Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

Round up #278: Goodreads winners, favorite authors

December 6, 2014

Round up #278: Goodreads winners, favorite authors

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Amazon improves author tracking

It’s nice to me to see that Amazon is working on improving the customer experience.

The ability to be notified when a new book is published to the Kindle store from an author you like seems like it would be a no brainer.

The customer is happy, Amazon gets a sale, the publisher is happy, the author is happy…it’s just a question of getting the infrastructure and user experience to be simple and robust enough.

In the past, we’ve had a kind of clunky way of doing it…and I would hear from people that it didn’t really work (they didn’t get notifications).

I don’t know if they’ve fixed the latter part yet, but they now have a much more elegant and sophisticated way to request updates:

Amazon’s Favorite Authors page (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

From there, you can just tap an Add Favorite button.

Not only that, but it recommends authors for you, both ones that are similar to what you’ve favorited, and ones that you’ve reviewed positively.

I found that its linkages were very good: when I favorited an author, it made suggestions that made sense. Even in the case of authors I didn’t know, there were book cover thumbnails which made it clear that the connection was logical.

You can search for an author, or choose from popular ones.

You can decide whether or not you want your favorites displayed on your profile.

You can also edit your favorites here: and interestingly, those include books, movies, music, and others.

They also suggest more features are coming to this in the future.

The one suggestion I’m going to make to them first is that they add a place for us to comment on our favorites, which displays on the profile. That would make it much more social.

Ideally, they would make it that if someone went from your favorite on your page and purchased the book, you’d get an advertising fee or other credit of some kind, but I don’t expect that right away.

Almost whole-heartedly recommended a Kindle First book

This is what I recently wrote about this month’s Kindle First books:

Prime members, don’t forget to pick up your

Kindle First books (at AmazonSmile*)

You can get one of the four books to own (not borrow) for free…these are books which will be actually released next month. The choices this month are:

  • Marked (Servants of Fate Book 1) by Sarah Fine (romantic fantasy)
  • The Last Passenger
    by Manel Loureiro, Andrés Alfaro (suspense)
  • Fatal Puzzle (Zons Crime Book 1) by Catherine Shepherd, Julia Knobloch (thriller)
  • Guardians of the Night (A Gideon and Sirius Novel) by Alan Russell (mystery)

I’m going with The Last Passenger, and it was an easy choice. Loureiro is the author of the Apocalypse Z books, the first of which is the most reviewed book I listed above. They classify it as a suspense novel, but it involves time travel…one of my favorite subjects.

When I started reading

The Last Passenger (at AmazonSmile*)

I was quite pleased with it. It reminded me of the pulp hero Doc Savage (without a hero like that), and from me, that’s a compliment. ;) I was already seeing how it would be a good movie.

It was a great high camp set up, had interesting characters including the lead…and it was an excellent translation from the Spanish.

Unfortunately, a character was introduced who is so thunderingly stereotypical in a negative way that now I don’t know if I can even recommend it.

This book was published by AmazonCrossing, which gets books from other countries…so we may not be able to blame the Amazon editor for not saying, “Um, don’t you think you want to tone that down or give that character more depth and complexity?”

I (eventually) finish every book I read, and I’m liking the book except for this one element.

It’s unfortunate, and I do think it’s something an editor could have affected.

Fire TV Stick means cutting the cord

I will write a review comparing the

Fire TV Stick (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and the

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

(I have and use both), but I thought I’d mention that the Stick may mean that we finally “cut the cord” and eliminate TV services from our cable company (we’ll keep their internet…we have Comcast, and it works well for us).

Interestingly, part of what happened was that we bought a new TV:

32″ TV HDTV LED 720p Element Electronics (at AmazonSmile*)

The Fire TV Stick was coming, and we had a paleolithic Sony TV without an HDMI input. ;) I mean, seriously, Fred Flintstone would have felt at home with the old one. Both of us were grunting and groaning when we had to move it…and we are reasonably strong.

So, when we saw the Element on sale for under $150 on Black Friday weekend at Target, we got one. We have an Element TV already, and I like it. One thing I like is they are super light…I have taken our old one to work easily for a game night there.

However, our recorded Tivo programs looked quite muddy on it (while the Fire TV Stick looked fine). That might be a matter of recabling the Tivo (we also are using an old one of those).

So the question became: could we do without Tivo and the programs it records?

One element of that: Hulu Plus.

We haven’t had it. My Significant Other doesn’t want to watch TV on a mobile device, so Hulu couldn’t be a replacement for us easily until we had a TV that could show it…simply.

The Fire TV Stick and the new TV makes that combination work.

I still have to go through and compare our season passes and see what we can’t do (although mirroring my Kindle Fire HDX or my Fire Phone to the Fire TV Stick might solve some problems, if new episodes are available on network/studio websites…for free, of course) through Hulu to decide.

We aren’t heavy duty TV watchers, I’d say, although I have the CBS app running in the other room and I’m listening to it as I write right now.

Let me revise that: we don’t follow a lot of current TV shows. I watch Survivor live, usually, to avoid spoilers in the apps I use in the morning (Flipboard, CNN, Washington Post). Otherwise, seeing things as they happen is not that important to us…I’d say we could generally wait until the next season.

The exception would be that I have CNN on…a lot. However, I now have some other news apps that could take that place. Watchup, CBS, BBC…oh, I should mention: my BBC news app works on our Fire TV at this point but not on the Fire TV Stick. I assume they’ll work that out.

We’ll probably make the decision this weekend…well, before the next time we pay a cable bill, at any rate (rate…so to speak). ;)

goodreads CHOICE AWARDS 2014

The Goodreads Choice Awards 2014 (I went with their capitalization above) have been announced:

https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-books-2014

First, I have to say: why isn’t there an easy page for this at Amazon in the Kindle store?

There is a page

Goodreads Choice Award Winners (at AmazonSmile*)

but the 2014 ones aren’t there yet as a sub-page…and I didn’t see any link from the main Kindle store.

