Showing posts with label Amazon Kindle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amazon Kindle. Show all posts

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Amazon devices & quality control

I've had negative quality control issues with Amazon devices in the past. Recently I’ve had issues with the Kindle Oasis and the Fire HD 8.

The Kindle Oasis is the premium Kindle, so I was surprised with the problems I've experienced. When I first received the Oasis there was a permanent dark spot located at the centre of the screen. Amazon sent a replacement with no issues but recently the replacement also developed a dark spot! Again, I was sent another replacement. Unfortunately, the replacement device had a pin sized bright spot and was also registered to another user (light tears and bright spots are common with front-lit E-Ink screens <1>)! I speculate the replacement was a returned device from another customer due to the screen blemish. Amazon then sent a further replacement – this replacement was near perfect but had a barely noticeable permanent dark speck mark at the top of the screen. Thankfully the speck doesn’t affect the reading space, so I kept the device.

I also had a recent issue with an Amazon Fire HD 8 – but this is expected considering the entry-level pricing and cheaper screen. The screen developed a pressure mark – a common occurrence with LCD screens – and was swiftly replaced.

These are only two recent examples of quality control issues I’ve personally experienced with Amazon devices. I am not alone and similar blemishes are reported by other customers in their reviews on Amazon websites. Maybe it would be less wasteful and more cost effective if Amazon paid more attention to quality control.

The positive, from my personal experience, is that Amazon respect their warranty cover and do not impose unnecessary measures to test the legitimacy of claims.

<1>  I’ve had the same issue with the Kobo Aura One. Kobo sent a replacement but I had to first post the original device to Germany from the UK (Kobo, when I contacted their support, stated they don’t provide prepaid return labels). The Aura One replacement was brand new; to contrast, Amazon tend to send refurbished devices to replace defective ones. To be fair, the refurbished replacements I’ve received were in near perfect cosmetic condition; the only issues I’ve experienced were screen blemishes.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Firmware 5.9.6 & Arabic e-books

I stated in the previous post that I will provide an overview of firmware 5.9.6's support for Arabic e-books. Below are my impressions after testing the feature:
  1. E-books purchased from Amazon worked well. I sent two sample e-books from the Kindle store and the text aligned right to left. By default, two fonts were supported and even side-loaded fonts worked too. It is also possible to look-up definitions and use an Arabic keyboard to write annotations. Font bolding, however, is not supported in Arabic e-books. 
  2. I wirelessly sent two MOBI e-books and had significant problems. The major issue was the time it took to open an e-book - in both documents tested the Kindle completely froze. Further, even basic functions, e.g. turning pages, stalled the device. I further tested a side-loaded e-book and had the same issues. 
I am not sure if this is a problem with the Kindle firmware, as I didn’t have these issues when I opened the same e-books using an Amazon Fire tablet. I think there is something wrong with firmware 5.9.6 and Amazon could be working on a further update to resolve these problems.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Amazon's Kindle e-readers now support side loaded fonts

Amazon released a firmware update for their Kindle e-readers (5.9.6). The highlight of the update is the support for side-loaded fonts. Unfortunately, similar to the bolding feature, side-loaded fonts do not work in MOBI e-books. I found that converting an e-book, in Calibre, to both new and old formats of MOBI sometimes resolves this problem. The other option is to convert the e-book to an AZW3 e-book but this works only through directly side loading the document via USB, as Amazon doesn’t allow users to send AZW3 e-books wirelessly to their Kindle device. A major issue with side loading an e-book is that it will not be archived online in personal documents and synced across devices.

Another new feature with the firmware update is support for Arabic e-books. I’ll the test the feature and provide an overview in a further post.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Supporting the font bolding feature in a MOBI e-book

Amazon does not allow users to send AZW3 e-books to a Kindle device via WiFi. However, I noticed that it is possible to send a MOBI e-book to a Kindle e-reader and still make use of the font bolding feature.

The solution is to use Calibre to convert an e-book to MOBI in both old and new formats. In Calibre, under MOBI file type output, select ‘both’ as the MOBI file type. After conversion, it is possible to send the e-book to a Kindle device via email or Send to Kindle.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Kindle firmware update (5.9.4)

Amazon just released a firmware update for their Kindle devices (5.9.4) - the update is for 6th generation devices and up. Unfortunately, the update doesn't include font bolding for MOBI e-books. According to Amazon, the updates are minor and include:
Expanded Search: In-book search now includes results from your notes and highlights.
Clock: Now you can check the current time without leaving the page you're reading. Use the option in Display Settings (Aa) menu to display the clock. 
Usually it can take up to a few weeks for the update to download via WiFi. However, it is possible to download and install the update manually (instructions available here).

