Archive for the ‘Updates’ Category

Round up #228: Silk fix, what did Melville make?

December 18, 2013

Round up #228: Silk fix, what did Melville make?

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

Coming in 2014: Give a Kid a Kindle

I’m going to give away a Kindle to a child in 2014 (I hope to do it every quarter), and you’ll be able to help.

You can nominate a child that you know, by commenting on this page:

Give a Kid a Kindle

which I have just made public this morning.

Nominating comments can be made now (see that page for more information), and I will begin displaying those nominations (which may be edited) on the page in January.

Readers will be able to recommend a child for the Kindle in March of 2014, by using a poll which will be on that page.

There is no charitable organization involved in this, and there won’t be any tax write-offs associated with it…it’s just something that I want to do personally (and I’ve discussed with my Significant Other, of course).

I’ve tried to keep this simple. I just want to do something nice. :)

I think reading is important, and that readers can (but don’t have to) change the world.

I’d appreciate any comments or suggestions you have for this. I can certainly see some challenges in doing it…

Amazon promises Silk “accordion” fix

It has seemed pretty obvious lately that Amazon needs to do more testing before they release updates.

Don’t get me wrong, I love getting free updates with new functionality! It’s just that you don’t want them to make things worse. That’s clearly how some people are feeling about Amazon’s updates…I know of people saying that they are afraid to turn on the wireless, because they don’t want to get a new update.

Recently:

  • A Kindle Fire update appears to have made wireless connections unstable…I have to frequently toggle the wireless on and off now
  • The introduction of Cloud Collections to the Kindle Paperwhite in a recent update has been widely criticized as confusing and unwieldy
  • An update to the Silk browser caused pages to “accordion” as you scrolled, making it impossible to read them

As to the last one, Amazon had now addressed it in this:

Kindle forum thread

They’ve said that a fix has been released, and that the Fire should automatically update within the next few days.

I really appreciate that Amazon employees will go into a public forum and make a statement like that…but it would be better if the problems were discovered pre-release, and fixed.

I’m guessing that when Amazon gets a little distance on all this after the holiday season, they’ll re-evaluate their quality control and testing for updates. That might mean we get them farther apart, but I think that would be worth it.

Hugh Howey writing in the world of Kurt Vonnegut

My feeling is that Kindle Worlds has been a bit slow getting off the ground. This is Amazon’s bold venture to mainstream fanfic (“fan fiction”), in a sense, by licensing properties from the rightsholders and then letting anyone write within those worlds (within certain guidelines), and splitting the royalties.

I’ve been following the forum at the

and after some initial activity, it’s been quite slow.

The bestselling Kindle Worlds books tend not to break the top 10,000 in the Kindle store. That doesn’t mean that can’t be profitable and popular, but my intuition is that Amazon would like more out of the program.

Part of this is chicken or the egg: they may need hits to get people interested in the program, and people need to be interested in the program to write those hit titles.

Well, this title should help.

Hugh Howey (at AmazonSmile) is a best-selling (New York Times and USA Today) science fiction author. I’m reading Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5) (Silo Saga) (at AmazonSmile) myself, although it’s not first in line for me (I’m reading a galley copy of something right now, as part a “beta reader”, and then there is always the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library book to finish). My guess is that I’ll finish the five books in the next few months.

Howey is writing a Kindle Worlds’ title in the world of Kurt Vonnegut:

It can be pre-ordered now, for delivery on January 14, 2014.

Howey’s books are well-reviewed on Amazon, and this announcement has gotten some media play. It’s an interesting mix of inspiration (Slaughterhouse-Five (at AmazonSmile)) (which is only $2.50 at time of writing) and author. Howey had a personal experience with the September 11th World Trade Center attacks, which may certainly inform this piece.

Janet Dailey reported dead

We sold a lot of Janet Dailey (at AmazonSmile) when I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore…and we certainly weren’t the only ones.

Reportedly, the author’s books sold something like 300 million copies, certainly making the romance novelist one of the best-selling novelists of any kind.

Amazon lists over 100 Janet Dailey titles in the Kindle store, including at least some of the Americana series (Dailey wrote a novel for each state).

Dailey began writing in the 1970s, and the latest book from the author was published this year.

New York Times article by Paul Vitello

Herman Melville’s Lifetime Literary Earnings

Bibliokept has this nice

post

which shows you how much Herman Melville got paid for writing. While not complete, let’s just say that the figures might be surprising…you do have to remember that we aren’t talking about constant dollars, though. Money went further back then. Still, being an author is rarely one of the best paid occupations.

* 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.

Round up #226: E-book settlement, B&N investigation

December 11, 2013

Round up #226: E-book settlement, B&N investigation

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

Kindle Fire update in “the coming weeks”

In this

press release

Amazon announces an update coming to the Kindle Fires “… just in time for the holidays”. Of course, they don’t say which holidays. ;)

The PR focuses on some important and interesting changes to Kindle FreeTime, which helps guardians set limits on the use of the tablet. One interesting one is the ability to require a certain amount of “educational” use before you can use it for “entertainment”.

As a trainer, I can tell you that you really can’t have much education without entertainment, but that’s another discussion. ;) I’ve asked people to remember back when they were in elementary school: very few of them recall sitting in the classroom…most of them first remember playing with their friends. Kudos to their teachers if their now adult students do think of that first!

While this is great in and of itself (and they promise more improvements after that for FreeTime), I’m also excited because it’s quite possible (knock virtual wood) that the upgrade will contain bug fixes. As I’ve mentioned (and others have also said they have this issue), my wi-fi won’t stay connected since the last upgrade (Amazon is aware of the problem). I have to toggle Airplane Mode on and off many times a day…virtual fingers crossed that this upgrade might address that as well.

ITYS*: raptors will attack PrimeAircraft

When I wrote about Amazon’s PrimeAir reveal (delivery by small “octocopters”), I said:

“Certainly, dogs would pose a risk, as might bird strikes (perhaps even intentional ones, in the case of a raptor), but I’m not convinced it would be inherently more risky.”

I was pleased to see that this

Slate article by Nicholas Lund

not only agrees with me on the bird risk, but has video to prove it!

Also on the “drone” front (I don’t consider artificially intelligent craft to be “drones”, but I know many people define them as simply craft without humans on board…whether they have remote pilots or not), I saw this news today, and later saw a comment from one of my readers about it:

CNN article by Ann Cabrera

A town called Deer Trail in Colorado is going to vote (it was postponed) on a law allowing residents to shoot down drones.

Quite simply, I’m horrified. :( Even though this is aimed (so to speak) at government drones, there is no question that it would result in commercial drones being shot down as well (and kids’ toys, for that matter). I’m thinking that there would be a lot of mistaken identity (possibly even resulting in bird deaths), even though the bounty (really!) is higher on a complete drone with government markings.

Sure, shoot down the drone delivering a shut-in’s medicine, or the book a poor child saved up for six months to buy. Sure, those are “slippery slope” examples…even just the destruction itself makes me unhappy. This is specifically designed to destroy other people’s property…I think that puts it in a different category than a lot of other questions people might see as related.

On a lighter note…

Amazon Rockets parody on YouTube

My favorite clock is a Kindle

This seems a bit bizarre, but they gave us a new (free) clock app with the last Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers upgrade. Yes, it appears to have caused the wi-fi glitch I mention above, but there were a lot of good things about it. This app is one of them.

I’ve mentioned before that I have some color vision deficiency, and my understanding is that connected to that, I have superior night vision. Any light in a room (or the room next door, or down the hall…) can bother me at night.

We also got a used bedroom set. It’s nice, but it was hard to conveniently plug in a clock, just because of the design.