This is where I’d like a bit more synergy, Amazon. :) As I’ve said before, SMMSA (Sell Me More Stuff, Amazon). ;)

Here are the winners:

Enjoy! These might be safe gifts, as well…there are a lot of Goodreads users, so if you were looking for the mainstream choice, this might be a good way to go. You recipient (and you can delay the delivery until the appropriate date) will have the option to exchange it for a gift card.

What do you think? Have you ever had a situation where you found one element of a book offensive, but liked the rest? What did you do…did you read it? Do you have alternatives to suggest to the Goodreads winners? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

 Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

** A Kindle with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to it…unless that access is blocked by the publisher inserting code into the file to prevent it. That’s why you can have the device read personal documents to you (I’ve done that). I believe that this sort of access blocking disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I also believe it is legal (provided that there is at least one accessible version of each e-book available, however, that one can require a certification of disability). For that reason, I don’t deliberately link to books which block TTS access here (although it may happen accidentally, particularly if the access is blocked after I’ve linked it). I do believe this is a personal decision, and there  are legitimate arguments for purchasing those books. 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Kindle samples are now stored in the Cloud

November 18, 2014

Kindle samples are now stored in the Cloud

This is something people have wanted for a long time!

You can generally get a free “sample” of a Kindle store book to read before you buy it.

That can be very valuable: it’s especially helpful in cases where you aren’t sure about the formatting of the book.

The only broad case where you can’t get a sample is when the book is regularly free. If it’s free, Amazon figures you can just get the whole book if you want.

People, though, use the samples for more than just checking out the book.

A lot of people use them as organizational tools. They’ll get a sample of something which they might buy, and that lets them remember it (similar to the Wish Lists).

It used to be that we didn’t have a record of which samples we’d gotten.

I would tell people that it was like getting a free sample at Costco. One reason why Costco and Amazon could do it for free is there is a reduced cost of sale. There’s no financial processing, and I would guess very little Customer Service costs.

Well, I guess Amazon decided it was worth the expense to make them centrally available!

According to this

Kindle Samples help page (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

You can manage the samples directly from these devices:

  • Fire HDX
  • Fire HD
  • Kindle Fire HDX
  • Kindle Fire HD (2nd Generation)
  • Kindle Voyage
  • Kindle Paperwhite (2nd Generation)
  • Kindle (7th Generation)
  • Fire phone
  • Kindle for iPhone
  • iPad
  • iPod touch (version 4.5 or greater)
  • Kindle for Android (version 4.7 or greater)

or at the

Manage Your Content and Devices (formerly Manage Your Kindle) page

On the MYK page, you change the dropdown in “Show” from “All” to “Samples”.

I tried testing it this morning. I sent a sample, but it hasn’t shown up yet (maybe ten minutes later), even refreshing the page.

It’s clear from what the page says that you can delete the sample from all devices on your account when you are on one of your devices:

“You can also choose to delete the sample from the cloud and all devices and reading apps registered to your account.”

That’s unusual. Typically, central management is reserved for people who have the password for the account and can do it at MYK. Many people have situations where there are what I call “managers” and “users” of the account. For example, children, or a friend or more distant relative, might not access to the financials of the account, but would be able to use the books on it.

I suppose the thought is that if someone deletes a sample, no real harm done…but that won’t be the case if people are using it organizationally.

What isn’t clear to me is whether I can order a sample from, say, my computer and have it sent to Device A on the account, and then be on Device B and download that sample.

I wanted to let you know about this exciting ability…and hopefully, I’ll get to explore a bit more about how it works soon (after, I presume, the MYK page updates).

Update: that never did show up, but I found out why. I have to request that the sample go to one of the qualified types of devices. When I did that, it showed up both on the device and at MYK. From MYK, I could send it to any of the EBRs (E-Book Readers) on the account, and to my Fire Phone, but not my Fire TV or my (yet to be delivered) Fire TV sticks.

It shows up on the KFHDX like a book.

The sample was also available to download on our Kindle Paperwhite 2…again, similar to an e-book. That’s what I wanted! :)

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Hands on with the new EBR features

November 16, 2014

Hands on with the new EBR features

I recently wrote about the 5.61 update for the current Kindle EBRs (E-Book Readers…non-Fires). It brings some significant new features to the

I’ve now manually updated our PW2 (it had not yet updated), and can give you some more information about these features.

First, after doing the manual update by getting the file from

http://www.amazon.com/kindlesoftwareupdates (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

the first thing I noticed was a message box on the home page pointing to the filter choice

“We’ve added new ways to see and use collections on your Kindle and in the Cloud. Tap on the filter above and choose Collections to see them.”

Before I did that, another box appeared:

“Restart Required: An update if available for the following fonts: (Chinese). Do you want to restart now to complete the update?”

I had a choice of “Later” or “Now” and went with “Later”, so I could explore a bit more.

Changing the filter to Collections, I got another message box. I must say, kudos to Amazon for providing information to the user about changes! They haven’t always done that effectively in the past. I’m glad I’m doing this before my Significant Other is awake, though. This is the device my SO uses, and all of these message boxes, which I really like, would be seen as intrusions.

The new box said:

“All your collections are synced to the Cloud.

Tap Cloud in the upper left to see all collections, including those created on other Kindle devices and apps.

Tap On Device to see collections that are on this Kindle.

Tap and hold a collection to add or remove it from this Kindle.

When in Cloud view, collections on this Kindle are marked with a star.”

Here’s a nice switch, which people have wanted! When I’m on “On Device”, the count is the number of items from the Collection on this device (actually on this Kindle). When I’m on Cloud, the count is all of the items in that Collection, whether or not they are on this device.

Also, when I’m on On Device, it mentions that there are 5 more (in my case) Collections in the Cloud.

When I open a Collection on the On Device, it only displays the items which are on the device, and then tells me how many more are in the Cloud. Future improvement: I’d like to be able to tap that count and be taken to the Collection in the Cloud. As it is now, I tap on Cloud and that shows me that Collection in the Cloud. Definitely not a biggie…what I call a “tweekquest”.