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Oasis PDF support correction

In a previous post regarding the Oasis's PDF support, I stated the following:
I found it useful that the Oasis’s buttons only turn to the next page of a PDF document, rather than scroll down a page; this is a good implementation as it removes any confusion between page scrolling and page turning.
I mainly read PDF files in landscape mode, due to the restricted seven inch screen estate, and, consequently, didn't notice the mistake made in the above observation (also, recently, I've predominately been reading e-books). To clarify, tap to scroll or using the buttons perform the exact same function in a zoomed-in PDF document: i.e., both enable the user to scroll down a page and turn to the next one when a page is completed. Unfortunately, the implementation of this function is buggy and the device, sometimes, for no reason, zooms-in further. In addition, when scrolling to the next page, the Oasis does not jump to the top of the page. As a result, depending on the PDF file, some lines could be accidentally missed. To ensure a page-turn starts at the top of a page it then becomes necessary to drag manually upwards.

To resolve these issues with tap/button-click to scroll, the best option, in my view, is to scroll a page by dragging downwards when zoomed-in. After completing a page, again to avoid the tap to scroll function, first zoom-out with a double tap and then follow this by a tap/button-click to turn the page. In the next page, repeat the double-tap to zoom-in and drag to scroll downwards. This option might be cumbersome but it is workable and makes PDF portrait reading more stable.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Kindle special offers

Amazon sell their e-readers and Fire tablets with and without special offers. Special offers, in the case of Fire tablets, are not intrusive. Tablets are multi-functional devices and the special offers that appear on the lock-screen do not intrude on the user accessing their applications. Kindle e-readers, in contrast, are single purpose devices and turning on the device means returning to an e-book (the device shouldn't get in the way of its single purpose i.e. reading). Special offers appearing on the sleep screen means the user needs to turn on the device and then swipe to bypass the advertisement to then return to an e-book. Even worse Amazon imposes an advertisement banner at the bottom of the screen when navigating the Kindle. With the restricted screen estate of a 6 - 7 inch Kindle e-reader this is a nuisance.  Special offers displayed on e-readers, in my view, are an imposition and should be removed altogether. A possible alternative might be to place a designated permanent icon to access special offers in the top tool bar (similar to the GoodReads icon).

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Amazon's typographical features remain behind Kobo

Amazon released a new firmware (5.8.11) for their Kindle devices (6th generation and up). The firmware update is a significant one, as it aims to provide extra typographical features to their e-readers (a weak point with Amazon’s Kindle firmware).

Despite some improvements, significant problems persist. First, the option to increase font weight only works with AZW3 file, so if you have a library of  MOBI e-books the feature does not work. Further, Amazon, oddly, does not support sending documents to your Kindle e-mail in the AZW3 format. This means the only way get an AZW3 on a Kindle is to side-load the document but this means the e-book is not archived in the Amazon cloud and synced across devices. Second, font size selection is still poor and the increase between different sizes - in the new font scale - remains disproportionate. It would have been better if the firmware allowed the user to select an exact number for font size.

Amazon, overall, offer a stable and feature rich firmware experience, in comparison to other vendors. However, in the case of typographical support, they remain behind Kobo. Yes, Kobo also have issues with font size but, at least, there is more flexibility in size selection. Further, they allow the user to increase font weight in both EPUB and KEPUB e-books (the feature only works with Kobo designated fonts and not side-loaded ones).

Monday, 24 April 2017

Exporting Kindle notes and highlights

In the past the best option to access annotations and highlights was to transfer a locally stored ‘my clippings’ file when connecting a Kindle to a PC. To further organise the output of the file, according to e-book and location in an e-book, there were options to upload the 'my clippings' file to clippings.io or to utilise a Calibre plug-in. Thankfully things have moved on since then and Amazon released an update that allows greater flexibility and options to externally store a user’s notebook. On a Kindle device the possibility of exporting a notebook to an external email is possible through first selecting reading settings and then notes (from notes there is an option to then email the notebook). Unfortunately, the ability to email notes and highlights applies to Amazon books and not personal e-books.

