Hands on with the new EBR features

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.


13 Responses to “Hands on with the new EBR features”

  1. Barbara Berry Says:

    Very interesting! Thanks for the comment re: PW1. I’ll keep my fingers crossed, but I still love it and reserve my Fire HD (2nd gen) for those tasks it can do that the PW1 cannot. Keep up the good work!

  2. hsextant Says:

    Nice write up on the new features. For my own personal use I don’t find any other than the expanded search and X-ray to be all that useful, but I can appreciate that many users will like the new features. Oh the view on Goodreads and About This Book are kind of cool as well.

    Regarding the family share, adult users may want to remember that they are opening their cloud accounts up for inspection (or so I believe). If you don’t want hubby to know that you read all three 50 Shades books, you may want to reconsider family share.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, hsextant!

      I think all of these features will appeal to somebody…and none of them will appeal to everybody. 😉

      I’ll check out the Cloud thing and let everybody know.

      • hsextant Says:

        Another thought that occurred to me on family share, do the other members of your family get a clean copy or are your notes and highlights in the copy they see. I would have to go back and clean up some of my notes. I have been known to wax poetic to myself in notes.

  3. Lady Galaxy Says:

    Wow, if those are the words Amazon thinks are difficult, then I may have been right in my assumption that they are being condescending to the readers! I don’t think “not dirty” is an accurate definition for “neatly.” “Not dirty” implies that “neatly” is an adjective when in fact it is an adverb. Even if “not dirty” were given as the definition of “neat,” I would have to disagree with it. What dictionary is it using? Just out of curiosity, I looked up neat in the “Oxford American Dictionary” on my Kindle 3, and it defined neat as “(of a place or thing) arranged in an orderly, tidy way.” Much better! “Laundry” isn’t always clothes that need to be washed. Sometimes it is towels and bedsheets and teddy bears. Sometimes it is items we have just washed and now need to put away. The Oxford American dictionary defines it as “clothes or linens that need to be washed or that have been newly washed.” If we’re going to have definitions poked through our eyeballs, they should at least be accurate definitions! Do you still have the option to look up a word that you choose to look up? Can you still choose which dictionary to use to look it up? Can you still get directly to that dictionary to highlight the word? On the rare occasions when I encounter a word I do not know, I like to highlight it in the dictionary so I can keep going back to it until it becomes part of my lexicon.

    • hsextant Says:

      I am not trying to defend nor deride Word Wise. This is just another example. From the book The American Experiment:


      Here is the sample text:

      Atop Independence Hall stood the Liberty Bell, which had rung out the news of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and of Revolutionary War victories. The tocsin had had a flawed existence. It had been cast in England, for no colony could make a bell like this, weighing over a ton. It was cracked on arrival and had to be crudely recast by a local firm. It was spirited out of Philadelphia and ignominiously submerged in a New Jersey river when the redcoats threatened the city. But now it was back in place, and still girdled by a noble sentiment: “Proclaim Liberty throughout the land, and to all the inhabitants thereof.”

      Proclaim Liberty! No bell need ring it out; the idea had transfixed Americans for generations, and never more than in the last twenty years. Liberty had been the clangorous rallying cry against the British. It was the Sons of Liberty who had denounced the Stamp Act, conducted funerals of patriots killed in street brawls, tarred and feathered Tory foes and American renegades. It was the Liberty Poles around which the Sons had assembled to pledge their sacred honor to the cause, the Liberty Tree in Boston from which they had hanged Tory officials in effigy, only to see the redcoats cut down the noble elm and convert it into firewood. Although Liberty was not the only goal for Americans in the 1770s and 1780s— they believed also in Independence, Order, Equality, the Pursuit of Happiness— none had the evocative power and sweep of Liberty, or Freedom— two terms for the same thing. To preserve liberty was the supreme end of government.

      Burns, James MacGregor (2013-05-21). The American Experiment: The Vineyard of Liberty, The Workshop of Democracy, and The Crosswinds of Freedom (Kindle Locations 656-667). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.

      Here are the words…definitions with the slider set to maximum:

      atop…on top of
      flawed…having a mistake
      colony…area run by a distant country
      ton…unit of measure
      recast…to present in a different way
      ignominiously…causing shame
      submerged…to go under water
      redcoats…a British soldier of the past
      girdled…to form a circle around
      noble…having respectful qualities
      inhabitants…a native place
      proclaim…to declare or announce
      transfixed…to cause to be motionless
      clangorous…having a loud resonant metalli…
      denounced…to criticize in public
      patriots…one who loves their country
      brawls…to fight loudly in public
      foes…an enemy
      renegades…one who joins a rival group

      (pledge…a serious promise…a promise to give money…a security deposit…a person promised to join…to promise in a formal way…a cause to promise…to give as a guarantee…to promise to join…none of these)

      sacred…relating to religion
      effigy…an image of a person
      elm…a type of tall tree
      firewood…wood used to make a fire
      evocative…causing feelings
      preserve…to keep in a original state
      supreme…highest degree in quality

      Pledge had a drop down arrow next to it which then give all these other choices. None of the other words had choices.