I consider this a considerable improvement.

Also on the home page was a document telling me that “Your Kindle is updated!”

This mentions the features I mentioned in that previous post (I’ll go through them in this one), plus a couple of other things.

  • Get Next in Series: again, something people have wanted. When you are done reading a book in a series, you can easily get the next book in that series
  • They also mention the Collections view change, and that “Newspapers and magazines are now automatically organized by name to make it easier to find and access back issues in your Collections”
  • Russian and Dutch are now supported as interface languages. Amazon just opened a Dutch Kindle store, so that makes sense
  • Kindle Unlimited is mentioned, including the free 30 day trial
  • You can also download the “Kindle Paperwhite User’s Guide 3rd Edition” from the Cloud

Okay, the next thing is for me to check the Settings menu.

There is now a Registration and Household section, to  accommodate  Family Library.

Reading Options lets you set “Language Learning” options. Word Wise, which will display definitions of “unfamiliar words” is off by default. I’m going to turn that on and test it, although my SO will want it off…so don’t let me forget to reset it. ;) You also have an option there to turn off the crowdsourcing part of “Show Multiple-Choice Hints”. When that’s on, you can contribute to the helping Amazon get the most useful definitions for Word Wise. Yes, it is now a learning system…

My SO was reading

Top Secret Twenty-One: A Stephanie Plum Novel (at AmazonSmile*)

which I’ve already finished. I checked the Amazon product page: yes, Word Wise is enabled.

It took a few seconds for it to appear, but there they were: definitions of words in superscript.

There was also a box saying “Tap on Word Wise and use the slider to adjust how many hints you see.”

With the default, it defined the following:

  • neatly: not dirty
  • laundry: clothes that have to be washed
  • hanger: curved object to hang clothes
  • cleaners: one who tends to a mess
  • queens: a woman who rules a country

Yes, my SO would want to throw the Kindle across the room at this point. ;)

Tapping “cleaners” (I wouldn’t really define it this way”, I got a definition (including the part of speech), a way to mark if that was useful or not, and “Other Meanings”. Other meanings included:

  • substance used for washing
  • a device used for washing
  • shop to remove dirt from clothes

Each choice had an arrow, and I tapped the third one (that matches the context). I could then recommend that they “Use This Meaning”, which I did.

The new choice of definition now appeared in the book…and I assume, that will be part of an aggregating algorithm  for other readers of this same book. That doesn’t mean that just because I changed it changes for everybody, but I would assume if a certain percentage or number of people pick a choice, it becomes the default.

Clicking on Word Wise in my bottom right to get to the slider, it had defaulted to the highest possibility of “More Hints”. Sliding it down to the bottom out of five, they all disappeared. On the second level, only the definition for hanger remained. On the middle level, it was the definitions for neatly, laundry, hanger, and cleaners. The fourth level (in this case) didn’t make any difference.

I don’t see a way at

Manage Your Kindle (now called Manage Your Content and Devices)

to tell which ones were enabled.

Okay, turning it off…thanks for the reminder. ;)

I’m going to hold off on writing about the Family Library in this post…I still need to explore that more. That’s the one that lets you share books across accounts…certain books, with restrictions about set up.

Expanded X-Ray

This is nicely improved!

X-Ray is a feature (not available on all books) which shows you information about what is in the book…characters, terms, and so on.

They now have a “timeline” feature. That gives you a much better sense of where you are in the book than page numbers ever did.

There are “clips” throughout the timeline (short snippets), and it’s much easier to get to information about people. For example, when I tapped Joe Morelli in the X-Ray, I could see where Morelli appeared in the book (up to the point to which my SO had read), and tap the dots to see a clip of that spot. It was smart enough to recognize that “Joe” mean “Joe Morelli”, which impressed me. Serious homework helper! I cold toggle between “Notable Clips” and “All Mentions”…the latter went past what had been indicated as having been read so far.

There was a settings gear which also let me toggle between showing unread clips and not…great for the spoiler averse, like me.

Yes, I would also consider this to be a big improvement! The image browser wasn’t useful in this book, but would be in others. I could particularly see it where I’ve listened to parts of the book with text-to-speech (which is common for me), but I might want to look at the images later.

Deeper Goodreads Integration

From within the book, I could tap the “g” for Goodreads (by first tapping towards the top middle of the book to display the toolbar).

From here, I could update my status, see ratings from my Goodreads friends (I liked it the least out of the people I saw…I like the series, but wasn’t crazy about this one).

I could also go right from there to read my general Goodreads Updates (not limited to this book).

They have now made this really valuable, for Goodreads users.

From the homescreen, when I tap the g, I can see the updates…and conveniently, tap something that I see a friend has done something with, and bounce from there to the store. That would then let me purchase books, or add them to a wish list or try a sample. Again, nice!

When I “long-pressed” Top Secret Twenty-One on the homescreen, I got a choice to View on Goodreads and Add to Goodreads Shelf.

Amazon has finally figured out how to effectively leverage their purchase of Goodreads.

Enhanced Search

I searched for Doc Savage from the homescreen, first letting it search everywhere. By default, it showed me books I owned at the top, then offered to search the store. Actually, it offered to search either for e-books or, I think, any books (I don’t think it was searching non-book items). Bam! It lets me refine by Kindle Unlimited! That’s a very nice touch.

About This Book

I didn’t see something right away about “About This Book” from the homescreen, where I thought it might be particularly useful (before I opened it). After I opened it, it was in the menu for the book. Oh, it also says that it “…shows you additional information about the book the first time you open it”, so I assume it pops up. You can, however, turn that off in the Settings (which are in the About This Book menu choice from within the book, and in general Settings menu under Reading Options – Notes & About This Book. That’s on by default: I’ve turned it off for my SO (again, my SO will want pure reading, no friction).

I think many people will like it, though: it shows you where the book is in the series, has a link to the previous book, gives you a bit about the author and lets you sign up for e-mails for new releases, and gives you links to more books by the author.

