did like Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

The Story of English in 100 Words
by David Crystal

This is by a linguistics professor…professor of linguistics…Professor of Linguistics…drat! Fortunately, my relative who is a linguist tells me nothing is “wrong”…it’s just the way it is used.

The Alphabet Of Manliness (revised and updated)
by Maddox

Warning! This one is really politically incorrect and NSFW (Not Safe For Work). Not my cup of tea, either, but the books have been quite popular.

Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults upon Our Language
by Richard Lederer

On the other hand, I think I’d rather enjoy this one…and that the author wouldn’t mind my saying “cup of tea” above. ;)

I’m Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Stand-Up Comedy’s Golden Era
by David Knoedelseder

This one sounds good, too! It’s about what happened with stand-up comedy in the late 1970s…there will be names you know (Leno, Letterman), and names you may not. It’s probably more serious than you expect…and it would be fun to hear the text-to-speech do the routines I presume may be quoted. Well-reviewed at Amazon.

The Eight Characters of Comedy: A Guide to Sitcom Acting And Writing
by Scott Sedita

Hmm…another temptation. There are eight classic character types in TV sitcoms…this book delineates them. Start naming them…go!

Batman Unauthorized: Vigilantes, Jokers, and Heroes in Gotham City (Smart Pop series)
Edited by Dennis O’Neill

Sigh…picking is going to be harder than I thought. ;) At least I’m adding things to my gift list for my family…that’s one way these sales work for Amazon.

That’s enough to get you started! Don’t forget, acknowledge the offer on one of your Kindles on the account by Thanksgiving at 11:59 Pacific.

Feel free to tell me what you pick (you have another month to do that), or ask questions. I know more of the books, but didn’t want to make this too long.

Update: by the way, getting the Bathroom Reader book would have been a complete no brainer for me…but it shows as unavailable. :(  I would have considered some other books, if the text-to-speech access had not been blocked.

his post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Publishers Weekly: “Penguin Restores ‘Older’ Titles to OverDrive”

November 23, 2011

Publishers Weekly: “Penguin Restores ‘Older’ Titles to OverDrive”

recently wrote about the publisher Penguin apparently pulling its Kindle format e-books from public library lending via Overdrive.com.

I’m happy to report that at least some of the older Penguin titles are going back into the system…at least until the end of this year:

Publishers Weekly article

When I searched my public library there were, indeed, seventeen Penguin Group (USA), Inc e-book titles there in the Kindle format (there had been none when I searched for the previous article).

I’m not quite sure what they mean by “older” titles…at least one of them had been published in February of this year.

Hopefully, they’ll get this all sorted out, and the books will be back after the end of the year.

In another interesting PW article,

No Change, But Random House Says It Is “Actively Reviewing” Library E-book Policy

they state that Random House is reviewing its policy towards library e-books. The publishing giant said that it routinely reviews all sales channels, and I have no doubt that is true. It doesn’t necessarily portend any change.

If public libraries don’t have mainstream library e-books in the future, that could be a real problem for the libraries. It also would likely hurt the publishers…library lending may lead to increased sales, by introducing people to books and authors they don’t know.

However, it could be that book borrowers and book buyers may separate more into two groups in the future. With the low-priced and free books available to Kindle owners outside the public library, will that reduce interest in the libraries by people who routinely buy books?

I’m still going to suggest that one possibility is that the traditional publishers authorize borrowing based on needs testing…I’ve presented that as a scenario before. They would let disadvantaged people, who otherwise would not be likely to buy the book, to borrow one for free. That would require pretty strong controls so it wasn’t abused, and people would push back about it at first, but I could see that working reasonably well.

I’m thinking of those for e-books, and that the disadvantaged are given access to e-book readers of some kind. Not quite sure how that would work…would they have to use them in a community-provided setting? Would it be cheap enough to let them take the devices to relatively insecure environments?

The Huffington Post is doing an interesting series of articles on

Libraries in Crisis

I recommend you take a look at those.

Public libraries are changing…as books become available more conveniently, the idea of a library as a centralized repository for paperbooks may evolve as well. Libraries may shift more towards human interaction (seminars, trainings, literary discussions) and free internet access.

We’ll keep an eye on Penguin and the public libraries…and the other publishers as well.