However, it is still possible to email and share a personal e-book's notebook to external accounts - e.g. Evernote and Onenote - via the Kindle application or Fire tablet. This is possible, as notes and highlights of e-books are stored in the Amazon cloud and automatically synced over different devices. Thus, a personal e-book's notebook would be available to export in the Kindle application when synced from, for example, a Kindle Paperwhite. The process of exporting the document is very easy and applies to both Fire tablets (Fire OS) and Kindle application - first tap on reading settings and then choose export a notebook; after choosing to export, it is then possible to send the notebook to external applications e.g. E-mail, Onenote, Evernote etc. A further useful feature is the ability to export utilising different citation styles (APA, Chicago Style, MLA or none).  

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Is the Kindle Paperwhite 4 being released?

Its been two years since the Kindle Paperwhite three release, so we are due an update. There is a picture and information leaked, via a Chinese retailer, of a possible Paperwhite coming out. Information is sparse, other  than a water-proof device, a flush display, the same 300PPI and what appears to be, again, a six inch screen. This is speculation, and I can be very wrong, but I think the leaked information is generally correct. The information provided is consistent with Amazon's strategy of keeping the six inch size and introducing small incremental updates.

The leaked information also noted two further more premium Kindle devices for 2018. One is a six inch e-reader - possibly replacing the Voyage - and a high-end seven inch one. Again, I think the leaked information could be right. Specifically, a seven inch Kindle - to replace the Oasis - may finally provide something to entice e-readers to choose a high-end e-reader over the Voyage and Paperwhite.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Kindle quirks continued

I previously posted about the strange software quirk that extends reading settings from one document to another. For example, reading a PDF in landscape means the next e-book you open will be rendered in landscape mode too.

In this post I wish to note the strange decision to prevent users from deleting their personal documents from the cloud via a Kindle or Fire tablets running Fire OS 5 (I managed to delete from the cloud with a Fire HDX (late 2013 release)). However, it is possible to remove Amazon content from the cloud on Amazon devices. To manage your cloud documents you need to login to your Amazon account via ‘Manage Your Content and Devices’.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Kobo Aura One details & why Amazon may not respond with a larger e-reader

The Kobo Aura One's details are leaked and it confirms a 7.8 inch e-reader. The Aura One is an e-reader with premium specifications - it comes with water proofing, 512 MB RAM, 8GB internal storage and a 300 ppi E-Ink Carta front-lit display. Importantly, the listing states the price at 229 Euros - in comparison the six inch Kindle Oasis is priced at 290 Euros. I don't think Amazon will respond with a larger e-reader. Amazon didn't respond when Kobo released the 6.8 inch Kobo Aura HD in 2013. For Amazon, size doesn't seem an issue and its near complete dominance of the e-book market means it can set its own agenda. At the moment, it aims to gradually improve the range of six inch e-readers, offering choice at that size, but there is no indication it is interested in offering a larger e-reader. However, I could be wrong.

On the other hand, it is the niche vendors that might need to revise their devices and pricing. Since the near uniformity of the six inch e-reader, alternative vendors set-out to meet the demand for larger e-readers. Overall, the quality of these devices are sub-standard, with out-dated hardware and often poor software. Further, as larger vendors neglected the larger e-reader, the price of these devices are inflated. Eight inch e-readers (e.g. Icarus Illumina XL, Pocketbook Inkpad 2 and Onyx Boox i86) retail at a similar price to the Kobo Aura One but with inferior hardware and software (PDF support is poor on Kobo e-readers but there is the option to install KOReader). Unless Amazon releases a larger e-reader or alternative vendors seriously re-consider their offerings then Kobo Aura One is the stand-out and only serious option, at the moment, if Android is a non-issue for the end-user.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Amazon Kindle software quirks - the extensibility of user display settings

One of the strange quirks with Amazon's Kindle software is the extensibility of font choice, line spacing, screen orientation and margins across e-books. If the user changes any of these settings in one e-book then it extends to others. The problem with this quirk is that each e-book responds differently to changes in display settings. For example, a medium line spacing could be doubled in another e-book. Surely it is more intuitive for display settings to be e-book specific.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Amazon updates its entry-level Kindle & announces software enhacements

Amazon announced the release of a new entry-level Kindle. Judging from the release details this is a worthy upgrade without any cost increase. The updated model is lighter, thinner, and comes with Bluetooth support and twice the RAM. Hardware improvements and excellent firmware makes the Kindle, already the choice entry e-reader, further ahead of similar models from other manufactuters. Kobo might update their Kobo Touch 2.0 to keep-up with Amazon but this is not likely. Kobo tends to run less frequent updates and the Kobo Touch 2.0 was released late 2015.