My feelings about this update overall? It’s one of the best ones we’ve had. Amazon is now making things works which people have wanted, which is a sign both of their inventiveness and their customer focus. I haven’t checked out the Family Library yet, but ignoring means it hasn’t changed anything in the reading experience…so it doesn’t hurt. I like that they are putting settings right within activities, and letting you turn off features.

Unless the update comes to the PW1, which is possible, I would say there is now a good reason to upgrade.

What do you think? Do you have questions? Feel free to tell me and my readers by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

New: set your default delivery device for Kindle books

October 18, 2014

New: set your default delivery device for Kindle books

===

NOTE: if you are reading this on a site called


Kindle Updates
Your source for the latest Kindle updates and news

they have reproduced my copyrighted material without my permission. They are infringing on my copyright.

They are also reproducing posts from other sites, I presume again without having obtained authorization (although I do not know that for sure).

If you are able to contact them, please ask them to stop. I would be satisfied with that outcome, and would rather not take additional action (I have already alerted Google’s AdSense to the situation, and they appear to have removed their sponsorship).

Thank you for your consideration of the rights of authors.

===

Well, this should reduce the questions which get asked in the Amazon Kindle forums!

For years, people have been confused by where a book goes when they order one from the USA Kindle store.

In the past, there were two answers to that:

If you ordered from your device (from a non-Fire Kindle, a Fire, or a Kindle reader app), it would first go to that device. That’s if you are ordering from within the Kindle store…not using your browser to go to Amazon.com.

If you were at Amazon.com (on your desktop or laptop, for example, or in your browser), you could choose which device got it first…but it would default to your first Kindle (including Fires) alphabetically.

That led to people naming their Kindles in special ways, to drive one up to the top of the list. Instead of “Bufo’s Kindle”, for example, it might be “AAA Bufo’s Kindle”.

Today, for the first time, I was asked to set a default delivery device.

Before I tell you how, it’s important that I point out that you might not have it yet.

Amazon is big on A/B testing: in other words, some people get something and some people don’t while they experiment with it.

A new feature might work for me, and not for you…or vice versa.

It might work in one browser and not another.

It might work in one way for one person (a button might be on the left side of the screen or the choice might be in a menu) and a different way for another person (button on the right, for example).

That said, here is what I am seeing.

When I go to

http://www.amazon.com/myk…formerly called “Manage Your Kindle” and now called “Manage Your Content and Devices

and click or tap on

Your Devices

I see a

Set as default device

link under a selected non-Fire Kindle or Kindle reader app.

For Fires tablets, it’s in the Device Actions menu.

It isn’t available for my Fire Phone or my Fire TV, although they both show on this page (my Fire TV doesn’t have a Kindle app, but my Fire Phone does).

When you set that,

Default Device

appears under the device’s name.

That’s it. :)

As far as I can tell, you can change it whenever you want.

Once I’d done that, the “deliver to” dropdown on a book’s Amazon product page changed to showing the default device first.

Opening the dropdown, the choices looked like they did before…same order, with hardware Kindles and Fires alphabetically first, followed by apps alphabetically.

It did not change the behavior when ordering from a device…when I ordered from my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

(through the Kindle store, not the browser), it went automatically to that device, not the default device I had designated.

Even those this is a little thing, it’s a big improvement!

A device we don’t use much happens to come alphabetically first…I had sometimes been forgetting to change that, and the book would just sit as a pending delivery forever.

Oh, I could still get it on another device by downloading it from the Cloud/archives, or sending it from that MYK page above, but I really don’t like having those pending deliveries out there (maybe they’ll let us cancel them at some point).

One other tip.

I often get books, and would prefer that they not be on any of my devices right away. I’d rather read them some time in the future, and don’t need them taking up local memory (I usually only keep about ten Kindle store books on any of my devices at a time).

While we can get apps and have them go only to the Cloud, that’s not currently an option for Kindle books.

However, you can get the free Kindle Cloud Reader

http://read.amazon.com

and set that as your default device (I checked…yes, you can do that).

That way, by default, it will go to that Cloud reader, which means the book won’t take up memory on your Kindles and Fires…until you download it.

Remember, that’s only if you order in a browser…if you order it in the store on one of your devices, it will go to that device first.

I’m very happy to see Amazon still making these kinds of asked-for improvements!

If you get a chance, take a look and see if you have the option. If you don’t, I’d be interested to hear that. If your interface is significantly different from what I described above, I’d be interested to hear that as well.

What else would be on your list of tweaks (minor changes) you’d like to see? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Kindle and Fire Generations

October 12, 2014

Kindle and Fire Generations

Many people have complained about how Amazon names their devices…it’s been confusing.

The least expensive Kindle has generally just been officially called a “Kindle”, for example.

That might be okay, but the problem really happens when you are trying to buy

Kindle Accessories (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

A cover for one model won’t necessarily fit another model.

It also gets very confusing when we try to help people on the Amazon Kindle forums. You might think a question like, “Can I stream my Kindle Fire to my TV?” would be easy to answer, but it’s different for different years. We frequently have to ask people to identify their devices before we can help them, or give them multiple answers (which can be confusing).

Well, recently, Amazon has started identifying Kindles and Fires (which used to be called “Kindle Fires”…another confusing factor) by generations.

The upcoming

Kindle Voyage (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and

the new

7th generation entry level Kindle: “Mindle Touch” (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

are both being identified now as “7th Generation”.

Let’s work our way back through the non-Fire generations first:

  • 7th generation (announced September 2014): Kindle Voyage, “Mindle Touch” (the $79 least expensive Kindle)
  • 6th generation (September 2013): Kindle Paperwhite 2 (now just called the Kindle Paperwhite)
  • 5th generation (September 2012): Kindle Paperwhite 1
  • 4th generation (September 2011): Kindle Touch, Mindle (my name for the entry level Kindle…”Minimum Kindle”)
  • 3rd generation (August 2010): Kindle Keyboard
  • 2nd generation (February 2009; May 2009): Kindle 2 and Kindle DX
  • 1st generation (November 2007): Kindle 1

The recently announced Fires (formerly Kindle Fires) are the 4th generation of those:

  • 4th generation (September 2014): versions of the Fire HD, Fire HDX, and a kids’ version
  • 3rd generation (September 2013): introduces HDX, new HDs
  • 2nd generation (September 2012): Kindle Fire 2nd gen, Kindle Fire HDs introduced
  • 1st generation (September 2011): Kindle Fire

How can you tell which one you have?

