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

Thursday, 21 March 2019

The Kindle Basic gets an update

Amazon updated its entry-level Kindle. The biggest hardware upgrade is the introduction of a front light. With the hardware improvement, like the Kindle Paperwhite, there is a £10 increase (the price is £69.99 but expect the device to be regularly put on sale, e.g. on Prime Day and Black Friday). The updated Kindle Basic is slightly heavier than the previous generation – the previous generation weighed 161 Grams and the current one weighs 174 Grams – but I prefer the new design with its rounded corners.

The front light is a welcome addition, but it is the pixel density that should’ve been upgraded (the new Kindle Basic keeps the 167 PPI of the previous generation). An upgrade to 221 PPI would’ve made a big difference to the reading experience. In terms of trade-off, the pixel density is more important than a front light. On a positive note, Amazon did upgrade the screen technology to E-Ink Carta. If you don’t care for the front light and E-Ink Carta, Amazon now sells the previous generation for £49.99.

Overall, this is a predictable Amazon refresh with small upgrades. Amazon no longer seeks to innovate with its tablets and e-readers. Alexa powered devices are the focus and future of Amazon hardware.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Reflections on the Kindle Paperwhite 4

Even considering the slow development of e-reader technology, there is nothing innovative with the Kindle Paperwhite 4. The latest iteration, mostly, matches the hardware features of other vendors. You still do not get the nightlight feature, but you do get water-proofing. Despite the hardware stagnation, the Kindle Paperwhite remains the best six-inch e-reader. The reason, as I posted before, for the Paperwhite’s superiority is Amazon’s polished software. As an e-reader is a single purpose device then the software is a major factor when choosing the right one. Below are further reflections on the Kindle Paperwhite 4:
  • Amazon’s excellent software and hardware integration mean the Kindle is optimised for its purpose bottom-up. The Paperwhite 4's battery life is better than the Kindle Oasis 2 and is what you expect from an E-Ink device. This bottom-up optimisation is absent with Android e-readers and this affects not only battery life but also general user experience.
  •  I would avoid the over-priced Kindle Oasis 2. The extra inch makes a difference but is still not large enough for PDF reading. For e-books, the extra inch is better for text immersion but is not essential and not worth the Oasis’s price differential. I like the simplicity and features of the Kindle’s PDF software but an Android e-reader, e.g., one of Onyx’s devices, is better and with more options and features for PDF reading. The coupling of Android with extra screen size also makes Android e-readers, to an extent, multi-purpose devices. 
  • The Kindle Paperwhite’s flush display is a fingerprint magnet. I own the Kobo Aura One, but it doesn’t have this issue. The fingerprint issue is a negative but not a big problem. 
  • In my view, the Kobo Aura One, in comparison to the Kindle Paperwhite 4, has better contrast. The Kindle Paperwhite 4 contrast is acceptable and better than the Kindle Oasis 2. Contrast adjustment, something Boyue and Onyx e-readers support, is an important feature that Amazon's e-readers need to adopt. Kindle e-readers, currently, only support text bolding. 
  • Water-proofing, Bluetooth support, expanded storage and an improved front light are all improvements that make the Kindle Paperwhite 4 a better option than the Kindle Oasis 2. As said, the extra inch is now the Oasis 2’s stand-out hardware feature and I don’t think the extra size is worth an extra £110.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

The Kindle Paperwhite is finally updated

I thought Amazon wasn't going to update any Kindle in 2018 but I got it wrong. Amazon, with little fuss, updated the Kindle Paperwhite. The Kindle Paperwhite 4 is a typical Kindle update, i.e. incremental with just enough to justify an overdue refresh.

The Kindle Paperwhite keeps the six-inch display (something expected considering the 'premium' Kindle Oasis 2 has a seven-inch display). Storage goes up to 8 GB or 32 GB for the extra space required due to Audible support. There is also water-proofing, Bluetooth support, an extra LED for the front light and the weight is decreased to 182 grams.

