New app brings book organization to Kindle Fire

New app brings book organization to Kindle Fire

Book Collections
by Digital Media Revolutions
price: $2.99 at time of writing

One of the most common concerns expressed in the Amazon Kindle community about the Kindle Fire is that there isn’t a good way to organize the books on the device, like the Collections we have on some of the RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles…anything but a Kindle Fire at this point).

No question.

That’s been what I call a “Shrugger”. That’s something I recommend managers look for in their businesses. A “Shrugger” is something that people think should be different, but they don’t see a clear path to the change…they just shrug their shoulders when someone new points it out. Identifying those can be important in fixing problems, yes, but also in changing the way people feel about their organization.

“Why doesn’t the Kindle Fire have Collections?”

Shrug.

Does the Fire need Collections or folders or some way to group together similar books?

Ask the people who have flipped through a hundred titles on their Carousels. :)

After all, Amazon estimates that the Fire can hold 6,000 books! That’s in the same part of the memory that holds video, music, magazines, personal documents, and so on (not apps), so if you have any of that, you can’t hold the full 6,000.

Still, that’s a lot of books, and I can understand why people just don’t want them all piled together. In my paperbook library at home, I meticulously organize them (alphabetizing the books, for example).

When I first saw the Book Collections app for the Kindle Fire in the Amazon Appstore, it intrigued me a bit. However, I did see quite a few bad reviews, and I don’t often pay as high as $2.99 for an app. I didn’t feel an urgent need  personally: as I’ve mentioned before, I usually only keep about ten Kindle store books on any of my devices at a time.

However, a reader in a personal e-mail asked me about the app, and said that they were waiting for my review. :)

That was the nudge I needed, and I went ahead and got it.

First, the performance issues that had prompted the bad reviews initially appear to have been resolved. Simply stated, it works. :)

Second, it does what you want it to do. You can create your own “collections” on your Kindle Fire, name them whatever you want, and move your books into them. You can then access the books from those collections (or “Book Folders”, as the app calls them).

I’ll wait for a minute while a bunch of you click the link in the post with just that much information. :)

Done? Okay. ;)

Now, let’s get into a bit more of the detail.

Installing it was easy. The app itself .93MB of memory…that’s really not big.  Angry Birds, for example, is 19.71MB…more than twenty times as large.

When you open the app, it scans for documents on your Kindle Fire. For me, it found a lot of things that weren’t Kindle store books. Some of them I might never want in there, but it was actually really nice to have my Kindle store books, my personal documents, and even Microsoft Office documents and pdfs I’d downloaded as attachments to e-mails in the same place. It included magazines and samples, but no audio, video, or apps.

Once the items are imported (it certainly didn’t take a minute), you have a section for “Book Folders” at the top, and “Unsorted Books” at the bottom. I’m not sure “unsorted” is the right word to use here…maybe “uncategorized” would be clearer.

There are three pre-built folders:

  • Currently Reading
  • To Read Next
  • Favorites

When you “long press” (hold your finger or stylus on it for about a second), you get the following choices:

  • Open (so you can read it)
  • Move to (so you can put it in a Book Folder)
  • Edit Book Data and Location (more on that a bit later)
  • Remove (this removes it from the app…not the Kindle)

Choosing “Move to” brings up a list of the Book Folders in the app…just tap one to move the book there.

You can’t long press a Book Folder…you can only open it.

Once a Book Folder is open, you can use the Menu button (horizontal lines in a box), you can either remove the folder or tap a button that says, “Edit Book Data and Location”. That’s not what that button does…it lets you rename the Book Folder.

When  you are on the first page, hitting Menu lets you rescan or create a new folder.

All of that works. You can create folders and put books in them.

Next, some negatives:

A book can not be in more than one folder.

There are no sub-folders (that’s like the Collections on the RSKs).

A big one for me is that you can’t sort the “Unsorted Books” (hey, I guess that is accurate) ;) , or search them. I just had to swipe through the list to see them.