Here are the Amazon help pages:

It would be nice if they’d start actually putting the numbers on the devices, but I don’t think that will happen (they want the brand identification to be “Kindle” or “Amazon”, not “Kindle 7″…at least, that’s my guess).

Hopefully, this will help you buying those accessories…and those can make good gifts for the holidays for people you know who already have a device.

Bonus deal: some of the Kindle e-mail subscriptions have a deal going where you can get a free book (from a very limited set) if you are a new subscriber.

You can see the list of these free e-mails from Amazon here:

E-mail Subscriptions (at AmazonSmile*)

The free book deal is through October 18th…I know the Business & Money newsletter has one, Teen & Young Adult has one, Mystery & Thriller has one…I’d just sign up for the ones you want and see what happens. :) These are all free, by the way.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

New search tip: sort by Most Reviews

September 28, 2014

New search tip: sort by Most Reviews

I think a lot of times, people go into the Kindle store looking for a “mainstream” book. They want a “People Magazine book”, as I call them: one that would have been reviewed in that publication. They want what they consider a “real book”, a popular book.

You can’t sort in the Kindle store by Avg. Customer Review and find that…you’ll find many faith-based titles at the top of the lists (I think people tend to give those higher reviews), but not necessarily well-known ones.

Sorting by publication date doesn’t work, either. Not only are obscure indies added every day, but publication date is what the publisher puts on it…not when the book was originally published. A bestseller from 1942 may have a 2014 publication date: that’s just up to the publisher to choose. I see people asking sometimes why Amazon doesn’t put the date on there. Well, that’s a surprising amount of work. You’d have to verify that the book was the book you thought it was…that it wasn’t a new translation, or a book with the same name, or that a new introduction hadn’t been added to it. Then, you’d have to search publication records.

It might sound easy, but all of that would add to the cost of selling it, and would introduce another area for error on Amazon’s part…better to let the publisher choose, I think.

Interestingly, a strong indicator is the number of reviews.

I don’t think I’ve seen a book in the Kindle store with, oh, over 5,000 reviews where I hadn’t heard of it.

Up until recently, that hasn’t been a sort option.

I was surprised to see it today…at least for the Kindle Matchbook program books:

Kindle Matchbook sorted by most reviews (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

That program lets you buy an e-book if you buy (or have bought from Amazon in the past) a p-book (paperbook). That’s only true for a certain set of books…45,297 at time of writing.

Here are the top books that appear:

I’m guessing you’ve heard of all three of those…and I might have had the three of them in the window when I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore.

Unfortunately, as I was looking around the Kindle store, I wasn’t seeing that as a sort option. It could be that they are just rolling it out, or testing  (Amazon does that a lot) to see how it impacts sales and how often it is used.

However…

I did notice something when I did the search!

At the end of the URL (uniform or universal resource locator)…the web address, there was this phrase:

&sort=review-count-rank

I went to the main Kindle store listing, swapped out the sort at the end with that phrase…and it seems to have worked!

USA Kindle store books sorted by most reviewed (at AmazonSmile*)

Here are the most reviewed books in the USA Kindle store, based on that:

  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins…32,047
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins…32,047
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green…31,372
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James…26,937
  • Good Girl by Gillian Flynn…23,221

Certainly, those are bestsellers which have been part of the cultural discussion.

There are multiple things which drive the number of reviews. Here are a few…I don’t have statistics on this, this is just my guess:

  • I think more recent books tend to be reviewed more (people don’t usually go back and review a book they read a decade ago)
  • I suspect that young people tend to write more reviews than older people
  • Degree of emotional reaction to a book (pro or con)

Now, I know some people tend to reject things that are popular, but I think this may be one of the best ways to identify an…impactful book (on society).

I’m certainly going to try this again in other places!

Try it out in areas of your expertise, and imagine if someone had come up to you and asked to read some books so they could be part of the conversation…not necessarily the best books (those might be obscure), but just to understand what the “buzz” is.

I think this tends to work in part because the number of reviews will include other formats…so p-books affect this. That may also mean that indies (independently published books) are at a disadvantage on this, but they generally aren’t going to be those People Magazine books anyway (not yet, anyway).

I just tried it on some other searches, and it does seem to have worked.

Always love to find something sort of hidden like this and share it with you! :) I’m hoping they add it to the dropdowns generally so everybody can use it, but until then, enjoy!

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Using the Kindle store’s Advanced Search

September 17, 2014

Using the Kindle store’s Advanced Search

Like a lot of people, I’m surprised sometimes at how unsophisticated the search in the Kindle store is.

You can put an author’s name into the searchbox at the top of a page and count on finding just books by that author.

You can’t search for books that came out this week easily, or the ones that have the most customer reviews, or ones published in a particular country, or that were originally published in a certain century, and so on.

If you get beyond the page top searchbox (say that three times quickly), it’s a bit better, but still not great.

The place to go is to

Kindle eBooks: Advanced Search (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

You have some parameters you can enter there:

Keywords: this is the broadest category. Try anything here…authors, “Swahili edition”, Legos…whatever. If you put a minus sign in front of a term, that should keep that word from being used. If you want to see books about the Kindle, but not about the Kindle Fire, you could do Kindle -Fire. Of course, that’s an example of where it won’t work all that well…a book might be called, “Chess sets of the 19th Century, optimized for the Kindle” and it would appear.

Author

Title

Publisher: the tricky thing here is that the tradpubs  (traditional publishers) have many imprints. Grand Central is an imprint of Hachette…if you search for Hachette, you won’t find those Grand Central titles.