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Amazon also announced the enhacement of notes and highlights management, with the ability to export notes to your email and to save them in PDF format. According to the Amazon Kindle team:
It’s now easy to export notes and highlights from a book to your e-mail, so you can always have them on-hand for reference. Receive your notes both as an easily printable PDF that’s ready to bring to your book club, and as a simple file you can open in your favorite spreadsheet app.
This software enhacement is a great feature that other e-readers neglect. Amazon already pushed enhanced notes and highlights management features to the Kindle application for Android, iOS and Fire tablets, so it is useful to see these features natively supported with the Kindle e-readers.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

For & Against the Kindle Oasis

Generally the Kindle Oasis brought what was predicted, with incremental updates, including premium design features and a charging case, though not solar powered, that is more than an accessory. Surprisingly, there is no Bluetooth or waterproof features. Some complaints and objections came with the Oasis’s release, with its unjustified high price for little relative improvement. Overall, the Oasis, in my opinion, does not offer sufficiently substantial improvements to warrant its ‘premium’ tag or its price difference to the Kindle Paperwhite, let alone the Kindle Voyage. Below are arguments for and against the Kindle Oasis:

For the Kindle Oasis 

The Kindle Oasis offers an improved front-light and a case that is more than an accessory. In regards to front light improvements, we have ten LEDs, rather than the eight on the Voyage, resulting in a more evenly lit display. In this improvement Amazon aims to mimic the feel of ink on paper and we have what is better than anything on Amazon’s own Kindle range or available from other manufacturers. On the other hand, the bundled case is advertised to buttresses battery life to up to nine weeks. If we Consider the Oasis’s super lightweight (131 grams), better front-light, intuitive ergonomics and a bundled case that significantly prolongs battery life, then we could arguably justify an increase of £100 compared to the Voyage.

Further, regarding pricing, premium end smartphones retail considerably higher; the question arises if premium smartphone pricing, for example an Apple iPhone or Samsung S7, are more worthy for their cost. Further, many websites viewed the Kindle Oasis to be “crazy expensive” but this points to a broader issue with technology publications in how they often carry the bias of individual reviewers and what they envisage as use case scenarios for consumer devices. Thus e-readers are considered secondary devices, while smartphones would be primary ones, and some do not comprehend a ‘premium’ single-use device. Other technology writers seem to believe that many e-readers do the same thing and it would be frivolous to justify upgrades similar to upgrade cycles with smartphones. The point here is that the Kindle Oasis is intended for dedicated e-readers and, accordingly, they would want the best possible reading experience. For this intended segment of users an e-reader could be a primary device and the Kindle Oasis is a reading tool that beats anything out there for its size and features.

Against the Kindle Oasis 

Overall, the case is stronger against the Kindle Oasis. The main problem is in a device that maintains the same display size, e-ink technology (Carta), 300 dpi and even slightly worse contrast ratio to other Kindle models. These are hardware features on the substantive side of any e-reader; considering this, there is little reason to upgrade to or choose this Kindle over the Kindle Paperwhite (a similar argument could be made against the Voyage compared to the Paperwhite). In regards to a case prolonging battery life than e-ink e-readers offer more than enough battery. The same can be said with an improved front-light, mimicking the feel of printed paper - the Paperwhite’s front light is bright and even enough to make little difference.

What could make the Oasis worthy of its inflated price would be something that significantly improves the end-user’s reading experience with upgraded hardware, due to the near identical firmware features across Kindle devices. Hence this means either a larger display, e.g. an eight inch one, or Liquavista colour to complement a larger display. For the end-user hardware differentiation means better functionality with PDF files and text immersion with e-books. However, this would likely go against Amazon’s ethos of selling hardware as a gateway to their content. The point of the Oasis is not to just provide the best possible e-reader, at the moment, but to specifically provide the best possible e-reader to access Amazon’s Kindle ecosystem. For Amazon, It may not be effective to develop firmware to make use of hardware differentials, as the Kindle is primarily viewed as a device to access Amazon e-books, rather than a multi-functional e-reading hardware platform. The same may be stated with Kobo’s strategy, after exiting the tablet segment and concentrating on e-readers.