The Paperwhite 4 is also more robust than the previous generation and is designed to withstand small drops. There is no indication that the Paperwhite 4 is using E-Ink Mobius, so it is not clear what Amazon did to make the screen more robust. Due to the extra features and storage, Amazon has increased the pricing from £109.99 to £119.99.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

What processor is the Kobo Forma using?

Kobo, on their official page, isn't very clear about the processor that runs on the Kobo Forma. You need to visit their media library webpage to find out that the Forma's processor is the same one that runs on the older Aura ONE, i.e. the single-core NXP i.MX6. The Kindle Oasis uses a more capable 1GHZ dual-core i.MX7D processor. The difference between the single-core i.MX6 and dual-core i.MX7 is noticeable - the Oasis is zippier than the Kobo Aura ONE. It is odd that Kobo decided to stick with the same processor considering the Forma is meant to be their now premium e-reader. Maybe the selection of the same processor was a trade-off due to the Forma's E-Ink's Mobius screen technology.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Further reflections on the Kindle Oasis

My review of the Kindle Oasis was positive. There is a lot to like about the Oasis but there are certain things that now bother me about the device after prolonged use. Below are the main issues:
  • Battery life is poor for an e-reader. The Kindle Oasis 2 has a 1000 mAh battery capacity and I found the device drains completely after two days of continuous use. To compare, the Kobo Aura One has a 1200mAh capacity and after Kobo’s recent firmware updates lasts longer than the Oasis 2. The Kindle Oasis re-charges fast so that somewhat makes up for the poor battery life. 
  • The text is sharp, but the contrast isn’t good. Text appears dark grey rather than inky black. Due to the sub-standard contrast, I tend to bold text to make it appear darker. To be fair, E-Ink has never reached the deep black you get on a Super AMOLED screen. CLEARInk promises to deliver superior blacks but we haven’t yet seen a consumer e-reader with the technology. 
  • I don’t like the form factor. Amazon claims the uneven design makes it easier to hold. The original Amazon case was designed to make it easy to remove the Oasis 2 and read one-handed. This was a device designed to be used without a case. There is a problem - when reading the device without a case the metallic back is cold to the hand. The thin edges also make the e-reader feel fragile. It would’ve been a better idea if Amazon released an anti-knock bumper case for the Oasis 2 instead of the now-withdrawn official case that doesn’t completely cover the device. The Kobo Aura One’s all-plastic design might be utilitarian, but it works. Plus, Aura One’s design makes finding a good case easier. I use a Belkin iPad Mini case that fits the device perfectly. 
In my view, the contrast issue is the biggest problem. An e-reader does one thing and should do it well – the faded text is a drawback in that regard. The Oasis is a good e-reader, but it does not offer anything exceptional beyond the extra screen size to justify its price. Considering screen size, the Kobo Aura One is larger and cheaper.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Kinde Basic vs Tolino Page: which is best?