Feel free to tell me what you think…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Round up #52: Delaying gifts, airport scanners, clipDO

November 23, 2011

Round up #52: Delaying gifts, airport scanners, clipDO

The ILMK round-ups are groups of shorter pieces on topics of interest…these topics may or may not get extended coverage later.

The Telegraph: Amazon Kindles ‘damaged by airport scanners’

This

article in The Telegraph

brings up the issue of putting your Kindle through the airport security scanner…which many of you in the USA are going to do this Wednesday.

Is it dangerous?

Well, the first obvious refutation is that there are people who do it every day with no problem, and others who have done it many times. At least, that’s what I’ve seen people say…people report being airline employees, or working in courthouses.

Does that mean it’s never a problem?

Well, it could be that the machines are inconsistent. The article presents a hypothesis that there could be a static electrical discharge within the scanner (not the x-ray itself) .

The article had two particular interesting parts. One was this statement from a Kindle owner:

“After my Kindle went through the X-ray scanner at Madrid airport, it no longer worked. I had been reading an e-book on the way to the airport so I knew there could be no other reason…”

Um…no, actually there could be plenty of other reasons than it being the x-ray. It could be that something had damaged the battery earlier, and it was just coincidentally dying at that point. People often seem to confuse cause and effect in that way. I’m not saying it couldn’t be related, but the fact that one thing happened and then something else did doesn’t mean it’s related.

The other comment was this:

“According to users, the firm has replaced Kindles that stopped working after passing through an airport scanner.”

I think that’s intended to suggest that Amazon was taking responsibility for damage caused by the scanners. Amazon replaces tons of Kindles without admitting fault. They are very good about that.

For me, I’m not worried about putting my Kindle through the x-ray machine at the airport.

As usual, I recommend you read the original article…

Choose a Kindle book gift’s delivery date

We did not have this last year, but it’s something people have really wanted. I mentioned it briefly, but I thought I’d better emphasize it more.

When you buy a Kindle book as a gift, you can now choose a delivery date. That means you can buy it today, and have it delivered on someone’s birthday, for example.

When you click the Give as a Gift link on a book’s Amazon product page, you’ll now see this:

Email the gift directly to my recipient
Email address: (joe@example.com)
Delivery date: (mm/dd/yyyy)

They have a little calendar widget to pick the date.

So, if, for example, you were buying somebody a Kindle Fire, you could also arrange to have my book Love Your Kindle Fire: The ILMK Guide to Amazon’s Entertablet delivered the same day. It will actually come as an e-mail invitation, but you can read those very nicely on the Kindle Fire.

Geek.com: “Amazon sells 6,111 copies of an ebook for free by mistake, won’t compensate author”

I received a heads-up in a private e-mail on this one (I’d be happy to credit the person who sent it to me, just let me know):

Geek.com article

The basic idea is this:

Publishers who use Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (and those are often the authors themselves) aren’t supposed to offer their books at a lower price outside of Amazon. If they do, Amazon may price match it.

An author claims to have put up a free sample on another site, and that Amazon confused the sample with the full book…giving away thousands of copies of the book and not compensating the author.

This is being set up as though Amazon had a computer error, costing the author thousands of dollars, and not making good on it.

That doesn’t sound like Amazon to me…and I speak as someone who has dealt with them as a KDP (formerly Digital Text Platform) publisher/author

I’d have to know more about this story, but I thought you might be interested in the article.

ClipDO

As regular readers know, I like and use a service called

SendToReader

to send web articles to my Kindle to read later.

There is a new, similar offering called

ClipDO

I’ve had a little correspondence with them, but have not had the opportunity to really test it yet. I’ve been sitting on this for a little while, hoping to get to it, but I don’t want to keep them waiting. If you try it out, let me know…I’ll test it myself later.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

My new book…Love Your Kindle Fire: The ILMK Guide to Amazon’s Entertablet

November 22, 2011

My new book…Love Your Kindle Fire: The ILMK Guide to Amazon’s Entertablet

My new book

Love Your Kindle Fire: The ILMK Guide to Amazon’s Entertablet

is now available for purchase in the Kindle store for $2.99. In keeping with the style of the book, here’s a splinterview (where I interview myself) about it.