Well, the clock app on the Fire solves both of those problems. It has a “Nightstand” mode, which has the time (and a postmodern clock design…that one takes some getting used to, but I don’t typically use analog clocks anyway) in red. With the brightness turned down all the way, it’s been the most pleasant clock. I was also a bit worried about running it not plugged in, but it consistently takes about 50% of the charge over night (it hasn’t taken more than fifty). Again, I have the brightness turned down all the way (a big battery charge life saver), and the wi-fi off.

If I wake up in the middle of the night (we have a new dog…yes, in bed with us, so it happens), I can see the time without it seeming too bright.

Oh, while I’m talking about apps for the Fire, let me also mention

This is a goofy free app, but might be great for a little holiday fun. You can use video backgrounds, characters, and objects they supply…or you can add your  own pictures. Then, you animate them in a very simple way and do a voiceover. I found it to be easy to use…for example, the character will automatically flip to face the other direction, depending on how you move. They have licensed images from Pacific Rim. You can share your videos publicly, but that’s up to you.

State e-book settlements approved…pay-outs coming in 2014

According to this

Publishers Weekly article by Andrew Albanese

my favorite Federal judge (what…you have one, right? ;) ), Denise Cote, has approved the pay-out plan for the settlements between the States Attorneys General and Macmillan and Penguin (which completes the group).

That was on December 6th, and then there is a thirty day period, and then a bit of time after that…I’d say those of us getting pay-outs will see them…oh, by early February. Amazon told us before that they will show up as credits, and I expect the Smilin’ A (I’ve recently started calling Amazon that…I like it. ;) Feel free to let me know if you like it or not) to be one of the fastest at doing this.

Well, at least B&N hasn’t been in legal troub—uh, oh

Barnes & Noble has been in a bad news factory lately, with a particularly poor quarterly financial report…and I’m afraid to see what this quarter is going to be for them.

They didn’t need anything else to spook investors, but they got it.

According to this

Wall Street Journal article by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg

and other sources, Barnes & Noble is under investigation by the SEC (Security and Exchange Commission) for questionable accounting practices.

A really healthy company could probably handle that better than one that is walking on such thin financial ice already…share prices are down.

Keep the text by blocking the tip

Just a little tip for you: when you want to listen to text-to-speech in the car, lock your device so it doesn’t auto-rotate. When a Fire autorotates, text-to-speech stops playing. I simply lock my rotation (swiping down from the top, or using the Settings gear, depending on your model) before starting TTS. That way, it doesn’t stop when I set it on the seat for the drive.

What do you think? Is shooting down a drone a legitimate thing to do? Is the the straw that breaks B&N’s back? Do you care about the refund you might get from the settlement? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

* I Told You So ;)

** 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! :) NOte: you can select WorldReader.org as the non-profit you support, if you want.

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.

Round up #222: Mark Grist, Paperwhite update

November 19, 2013

Round up #222: Mark Grist, Paperwhite update

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

Major Paperwhite update

Yesterday, I wrote about a major Kindle Fire update.

Today, Amazon announced a big update to the new Kindle Paperwhite (new Kindle Paperwhite at AmazonSmile: support a non-profit by shopping) in this

press release

There are three main features:

  • Goodreads integration
  • Kindle FreeTime
  • Cloud Collections

Goodreads and Cloud Collections were part of the update to the new generation Kindle Fires yesterday, and they already had Kindle FreeTime.

I do have a Kindle Paperwhite expected to arrive today (I was able to get it for $19 in a recent promotion…it replaces one for me which was recently stolen during a home break-in). I’ll be able to look at these more carefully after I get it.  If you want to get it right away and install it yourself, you can go to

Kindle Software Updates page

Here is part of the press release Amazon sent me:

===

Goodreads Integration

Goodreads on Kindle Paperwhite brings together the world’s largest e-reading community and the world’s largest community of book lovers. Join more than 20 million other readers on Goodreads to discover great books and have discussions about what you’re reading. Features of the new Goodreads integration, available exclusively from Amazon, include:

- Share favorite passages with your Goodreads friends without leaving the book.

- See what your friends are reading, read their reviews and discover new books to read.

- When you finish a book, immediately rate it without putting down your Kindle.

- Keep track of all your reading activity—update your “Currently Reading”, “Read”, and “Want to Read” shelves directly from your Kindle. Easily add your Amazon book purchases, print and digital, to your Goodreads account.

Kindle FreeTime

Built-in parental controls have been extended to give parents a simple way to encourage kids to spend more time reading. Parents can set daily reading goals for their kids, hand-select books for their kids to read, and track progress against goals. Children earn achievement badges for hitting reading milestones—for example, reaching and exceeding their daily reading goal, and passing big milestones like “Read 1000 pages”. A progress report keeps parents updated on total time spent reading, number of words looked up, badges earned and books finished.

Cloud Collections

Organize your books, newspapers, and magazines in customized collections for easy reference, and Amazon’s Whispersync technology synchronizes the collections across your Kindle devices and reading apps so they’re available on all of your devices.

===

“I Like a Girl Who Reads”

There is a great video linked in this

Huffington Post article by Sarah Barness

It’s a poem by Mark Grist, and it has to do with what’s attractive…and that isn’t always the physical.

I will warn you that it is NSFW (Not Safe for Work), although you could probably hear it performed on network TV.

Although I’m not a fan of calling adults by words meant for children, I think that the poet is trying to make the point that someone who uses the common vernacular can also be drawn to the intellectual…and that’s important to express.

“How to Open a New Book”

This

EBOOK FRIENDLY post

reproduces a quaint, illustrated explanation from a bookbinder about how to open a new hardback properly.

I must say, I didn’t do it that way. I generally didn’t open the book all the way, the way it is shown here. I sort of peeked into the middle, tilting the book back and forth for each side, so that I didn’t break the spine. I was going to say “never”, but I did open them fully for some things like coffee table books. Novels, though? Not usually…

Bookstore sales buck general retail trend…by going down

For the third month in a row, according to this

Publishers Weekly article

U.S. bookstore sales were down..a lot. 4.5% year over year…we are also down for the whole year so far.

Overall, retail is up…this is particularly a brick-and-mortar (I’m a former manager) bookstore issue.

I do think this may be the last holiday season that we see Barnes & Noble in its current configuration. Amazon is doing more and more for us, and there are independent bookstores that are growing…I just don’t see investors looking at this holiday for B&N thinking that it’s worth keeping up the support.

That could mean that the chain gets sold to someone…or even that we know it will largely close. If the latter is the case, I think we would see one more holiday season out of them, but knowing that it was going.

I have given some ideas earlier about How to save large bookstores, and it’s possible Barnes & Noble will pull a phoenix on this…but you don’t see a lot of phoenixes around. ;)

The Onion goes all digital

I remember seeing a stack of copies of The Onion in a bookstore, just like any other newspaper.

Now, after 25 years, according to this

USA Today story by Roger Yu

it’s going to stop publishing on paper. It’s only been doing that in three cities recently, but this is another example of a major print publication dropping that format to go for all digital.

I also remember the day this blog passed The Onion in the Kindle store! That was exciting for me, and I wish them the best in the future.

“Apple Seeks to Knock Out E-book Class Action Suit”

Legal issues have been part of publishing for a very long time, and there is not indication they are going away any time soon.

They certainly go back more than a century, when the Supreme Court ruled that a store could discount books without the publisher’s permission (creating the “First Sale Doctrine”) in 1908. There was a battle that lasted more than a decade over whether or not Captain Marvel infringed on Superman, which meant the “Big Red Cheese” was off the stands for a long time.

In this

Publishers Weekly article by Andrew Albanese

we learn that Apple is basically arguing that the “class” in class action suits against it for e-book pricing is…I guess, ill-defined is a good way to put it.

My intuition is that they won’t prevail in getting the case dismissed, and that (if they don’t settle…they didn’t in the Department of Justice case, but did in the European Union) will have a trial in maybe May of 2014.