I am a fan of the budget e-reader. They are good value devices and, despite the low resolution, are better for reading than the highest resolution tablet screen. Kobo released the Kobo Touch 2.0 (late 2015) as a budget e-reader, with a 167 PPI E-Ink Pearl screen, but dropped the device later. Another choice is the Tolino Page but Tolino’s e-readers are restricted to a few countries. Nevertheless, it is possible to import the Tolino Page from an online retailer based in Germany. In this post, I will compare the Tolino Page with the Kindle Basic. Below are my impressions on both devices and why I prefer the Kindle Basic:
  • Online content management, in comparison to Amazon, is one area that Tolino is superior. Register for the Tolino Cloud and you can then read online in the browser, organise collections and upload books. The user interface is intuitive, and it is possible to view and change book covers. Amazon does allow online content management, but it is like a file browser in which the user can delete documents, add documents to collections and download documents. The Kindle Cloud Reader is not integrated into content management and requires access through an external website. The Kindle Cloud Reader also only allows access to documents bought from the Kindle Store.
  • The Kindle Basic's software is superior to the Tolino Page. I have posted about Amazon’s software before, so this is a quick summary. Amazon offers a uniform software experience on all the current batch of e-readers (also, the earlier generation of the Kindle Basic, Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Oasis all run the latest firmware). In Amazon’s firmware it is possible, for example, to bold text, look-up Wikipedia, translate words, utilise a vocabulary builder of dictionary look-ups and export notes in a notebook format. PDF support, in Amazon's firmware, is refined - it is possible to double tap to zoom, highlight/annotate, increase text contrast, decrease margins, and change orientation. In other words, it is a fully functional PDF reader. Tolino does support basic e-reading functionality but without many of the advanced features, you get with the Kindle Basic. Tolino Page's PDF functionality, like Kobo, is restricted to supporting a basic viewer and with no way to interact with the text.
  • The Kindle Basic is zippier in comparison to the Tolino Page. The Tolino Page's performance is adequate, but you notice the difference when you put the two devices side by side. Both devices have the same resolution and despite the Tolino Page's E-Ink Carta screen, the text is darker on the Kindle Basic (see picture below for a comparison between the Kindle Basic and Tolino Page). This may seem odd, though less sharp, and blocky, I found the text on the Kindle Basic, due to the default extra weight, darker than the high-end Kindle Oasis.
Text contrast comparison between the Kindle Basic and Tolino Page (click on image to enlarge)
  • Another plus is the relative lightweight of the Kindle Basic. The device weighs 161 grams. The Tolino Page is light too at 170 grams. The Kindle Paperwhite is significantly heavier than both devices at 205 grams. The lightweight makes the Kindle Basic a good companion when travelling or commuting.      
Overall, the Kindle Basic is hands-down the best entry-level e-reader from an established vendor. The device makes a great gift, an e-reader for children or something light to carry when travelling. 

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.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

An incoming Kindle Paperwhite update?

A link for a new model of the Paperwhite was spotted. The link leads to a test product page with an image of the previous generation Kindle Basic. Amazon often intentionally leaks information, gradually, of a new device before its release. In addition, Amazon usually releases devices late Spring/early summer or late autumn. Considering the timing, a new Paperwhite should be appearing soon. The updated device might keep the six-inch form factor but add waterproofing and Audible support. We might also see a re-design of the Paperwhite (the Paperwhite hasn’t significantly changed since its first release late 2012).

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Amazon adds extra features to online content management

I have noticed that Amazon supports online management of collections. It is possible to create a new collection and add/remove Kindle e-books and personal documents from an existing collection. In addition, if you have a large library, the restriction on selecting a maximum of ten documents at a time has now been removed. I still think Tolino’s online content management interface is more intuitive and easier to use. Tolino's web reader is integrated into online content management and it is possible to view/change e-book covers.

Update: I forgot to note that Tolino's online content management allows the uploading of documents from a local hard drive. As far as I can tell, Amazon doesn't support the feature. The only way to send documents wirelessly to a Kindle e-reader is via either the Send to Kindle application or email.

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.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Kindle Oasis Review: The Oasis is a stylish e-reader

Without a doubt, the latest iteration of Kindle Oasis is the best e-reader from Amazon. This is expected considering the pricing and premium tag. The question is if the device offers that much extra to justify the price differential in comparison to other e-readers. Overall, while Amazon should have done more to distinguish the Oasis, the device sets the benchmark for a feature rich and immersive e-reading experience.

An asymmetric design that doesn’t work 

I am not a fan of the device’s design. The metallic back, without a case, is cold to the hand and the device’s lopsided design makes it uneven to hold. Amazon designed its official case to attach magnetically to the thicker end to provide a flat reading surface. Unfortunately, this leaves part of the metallic back exposed when the case is closed (Amazon withdrew the official case due to design flaws).

The buttons are a real plus. They are located at the thicker end and make page turning so much easier with one-handed reading. The buttons can be used left and right handed, as the Oasis supports automatic rotation.

Extra-size makes a difference

The extra inch makes a significant difference. The device is seven inches across and this means a thirty percent increase in reading screen estate. I find the extra space helps with text immersion and the extra width makes PDF text more legible in landscape mode.

Nice screen but nothing special

If you are coming from the Kindle Paperwhite then you will notice little difference in screen quality (both devices come with an E-Ink Carta screen and 300 DPI). I found the Oasis’s contrast slightly lacking but text sharp.