Q. Your new book just went live in the Kindle store…how do you feel about that?

A. Actually, surprisingly happy. Not that I shouldn’t be, but I feel good about it…I think it came out pretty well.

Q. Were you worried it wouldn’t?

A. I was really trying to get this one out quickly…I wanted to get it out before Black Friday, for people who were getting Kindle Fires then. There’s always that pressure when you give yourself a deadline…I prefer to just keep tweaking things over time. When I used to do databases, I remember someone coming to me and asking me if the database was done. I said, “It’s like Disneyland…as long as there’s a dream, it will never be finished.” The person looked at me quizzically and said, “But can I use it?” I said, “Sure.”

Q. Does rushing compromise the quality?

A. It maybe compromises the length. The way I wrote this one, I’m pretty happy with it. It’s meant to be the breaking information…it’s not like a research work I crafted over years.

Q. Have you ever done that?

A. Honestly, no. I’ve always loved walking into a chaotic situation and improvising. I once prepped a two day class on a BART ride.

Q. BART?

A. That’s the subway system in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was managing other trainers, and somebody reported in sick…so I headed over to do the class. It was also software I’d never seen…Pagemaker, I think. Anybody who looks at my works knows that graphic design is not my long suit.

Q. And how did the class go?

A. It went fine…I think I got perfect satisfaction scores from my students. Of course, I didn’t have to know the whole class when I started. I remember another time I had to step in with some software I didn’t know. I was joking later saying that I wanted to say at 10:00, “Well, that’s all I know. Let’s take a twenty minute break, I’ll learn enough to get us to lunch, and then we’ll come back.”

Q. How can you possibly teach something you don’t know?

A. It helps to know something, but that’s a common misconception…people who are really good at something are often really bad at teaching it. Teaching is a skill unto itself…it largely has to do with figuring out what is important in a subject and getting other people to understand it.

Q. Okay…let’s get back to the book.  It’s about the Kindle Fire, right? How much do you know about that?

A. Oh, writing about something and standing up in front of a class are two very different things. I got my Kindle Fire on the first possible day, November 15th…I preordered the day it was released, and paid extra for one day shipping. I started writing the book ahead of that. I published it on November 20th…five days later, The book is more than 20,000 words. It’s the traditional equivalent of about an 80 page book.

Q. Hadn’t you said you wanted to more than that?

A. I did…I sort of foolishly started out wanting to write 100,000 and then 75,000 words. However, this ended up being a good length. I think people will get their $2.99 worth’s out of it.

Q. What did you leave out?

A. Well, I’d like to do more resources and recommendations…more of the appendix stuff. I didn’t get into reaction to the Kindle Fire by other people. I did, though, go through every menu option, and give people some good tips as well as the big concepts. I found out some interesting things along the way.

Q. Like what?

A. I didn’t know you could put a password on the Kindle Fire. Some people have been worried about other people seeing the webpages they visit. You can clean them up, but this is easier. I also suspect people are going to keep confidential information on there, like financial records. This will protect that, to some extent.

Q. Anything else that stands out?

A. I now love the Pulse app! I hadn’t used it before, but it’s a great way to read blogs. I also found out how to remove webpages from the Carousel, and a lot of little setting things. One odd thing, which I don’t know enough about yet, is why there are international settings for the wi-fi. Is wi-fi different in Japan than it is in the USA? I don’t know.

Q. What don’t you like about the book?

A. The cover! I don’t have one right now. That’s always been a problem for me. I’m willing to pay somebody to do one…I just haven’t gotten that all worked out yet. That’s going to hurt the sales, for sure. I’m going to try again to get that going, and once I get something, it may take a couple of days before it shows up in the Kindle store.

Q. Nothing about the content?

A. I could probably have proof-read it more carefully. I suspect it’s in pretty good shape…I did run a spell-check and skim over it. And as I mentioned, I’ll probably add some material to it…nothing substantial, though.

Q. Should people wait to buy it until it’s done?

A. It will never be done. (smiles) I think it’s worth the money as is, myself.

Q. Do you think other people will think that?

A. My guess is that it will do pretty well. I told my family I’m guessing I might sell two thousand copies or so by the end of the year. We’re not supposed to reveal our sales figures, and I’m not…I’m just speculating ahead of time. Oh, and I guess I should say “licenses” instead of “copies”…that’s how it works for e-books.

A. What happens next? Do you go on a publicity tour?

Q. (laughs) No, nothing like that. I’ve gifted a few copies to people…other Kindle bloggers, mostly. I may do some more of that, but I do pay for each one.