What do you think? Will Barnes & Noble exist, largely as we know it today, into 2015? How much does whether or not a person read affect how you feel about them…both as a friend and a potential partner? Stating a more simple (and narrow) version of that, is reading sexy? Did you try to keep a book in the same condition it was when you bought it, or did you curl the cover under, dogmark pages, and make marginalia? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

* 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. I recently polled my readers about my linking to AmazonSmile, and while more than two-thirds of the respondents said they would like it or didn’t mind (and about 15% didn’t know), there were enough people who wouldn’t like it that I’m not going to just jump into it and do it for everything. I’m going to try doing both links in this post, and see how hard and/or confusing that is for people. You can let me know how you feel about having both links by commenting on this post.

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.

Big Kindle Fire update is here!

November 18, 2013

Big Kindle Fire update is here!

IMPORTANT NOTE: FIX FOR UPDATE PROBLEM AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POST.

Note: this post has been considerably updated as I have been working with the new version.

This is the big one!

Amazon announced a “mid-November” update to the new Kindle Fire operating system when it released the new generation of devices.

This one brings a lot of significant new features, which I will list for you shortly.

First, I know some of you are super anxious to get it, so here is the

Kindle Software Updates page

If you are willing to wait until it shows up on its own (which might take weeks), you can certainly do that.

Otherwise, you go to that page and select your model. The ones affected by this update (in all their memory storage/special offer/4G or not configurations) are the:

This update is just for the models with the new operating system. Some of it might possibly get to older models, and the Cloud Collections part will affect other devices.

Here is the

press release

Update: here are the features mentioned at the update page:

  • Find and share books with Goodreads: Goodreads on Kindle lets you connect with the Goodreads community to follow friends and see what they are reading, and share and rate books on your Kindle Fire. Bufo’s comment: this is an app, located on your Apps tab. It has the letter “g” on it. You’ll need to be connected to wi-fi to use it. You can create a new account, or connect to an existing account. I entered my Goodreads e-mail address and password, and then I was given a screen to enter books from Amazon (both physical and e-books). You have to indicate whether you “Want to Read”, are “Currently Reading”, or have “Read” the book. You can also rate it. I could also choose “Readers to Follow”. You are given a choice to “Add Freinds from Facebook”. Tap the menu (three horizontal lines in your top left corner) to see more. You can also get to your Kindle library from the menu.
  • Organize your content with Cloud CollectionsOrganize your content library into collections like “Favorite Books” and “Sports Apps” that are synchronized with compatible Kindle devices and reading apps. Bufo’s comment: “long press” (hold your finger or stylus on it for about a second) a book on your Books tab (either in the Cloud or On Device), and you’ll get a chance to “Add to Collection”. Collections showed up from other devices here, and I could create a New Collection. I could also add to a Collection from the Carousel. It worked with e-books and apps (haven’t tested other content).
  • Watch movies and TV shows on another device with Second ScreenFling movies and TV shows from your Kindle Fire to your 2013 Samsung Smart TV or PlayStation 3 using Second Screen. Bufo’s comment: not tested yet. Here is the Second Screen help page
  • Learn more about books with Smart LookupWith the Smart Lookup feature, you can quickly look up words in the dictionary or Wikipedia or translate text in a book. Bufo’s comment:  highlight  text in a book. I did that with “The Breakfast Club”. It brought up “cards”, sort of like you see with Google Now. The first one was Wikipedia information and a link to go to Wikipedia. Swiping to my left, I got the Bing translator (in Spanish: “El Club del desayuno”). I tried a single word, and the first card was a dictionary. Swiping got me to Wikipedia, and then to the translator. The translator even has the option to speak it out loud for you (at least it did in Spanish). There was a toolbar that allowed highlighting in different colors, adding a note, sharing, starting text-to-speech (it’s a play button), and searching
  • Print from Your Kindle FirePrint Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, photos, e-mails, calendar events, and contact information from your Kindle Fire to a printer that supports mobile printing. Bufo’s comment: not testted yet
  • Free up storage space with 1-Tap ArchiveWith 1-Tap Archive, your Kindle Fire groups all content that has not been used recently so you can move it to the Cloud with just one tap. Bufo’s comment: Home – Swipe Down – Settings – Device – Storage.  Note: check te results carefully: it may want to archive a lot of things you don’t want archived.
  • Enhanced enterprise featuresManage security certificates and connect to your company’s Wi-Fi network—whether you’re at home or at work—with remote VPN capabilities. Bufo’s comment: not tested yet.
  • Set alarms and view additional time zones with the Clock appUse the all-new Clock app to check the date and time, set an alarm clock, and more. Bufo’s comment: another app, with a lot of options! If you tap the menu, you can set it to Alarms, Nightstand, Stopwatch, or Timer. Update: love this app! There are many choices for sounds for the alarm (including a rooster!). Some of the sounds create a doppler sort of effect, like the sound is moving from one side to the other. The nightstand mode has a cool, futuristic clock (no hands, just arcs). I tested it: you would need to have it plugged in to go overnight. Even with the brightness all the way down (which would be fine in a dark room), twenty minutes of running took about 3% of the battery charge. I could set up multiple timezones (although the choices of specific cities were limited) and see more than one at once, if I wanted. That will be nice when our adult kid is in Europe.

Update: the press release talks about a lot more than the update page does. I’m excited to try the dictation! That’s speech-to-text (the opposite of text-to-speech): it converts what you say into text. English will be available offline, and more languages available when online. This may also open the door to voice commands for the Fire, which is one area where I really wanted to see improvement.

Here are the additional features mentioned in the press release:

  • Cloud Collections helps you organize your books, newspapers, magazines, and apps in customized collections for easy reference, and Amazon’s Whispersync technology synchronizes the collections across your Kindle devices and reading apps so they’re available on all of your devices. Bufo’s comment: see above
  • Voice dictation converts your speech to text—available in all languages when online; offline support available in US English. Bufo’s comment: you’ll new see a microphone button to your left of the comma (at least that’s where I’m seeing it) on your keyboard. Tap that, pause a second, and then say something. It seems to work quite well. You can say some punctuation, like “exclamation point” and “smiley face”. I’ve done a bit of testing: I’m impressed!
  • 1-Tap archive which frees up space on your Kindle Fire by identifying items that have not been recently used and provides a 1-tap option to store them in the Cloud for later retrieval. Bufo’s comment: see above
  • Wireless printing of photos, PDF, e-mails, contacts, calendar and docs. Bufo’s comment: see above
  • New accessibility enhancements that enable blind and visually impaired customers to save a separate accessibility profile for children in Kindle FreeTime, scroll lists automatically when swipe navigating, hear enhanced sound feedback and screen orientation changes announced, and have more control when editing text and navigating web content. Bufo’s comment: not tested yet
  • Dozens more new features, performance and battery life improvements, and bug fixes. Bufo’s comment: as I find things, I’ll add some of them below

Update: I’m working with Kindle Support right now, because you can’t install the update following the directions on the webpage.

Important update: we got it to work! Please feel free to spread this solution around, because it’s a bit weird.

My Windows Explorer would not let me drag and drop on to the Internal Storage drive. After the person helping me, John, got a management team involved, they suggested copying and pasting the file, instead of drag and drop…and that worked!

It’s installing now.

I’ll update this post shortly, but wanted to get this out right away.

Update: lock screen improvements: my lockscreen now shows me the day, date, and time, the battery level…and if I have any new e-mail (in the e-mail app).

Update: battery charge life seems much more robust! I’ve done things which I would think would have run it down significantly without much impact.

Update: very pleased to say that I went to go update my Significant Other’s Kindle Fire HDX manually…and it was all done! It had been plugged in, with wi-fi on. There was a notification explaining that the update had taken place…another nice touch.

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.

Collections come to a Kindle reader app

September 18, 2013

Collections come to a Kindle reader app

Well, well, well!