The adaptive front light has twelve LEDs that produce uniform lighting with little shadowing. The front light is the best I’ve seen on an e-reader and is significantly better than the Kobo Aura One. The Kindle Oasis, unlike the Aura One, does not support front light colour shifting for night-time reading.

Kobo Aura One vs. Kindle Oasis front light comparison 

Solid and stable software

As stated in a review of the Kindle Basic, Amazon’s Kindle software is feature rich and stable. Amazon runs the near same software on all its e-readers. Software differences that do exist cater for device-specific hardware features, e.g. Bluetooth support and adaptive display lighting.

One software issue that continues to frustrate is the limited control over text size. Font size options are set to an absolute scale and the difference between, for example, size two and three is disproportionate.

The Oasis comes with in-built Bluetooth support and Audible integration. I would recommend going for the 32GB Oasis if Audiobooks are something important (audio books take a lot of storage). Personally, I find something like a smartphone, laptop or tablet better suited for audiobooks.

Battery life & waterproofing

This is Amazon’s first e-reader with waterproofing. I haven’t tested the feature but Amazon advertises the device with an IPX8 rating that can withstand immersion in up to 2 metres of fresh water for one hour.

I expected better battery life, considering the pricing. Based on personal estimation, I found the Oasis’s battery life to be behind the Paperwhite and closer to the Aura One. This is not surprising as the Paperwhite has a larger battery capacity - the Paperwhite has a 1320 mAh battery capacity. In comparison, the Kindle Oasis 2 has a 1000 mAh battery capacity). Of course, the battery life depends on, for example, front light intensity, indexing and WiFi.

Too expensive for an e-reader?

Is the Oasis too expensive for an e-reader? Many technology websites answer in the affirmative. I think the device is dedicated to the e-reading community and for this segment of users, the Oasis might be worth it.

The better question to ask, directed at dedicated e-readers, is if the Oasis is worth it considering the existence of, for example, the cheaper Kobo H20 and Aura One? In my view, if it is merely a question of hardware then the Aura One would be the better choice. Even so, Amazon’s superior and polished software experience gives the Oasis an advantage.

Verdict

Initially, when the Oasis was released, I judged the Oasis to be priced too high for what it offers. After using the device, I have changed my mind. Yes, the bigger screen finally distinguishes the Oasis compared to the Paperwhite and Voyage. However, more than just hardware, the software is what makes the Oasis standout. Most things just work better, compared to other e-readers, e.g. smoother highlighting, syncing of personal documents across Amazon devices/apps, consideration of PDF support and the ability to export annotations in different formats etc.

The downside with the Oasis is that it is not innovative enough. I expect more from a high-end Kindle e-reader, e.g., stylus support, a larger screen, better contrast and improved battery life. I think the broader issue is not just cost but also Amazon’s conservative strategy in the development of its e-readers.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

What to expect with an updated Kindle Paperwhite?

The current Kindle Paperwhite was released spring 2015 and, I believe, the three-year mark will see the release of an update (Spring 2018). The updated Paperwhite will probably keep the six-inch screen - the seven-inch size is restricted to the Oasis - but get the majority of hardware features and near all software features of the Oasis. This means expect a device that comes with waterproofing, Bluetooth support, a lighter and more compact form factor and a slight bump in processor power. Hardware features that will stay the same include the number of front light LEDs, 4GB storage and a 300 PPI E-Ink Carta screen. If the Voyage is updated, rather than discontinued, then it will probably get an upgrade in the number of LEDs and 8 GB storage, to justify a higher price. The software will be near identical to the Oasis (Amazon aims to keep firmware features the same, with slight differences related to hardware differences between the different Kindles) and that means Audible integration with the updated Paperwhite.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Kindle Oasis's PDF support

KOReader, in comparison to Amazon's native Kindle operating system, offers more features for PDF documents. However, KOReader's software is not stable and the interface is convoluted. The KOReader project is an excellent community-driven project but there has been no stable release since November 2015. Thus, to get the right version to work with recent devices, e.g., the Kobo Aura One, it is necessary to download and install a nightly build.