Subject: there are a lot of choices here. These are picked by the publisher, and you may not agree with them…I’ve seen the same book classified as fiction and non-fiction, for example.

  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction
  • Kindle Singles
  • Advice & How-to
  • Arts & Entertainment
  • Biographies & Memoirs
  • Business & investing
  • Children and Teens
  • Comics & Graphic Novels
  • Computers & Internet
  • Cooking, Food & Wine
  • Fantasy
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • History
  • Humor
  • Literary Fiction
  • Mystery & Thrillers
  • Parenting & Families
  • Politics & Current Events
  • Reference
  • Religion & Spirituality
  • Romance
  • Science
  • Sports
  • Travel

Reader Age:

  • All Ages
  • Baby – 3 Years
  • 4 – 8 Years
  • 9 – 12 Years
  • Teen

Languages:

  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Spanish

Publication Date (this is the date the publisher tells Amazon…not necessarily the date of first publication). First, you choose: All Dates; Before; During; After. Then you pick a month, then you enter a year

Sort Results by:

  • Relevance
  • Bestselling
  • Price: Low to High
  • Price: High to Low
  • Avg. Customer Review
  • Publication Date

There you go! If you enter into more than one field, your conditions will combine. In other words, you could search for Stephen King and Spanish.

That’s better than the general searchbox, although I hope Amazon is still working on search.

One other thing: in your search results, look to your left to see more filtering you can do. You may be able to pick a particular author or series, and you typically can further filter for Prime eligible, Whispersync for Voice, and I’ve seen Kindle Unlimited as a choice. Sometimes I even see tags put on by customers, but it appears to be inconsistent.

Hope that helps…

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Amazon Hot New Releases top 100

September 12, 2014

Amazon Hot New Releases top 100

Hey, here’s something you haven’t read before!

Well, 100 somethings…and okay, you might have read them in the last month, but you’ll remember if you did, right? ;)

Amazon has all kinds of interesting bestseller lists (updated hourly), and here is the one for “Hot New Releases” (which appears to mean within the last month…although the Kindle First titles can get on this list before they are released):

Amazon Hot New Releases (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Let’s take a look at some of the books on the list:

#1 is Personal: A Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child
4.0 stars out of 5, 634 customer reviews
$11.84

No big surprise there…

#2, though, is The Moonlight Palace by Liz Rosenberg. Yep, a traditionally published book from Amazon beats everything except the Jack Reacher novel.
4.2 stars, 81 customer reviews
$4.99
It should be in Kindle Unlimited once it is officially released on October 1st.

#3 and #4? Also Kindle First picks…will it get to the point where Amazon doesn’t need the tradpubs?

The highest rated KU (Kindle Unlimited) book is really up there…it is #7, Twice the Growl by Milly Taiden.
4.6 stars, 169 reviews. High-rated and a recent release…did you expect to be able to find those in KU?

Speaking of

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Amazon has now made it easier to find books. When you do a search, you’ll often get a checkmark filter that allows you to limit it to KU. I used the Advanced Search in the Kindle store, but didn’t put in any parameters (which results in all the books).

Checking the KU box, I get 706,786 at time of writing…it’s really growing!

Here is that search:

Kindle Unlimited eligible books (at AmazonSmile*)

Want to narrow it down…maybe find books about cats that are KU eligible, or a particular author?

You can start at

Kindle eBooks: Advanced Search (at AmazonSmile*)

enter combinations of these parameters:

  • Keywords
  • Author
  • Title
  • Publisher
  • Subject
  • Reader Age
  • Language
  • Pub. Date
    Month
    Year

and choose how you would like it sorted. Once you get your results, you can check the box to filter for KU eligible.

Enjoy!

 Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Fire Phone: first impressions and tips

July 29, 2014

Fire Phone: first impressions and tips

I’ve had my

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

since Thursday, which has given me an opportunity to use it over the weekend and at work.

I can say that the best is yet to come. ;)

This is a new and radically different device. Think of the people who bought the first automobiles, before there were purpose built roads. They had to bounce and rattle along over streets intended for entirely different vehicles. It wasn’t until people responded to the invention that it became completely indispensable.

At this point, the Fire Phone’s two breakthrough features (Firefly and Dynamic Perspective, which I call “dyper”) are like that.

I’m coming to the Fire Phone from a Galaxy S4…and I have an iPhone 5S that I use for work. The iPhone is new for me (the way Apple handled e-books left a bad taste in my mouth for their products), but I do have some experience with it.

I wouldn’t say I’m a power user of SmartPhones: not like I am with Kindles. However, I do know what I’m doing and I use them quite a bit.

At first, I found the Fire Phone’s interface less easy to use than my S4. After doing more research, playing around with it, and making a couple of calls to Mayday (the almost instant live online screen tech help…which is a huge plus for the FP over anything else), it’s growing on me.

It does all of the basics fine: e-mail, calendar, text.

The navigation is new. Without learning that, the phone can seem frustrating, like it takes a lot of steps to get anywhere.

Let’s talk this through.

The way I have the phone set, I turn it on by pushing a power button once…reasonable.

The lock screens look amazing! They have dyper…just by moving my head, I can see more of the image. For example, I have a neon sign up right now, like a tourist trap in the desert (it includes the date and time). By moving my head (even from probably half a meter away from the phone), I can see the streetlamps which are otherwise off the screen. I can see how many new e-mails I have, the signal strength and battery level.

To unlock it, I swipe up from the bottom…that’s an adjustment for me, I’m used to going side to side. However, as an ambidexter, I appreciate that it isn’t better for right or left handers. :)

I’ve put a password on mine.

Once it opens up, there is a Carousel, like there is an a Kindle Fire. It’s going to be easier for Kindle Fire users to adapt to this phone than other people.

At the bottom of the screen are four icons:

  • Phone
  • Messaging
  • Email
  • Silk Browser

Here’s the first thing you might not realize.

Swipe those four icons up, and you’ll be on the apps screen.