One of the main concerns people express when they go from an RSK (a Reflective Screen Kindle…not a Fire) to a Fire is that they don’t have a way to organize their books on the device. There have been some third-party (not Amazon) apps to try to address it, but they’ve had real limitations.

In this Amazon Kindle Forum thread

What’s New in Kindle for iOS Version 4.0?

they announce changes to the iOS (mobile Apple devices) app.

Most of it is appearance and interface (how it looks and menu changes), but the Collections addition is new functionality.

We have it on current RSKs: it lets you create “Collections” (sort of like folders in Windows, although they work differently) such as “To Be Read”, “Romance”, or whatever you want.

Does this mean it will come to other apps…Blackberry, Windows for PC, Windows for Mac, Android…and the Kindle Fire?

Well, it shows that they are working on Collections, but you can’t easily take something you built for iOS and presto changeo make it work for another platform. It would be like…designing a play in American football, and trying to use it in rugby. ;) The basic goal might be kind of the same, but how you get there is very different.

My guess is that the next generation of Kindle Fire (which I think may be announced soon maybe might have Collections, and this again shows that there is an effort to get Collections into apps…but we’ll see.

They haven’t updated the page on Amazon yet, but the iTunes listing does show the information on 4.0:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id302584613

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

Round up #202: Amazon’s new social marketing, Paperwhite update

September 6, 2013

Round up #202: Amazon’s new social marketing, Paperwhite update

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

1st generation Kindle Paperwhite updated…but not with gen 2 features (yet?)

I recently wrote about Amazon’s announcement of a second generation Kindle Paperwhite. It appears to be kind of what I was expecting this year: incremental increases in hardware, and significant updates to the software and services.

I did order one: I think it will be different enough from my current Paperwhite to want to have one to write about for you.

However, there is an obvious question: if the changes are mostly software, will those be given to the 1st gen Paperwhites through an update?

That can’t always happen…there were things that the first generation Kindle (from 2007) just couldn’t do, due to hardware limitations, that later gens got. I don’t think that’s the case here, though…the new Paperwhite has a better light and a better screen and a faster processor, but that shouldn’t be enough to prevent many of the features being made available to the KP1 (Kindle Paperwhite 1).

So, I’ll admit that my hopes were raised when I saw that a new update had been released for the Kindle Paperwhite yesterday:

Kindle Paperwhite Software Updates

This is release 5.3.8…and it does add some features, but none of the new ones announced for the KP2, from what I can see.

I went ahead and updated it manually (instructions are at the above link), although it would hypothetically have done it itself eventually.

It adds three things, according to the announcement:

  • When you search in a book, the search word is highlighted in the results
  • If you have more than one dictionary on your Kindle, you can choose the dictionary to use when you look up a word
  • Homonyms are displayed in lookup results

For me, these are somewhat minor changes, and they do work as advertised. Having the word highlighted is fine, although I didn’t have any problems finding them before (I think I scan text quickly).

The dictionary option thing? Might be useful if you have dictionaries for different languages, I suppose. On my test, I had the Oxford Dictionary of English or The New Oxford American Dictionary as choices. I suppose being able to see what a “jumper” was in England might have helped with Harry Potter, and understanding that a “trolley” might be a public conveyance in American or a “shopping cart” in England might clear up what might otherwise be a confusing mental image. ;)

While I know the difference, I mistakenly thought at first that it was going to show me homophones, not homonyms, which I think would have been more useful. I’m a bit surprised, and I may need to test it on another device, that the look-up didn’t always show homonyms (which are words which are spelled the same way, but mean different things…I think, technically, they also have to be pronounced the same way ((one which are just spelled the same way, but pronounced differently, like “a bow on a package” and the “bow of a boat” are homographs))). I think homophones (which sound the same, but are spell different…”they’re going to where their there is”) would have been useful, but harder to do.

I do think the KP1 is likely to get some of the same software features as the KP2 in an update…but it wouldn’t surprise me if they waited until after the KP2’s release at the end of the month.

My intuition, based in part on the amount of discussion I’m seeing, is that the KP2 is going to do very well.

By the way, I’m always interested to see the number of people who think that hardware features (a GPS chip, wi-fi versus 3G capability, audio) can be added with a software update. I’m guessing they think that any piece of technology can do pretty much anything, and you just choose what you want.

That just shows how much Arthur C. Clarke was right, about smoothly functioning technology appearing to be magic.

New features on Amazon’s book product pages

There have been some interesting things added to at least some Amazon book product pages recently.

One weird thing I was seeing yesterday, which I’m not seeing today, is that the book would appear to rotate…it would flip around so you would see the back of the book, then the front cover, then the back. However, it apparently wasn’t working correctly…because the text on the back of the book looked like you were seeing it in a mirror! That was a bit disconcerting: it was like you had \S/uperman’s x-ray vision and were looking through the book. I think that will come back in a corrected version.

More valuable right now is a “Listen” button below the book cover. These are on the p-book (paperbook) pages, by the way, not on the Kindle pages, from what I’ve seen. That lets you hear an excerpt from the audiobook (I presume it only appears if there is an audiobook): sort of like “Look Inside”, but for audio. Amazon now seems to be really linking audiobooks and p-books. “Shop by Department” (your top left corner of the page when shopping at Amazon.com) now lists “Books & Audible” as one category. They have also broken out “Kindle E-readers” and “Kindle Fire Tablets” into two categories.

This next feature may be a biggie…Collections.

Of course, naming it “Collections” makes me roll my eyes. When I taught people database design, one of the things I would tell them is to never name two objects that do different things with the same name. For example, I didn’t want them to have two “Accept” buttons on the same screen that had different consequences (that’s very confusing).

Amazon is terrible at that concept. One could example is “Cloud”. “Cloud” could refer to your “Cloud Player”, the “Cloud Drive”, your e-book archives…all at Amazon, all different.

In this case, calling it “Collections” when that is in use for an organizational tool (sort of the loose equivalent of folders) on your Kindles, which are only visible to your account, when this is a public grouping of things visible to everybody…sigh. I wonder how much that sort of confusion costs Amazon in Customer Service costs? “I put a book in a Collection on my Kindle, but it doesn’t appear to other people on Amazon. How do I fix that?” “If I put laundry detergent into a Collection on the Amazon website, will it appear on my Kindle and hurt my device?”

</rant> ;) Oh, sorry…that’s an HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) joke. See, you use that sort of structure to tell a webpage to stop doing something…like </b> would mark the end of a bold section and…never mind. ;) I was just saying I was done with that rant about naming things.

Anywho…

You can now add Amazon items to Collections that other people can see.  The Collections will appear on the page…which sounds similar to the lists that they have at the Amazon owned site IMDb.com. That’s something which I recently suggested Amazon should add. :)

I’d tell you more about it…but now, that feature isn’t working for me! The button is on the page in Maxthon (my preferred browser), but won’t launch…which it did ten minutes ago. It doesn’t appear for me in Internet Explorer.

I would say, expect a press release about this in the next few days. This is an important social marketing development, depending on the implementation of it.

I like these features better than the ads we are now seeing on Amazon product pages, although I am tolerant of those.

Update: I think it might not have been displaying because I already had a display page open. Here’s a place to get more information:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/ssx/learn_more_popup?selected_tab=learn-more-1&window=true&navigated_from=Collect+Dialog

Oh, and here’s the page where you can see other people’s Collections:

Welcome to Amazon Collections

They appear to have started to be posted there about four hours ago…

I’m going to explore this more..stay tuned.

Oyster, a “Netflix for e-books”, launches

People have asked about this sort of thing from the beginning of the Kindle: $9.95 a month for unlimited access to e-books…and ones that are well-known.

It’s launched:

Oyster Books

You won’t own the books, and it sounds like a good idea…but it is only for iPhone at this point. They say they’ll do an iPad version later this year, but have no plans for Android. If they did one for the Kindle Fire, I do think Amazon would approve it for the Amazon Appstore (they include a lot of competitors to Amazon content, like Netflix).