A. You can’t send them free copies?

Q. I could, but it’s more complicated for them. I like them to be able to have the Kindle services with the book…back up of notes, Whispersync. It’s also not that expensive. I pay the $2.99 up front, but if they do get the book, I get a lot of it back in royalties. If they don’t…well, I’ve sent it to people I like. If they get something else, that’s okay. By the way, I noticed that you can now choose a delivery date for Kindle store books. That’s a wonderful improvement…you don’t have to buy a book the same day you are giving it.

A. Are you going to send it to people you don’t know?

Q. Maybe…it’s hard for me to push myself out there too much.

A. Why? You don’t seem shy.

Q. Oh, I’m not. I just…want to keep my writing in perspective in my life. I went the whole “I’m going to be famous” route with something else, and it was just too much time away from the family. I like the level I’m at now…the writing is justified in the time I spend on it, but it doesn’t consume my relationships. Having the blog is great! I feel like I have more people I know socially that way, especially the commenters. I honestly really rely on that. I hope people review the book, and people stumble across the reviews. It changes the dynamic for me if I’m hawking it.

Q. Why did you want to do this interview, then? Isn’t that hawking it?

A. Not really…this feels like my circle of friends. It’s people that I think may want to know about the book, and they may want to ask me questions about it. I won’t keep bringing it up. The Fire will be part of the mix here, but I have some other Kindle things I”m already thinking about covering. For example, I want to know more about this thing with Penguin and the public library e-book lending. I’ve written to the publisher…we’ll see if they get back to me. I’ll list the book in the appropriate places, and I won’t ignore it…but I’m not going to write the title on my forehead, either. (smiles)

Update: I have now uploaded a cover, and I took some of my readers’ suggestions and made it a flame. You can see it on the book’s Amazon product page, and it will probably take a day or so before you may be able to see it on your Fire. I’ve also gone through and did some proof-reading. I can’t upload that for another day or so, and then it will be a couple of days before people who already bought it can get it (as I understand the way Amazon does it now). I’ll be testing that on my Kindle Fire, and I”ll let you know. I think I”ll have to remove the book from my Fire and download it again from the archives to see the changes. You may have gotten notifications about a new edition of a book you bought before…I don’t think this will be like that, I think you’ll just get the new version when you redownload it from the archives (which is free to do), but I’ll double-check.

I’m also very pleased with the response! It’s already #1 in a couple of categories, and as I write this #812 in paid books in the Kindle store! Given that  there are over a million books there, that’s pretty good. :) I’m starting to get reviews on the page. One four-star review did mention a couple of typos. I think that’s reasonable to say. When I get the corrected version uploaded, that should help with that. I was actually pleased at how few errors there were, given the accelerated timetable to get it out.

Thanks to everybody who has bought one already! It makes me feel good to know that people are making that choice.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Has Penguin pulled out of Overdrive public library e-book lending?

November 20, 2011

Has Penguin pulled out of Overdrive public library e-book lending?

Thanks to nospin, one of my readers, for asking about this one!

There is apparently some concern that the publisher Penguin has pulled out of the Overdrive.com program.

That’s how most public libraries lend e-books.

Of the six largest US trade publishers, two others already do not license e-books to public libraries: Macmillan and Simon & Schuster.

A third, HarperCollins, limits the number of times a book can be loaned before the library has to purchase another license.

I believe I suggested before that the Kindle public library lending might lead to more publishers pulling out of the program, although I’m not seeing that comment right away.

I searched for news on it, and didn’t find it. I did find the original announcement when Penguin joined the program in 2008:

http://overdrive.com/News/getArticle.aspx?newsArticleID=20080827

My next thing was to check my library. You can do that as well: go to

http://search.overdrive.com/

My library has a robust advanced search (that’s going to vary). I can search by publisher and format, for example, which was very helpful here.

When I searched the Downloadable Media Collection for Penguin Group (USA) with all formats, I got 37 results.  That included EPUB and PDF e-books and audiobooks.

When I switched it to Kindle Books, I got zero results.

I thought it might be a problem with the search engine, so I tried Random House: 146 with all formats, 143 with Kindle.

I tried several of the listed variants for Penguin (not imprints, but different versions of Penguin USA…I assume that’s inputted manually), and still nothing.

This could suggest that Penguin has somehow blocked the Kindle part…Amazon and Penguin have had tough negotiations before. It could also still be that Penguin uses a different imprint for their Kindle format books…that seems odd, though. It’s also possible that there are pre-existing agreements that are keeping older books available through my library even if they’ve pulled out.