It will default to being the apps on your device, but you can switch it to the Cloud easily enough (it’s an obvious choice in your top left corner).

Okay, here’s are a few gestural things on this homescreen which aren’t intuitive.

In addition to swiping from the left or right side, you can just “flick” the phone.

Flick it where you are turning the phone with a rapid motion with the left side getting closer to you, and you reveal the main navigation. That has

  • APPS
  • GAMES
  • WEB
  • MUSIC
  • VIDEOS
  • PHOTOS
  • BOOKS
  • NEWSSTAND
  • AUDIOBOOKS
  • DOCS
  • SHOP
  • PRIME

Flick it back to remove that menu.

Generally, that left menu will be available in most places you are working, and will be the same.

Flick it the other way, with the right side getting closer to you, and you’ll reveal a context sensitive menu…one that varies depending on what you are doing.

ON the home screen, I get a weather report (which I could set to be in Celsius, my favorite…and which autodetected my location), and Google Now type cards. Right now, I’m seeing calendar events, but I may see an e-mail from people I designate, or texts. There is an ellipsis (“…”) at the bottom to go to the full calendar.

Flick left, flick right: two of the main gestures.

Three other big gestures:

Tip the phone to one side (either direction), and you’ll see a ribbon at the top with quick access to functions:

  • Airplane mode
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • Flashlight
  • Sync
  • Settings
  • Mayday
  • Search
  • Brightness

How would you know what they were?

You peek.

Really, that’s what they call it.

Move your head to the side and look back at the phone, like you are trying to look behind the icons.

The captions magically appear.

You’ll use that a lot.

The last gesture I’ll mention is how to get back to what you were doing last.

The first couple of days, I really missed the Back button on my S4. Then, one of the Mayday reps told me that you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen. They didn’t describe it quite right: the thing is that you start off the edge of the screen at the bottom, at about the same level as the home button. Then swipe up on to the screen: that will take you back to the last function.

Before I go on, let me say that is seems to drink battery charge like a Chevrolet Suburban drinks gasoline! ;) Just while I’ve been writing this post, it went down four percent. I expect that will get better after I play with some settings.

In terms of the pre–installed apps, I recommend that you play with Clay Doodle and Monkey Buddy (although the latter might drive you crazy, if you are an adult). The first one is like Play-Doh, and takes advantage of the dyper. The second one is a virtual pet, like a Tamagotchi in concept. Since it can see where you head is, it responds to you nodding your head yes in approval, for example.

Believe it or not, the integration with Amazon could be better. My Prime music wasn’t available until I downloaded an app…that was weird. My biggest disappointment so far has been that gestural scrolling doesn’t work in the Kindle app! It only works in Silk on websites.

I was really looking forward to having an endless scroll in my Kindle books, where I could get to the next text by just moving my head or tilting the phone.

A Mayday rep told me that an update is coming soon which will include more functionality…and better interface with the Kindle app is one of the things we may see. Right now, you can get the X-Ray background data by flicking from the right…good to know, right? :)

I may do a full menu map at some point (that kind of thing might make a good short “book” for people to borrow through Kindle Unlimited), but let’s go through the settings at a high level:

Wi-Fi & Networks

  • Connect to Wi-Fi
  • Enable Airplane Mode
  • Pair Bluetooth Devices
  • Set up a Wi-Fi hotspot (only if that’s part of your data plan, I think)
  • Enable NFC (Near Field Communication)
  • Turn off cellular dta usage
  • See your cellular data usage
  • Change your mobile network operator

Display

  • Adjust screen brightness
  • Turn off automatic screen rotation
  • Hide (or show…the commands change based on current state) status bar
  • Change time to sleep
  • Share your screen via Miracast
  • Configure low motion settings (this will turn off some of the gestural stuff, which would be useful for those with unsteady hands or heads)

Sounds & Notifications

  • Change your ringtone
  • Manage notifications
  • Select ringtones for specific people
  • Select text message tones for specific people
  • Change volume levels (there  are also physical volume buttons)
  • Change touch feedback settings (my first call to Mayday: how to turn off hepatic feedback, the vibrating you get when you touch a key…I just don’t like it, and it uses battery charge)

Applications & Parental Controls

  • Configure Amazon application settings
  • Manage applications
  • Prevent (or enable) non-Amazon app installation
  • Turn off product recommendations
  • Enable Parental Controls

Battery & Storage

  • View battery usage (the system is taking 50% of my usage right now)
  • View available storage
  • Free space on your phone (not how much you have…this one is designed to free up space)
  • Change USB connection type

Location Services

  • Configure Location Based Services for your applications
  • Enable Enhanced Location Services
  • Disable Find My Device (enabled by default)

Lock Screen

  • Select a lock screen scene (the default is that it changes every day)
  • Set a password or PIN (Personal Identification Number)
  • Change the automatic lock time
  • Turn off (or on) notifications on the lock screen

Keyboard

  • Change the keyboard language
  • Configure auto-correct and spell-checking
  • Manage advanced keyboard features
  • Edit your personal dictionary

Phone

  • Configure call waiting
  • Configure caller ID
  • Forward incoming calls
  • Edit Reply-with-Text messages
  • View your phone number
  • Set up voicemail
  • Contact your carrier

My Accounts

  • Deregister your phone
  • Manage e-mail accounts
  • Connect your social networks
  • Manage your Amazon account
  • Manage your Amazon payment method
  • Manage your Amazon Newsstand subscriptions
  • Manage your Send-to-Device email address

Device

  • Change the date and time
  • Disable auto backups
  • Change your language
  • Install system updates
  • Factory reset your phone
  • Get info about your Fire
  • Configure your emergency alerts
  • View your emergency alerts
  • Manage your SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) card PIN
  • Manage enterprise security features
  • Manage accessibility (it has nice magnifier features…I turned  those  on)
  • View Legal and Compliance Info

Voice

  • Configure voice settings (oh, it does take voice commands…hold down the home button, like accessing Siri. I have found that I have to say “Search the Web” to get it to do that…it doesn’t just guess that’s what you want if you say something for which it doesn’t have a command)
  • Change Text to Speech (TTS) language (it does have TTS for Kindle books…it comes with English and Spanish, but you can download quite a few others for no additional cost)

Help & Feedback

  • Get help from Mayday (there is a lifesaver for that on the quick access ribbon…remember, you can tip your phone quickly for that, or swipe down from the top. Use it to get the most out of your phone)
  • Browse online help
  • Contact Amazon technical support
  • Provide feedback

There, that gives you a pretty good idea of its capabilities.