Here is a Google search with stories about it:

https://www.google.com/search?client=aff-maxthon-maxthon4&channel=t2&q=stories…#channel=t2&q=oyster+e-books

I expect to write more on this later.

Update: I should mention right now that HarperCollins is participating in this…I mentioned recently that I think they tend to be front runners in consumer-friendly e-book features.

Dualume is here

Gosh, I don’t know how long ago I was writing about the possibilities of devices that do both backlighting and non-backlighting. I called that “Dualume”, for “two types of illumination”. A non-Fire Kindle is “illuminated” by the light in the room, or by a frontlight in the case of the Paperwhites.

Now, PocketBook has made a cover that goes on a Galaxy S4…and gives it a non-backlit screen.

Google search

It’s a prototype, being introduced at IFA (Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin…a big consumer trade show in Germany)…here is the company’s product page on it:

http://www.pocketbook-int.com/us/news/ifa-2013-pocketbook-cover-reader

Honestly, it seems a bit clunky, but wow, would I love a non-backlit screen for my SmartPhone! Imagine being able to see everything clearly in sunlight…even looking up numbers can be a challenge. I think that a SmartPhone with an E Ink screen is something Amazon might do…but reflective screens just haven’t been fast enough and haven’t been able to do color effectively in the market…and many people want to play Angry Birds. ;)

They’ll get there, though…I think full animation, full color, non-backlit screens are inevitable in the next few years.

What do you think? Would you want a non-backlit screen for your phone? How about for your tablet? Will you share Collections on Amazon’s website? Will you be interested in other people’s Collections? Do you want to own your e-books, or would the ability to read them be enough? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

Round up #196: Kindle newsletters, big new update to Silk

August 15, 2013

Round up #196: Kindle newsletters, big new update to Silk

Big new update to Silk

When I went to open Silk today (which I don’t usually do…thanks to regular reader Tuxgirl for a heads-up on this), I saw this:

Screenshot_2013-08-14-17-58-29

Amazon calls that a “Just in Time Tutorial”, although I don’t know if I’d quite call it a tutorial. I went to

The Official Silk page

and, yes, they had much more of an explanation.

I’ve been using it for a few minutes to test it out for you, and I will say it is smoother…and performance overall seems to be improved.

For one thing, I went to a few sites with online video (Nickelodeon, for one…ABC for another), and the video ran with no problem.

I like the little quick access “Left Panel” menu. It gives you:

Web Content

  • Most Visited
  • Bookmarks
  • Downloads
  • History
  • Trending Now

About

  • Settings
  • Help

Reading View (which existed before, but is in an easier to spot place) worked nicely, where available.

You can now “long press” (hold your finger or stylus on it for about a second) the URL (Uniform or Universal Resource Locator…the web address), and you get a choice to copy the URL…or “Share page”.  Choosing the latter lets you do a lot of things, including e-mail and Twitter.  Juice for Roku did come up as an option (I use that to show pictures I get in e-mails to my Significant Other on our TV), but I couldn’t find something that would work that way.

When you long press a link on a page, you also get some choices:

  • Open
  • Open in new tab
  • Open in background tab
  • Bookmark link
  • Share link
  • Copy link URL

The menu button at the bottom has

  • Share page
  • Add bookmark
  • Find in page
  • Request another view (to switch from Mobile to Desktop and vice versa)

The Settings don’t seem all that different, unfortunately. They haven’t given us a privacy mode, which is one reason I prefer Maxthon for casual browsing…it’s not so much that I want to hide things, but I’d rather not have to clean up a cache and that sort of thing. Privacy tends to mean that less gets stored on your Kindle.

Also, there is not desktop or phone version of Silk yet: another plus for Maxthon.

Still, this version (1.0.58.293-Gen5… on my Kindle) does seem to be a considerable improvement.

If you have been a regular Silk user, experiment a bit…if you notice any big improvements or regressions, you can let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Kindle Fire sale ends tomorrow

Just a reminder: the $40 off on the Kindle Fire HD 7″, Dolby Audio, Dual-Band Wi-Fi deal ends tomorrow, Thursday, August 15…that brings it down to $159. Might mean an announcement of new hardware isn’t too far off in the future…maybe, maybe. ;)

Kindle Delivers

I know, I know…it’s not like the biggest problem in your life is that you don’t get enough e-mail. ;)

However, you might not be getting enough good e-mail, and Amazon can help you with that.

They have a bunch of free newsletters to which you can subscribe at

Amazon Delivers

There are a lot of categories…here are the ones in the Kindle category:

Amazon Kindle Delivers
Sign up to be in the know on editors’ picks, new releases, Kindle book deals, and more. (Please note: US customers only.) Monthly

Comics
Our editors love discussing comic books and graphic novels with fellow comics fans. This email features incredible comics and graphic novels each week with exclusive content from the most-talked-about authors and illustrators, book lists, and more. (U.S. customers only) Weekly

Grand Harbor
Grand Harbor Publishing offers an optimistic outlook, practical solutions, and a safe haven to help readers reclaim their lives and discover a bright future. Offering hardcover, trade paperback, and ebook originals in the inspirational and self-help categories, Grand Harbor Publishing presents uplifting and thought-provoking works embracing a range of philosophies and spiritual thought. Occasionally

Kids Ages 3-5
Stay up to date on the latest in children’s books while discovering ways to advance kids’ reading skills. These monthly newsletters highlight new releases, learning resources, exclusive author content, deals, and more. Please note: US customers only. Monthly

Kids Ages 6-8
Stay up to date on the latest in children’s books while discovering ways to advance kids’ reading skills. These monthly newsletters highlight new releases, learning resources, exclusive author content, deals, and more. Please note: US customers only. Monthly

Kids Ages 9-12
Stay up to the date on the latest for readers ages 9-12. These monthly mails highlight new releases, curated booklists, exclusive author content, deals, and more. Please note: U.S. customers only. Monthly

Kindle Books: Editors’ Picks
There’s nothing the Kindle editors enjoy more than recommending new books to readers. From our weekly Kindle Select 25 to our Best Books of the Month to our year-end round-up of favorites in fiction, nonfiction, and more, these are the titles we truly love. (Please note: U.S. customers only) Monthly

Kindle Daily Deals
Each day we unveil new Kindle book deals for adults and young readers, including daily romance and science-fiction/fantasy deals. Subscribe now to find out about each day’s deals. You’ll receive your first email within 48 hours. (Please note: US customers only.) Daily

Kindle eBooks: Mystery & Thrillers
From comfortable cozies to the harrowingly hardboiled, get up-to-date info on the most highly anticipated mystery ebooks. Monthly

Kindle Newsstand Delivers
Coming Soon: Monthly e-mail focusing on Kindle newspapers, magazines, and blogs. Monthly

Kindle Oferta Fin de Semana
Coming Soon: Cada fin de semana, ofrecemos un eBook a un precio increíble en categorías como romance, ficción, no ficción, fantasía y misterio. ¡Subscríbete para no perder estas ofertas! Weekly

Kindle Select 25
Each week we’ll send an email featuring our list of 25 exciting books we think you should know about. (Please note: US customers only.) Weekly

Romance
There’s nothing our editors swoon over more than talking books with fellow romance fans. From our weekly booklists to exclusive content from the most talked-about authors, this email features the best of romance each week. Please note: US customers only. Weekly

Science Fiction & Fantasy
There’s nothing our Klingon and Conan-savvy editors enjoy more than talking books with fellow science fiction and fantasy fans. From our weekly booklists to exclusive content from the most-talked-about authors, this email features the best of Sci-Fi and Fantasy each week. (U.S. customers only) Weekly

Singled Out: The Best of Kindle Singles
Each month we’ll send you an email featuring a themed selection of Kindle Singles. (Please note: US customers only.) Monthly