The overall number of fiction e-books from my public library doesn’t look like it’s dropped significantly.

At this point, I’d call this a rumor, but I’ll keep my eye on it.

Let’s gather some data:

Feel free to let me know if you know your library’s Penguin e-book collection has or has not changed…you may be aware of one you previously checked out that is unavailable, for example.

Thanks again to nospin! Hopefully, this isn’t a pull-out, although that wouldn’t surprise me.

Update: this is now confirmed, although it’s supposedly a negotiation rather than a flat-out refusal for now and forever.

Huffington Post story

Penguin does still appear on Overdrive’s list of publisher partners:

http://contentreserve.com/pubpartner.asp

This

Overdrive statement

says that they were  “…instructed to suspend availability of new Penguin eBook titles from our library catalog and disable “Get for Kindle”  functionality for all Penguin eBooks.” They also say that older penguin books are still available through the system (presumably not for the Kindle), which explains why some poll respondents are seeing them.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Kindle Touch: First Impressions

November 19, 2011

Kindle Touch: First Impressions

The Kindle Touch is the most elegant Kindle to date.

I say that having had every Kindle model except for the Kindle DX.

My Kindle Touch arrived yesterday (two days past the estimate…very unusual for Amazon). Taking out of the box, I was struck by its appearance…it’s sleek. Even more so than the Nindle, it appears to be simply a place to read and a place to hold it.

Buttons are a reminder of the physical world. They have a certain steampunk quaintness, but they detract from the magic of just “me and the words”.

The Kindle Touch has one button on its face…and it doesn’t even look like a button. Elegance.

Similarly to the Kindle Fire, it has a push button power button, rather than a slide..I prefer that. It seems more natural…the slide seems to fight me more if I’m holding it long enough for to turn off the device. It’s easier to push straight on with the tip of your finger than it is to slide it sidewise.

That’s a minor thing, of course.

The bottom edge has: the USB port; the headphone jack; and the small power switch…it doesn’t even have a volume rocker.

However, I will say that the Mindle still feels more solid…I’m not quite sure what that is…maybe the need for speakers makes a device feel less of one piece.

Once you turn it on, the look is different from the Kindle Keyboard.

There is a ribbon at the top of the homescreen with a back button, a shopping cart, a search box, and a menu. Above that is something some people have wanted: a constantly-displaying clock (along with the familiar battery and wireless indicators, and the name of the device).

Interacting with it is simple. It is subtly wider than my Mindle, and I notice that holding it…I’ll get used to it, though.

The touchscreen seems very good at recognizing my touches…much better than my Kindle Fire. You can swipe to change pages, but you can also tap (except on the homescreen, from what I’ve seen).  It is a bit harder to read left-handed. I’m ambidextrous (perhaps that’s why I see both sides of every argument) ;). When I’m in bed, I operate my Kindle with my left hand (I may be resting my arm on my nightstand, and that’s what side it’s on). Since I have to reach past the previous page zone to reach the next page zone from that side, it’s a bit of a stretch (but not uncomfortable).

It does seem odd to tap in the middle of a page to “turn the page”. Holding it on with my right hand, the tap can be much closer to the edge. Turning pages is a place where the Kindle Keyboard is less intrusive. With the KK, I just need to flex my thumb…I hardly even notice it. Where I hold it is where I change it. I have to actually move my finger…lazy, right? :) It’s not about moving my finger, it’s about not thinking about it. It’s still much easier than turning a paper page, though, and I expect it would become subconscious after a while.

You also have the choice* of having the “screen flash” or not when you go to the next page. I found it disconcerting without it, since I’ve gotten used to it. I made me less sure I’d gone to the next screen…I had to wait to get the visual feedback of the words changing. The flash happens more quickly than the next page can be drawn. I might get used to that, though.

There is at least one significant software improvement in this 5th generation (yes, you can call it a Kindle 5…the software version starts with a 5). You can search your archive. With the Kindle Keyboard and earlier, that was awkward…I have over 2,500 books in my archives, and only being able to jump alphabetically to find something was hard. It’s much simpler to type in a word in the title and have it find it.

That brings up typing: I’m finding it easier on the virtual keyboard on the screen on my Kindle Touch than the physical keyboard on my Kindle Keyboard. I can’t type on either one, in the sense of the touch typing I can do on a netbook or laptop. So, that means I am looking for the letters. On my graphite Kindle Keyboard, I find the buttons hard to read. They are simple to read on the Kindle Touch.