When you read a book from within the app, your position in the book is not communicated to your Kindle Fire. In other words, lets say you open a book within the app and read 100 locations. If you later opened the same book not in the app, it wouldn’t know you had read those 100 locations.

The way they address that is with that “Edit Book Data and Location”. Choosing that lets you enter a location number, enter a percentage, change the title, and enter or change an author name).

Interestingly, the location and percentage don’t check each. You can say you are 50% through the book when you are only ten percent. What you say here also doesn’t affect opening the book outside of the app, I believe.

There is no Help within the app. There is a Facebook icon, but it didn’t seem to do anything for me…nor did an icon for what I assume is the Kindle Fire Department.

I do really want to commend the creators. I e-mailed them and got a very quick response answering my questions. That’s important to me…it shows that they care about their customers. I know that some people in that situation think I get special treatment because I’m a blogger, but believe me, people ignore bloggers. ;)

We’ve had some correspondence on some interesting potential I see for the app, and they did tell me about some improvements under development.

Overall, I’d say that a lot of people will find this valuable. It’s a good idea, although I think that it could be refined. I would guess this is not a group that has produced a number of apps in the past, or has invested specifically in usability (many developers don’t). That said, they’ve done what Amazon hasn’t.   My guess is that they will fairly rapidly enhance it, partially as they realize what end users want.

Bottom line: if you want to organize your books (and your personal documents) on your Kindle Fire, I recommend Book Collections.

Special thanks to my reader for asking me to review this! I really appreciate it when people take the time to tell me about things they think I and/or my readers would want to know.

If you’d like to comment on this post or on the app, feel free. :)

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

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22 Responses to “New app brings book organization to Kindle Fire”

  1. SandyO Says:

    I downloaded the app and will find it much easier now to ‘find’ books. But…why is it that some books download with just a number, no title. This happens with Amazon downloads and is not on every book. I see no pattern to it but you have to open the book, find out the title, then go back in and re-name it before your put it into a folder. Lots of silly steps. Did you find that, Calvin?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, SandyO!

      No, I didn’t notice that on any of my Kindle store books. Some of my personal documents had strange names, but that’s reasonable.

      When you say a “number”, did it start with a letter and have about nine characters? If that’s the case, it could be an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number).

      I wonder if they were grey icons on your Carousel?

      You could try this:

      First, try rescanning…from the main screen, Menu – Scan.

      If that doesn’t do it (for ones you haven’t renamed), try

      Settings Gear – More – Applications

      You might have to switch to All Applications from Running Applications.

      Find the launcher, and force stop.

      Then, try scanning again. If you haven’t done much work yet, you might want to uninstall the app or clear the data, and then scan again.

      If that doesn’t work…you’d probably best off reporting it to the studio.

      One little thing: my first name is Bufo, my last name is Calvin. Don’t worry about it, that happens a lot. :)

  2. Gadget Says:

    First of all, thank you to Bufo for taking the time to thoughtfully review our app. We really appreciate it.

    To Sandy, the reason some books appear without titles is because those books have DRM (digital rights management), which puts restrictions on how files can be used or transferred, and in this case prevents the app from accessing any data about it. Unfortunately the best we could do with that is allow people to edit in the information themselves, but we’ll continue to keep our eyes peeled for a way around this.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Gadget!

      I really appreciate you taking the time to respond to my readers! You don’t always see that from publishers. :)

      DRM makes sense. I do want to point out to my readers that this doesn’t mean that every book you get from the Kindle store with DRM is going to have that issue. I have books with DRM that the Book Collections app imported with all of the information.

      DRM has a lot of variation…the term is very broad.

      Thanks again, Gadget!

  3. Jean L. Says:

    I downloaded the app at the point that you expected in your blog (you had me at organization!) I was so excited,that I forgot that I was on my Android phone, until I noticed that most of my books were not on the “unsorted” list. I thought I might have to repurchase, but when I opened my Fire, there it was, ready to be downloaded. I have been waiting for an app like this,and I agree with your con list…hoping they will be open to changes to make it even better!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Jean!