Despite the extra features that KOReader supports, I still prefer Kindle's software. In my opinion, what makes the Kindle's software preferable is its simplicity. The menus are simple and clear - there is one display settings menu that changes orientation, margins and increases contrast. The pinch to zoom, relative to other E-Ink e-readers, works well. Further, highlighting is smooth and dictionary, Wikipedia and translation look-up are all supported. In other words, Amazon put some thought into their PDF support and get the necessary features right.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Second generation Kindle Oasis released

Amazon released an updated version of their premium Kindle - the Kindle Oasis. I still think the Oasis does not justify its price and the label 'premium' is marketing than anything substantial. However, at least with this iteration there is something, on paper, that justifies its existence. The important upgrade is the screen size - the updated 7 inch screen is the first non-six inch e-reader that Amazon has released since the Kindle DX. The size increase, finally, is a welcome addition but the size does not justify the device's pricing; the same point, to a lesser extent, applies to waterproofing, Audible integration, 8GB storage and the greater number of LEDs for a more uniform front light.

I don't expect a refresh for the Kindle Paperwhite or Voyage soon and when a refresh arrives it is possible these devices will not get the larger screen. I think the significant demand for a larger screen - something admitted by an Amazon employee here - is being used to differentiate the high-end Oasis (the first generation offered relatively little for its 'premium' label) in comparison to other Kindles and to entice users to purchase the higher-end device. In my opinion, at the moment, the Paperwhite remains the best Kindle to purchase. For a larger e-reader, the better option is to go for the 7.8 inches Kobo Aura One or the first generation 7 inch Kobo Aura H20.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Review of the 8th generation Kindle Basic: The best entry-level six-inch e-reader

Amazon’s 8th generation Kindle is priced similar to other entry-level e-readers but what makes it, in my opinion, the best entry-level e-reader is its refined operating system. The device itself is very capable and there is no skimping on performance. The big compromise is the absence of a front-light and a lower 167 dpi E-Ink Pearl display. Also, compared to the Kindle Paperwhite there is a clear difference in clarity and sharpness. However, there is an upside with the lower resolution as you get better text scaling (clarified below). The E-Ink Pearl screen itself has acceptable contrast and is superior to other e-readers with a similar low-resolution. Further, due to good hardware and software integration, fonts are rendered with more weight to appear darker and this somewhat offsets the lower resolution.

The absence of a front-light, for some users, might be an issue. If that is the case then the Paperwhite would be the better option. Personally, I find the absence of a front-light a non-issue, as zero light emission is the reason I choose to primarily read on E-Ink screens. What I like in the entry Kindle is the superior text scaling, compared to the higher-resolution Kindle models. The higher dpi of the Paperwhite means more text appears on the screen for each font scale but, this might be due to the higher resolution too, the incremental difference between each scale is too high. In comparison, the entry Kindle’s size increase is more balanced – level three is a balanced medium setting that works well (see picture below for font scaling comparison between the Kindle and Kindle Paperwhite). It would be a good idea if Amazon gave the user more control to choose a suitable font size.

Finally, another positive is the device’s lightweight in comparison to the Paperwhite. The device’s weight (161 grams) makes it ideal for one-handed reading.


Font size at level three - the entry Kindle is the white e-reader (please click on image to enlarge)
Font size at level four (note the Paperwhite's large increase in size between levels three & four)