Teen & Young Adult
Our editors love sharing what’s new and trending in Teen and Young Adult literature. From curated booklists to exclusive content from the most-talked-about authors, this email features the best of Teen and Young Adult every other week. (U.S. customers only) Bi-Monthly

Here’s the whole list of categories, but interestingly, it appearsyou can only display the contents of one category at a time:

  • Amazon Appstore for Android
  • Amazon Instant Video
  • Amazon Mobile App Distribution Program
  • Automotive
  • Beauty
  • Blogs
  • Books
  • Clothing & Accessories
  • Deals
  • Health & Personal Care
  • Kindle
  • Music
  • Outlet
  • Shoes & Handbags
  • Sports & Outdoors
  • Video Games
  • Watches
  • Wine
  • Your Shopping List

Hmm…the shopping list says it will send you reminders about items you use frequently…that does sound intriguing. We use Subscribe & Save for a lot of things already, though, and then we don’t have to think about it at all. :) It’s also nice to save that 15%…

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

Round up #194: Detroit libraries, Kindle Fire updates now available from Amazon

August 9, 2013

Round up #194: Detroit libraries, Kindle Fire updates now available from Amazon

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

Barbara Mertz (aka Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels) has died

The mystery novels under the name Elizabeth Peters (including the Amelia Peabody books) have been very popular…as have been the books of Barbara Michaels, including the Georgetown series.  Those were both pennames for Barbara Mertz, who also wrote non-fiction about Egypt under her real name,

Barbara Mertz has reportedly died at the age of 85.

CBS News article

Update for Kindle Fires now available at Amazon

I wrote recently about being worried about my Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G LTE Wireless 32GB updating to the 8.4.5 version, which was breaking Flash video in non-Amazon browsers.

I updated that post when I had heard that 8.4.6 was out there, and that it didn’t have the same problem.

Well, my Kindle Fire did update last night…and I’m happy to report that Flash video is working fine in Maxthon (my preferred browser). In fact, it seems like it is working better, but it’s too soon to really tell that.

If your Kindle Fire hasn’t updated, it likely will soon now. You can also get the update from

Kindle Software Updates

and install it manually (they have instructions there on it).

Since it’s on that page, we also know what they tell us it does. :)

  • You can now choose Brazilian Portuguese for your device language (Home – swipe down – More – Language & Keyboard – Language…that brings us to eleven languages and variants)
  • You can download new keyboard languages (Home – swipe down – More – Language & Keyboard – Keyboard – Download Keyboard Languages). That’s a fascinating change! There are thirty-seven languages there, and even with a linguist in the family, I can’t tell you what they all are (since they are listed in their languages. They do include Russian and Tagalog, Hinglish and Magyar…quite a few choices. While this will greatly expand the usability of the Kindle Fire, this ability to download the languages is what’s intriguing me. That suggest to me that we could possibly get the same thing with accents and languages for text-to-speech…not that we don’t likeSeptember Day‘s Salli, of course, but more choices there could again expand the language accessibility. Could this also suggest a launch of a Fire in even more countries? Well, last I heard, it was already available for 170 countries, so maybe not
  • Multicolor highlights (highlight something in a book with your finger or stylus, and you’ll now be given four different highlighting colors from which to choose)
  • Share notes & highlights from a Print Replica textbook. The particularly interesting piece here is that you’ll be able to share them via e-mail…that could be the start of something big for Amazon. Not just e-mailing, of course, but texting (in the future). I frequently e-mail stories to family members from my morning Flipboard read. I know e-mail isn’t the choice method of communication for many New Millenials (which is why I’m also thinking texting, in the future), but tweeting and Facebook updates don’t work for everybody either

All in all, I’m happy Amazon fixed the problem with Flash before posting the updates.

Update: here are screenshots of the keyboard languages available for download, and some best guesses (not all mine…my adult kid who is a linguist helped, as did someone else) as to what they are. If you can correct any of them, I’d appreciate it:

Screenshot_2013-08-09-17-13-42

 

Screenshot_2013-08-09-17-13-54

Screenshot_2013-08-09-17-14-06

 

Bahasa Indonesia
Bahasa Malaysia
Catala – Catalan
Cestina – Czech
Dansk – Danish
Eesti – Estonian
Euskara – Basque
Galego – Galician (spoken in Spain and some other countries)
Hinglish – Hindi/English hybrid (although I believe some other languages are involved)
Islanski – Icelandic
Latviesu – Latvian
Lietuviskai – Lithuanian
Magyar – Hungarian
Nederlands – Dutch
Norsk – Norwegian
Polski = Polish
Portugues europeu – European Portuguese
Pу́сски;й – Russian
Romana – Romanian
Shqipe – Albanian
Slovencina – Slovak
Slovenscina – Slovak
Suomi – Finnish
Svenska – Swedish
Tagalog – Phillipino
Tiếng Việt – Vietnamese
Türkçe – Turkish
ελληνικ;ά – Greek
Казаk – Kazak
Україн;ська – Ukranian
Белару;скі – Belorussina or White Russian

Georgian
Armenian
Thai
Korean
Two varieties of Chinese (I’m assuming Cantonese and Mandarin)
I know there can be cultural sensitivities in some of these identifications…if there is something you think should be corrected there, please let me know. No offense is intended, and I freely admit I might be ignorant of some of the issues.

Summer Reading Snapshot: libraries and kids across the nation

This is a great

Publishers Weekly article by Karen Springen

which talks with children’s librarians in

  • Cleveland
  • Orlando
  • Cincinnati
  • Chicago
  • Denver
  • New York
  • Boston
  • St. Louis
  • Kansas City, Mo
  • Detroit

about their planned Summer events, and what the “Big Reads” are for the kids this Summer.

As we all know, Detroit has had a lot of issues lately. I liked this quotation from Lurine Carter, coordinator of children’s and teen service at the Detroit Public Library:

“Life is very serious, not only in Detroit but all over. We try to relieve their minds. We want the library and the reading to be a pleasant getaway.”

I recommend the article, particularly if you are looking for books for your own kids to read.

Google play making a big…er, play for textbooks

There are so many clear advantages to e-textbooks that it seems inevitable to be that they become the standard format.

  • The weight of paper textbooks, especially when students can’t get to a locker between classes, is genuinely a health issue
  • The increased ability to be accessible (text-to-speech, increasable text size) is important
  • The ability of them to be updated easily over the years
  • The fact that they don’t wear out…which makes renting a really viable option
  • The relatively lower cost
  • Annotation without degradation
  • Search
  • Sharing supplemental material
  • X-ray

That doesn’t mean that getting them to be adopted is easy, but Google is likely to make it a bit more attractive:

Google Play Textbooks

I don’t see that they are bringing any stand-out features that aren’t available in

Kindle eTextbooks

but just the fact that it is Google may influence some schools.

Hearing in the Apple “penalty phase” today

Judge Cote has been ruling incredibly quickly in the Apple e-book price fixing case. That doesn’t mean we will hear something today…but Judge Cote will.

There is a hearing today for the DoJ’s (Department of Justice’s) proposed penalties for Apple, according to this

The Verge article by Greg Sandoval

and other sources. I’ve written before about how far-reaching the DoJ proposal seems to be. The five Agency Model publishers think it’s too much…but they aren’t exactly uninvolved parties (they settled with the DoJ in the same case). Others think it’s appropriate.

It will be very interesting to see what Judge Cote does. I think it’s possible that part of it is approved and part of it isn’t, but we’ll see. I’m not sure if Judge Cote would then send them back to rethink it or what can happen.

Librarians in the Movies

This site was right up my alley!