There are some negatives to the Kindle Touch. While it recognizes my touches easily, it seems to process slowly. When I first connected it to my network and it did a sync with Amazon’s servers, it slowly brought in the items in my Archived Items list…sort of like the Manage Your Kindle page. The Kindle Keyboard does that in under a second…this took several seconds. I tap something and it knows it…but it takes a second sometimes for it to carry out the command.

They’ve also started burying more things in menus. When I wanted to import my Collections (sort of like folders on a computer) from another device, I had to do

Home-Menu-View Archived Items…and then hit Menu again

On the Kindle Keyboard, that’s immediately visible in the archives. I was glad I followed my own advice with Kindles…when in doubt, hit Menu. :)

I wanted to know the software version. On a Kindle Keyboard, that’s Home-Menu-Settings and it shows on the screen. On the Kindle Touch, it’s Home-Menu-Settings-Menu-Device Info.

I find the design of the home button quite odd. It looks like a grate or a speaker (it has four raised horizontal ridges). That doesn’t say home to me. Worse, it’s basically the way that Amazon indicates something is a menu on the Kindle Fire. When I’ve talked to people about designing applications, I tell them not to have two buttons on the same screen that say the same thing, but do something different. In this case, it’s pretty much the same icon that does two different things…that’s confusing. Why not have the button look like a house, the way Amazon (and other programs) often indicate “home”?

It also turns the wi-fi on automatically when it needs to do that, without asking for a confirmation. I don’t think it turns it off again, though. That’s going to run down the battery more quickly if people don’t notice that (unless it’s much smarter about how it connects than the earlier Kindles).

The marquee feature is X-Ray. One major negative: I asked Amazon how to find a book with X-Ray, and they said there wasn’t a search to do that. I tried searching with Google, but it doesn’t appear on the page…why not? Do they not want to advertise it for people who don’t have Touches?

Fortunately, I was able to turn to the Amazon Kindle community, and IamReadingMore there recommended The LAST LECTURE by Randy Pausch. It was a perfect suggestion…I’ve wanted to read it, it doesn’t have text-to-speech access blocked…and it’s available to borrow for free for Prime members. That also gave me a chance to test that…it was easy. We are limited to one book borrowed per calendar month…but it’s more than half way through the month, and there are only thirty days this month. ;) That’s going to make February a bargain. :)

I tried it to write this article…interesting! You tap the top of the screen (which is how you pull up the menu generally), and the X-Ray button appears at your bottom right.

It brings up a choice of telling you where terms appear in the entire book (the default), on the page, or in the chapter. The chapter was grayed out on mine…maybe no chapter marks?

X-Ray

You get a sort of spectrograph image of where each reference appears in the book. I don’t know how to do a screengrab from the Kindle Touch yet (it’s Alt+Shift+G on older Kindles…but I don’t have those buttons), so I’ve taken a picture with my Samsung Captivate and included that.

You can choose to look at all items, just people, or just terms…and it gives you the count of how many.

I noticed James T. Kirk right away. I thought that would be a great test…many Americans know who James T. Kirk is, but I can certainly see people reading this book who might not get the allusion. The description (from Wikipedia) was good…it was a bit detailed on who played him in the beginning, but without going out to Wikipedia, it told me that Kirk has been “praised for his leadership traits, and criticized for his relationships with women.” I had the option to tap and see the full Wikipedia article. I got a bit of context for each reference…if he had been a character, that might have been enough for a spoiler, but it shows them in order…only the first two references showed initially, which would make it pretty safe.

I clicked the back arrow, then I tried CT scans…excellent.

As advertised, this is transformative. It will change the way students do research for the better. In a way, it’s as important as the invention of the encyclopedia.

Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration (you think?). ;) However, not having to go somewhere else and get something else will mean people will look up just what they need when they need it. I love reading reference books and the discovery of that, but for elementary, high school, and college students? Huge plus.

I’d really like to see some sort of indicator on the page itself that the term has X-Ray capability. As it is now, you just tap the top of the page and hope. For example, Carnegie Mellon was referenced early on…but isn’t X-Rayable. That would be nice to know before tapping.

Overall?