      I love that story!

      Generally, you won’t have to rebuy an app you get from the Amazon Appstore for other devices on the same account. Not all apps work on all devices, though, so they may not appear to be able to be downloaded to some devices.

      Interesting that Book Collections worked on your phone, though!

  4. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I may have mentioned in the past that the KF is unique among the kindles in having access to a wide variety of apps — allowing things like collections to be implemented by 3rd party developers. I hope we see more of this — perhaps linking into Amazon’s extensive kindle and media management web pages (Shelfari, YML, etc.).

    The risk for the developers of course is that Amazon may elect to provide these kinds of capabilities themselves at some point in time.

    I was not one of those who took advantage of your posting pause to immediately download the app. Since I expect Amazon to have a fairly extensive set of announcements in the not too distant future (:D), I guess I can wait to see if they do anything. Shelfari, YML(Your Media Library), and MYK (Manage Your Kindle) are all crying out for some improvements and integrations.

    I agree with all of your app dings — one thing I had hoped to see was some way of importing/exporting to the above-mentioned Amazon web pages, or some integration with existing RSK collections (hard to do as post R2 RSK’s are a fairly closed environment). The web pages are accessible tho via browser extensions and userscripts (with the understanding that things will break whenever Amazon changes its web page layouts — OTOH this has been SOP over in the Google space since forever — so developers should know how to support these kinds of things

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Yes, this one might have a short selling opportunity. Even if it’s implementation turns out to be better than Amazon’s, people who haven’t gotten it yet would tend to go with the built-in option (when provided), I think.

  5. Caryn Says:

    I went off and bought this but I waited until the end of the article. Thanks for the excellent review. This app will come in very handy.
    I also got a bunch of files that only had numbers. Three were books and the rest were personal documents. I tried the scan but no go. Opening each file showed the titles which I edited and then sorted. There was one last file with numbers that I ended up having to remove from the app. When it opened it just showed a blank page with a Loading message. The app froze and shut down. I have no idea what that file was but I hope it was not trying to load thumbnail photos stored on the device by the Woven app. Don’t know what else it could have been.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Caryn!

      I’m glad it’s going to be useful for you!

      I can see there being file types that it might identify, but not be able to open.

  6. Bette Dengel Says:

    I bo0ught the app a few days ago when it was mentioned on KindleKorner but I haven’t done anything with it yet. Can you sort those books that are in your carousel but actually download yet? I read most of my books on the eink Kindle and only download books such as art, gardening or cooking on my Fire. But ALL of the book covers show up on the Fire. Will I be able to sort even those that are just covers? (Thanks for all the good articles!)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Bette!

      Since those books aren’t actually on your Kindle Fire, I don’t believe they can be found by the scan and imported into the app.

      • Caryn Says:

        Just wanted to confirm that the app only imported those books that I had actually downloaded to my Kindle Fire.

  7. Round up #140: The Book Boys of Mumbai, Collections on the Kindle Fire HD « I Love My Kindle Says:

    [...] I’ve written before about one app that brought something like Amazon’s Collections to the Kindle Fire. [...]

  8. carrieraircon.co.uk Says:
  9. Kristen Says:

    Can I just tell you how brilliant you are with the “Shrugger” comment?!?! How business operates, in a nutshell, and why innovation is drying up. You are a genius & one day they will make a “Social Media” type movie about you.

    It will be called “Shrug”!

    Found your post while checking to see if kindle has a sort option. I use my iKindle & keep most of my titles in the Cloud, but when I want something to read, I’m wading thru madness with all my titles. If Amazin offered the Kindle Sort, I’d stand in line to buy it. Until then I can get apps & read books on my iPhone. And make phone calls. Apple is winning.

    Seriously, some people just need a place to keep their reading material at their fingertips and all the other bells & whistles are redundant.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Kristen!