Librarians in the Movies: an Annotated Filmography by Martin Raish, Brigham YOung University

It’s a pretty extensive list…given my love of books and movies, I did find it fascinating (and I had seen a number of them). It’s not being maintained anymore, but is still interesting. Let’s see…any movies this Summer with librarians in them? Hm…

Have any thoughts about these stories? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

Why I don’t use Amazon’s Silk browser

July 27, 2013

Why I don’t use Amazon’s Silk browser

I’m afraid of my Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G LTE Wireless 32GB right now.

As a consumer, that’s not a good place to be. :) As the title of the blog says, “I love my Kindle,” and I do.

Still, I keep checking and checking, dreading something.

You see, I know there is an update coming. I’ve been reading about it in the Kindle forums, but it hasn”t been announced yet and isn’t available at

Kindle Software Updates

When it happens, it happens. There’s really nothing you can do about stopping an update, if you connect with Amazon’s servers (which I do regularly).

I normally welcome the updates, but this one, which will change my system from 8.4.3 to 8.4.5, is reported to break something I use every day.

First, let me tell you how to check your own version:

Swipe down from the top, More, Device, About…you’ll see the system version listed there.

If you have 8.4.5, you’ve already gotten the update.

The numbers are similar for the 7″: if you have 7.4.5 (rather than 7.4.3), you are updated.

I’ve heard that it brings the ability to highlight in different colors.

However, and this is what concerns me, I’ve also heard that it breaks the use of the Flash player in non-Amazon browsers.

You see, back in November of 2011, Adobe abandoned Flash for mobile browsers. That meant that the most current mobile browsers were unable to play Flash videos. It wasn’t Amazon’s fault, and it wasn’t limited to the Fire.

What you could do, though, is install the Flash player on your Fire, and use another browser that would support it.

That’s what I’ve been doing.

Amazon allows us to install apps from outside sources…despite what you might hear, it’s not a closed ecosystem, and never has been.

I think Amazon wants to compete. Oh, they want to win, and they’ll spend more money than you’ll ever see to do it, but I think they like the head-to-head.

Here’s how you allow it:

Swipe down, More, Device, Allow Installation of Applications from unknown sources

Naturally, if you do that, Amazon can’t be sure that what you install will work and that it won’t hurt your Kindle, so you take the responsibility for that app. That makes sense to me, and I’m fine with it.

I have the Maxthon Browser (version 4.0.4 1000) installed, and Adobe Flash Player (version 11.1).

You can get the Flash Player directly from Adobe here:

http://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/archived-flash-player-versions.html

I’d gotten the Maxthon browser originally directly in the Amazon Appstore, when it was compatible with my first generation Kindle Fire.

I think I got Maxthon for my Fire 8.9 from 1Mobile. Note: I am not recommending that you do the same…while I took that responsibility with my own Fire, I don’t want to take it with yours. :)

Having the combination of the two has meant that I can watch Flash videos on my Kindle Fire.

According to what I’m hearing, though, once my Fire updates, I won’t be able to do that any more, using Maxthon (or Dolphin).

I know some people will immediately assume that Amazon did this on purpose, to force people to use Silk.

Personally, I doubt that’s the case. Yes, if you use Silk, they can probably collect more data on you, and that’s valuable.  Yes, if Maxthon (or Dolphin, another reportedly affected browser) breaks your Kindle Fire, you are going to ask Amazon for help…even saying “no” costs them something, because Customer Service is expensive.

Generally, though, Amazon hasn’t done that kind of thing. For example, they approved the Netflix app for the Kindle Fire…even though it is a direct competitor to their own Amazon Instant Video (and in some ways, to Prime  Streaming Video).

While I do believe Amazon will do what it can to encourage you to use their apps, devices, and services, I don’t think they do it by trying to prevent you from using the competition (any more than what is the business norm).

In fact, I’m hoping that the reason I don’t have this update yet, and that it isn’t on the Kindle Software Updates page, is that they are trying to fix the problem (and possibly others). Amazon doesn’t want unhappy customers. I’m guessing that they were trying to do something to make the Silk browser work better with online videos, and that is just conflicting with Flash. That’s just my guess, though.

So, here’s the obvious question:

I’m a big Amazon fan. I use Kindles, Kindle Fires, Subscribe & Save, and am a Prime member.

Why don’t I use Amazon’s browser?

After all, I thought it sounded like one of the coolest Kindle Fire features. I liked the idea of “predictive loading”. It was going to learn my habits (and those of others), and pre-load webpages to make it faster. For example, when I go to

IMDb.com

a movie & TV reference site on the web (which is now owned by Amazon), I almost always go to the Top News section after I peruse the front page.

Silk was supposed to learn that, and so pre-load Top News whenever I went to IMDb.

It was supposed to do a lot of the processing in Amazon’s Cloud, where it would be much faster than on the device itself.

Well, I never really saw that…Silk has never been that fast for me, but that’s not the big issue.

The big thing is that it doesn’t have a couple of important features that I rely on in my browser.

The first one would be hard for them to fix. There is no desktop version of Silk, and no SmartPhone version.

One reason that I like Maxthon is (like Google Chrome), you can easily sync your bookmarks. Inevitably, I’m going to find websites on my Fire which I would rather see on my desktop, and I’m going to want mobile access to sites I’ve bookmarked on my desktop. Silk can’t do any of that.

The other big thing is that there is no privacy or “stealth” mode. I use that much of the time. It just means that the browser doesn’t store information about you the same way. When I visit a site, it doesn’t cache that site for me later, or store my passwords, or put it into my history, that kind of thing. Sure, that means that I have to enter that stuff every time, but for a lot of sites, I’m okay with that.  If I have a site I’m going to use a lot, I browse not in private mode. If it’s somewhere I’m just going to maybe see a funny video, I’m stealth.

There are other reasons to use a privacy mode…you may not want other users of the device to know which sites you visit…I won’t speculate on why. ;)

That’s one they could fix. I think it would especially appeal to people now, after all the talk there has been in the press about surveillance of internet use. Stealth mode wouldn’t prevent spying on you, of course, but it would make people feel like something has been done.

In fact, I think it would be cool if Amazon licensed

MaskMe

for Silk, so we could have better control over our information on line while still using services.

Now, it’s possible Amazon doesn’t want a privacy mode because it wants to collect data on your use, and it might interfere with that. I do think those two don’t have to be the same thing…you could erase my tracks while still knowing what my itinerary was. :) Amazon could know in the moment, and then not have my Kindle Fire know it afterwards.

Now, I should be clear: from what I’m hearing, the update won’t break Maxthon…just break the use of Flash in Maxthon. If I want to go to a site privately and use Flash, though, I’ll reportedly be out of luck.

Here’s hoping that isn’t what happens. :)

I’m curious if other people use the Silk browser (that’s what you use when you tap Web on your Fire)…so I’m going to ask you:

These questions only apply if you use a Kindle Fire (of any generation):

Okay…I’m going back to having the update of Damocles hanging over my head.  ;) Hopefully, it won’t mess me up…virtual fingers crossed.

What do you think? Does privacy mode matter to you? Do you sync your internet bookmarks/favorites between devices? Have you had experience with the latest updates? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Update: I’m hearing from reliable sources that 8.4.6 is out there, and does not cause the Flash problems in non-Amazon browsers. Hopefully, if that one is good, they will post it at the software update site. My Fire hasn’t updated yet…

===

Bonus: Amazon recently updated the discontinued Kindle Touch. Yes, that’s right…contrary to what I see people say, Amazon does sometimes update discontinued devices…and in this case, it added some significant functionality (improving search, buying from a sample, and viewing the full dictionary definition).

You can get it from Amazon here:

Kindle Touch Software update 5.3.7

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

Why doesn’t Amazon tell us everything in the updates?

June 23, 2013

Why doesn’t Amazon tell us everything in the updates?