For me, this is the best of the wi-fi reflective screen Kindles so far. I’m not crazy about touchscreens…I like them, but I can’t type on them (I still need to train myself to do that) anywhere near as quickly as I can on a big keyboard. I’ll go back to my first thought…elegant. X-Ray is well worth it…I wish that it was on every book right now!  Searching the archives? That’s a considerable enhancement.

At the time of writing, you can get a wi-fi only ad-supported version for $99…just $20 more than the Mindle. That seems really worth it, to have audio and X-Ray.

One negative (which I haven’t tested)…you reportedly can’t use the web browser with 3G, just with wi-fi. That would make it less convenient…although that isn’t a major focus of my use of the Kindle, it’s been nice sometimes.

I would say that this is the reflective screen Kindle to get for students…and that it really is the top of the line.

Kindle Touch, Wi-Fi only
Kindle Touch 3G, Free 3G + Wi-Fi

Feel free to let me know what you think. Am I unreasonably abandoning physical keyboards? Didn’t George Jetson show us that buttons are the future? Is it too hard for those with disabilities to use touchscreens? Is the lack of 3G web-browsing a deal killer? Is Wikipedia a bad source for X-Ray to use? I’d love to hear your opinions…and your questions.

* To change the page flash: Home-Menu-Settings-Reading Options, Screen Refresh

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Flash! You can now add Special Offers to some Kindles!

November 19, 2011

Flash! You can now add Special Offers to some Kindles!

Thanks to PokerRun3 for commenting and giving me the heads-up on this!

When Amazon first introduced Special Offers, many people thought no one would want ads on their Kindles.

They were wrong.

I’ve seen more people wishing they could get them on their existing Kindles than wanting to get rid of them.

Well, I’ve many times directed you to the

http://www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle

page, and they do sneak things in there. :)

I’ve been busy with my Kindle Fire and with my Kindle Touch, Wi-Fi only (which arrived today, a couple of days late).  I’m going to write about the Touch soon…I need to find a book with X-Ray so I can test it. I also plan to take some pictures for one of these posts comparing the models.

So, I”m thankful PokerRun3 took the time to alert me to a change.

I wrote a while ago about the ability to buy yourself out of Special Offers.

It’s now possible to subscribe to them when you haven’t had them!

That only works on the Mindle, the Kindle Touch, and the Kindle Keyboard…not on the Kindle 2, Kindle 1, or Kindle Fire.

Why would you want to subscribe to them?

Special Offers, baby! ;)

Many people like getting them…they can be good bargains.

You will also be getting the “screensaver” ads.

Go to that Manage Your Kindle page and click Manage Your Devices.

You’ll see a choice under Special Offers to be Subscribed or Not Subscribed on eligible devices. I tested it by choosing to subscribe…it said it was “Subscribe Pending” (I don’t know why…may just take a bit, or I may need to turn the Kindle on and sync). I plan to unsubscribe that one again…hope I can. I’ll let you know.

So, if you paid for a Kindle with Special Offers and got a lower price, you have to pay to unsubscribe. If you have an eligible Kindle without Special Offers, you can just turn that on, if you want. That apparently will include AmazonLocal (special offers for your area).

For those of you who have been jealous of the Special Offers, now you can join the club. ;) Of course, it’s a bit exclusive…no K2s or K1s allowed…they just aren’t hip enough to get past the velvet rope… ;)

If you do subscribe, feel free to let me know…I”m curious as to how many people may switch to that.

Update: when I turned my K3’s wireless on, it installed right away, not problem. I had the offers. I then unsubscribed, again, no problem…the original sleep mode pictures were back. So, you could turn it on once a week, get the Special Offers, turn it off again. :)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Woo-hoo! Text-to-speech on the Kindle Fire (for some books)

November 18, 2011

Woo-hoo! Text-to-speech on the Kindle Fire (for some books)

Tom Semple, you are my hero this morning!

Tom is one of my regular readers and commenters, and very technically adept.

As ILMKerss know, I use text-to-speech for hours a week, typically, on my Kindle Keyboard, Wi-Fi. That’s the software that reads text out loud (unless that access is blocked by the publisher). I’ve done that since the Kindle 2.

I took my Kindle Fire to work with me yesterday, partially to test it out as a work device for me. I was able to take notes somewhat effectively, which is important. I was away from wi-fi most of the time, so I got a sense of those limitations. With a little forethought, it’s not bad, although I would have had to go somewhere at lunch to use the internet on it…it wouldn’t have been far, though…I could have done it, had lunch, and been back in an hour easily.