Monday, 11 April 2016

The new premium Kindle will bring incremental updates

Since Jeff Bezos announced an " all-new, top of the line Kindle almost ready. 8th generation" there has been speculation if this device will bring something different. Will it finally come with a Liquavista display? Is this a larger e-reader? Judging from Amazon's history with e-readers, I believe this will be an incremental update to their premium Kindle Voyage. Amazon tends react to what exists and then release a better end-product (similar to Apple). For example, Amazon reacted to touch and front-light after their introduction by Kobo and Barnes & Noble. Also, the pixel density of the mid-range Kindle Paperwhite was bumped to 300 ppi, after Kobo introduced the same resolution with its own mid-range Kobo Glo HD.

It is likely that Amazon will continue this trend with their upcoming premium device; instead of a Liquavista display or a larger e-reader (greater than 7 inches), we will likely see incremental updates to the Kindle Voyage. This means a likely 6/6.8 inch device, with a better processor, enhanced e-ink display, improved front-light, water-proofing, Bluetooth for content integration with Audible and Echo devices and a possible solar powered self-charging case. Amazon excels in content integration, across devices, and this update should emphasise better integration between this Kindle and the recent release of the Amazon Echo Dot and Amazon Tap (adding to the range of Alexa supported devices).

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Choosing Kindle cases & covers

Choosing a Kindle case shouldn't be an after-thought; some cases are truly awful with poor stitching, glued parts coming out and that PU leather feel. Other than the official Amazon case, Incipio, Nupro, Golla, Jonathan Adler and Verso all make very good cases. For value, the M-Edge Trip and Go! Jacket covers for the Kindle 4 are highly recommended and fit the more recent generations of the Kindle (both Paperwhite and Touch) and most 6 inch e-readers. The materials used are high quality and this applies, specifically, to the stitching and binding. Another nice feature of the M-Edge covers, is a slip in pocket for the M-Edge illuminator book light (useful with the basic Kindle due to no front light). The only problem, as is the case with cases with straps, is the absence of an auto-wake function. Other notable mentions include Paperchase's Nordic Nights and Marware's Atlas cover.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Amazon goes budget friendly

Amazon has released three new Fire tablets and it appears, from the official website, these are not just further choice to the existing tablet range but may become the default offering. The HDX tablets, with far better resolution and specifications, are no longer advertised on the front page of Amazon.com. Also, judging from the aspect ratio of the devices, these are, foremost, for media consumption to complement an Amazon Prime subscription.

I think, other than the $50 7 inch tablet (1), the other devices are over-priced compared to tablets from other manufacturers. For example, in UK pricing, the Fire HD 10 sells for £170, while the Nexus 9, which is vastly superior, can be found for £200 (there is also the Lenovo Tab 2 A10 that beats the Fire 10 HD in both specifications and price). While resolution may not matter for multimedia content, it might with clear pixelation for e-reading (the Fire 10 HD comes with 149 ppi). The $50 Fire 7, however, is the best of the lot. This may seem strange, considering the specifications, but the compromises made were just right. Skimping with resolution was balanced with an IPS screen, that even at 1024 x 600, offers 171 ppi (the Fire 7 is not advertised as HD, so it is not clear what this entails? Is there no high definition rendering? Or is anything under 1280 x 720, regardless of screen size, officially non-HD?); the device also does not compromise in either processing power or memory. Then there is the ingenious offer to buy six Fire tablets and get one free! I can see the device doing really well as a gift, other than offering a budget friendly entry point to Amazon products e.g. Amazon Prime and Amazon Kindle Unlimited etc. Amazon might, in the future, discount the tablet with an annual Prime membership.

In all, considering the trajectory of tablet sales, it is understandable Amazon would go for a more budget offering, compared to the HDX range. However, relative to other available tablets, both the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 offers less for the price. The Fire 7, on the other hand, is a great idea and one that might get more users into the Amazon eco-system to off-set the device's low price.

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(1) In the UK the Fire 7 sells for £50 and in Europe for 60 Euros. The different pricing might be due to the device coming with 90 days warranty in the US, to keep the price low, compared to one year in the UK and Europe.