      Using evocative as an example, if you fast tap evocative you get a box that states as follows:

      evocative (adjective)
      Similar Words
      reminiscent, resonant, redolent

      Definition From Merriam-Webster

      bringing thought, memories, or feelings into the mind – often + of.
      “He wrote a powerful and evocative biography.”

      Was this helpful? Yes | No

      Doing a long screen tap brings up the normal New Oxford American Dictionary with the other choices (Wikipedia, Search, Highlight etc).

      Fortunately you can turn it off and not see the Word Wise hints.

      Curiously this particular book has the Word Wise enabled but X-ray disabled.

      You mentioned highlighting words to help learn them. The PaperWhites and Mindle have a Vocabulary Builder. It is a memory file that retains all the words that you have looked up in the dictionary. There is a flash card quiz and you can remove words from the list when you feel confident that you know them. It is pretty neat. You can find details of it here, scroll down to EXPAND YOUR VOCABULARY:


      Hope this helps.

      • hsextant Says:

        Whoa sorry about the gigantic book cover. All I did was paste the URL for the Amazon sales page.

      • Lady Galaxy Says:

        Thanks, hsextant. If your reply had a “was this helpful” button, I’d be clicking yes! Don’t worry about the huge book cover. I’ve done that myself in the past.

        Don’t you love the definition of “firewood” as “wood to build a fire.” If you don’t know what firewood is, chances are you won’t know what wood to build a fire is either, and if you did know, you wouldn’t need to see it. As a former teacher, I applaud anything that attempts to help build vocabulary, but I also think this feature needs some work. Maybe they should hire a few reading teachers along with the computer programmers to figure out how to “betterize” it.

        Thanks to Bufo, too. But remember that instructions like “long press” are not part of my Kindle experiene. If you can’t do it with side bars or the 5 way controller, I’m clueless. I do know things like tap and swipe because I have a touch pad on my laptop. As a nervous tapper, it took a few unexpected zooms in and out for me to remember not to idly tap on the touch pad.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        Everybody who uses the feature where they do multiple choice and then say whether it was helpful or not will help “betterize” it…and there will probably be a few reading teachers in that group. 🙂

        I get chided for defining the same terms over and over…I’ll go add in my usual “hold your finger or stylus on it for about a second” if I forgot to put that in for “long press” this time. I appreciate that reminder!

        One of the things I see a lot with touchpads is people resting their wrists on them while they type. Then, they ask me why the computer jumped to a different place on the screen…

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      You are right that they should be accurate: that’s why I was happy to see the multiple choice and the crowdsourcing part. It should become more accurate pretty quickly.

      The audience here is: people learning English as a second (or as in the case with many Europeans, fourth or more) language; and early readers. If somebody doesn’t fall into those categories, then they can certainly turn off the feature, or just slide it down to the bottom level. You’d never have to see this if you didn’t want to see it.

      As to your questions:

      * Yes, you can still long press (hold your finger or stylus on it for about a second) to look up words
      * Yes, you can still choose from the dictionaries installed on your device
      * Yes, you can get to the dictionary from within the book, and highlight. They also have the Vocabulary Builder feature, which I’m guessing you would find more helpful than Word Wise. It lets you make “flash cards” for the words you look up. More information on that here:

      Reading Enhancements help page (at AmazonSmile)

  4. Ann Von Hagel Says:

    For my part I am ECSTATIC that they fixed the collections – it drove me bonkers that ‘on device’ included things that were clearly NOT on the device — even if grayed out. This way is much better — and I sent feedback to say that.

    I would be interested to know how old your PW2 is. The PW1 had only 2GB of memory, the PW2 had 2GB until sometime earlier this summer when, to little fanfare, it began shipping with 4GB. I’ve heard from at least one person with an earlier PW2 that the update has caused slowness and freezing.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Ann!

      I’m glad you’re glad! 🙂

      Ours should be a 2 GB, since we got it in November of 2013, I believe.

      I haven’t noticed those issues, but it’s really my Significant Other’s device…not sure how much it has been used since I did the upgrade on it. I’ll ask.

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