I left my reflective screen Kindle at home…which did create some separation anxiety. :) That’s how I suffer for you.. ;) Just kidding, but the part that drove me nuts was a forty-five minute drive without enjoying a book.

I’d like to be able to use the Kindle Fire when at work, and the reflective screen Kindle at home (for longer form reading).

Without text-to-speech, though, the Kindle Fire would fail me getting to and from work (and I work different places different days).

Now, thanks to Tom Semple, I have a potential solution!

I had downloaded Quickoffice Pro when it was the FAOTD (Free App Of The Day). It’s $14.99 right now.

Tom told me that it did text-to-speech (I had found the Pico TTS app on the Kindle Fire, but I did think it was being used).

So, I tried it. I didn’t test it on a Kindle store book, and it didn’t give me that option. What it do was let me pull in a document from Google Docs…and it did read it out loud for me!

It’s much slower than the setting I use on my Kindle, but it definitely worked.

I didn’t have a book in there…it was reading a relative’s wish list for the holidays. :) I downloaded A Tale of Two Cities from Project Gutenberg in plain text format.

I uploaded it to Google Docs (having it keep the txt format) using my Significant Other’s netbook. I didn’t try downloading it directly to the Fire yet..that might be possible.

I was able to open it through Quickoffice, then tap the bottom of the screen and tap the megaphone icon.

Boom! Text-to-speech!

I haven’t found a way to adjust any voice options. This one was somewhat like the female voice on the Kindle on the middle speed, I’d say, but it might work for me. I’ll test it out in the car today.

I use text-to-speech with personal documents now, and it will work for that. Again, I don’t expect it to work for Kindle store books (even the minority that do not have Digital Rights Management…DRM), but I read a lot of things that aren’t. I can work this for magazine articles and work documents, and public domain books. That may be very helpful for me.

Does it make the device more accessible for those with print disabilities? I’m not at all sure how they would start something…I haven’t found audible menus or feedback yet.

However, this greatly enhances the value of the Fire for me. I prefer TTS to audiobooks, if I haven’t read the book yet. It would take some adjustment to get used to this voice for me, but still…woo-hoo!

This also clearly suggests to me that we could get text-to-speech on Kindle books on the Fire with an upgrade.

Thanks again, Tom Semple! I’m always grateful that readers take the time and make the effort to comment on the blog. We are much wiser as a group than I am as an individual, and those comments let me share this wisdom with you.

Update: the voice worked for me in the car, although it is slow for me and not as clear as my K3. However, there was a problem in using it for a book…it doesn’t know where I stopped. It would work for short stories, articles, and work documents, though.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Amazon donates Kindles so every student in a school can have one

November 18, 2011

Amazon donates Kindles so every student in a school can have one

We’ve heard about schools buying Kindles for students before (notably Clearwater High School in Florida).

What’s reported in this

WIS TV story

is a bit different.

It’s a school (in South Carolina) with about sixty students with learning differences and disability. They had already had some Kindles, but Amazon Fulfillment donated enough for one for each student (along with some e-books, from what the story says).

They gave the Kindle Keyboard, Wi-Fi  (I don’t know if it’s the wi-fi only model or not), which is the friendliest for students with print challenges, in my opinion. One of the things it has that others don’t (except, perhaps, the Kindle Touch) is VoiceGuide, an audible menu system.

The Kindle Fire may have some apps that help with particular challenges, but it doesn’t do text-to-speech at this point…one of the main features they want at the school. That’s not just for the visually impaired: it can help people who can see the words understand them better.

By the way, I have found text-to-speech on the Fire…but it isn’t able to be used, as far as I can tell. Pico TTS, which may be part of its Android operating system, shows up under All Applications. It doesn’t seem to do anything…yet.

I do think TTS on the Fire is possible with a software update in the future.

I do want to say, “Bravo!” to Amazon for making this donation! I think we’ll increasingly see EBRs (E-Book Readers) in schools. In some cases, it will be disadvantaged schools that find it hard to afford paperbooks (initially). In others, it will be well-funded schools that want to give their students the advantages of e-books.

The link does not take you directly to a video, but there is a video link in the story…that gives you more of what happened.

Do you think EBRs in schools is a good thing? Feel free to let me know, whether you do or you don’t.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


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