As I recently reported, Amazon released an update to version 5.3.6 for the Kindle Paperwhite. They announced the availability of it here: Kindle Paperwhite Update Version 5.3.6. You can also always find Kindle update information at

http://www.amazon.com/kindlesoftwareupdates

One of my readers, poisonalice, asked in a comment what had been changed (besides the big feature that they announced about making it easier to buy books from a sample). On the Amazon Kindle Forum, the same question was asked.

poisonalice also wondered generally: why doesn’t Amazon list the details of each update publicly?

I thought that good question deserved a fuller (and more widely-seen treatment) than what would happen if I only responded to the comment, and I think it’s something I haven’t addressed in depth here before.

First, let’s talk about what we do know about updates, and then consider the pros and cons of Amazon telling us more.

When Amazon releases an update for a hardware Kindle, you can typically either go get it yourself and transfer and install it manually, or it will do it on its own (eventually) “over the air”.

The first information we have about it is the number. The updates have three number components (5.3.6, for example).

The initial number tells you for which model it is intended, although it’s really more about the “operating system” version. I say that because the Kindle DX and the Kindle 2 got the same updates, even though the hardware was obviously different (the Kindle DX being much larger, and having different button configurations). You can also think of that first number as “generations”. The 2007 Kindle started with 1. The Kindle DX and the Kindle 2 started with 2. The Kindle 3 (later called a Kindle Keyboard) started with 3.

They change the second number when there are significant modifications…I think only when there are new features. You could tell the difference between, say, 5.1.x and 5.2.x just by using the device (eventually).

The third number has to do with “behind the scenes” changes, although you might see them if they changed the order of a menu, for example. Those may be largely “bug fixes” and performance improvements. Something that simply redrew the screens (“turned the pages”) more quickly would be indicated by a change in that third number, not the second…at least, that’s how I understand how it works.

So, if the change is to the middle number, there’s something different you can do with your device. If it’s to the third number, there may not be.

Even if the change is only to the third number, Amazon makes a statement about the update at the Kindle Software Updates page linked above. In this case, it says:

“We have a new, free software update available for Kindle Paperwhite. The software update will be delivered wirelessly and includes a feature enhancement and general improvements for your Kindle Paperwhite. This update automatically downloads and installs on your Kindle Paperwhite; however, you can also manually download the software and update your device via USB cable.

The software update includes the following enhancement:

  • Improvements when buying from a book sample While reading a sample of a book, you can view the price of the full book and purchase from the reading toolbar with one tap.”

They don’t tell us what those “general improvements” are…and that’s the question people ask in the forums.

Obviously, Amazon knows exactly what was changed: why don’t they tell us?

I think there are a couple of main reasons for that.

Everything that a company does costs something. I’ve taught Project Management, and it’s something people often don’t take into account in their own lives. I may have told this story here, but I had an employee who was walking a mile (each way) to save a dime on a candy bar. I explained to that person that they should calculate the time spent doing that based on what the employee’s salary was to see if that made sense. Not that the person was doing it during working time, but just to understand the value of the time. I always think that’s important. For example, do you need more printers in your office? One way to figure that is to find out how long it is taking people to work with fewer printers…they have to get to them, perhaps wait in line for them, wait for them to finish, or come back later and get the print out. You calculate that against their salaries, and that can give you a good idea about whether the additional printers are cost effective for your company.

In this case, there would be a couple of costs. One would be to put it into customer-friendly language. It wouldn’t work very well to just post the change log the programmers use…some people would understand it, but many wouldn’t. The people who craft customer-friendly text are very busy (and it would be fine with me if they were busier…I think the Kindles could use a lot more help information, both on the device and online). You’d have to assign them to that task…and that could certainly include them consulting with the programmers, which takes the programmers away from the never-ending task of updating everything. ;)

The second big cost would be Customer Service…which is quite expensive. If you put in that you changed something, people would contact Customer Service to ask why, or to ask why you didn’t do it a different way, or why  you didn’t do something else. You can’t underestimate the expense (and value) of having someone who can take a phone call like that (that would be one of the communication channels) and make the customer happy at the end. Do we want Amazon to be spending their time and expertise on changes with which the customer doesn’t typically interact anyway?

Yes, there would be costs.

What would be the benefits?

You would satisfy some people’s curiosity. Certainly, there is a plus there…but I really don’t think you are going to lose sales and/or customers because someone didn’t get to find out what changes you made.

I don’t think it has to do with a fear of what competitors will do with the knowledge. I doubt there is anything groundbreaking going on in those bug fixes or performance enhancements.

Undoubtedly, Amazon may be concerned about the backlash they’d get…no matter how good the changes are, every data point can create criticism online. :)

The other thing, and I think this is essential, is that poisonalice (and the people on the forum) was thinking like a geek. Believe me, I appreciate that. :) I’m a geek myself, and I want to know about everything.

With our tech gadgets, we have typically been told about the changes that have been made to them. That’s partially because they were originally sold to people who created their own software to run on them, and had to know about operating system changes to interact in that deep way with them.

The Kindle revolutionized the e-book industry in the USA. There were, as I recall, more than ten EBRs (E-Book Readers) already in the market in 2007 when the first Kindle was released…and e-books were less than one percent of the US publishing market.

Why did the Kindle absolutely invigorate that market, to the point of explosive growth?

There is more than one reason, but I’ve always said that one of the main ones is that it appeals to readers…not just to techies. Freeing people from having to “cable up” to get books was huge.  To appeal to readers, you want the way it works to be as invisible as possible.

I recently wrote a piece called

Why do we read?

I explained there that anything that gets between us and the words is bad.

Knowing about the changes in the software makes you think about the device differently.

You pick it up. You read it. That should be about it. :)

Techies want to know about changes, even if they don’t interact with those changes, just because it is interesting.

Readers (and I’m both) just want it to work.

You don’t want to skew people’s perception of the Kindle towards it being like their desktop computers are (or were, in many cases).

I run into this issue at work. People want to use “human performance improvement” techniques. They want to observe the most efficient users (I work with medical people), and then export how they are interacting with the system to people who aren’t as efficient.

I’ve explained to them that it doesn’t really work very well.

Why?

If you come back to those “most efficient users” three months later, they are doing it differently.

One reason they are efficient is because they like change. They want to experiment, and push buttons, and are constantly looking for new aspects of the software.

Your typical doctor, nurse, medical assistant and so on? They don’t want anything to change in the software…ever. They don’t want to think about the software: they want to think about the patients.

That doesn’t mean that those innovators don’t also think about the patients…they do. It’s just that they also think about the software, and have fun with that. Not everybody does.

I honestly think that’s part of why Amazon doesn’t treat the Kindle like a tech device and post change logs. If there’s a new feature, they do tell us about it. If it is just a case of enhancements and bug fixes, I think the number of people that would…put off would be more than the number of people it would please.

What do you think? Does it bother you that Amazon doesn’t give us change logs? If so, why? Just on general principle, or would you do something with the information? Do you feel like you deserve to know because it is your device? Well, they aren’t changing the device…just the software that runs it. ;) You don’t have to take the software update…if you don’t care about using your device with Amazon (you could just deregister it). Do you think there are great undocumented features for your Kindle? I’ll tell you, there have been some in the past (Minesweeper on the first Kindle), but I think that’s become less likely with newer models, although not absent. I don’t think they publicize how to take screenshots, although I have written about how to do it. Please feel free to tell me and my readers what you think about these questions by commenting on this post.

Bonus deal: one of the Kindle Daily Deals today is actually twenty-seven deals: a bunch of thrillers (including the Ian Fleming James Bond books, published by Amazon in e-book form) for $1.99 each. When the Bond books are on sale, I always like to point out how they could be a great gift. You could buy fourteen of them for somebody for under $30…and you can delay the delivery. Think about gift giving occasions you may have throughout the year…this is how you can save money and get them a great gift. :)  There are others in this deal, too, including J.A. Konrath and Dan Mayland. I think these may all be published by Thomas & Mercer, which is part of Amazon’s traditional publishing activities.

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


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