Overall, I’m starting to like it. If you want everything to be easy, if you want it to be as good as the most popular other phones, you may not want to be an early adopter. You can download apps to do things it doesn’t do right now (in many cases), but a year from now, it will be much more capable…I suspect it will be a lot more capable before the holidays.

It’s certainly satisfactory…and the hardware (the four cameras that enable dyper) and Firefly (the real world recognition system) promise much greater things in the future, once people start designing for it. The killer apps are yet to come.

I think it’s a great first SmartPhone (which is where I think the market is), and an adequate transition phone (with amazing potential).

Hey, my Kindle app has an update available! That sort of thing is going to happen a lot…I won’t focus on the Fire Phone a lot in this blog (just as I haven’t done that with the Fire Phone), but it is a Kindle reading device, and  I think it deserves some coverage here.

If you have any specific questions about it, or things to say, feel free to comment on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Seeing the (back)light

June 8, 2014

Seeing the (back)light

I still see a lot of confusion in the Kindle forums about the different screen technologies.

It’s not just inexperienced users. Here is an example of a product made specifically for the Kindle Paperwhite, so you would think they would be familiar with the basics of how the Kindle Paperwhite works:

MoKo Vertical Flip Cover Case for Amazon New Kindle Paperwhite with Backlight, BLACK (with Auto Sleep/Wake Function) (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Did you notice that? It says the cover is for the New Kindle Paperwhite “with Backlight”. Presumably, that’s for nothing, since there isn’t a Paperwhite which is backlit. ;)

Oh, and the new and old Paperwhites are the same size, so they didn’t have to specify that either.

The product has 4.5 stars with 3,610 customer reviews, so I assume it’s quite good…but honestly, I’d have to push myself past their description of it before I would consider it. That’s just silliness on my part, I know: it’s like judging the quality of the story in a book by the number of typos. It’s natural to do, but those are really different measures.

So, I thought I’d take a post and quickly explain the different technologies.

No lighting (reflective screens)

When the first Kindle was released in 2007, it didn’t have any built-in lighting. You read it by light bouncing off it…just like you read a paperbook. That screen (and most unlit E-Book Reader screens) used a brand name screen called “E Ink”. I often see that referred to as though it was a generic term, but it really isn’t.

I tend to use the term “reflective screens” for this, and that’s correct, but people get confused by it sometimes. They think of it having a glare…which they also confuse with what happens when you try to read an iPad in the sun. It’s called a “reflective screen” because, as I mentioned earlier, it reflects the light (like a rock or a tree or a wombat or…).

These screens require no energy to maintain an image, which gives them great battery charge life. The technology to “redraw” the screen (when you more from one “page” to another, for example) isn’t that fast…it prevents them from doing animation (for videos or apps), at least at a commercial level at this point.

You need some sort of external light to read these: a booklight, a lamp, or the sun, something like that.

Backlit screens

With a backlit screen, you read what is on it by a light coming from behind the screen. The screen is between you and the light source, and the light is basically shining into your eyes. Those were around before the reflective screens mentioned above. You have them in your computer and your SmartPhone, most likely.

It’s a mature technology: it can do lots of colors, super sharp images, and can redraw quickly enough for HD movies.

They have a built-in light source, which can be nice, but it does take a lot of power. For Kindles, this is what the Fire uses. The battery charge life is much shorter, but one big tip: turn the brightness down. That is the number one thing I find that makes my battery last longer…even more important than turning off the wireless. I have excellent night vision (connected, I think, to my color vision deficiency), so I often have the brightness turned down all the way when I’m inside. I think I can read for an hour and not lose a single percentage point of battery charge.

Another problem with this technology is that the light coming from behind the screen competes with lighting hitting the front of the screen. If the sun is hitting your screen, it’s likely to make it nearly impossible to see the image…the internal backlight just can’t beat the sun.

That’s not glare, as I mentioned above…no “anti-glare” screen will help. Glare has to do with light being brightly reflected from a surface: think of a signal mirror. An anti-glare screen can make something less reflective, but that’s not the issue here.

Turning up the brightness as far as it will go will help when you are in sunlight (although you will burn your battery charge more quickly). I find that I can always read outside, as long as I turn the Kindle Fire so the sun isn’t hitting it as directly. If you are  looking for a place to sit in the park and read, try to have the sun in front of you or to your side, not directly behind you…assuming you are sitting up holding the Kindle in front of you. If you lie on your back and have the back of your Kindle to the sky, you’ll probably be fine. :)

Frontlit

A frontlit device (like the Kindle Paperwhite ((at AmazonSmile))) is actually a reflective screen with a built-in light that shines at the screen from the front of it (not from behind it). The light is still bouncing off it as with the “no lighting” screen, so your screen isn’t competing with the sun. This is the best of both worlds. Like a backlit device, you can read it in a dark room (it’s so nice to not have to turn off a lamp after reading in bed). Like a reflective device, you can read it in bright light.

The Paperwhite is the most comfortable reading experience I’ve ever had, including paper.

The light isn’t bright enough to be bothersome, and it isn’t creating the image…the battery charge life is still quite good, comparable even to an unlit Kindle.

Well, those are the three possibilities.

In the future, we may have devices which can switch between backlit and front or non-lit. There have been some dual-screen devices, but they’ve been expensive and haven’t done well so far. Reflective screens will also likely speed up and get color…my guess is that’s where we will largely go, but we’ll see.

Hope that helps…

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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


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