      I appreciate the kind words! I wouldn’t hold my breath for that movie, though.. ;)

      I can’t read books very well on my phone…it’s too small for me, and I think that’s true for a lot of people. Apple is winning on some things, Amazon on others. Apple isn’t even in the reflective screen game, for example. If you just want to read, and color isn’t an issue, an RSK (Reflective Screen Kindle) or other reflective screen device can be better.

  10. deb schreib Says:

    I downloaded a book from amazon and read it right away, before putting it in the collections app. Now, collections says there are no new ebooks yet the new one is not listed in collections. I removed it from the kindle and re downloaded it. The Collections app still says no new eboks. Can you help? Is there some publication to help me learn the tricks and tips of this app?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, deb!

      I’ve been seeing people on the forums saying they are having problems with just that issue since the latest upgrade. I’m hoping the app studio does an upgrade that fixes it. You could contact the studio, but I’m not aware of any books just about this app.

      The contact information should be in the app…I’ll try and check for you.

  11. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I’ve been watching the app store for a good collections app for a while now. There are two companies with such apps. Problem is the reviews for both average around 3 stars. Some good reviews; some terrible ones. Assuming that the early release status of the apps led to the bad reviews, I have been following them to see if things improved (I really really need a good collections app for my KFs :grin). Of the two apps out there, the one mentioned in this post has been getting updates right along, and the reviews have improved a bit. The other app has not been updated in months — I think we can forget that one.

    A couple of weeks ago I noticed that they were now offering a “free” version of the app if you agreed to take a newsletter of some sort from the developer. The reviews of this latest “free” version were better, but then they went in the toilet again — because the app stopped noticing new books that needed “collecting” — as you surmise (and as did the reviewers) that the latest round of KF S/W updates “broke” the collection app.

    I don’t know who (or if anyone, the developer or Amazon) is going to fix things, but I hope someone steps up (I still really really need a collection app :grin)

  12. Jen Says:

    I must admit I am stymied: this very basic and necessary functionality is available on the desktop Kindle versions. I can’t really understand why Amazon is not providing this to its Kindle Tablet customers for free. I also can’t imagine paying for it from a third-party developer (and by the way, this app has mixed reviews, both the paid and free versions).

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Jen!

      Well, providing it for a desktop version (PC or Mac) is quite a bit easier, since those both have inherent user-accessible file structures.

      In terms of the app, it’s important with this case (and in most cases), to look to see if the reviews are chronologically clustered. You’ve responded to something I wrote to something I wrote quite some time ago (I don’t have my normal resources in front of me for the next few days, so I’m not quite sure when that was…more than a year ago, I think). Since then, a Kindle update made the app much less effective…which could in turn have resulted in lower ratings.

      Amazon also can’t simply take the functionality from the non-Fire Kindles and transfer it to the Fires…a very different operating system is involved.

      As to it being necessary…well, I will say that I have been using Kindles for years now (this blog just celebrated its fourth birthday), and I’ve never found book organization to be necessary. We didn’t have it in the beginning, by the way.

      That’s not to say that it isn’t highly desirable to many people. :) I typically only keep about ten Kindle store books on any of my devices at a time (I have more than that right now, since I’m traveling, but under 25 I would guess). I’m sure that’s atypical, though.

      Amazon could hypothetically license something like the app about which I wrote…but it was never as consumer friendly as they like things, even before the update.

      I do think we’ll eventually (and it could be soon) see better organization for the Fire, and for the entire account, for that matter. I haven’t given up on Collections in the Cloud, even though I know there are a lot of problems to solve there…most of them not technical.

      I don’t know if that makes you any less stymied. :) The key thing is that file organization on an Android device is quite different from a desktop device, and different again from a non-Fire Kindle. I wouldn’t call it basic, although it can be done (ES File Explorer shows me folders on my Fire, for example).

      I would suggest hanging in there, and seeing what we get. You can also contact Amazon at

      kindle-feedback@amazon.com

      The devices have a lot of advantages for me, which outweigh this…well, I’ll call it a deficiency, since you and many others see it that way. :)

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