Firmware

As noted, the hardware is capable and the display is good enough. What makes this the best entry-level e-reader is the firmware. Amazon’s firmware is near identical across its Kindle devices - the Kindle Oasis and entry-level Kindle have near identical features. First, some negative issues need to be flagged about the firmware:
  • There is no way to organise content in collections through folders created on the device’s local storage. Further, for a personal document to be stored in the cloud and synced across devices, it needs to be sent to the user’s designated Kindle email. Greater flexibility and integration between local storage, device collections and cloud synchronisation would simplify the process of organising user content. 
  • There is limited control over text - in comparison, Kobo’s operating system (Nickel) provides superior features. Nickel gives the user greater control over font size, text alignment, margins, line spacing and the further option to sideload fonts. For example, expanding reader settings features might resolve the problem of scaling that comes with a higher dpi screen. One possibility might be to allow the user the option to increase font size by selecting an exact font number (Android e-reading applications, e.g., Moon+ Reader and Bookari, support this feature). Greater control over reading settings and the absence of a larger Kindle, in my opinion, are the two central issues that Amazon needs to address. 
  • An odd quirk with Amazon’s Kindle software is the extension of selected reading settings from one document to another. Thus, settings selected in one e-book is then applied to the next document opened. It is a small issue but there is no reason why this problem should persist. 
  • There is no page number support; instead, there is the location number or percentage of the book read. Again, Nickel is better in this area; Kobo allows the user to display page number in whether in the current chapter or entire book.
Below are some positives - these are not exhaustive but, overall, they are examples of why the entry Kindle is the best entry-level e-reader:
  • Acceptable PDF support: Both Barnes & Noble and Kobo e-readers offer poor PDF support. Amazon’s Kindle software, in contrast, does consider PDF reading and allows the user to highlight text, annotate, look up definitions, write notes and search in a PDF file. The only problem is that there is no Kindle model beyond six inches to optimise the different use cases of these features (seven inches is the minimum size to read PDF documents comfortably in landscape mode). 
  • Exporting notes and highlights: Amazon allows users to export their annotations and highlights for both Kindle e-books and personal e-books. There is further control on the format of the notes and highlights exported (citation styles include APA, Chicago Style, MLA or none). The exported document produced even categorises the annotations and highlights in reference to e-book location and categorises the output in its relevant chapter and section. 
  • Touch response is excellent when interacting with menus/settings or highlighting. 
  • Sync support for non-Amazon personal documents: Amazon synchronises personal e-book if they are emailed to the Amazon cloud - this means notes and highlights are available across devices and may be exported via a Fire tablet or the Kindle application. 
  • Vocabulary builder: Look-up words and they are then archived for later access; this feature and Word Wise (Word Wise provides simple definitions for potentially difficult words) are useful for learning. 
  • Wikipedia support: If WiFi is turned on the user is able to select a key term and look up it in Wikipedia.

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).  

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Kobo releases the Kobo Aura One & Kobo Aura (Edition 2)

As expected, Kobo released two e-readers - the Kobo Aura One and the Kobo Aura (Edition 2). The Kobo Aura 2 is a six-inch e-reader that comes with an E-Ink Carta screen and a lower 212 PPI. The eBook Reader rightly states the Kobo Aura (Edition 2) makes little sense. The Kobo Glo HD is an e-reader with a 300 PPI E-Ink Carta screen and is only $10 more than the Kobo Aura Edition 2. The price differential is minimal that it becomes difficult to understand how this device fits in the Kobo e-reader line up.

The 7.8-inch Kobo Aura One, on the other hand, is an innovative e-reader. I am interested to see if Kobo managed to get the front light to work with the larger display (early reviews appear to be positive about the front-light). With the front-light comes a blue light filter termed 'ComfortLight PRO'. ComfortLight PRO, in the words of Kobo, works by "reducing blue-light exposure, the enhanced front-light technology protects your eyes and provides the best nighttime reading experience. The automatic setting mimics the sun’s natural progression, emitting the optimal brightness and hue based on the time of day".

The device's main negative, judging from this review, is the little work done by Kobo to improve the PDF reading experience. You still can't highlight and annotate and the touch to zoom appears to be inconsistent. Thankfully it might not be a serious problem, as KOReader should release a version for the Kobo Aura One.

Amazon may respond to Kobo, in regards to hardware enhancements. However, judging from the past - as posted before - I don't think Amazon will release a larger e-reader. History tells us Amazon responds to hardware enhancements - e.g., front light and screen resolution - but ignores, since the Kindle DX, screen size differentiation. Also, Amazon operates at a different level to Kobo and may judge a turn of direction, to include a larger e-reader, a risk. The uniform six inches is viewed, by Amazon, as the right size for an e-reader - light and the size of a paperback book. Further, to go large means a re-think of the Kindle line-up.

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.