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

Thursday, 2 May 2019

The Kindle Paperwhite is the best six-inch e-reader

Recently we’ve seen the expansion of e-readers in different sizes. I’ll dedicate three posts to three different screen sizes: six-inches, seven-inches and eight-inches. This post is dedicated to six-inch e-readers and in that category, the Kindle Paperwhite is the one to choose. I’ll justify the Kindle Paperwhite considering Amazon’s entry-level Kindle, what Kobo offers and why it is not sensible to consider a six-inch e-reader by alternative vendors:
  1. The price differential between the Paperwhite and Kindle Basic is reasonable. The £50 difference gets you twice the storage, near twice the resolution, better front lighting and water-proofing. The same cannot be said about the £110 price difference between Oasis 2 and Paperwhite. Overall, the Paperwhite gives you the best value – if only it came in different sizes! 
  2. The Kindle Paperwhite is also better than Kobo’s two six-inch e-readers (Kobo Clara HD and Kobo Aura Edition 2). The superiority of the Paperwhite is in Amazon’s firmware. Kobo might offer richer typographical features but is overall well behind. The main difference is Amazon extensive cloud-based infrastructure. Amazon syncs not only purchased books but also personal documents. The syncing service not only includes page location but also annotations, categorising e-books in collections, wirelessly sending e-books to a Kindle device and the ability to manage collections online. If you want to use an e-reader to organise a library of personal content, then the Paperwhite is the better option in comparison to Kobo’s six-inch offerings. 
  3. Finally, it doesn’t make sense to buy a six-inch e-reader from an alternative vendor. In my opinion, Boyue and Onyx e-readers fill the gap when it comes to larger e-readers that are suitable for PDF documents and note-taking. The six-inch size is suitable mainly for e-books and nothing beats the stable and intuitive firmware that you get on Kindle devices.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Firmware 5.9.6 & Arabic e-books

Amazon's 5.9.6 firmware added 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 sideloaded fonts

Amazon released a firmware update for its Kindle e-readers (5.9.6). The highlight of the update is the support for sideloaded 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 sideloading the document via USB, as Amazon doesn’t allow users to send AZW3 e-books wirelessly to their Kindle device. A major issue with sideloading 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.

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.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Special offers on a Kindle are a nuisance

Amazon sells 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 interfere with the use of the device unlocked.

Kindle e-readers, in contrast, are single-purpose devices and turning on the device means returning to an e-book. Anything that gets in the way of this single-purpose does intrude on the general user experience. Special offers appearing need to be bypassed by swiping across the screen to bypass the advertisement to then return to an e-book.

The worse aspect of special offers on a Kindle e-reader is the advertisement banner at the bottom of the screen when navigating the Kindle. With the restricted screen estate of a 6 - 7 inches 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 toolbar.

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 to get an AZW3 on a Kindle is to sideload 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, offers 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 has 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 after 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 exporting a notebook to an external email is possible through first selecting reading settings and after that 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 to export a notebook; after choosing to export, it is then possible to send the notebook to external applications. A further useful feature is the ability to export utilising different citation styles (APA, Chicago Style, MLA or none).  

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Kobo Aura ONE details

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 waterproofing, 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 is 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 only serious option, at the moment, if Android is a non-issue for the end-user.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Amazon updates its entry-level Kindle & announces software enhancements

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.

Amazon also announced the enhancement of notes and highlights management, with the ability to export notes to your email and to then 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 enhancement 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 - incremental updates, including premium design features and a charging case (it is not solar powered). 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 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 an enhanced case. In regards to front light improvements, we have ten LEDs, rather than the eight on the Voyage, resulting in a more evenly lit front light. In this improvement, Amazon aims to mimic the feel of ink on paper. Considering 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 justified in their retail cost. Many websites seem to answer that there can be no justification for Oasis's pricing - it is, in their view, “crazy expensive”. Maybe this points to a broader issue of how reviewers pre-define 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 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. Contrast ratios are vital on e-readers and more so with a device that markets itself as the best of the best. 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, in comparison, 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 a substantive upgrade in hardware. 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 differentiation in size 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 but to specifically provide the best possible e-reader to access Amazon’s Kindle ecosystem. For Amazon, 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 to 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 mid-range Kobo Glo HD.

It is likely that Amazon will continue this trend with its 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-inch device, with a better processor, enhanced e-ink display, improved front-light, water-proofing, Bluetooth for content integration with Audible 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.