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

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’.

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. As 'The eBook Reader' states, the Kobo Aura (Edition 2) makes little sense. The Kobo Glo HD is an ereader with 300 ppi and a similar 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". Personally, I generally turn off the front-light but for those wishing to use the front-light, for night time reading, the user is able to change the colour temperature to ease eye fatigue.

The device's let down, 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 inch 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. The good thing with the Kobo Aura One is that it is more open than Amazon's Kindle range. Further, with its larger size, coupled with KOReader, it makes an excellent multi-purpose stand-alone e-reader.

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).

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Recommended entry level e-reader

This is the first post in the series of recommended budget technology and one that relates to the best entry level e-reader. In this case, unfortunately, there is an easy recommendation due to the lack of choice with e-readers and the uniformity of the six-inch display size. There are options at 6.8, 8 and 9.7 inches but these would not qualify as an entry level device due to their relatively high price (larger sizes, due to their restricted availability, and niche demand, means the cost of many of these devices are inflated. Nevertheless, there will be future posts on larger e-readers). For this reason, two devices are selected - the Kindle basic and the Kobo Touch 2. There are other similarly priced options available but these two devices are more readily available. For example, other possible entry level e-readers would be the Bookeen Cybook Essential Muse or Pocketbook Basic Touch. However, both these are restricted in their availability.

Between the Kobo Touch 2 and the basic Kindle, the recommended device would be the Kindle. Amazon continues to improve its e-reader firmware and while it does not offer the best customization of the e-reading experience (e.g text alignment, line/margin spacing variation, adding fonts), it comes with its own rich features, with options to sync both Kindle and side-loaded e-books, send documents wirelessly to a user designated email, Wikipedia integration, Goodreads integration, translation, vocabulary builder and more.

While Amazon exclusively supports MOBI or it propriety version of MOBI (AZW3), rather than EPUB, it is possible to convert between e-book formats and this generally produces identical results (conversion can be through Calibre or on-line). This means you are able to store non-DRM converted EPUB e-books in the Amazon cloud and the e-book will sync across devices.

However, there is a significant problem with the Kindle's adoption of the MOBI based format, in the that there is no support with Adobe Digital Editions. What this means is that either a book is to be purchased in a DRM-free EPUB format, then converted, which some publishers offer, or the e-reader is locked in the Amazon store. This does not apply to the Fire tablets that can work with DRM protected books, through installing or sideloading applications compatible with the EPUB format (e.g. Mantano Reader can be sideloaded to access DRM protected books).

Generally, the basic Kindle is the better overall entry device but the Kobo Touch 2 is the better option if you wish for more flexibility in reading both MOBI and EPUB, due to both formats being supported and with further support with Adobe Digital Editions. Yet there will be a compromise, compared to the Kindle, in cloud storage and more extensive syncing services. This means if you wish to manage a large library across different devices, including personal documents, then the Kindle is the better option.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Using Amazon's newstand can be confusing

Newstand, featured in Fire tablets, is one aspect in which Amazon lags behind other providers. In comparison, Barnes & Noble excels with their newspapers and magazines e-store, offering consistency and good features. Not only is there a good selection but also many magazines and newspapers offer the feature to strip magazine pages to just their text and images, with further options to change fonts, margins and line spacing, as with an e-book. Also, the same stripped down version of a magazine syncs to your Nook e-reader, making them accessible on an e-ink screen. Amazon lags behind due to confusion with the manner they present their content and how it is then managed. The main problem is that many subscriptions are not handled direct via Amazon; this means to obtain a magazine or newspaper, the user needs to install an external application. Needless to say, external applications and their related publications are not available on a Kindle e-reader.

This results in confusion, as you get different ways of interacting and managing content. Amazon has two ways to manage subscriptions - if the magazine downloads direct via Amazon, then it is available through 'Newsstand Subscription Settings' that you will find under managing your content and devices in your Amazon account. If, on the other hand, the publication downloads through an external app, then it can be found in 'Your Apps and Devices'. Other than confusion with managing subscriptions, many external magazine/newspaper apps are near uniform, in which magazines only appear in image format; in these applications there is no option to turn a magazine page in landscape, pinch to zoom is restricted and turning pages is cumbersome. On the other hand, magazines that download direct through Amazon onto a Fire tablet, without requiring an external app, work better with the availability of landscape mode, flexible pinch to zoom and easier page turning; there is also the option for text friendly presentation of content (if you double tap an article you then get a text friendly version, in which you can change text size, font, margins, line spacing and background colour). Most publications offered direct from Amazon also sync to a Kindle e-reader, due to this availability of stripped down text versions of articles. Further, there is also the problem of some magazines, possibly by accident, being offered direct via Amazon and also as an external application.

To solve these problems, Amazons needs to introduce uniformity across newstand. A possible option would be to remove all publications offered via third party applications and then offer these same publications as a direct download, similar to an e-book. In the meantime these publications should be exclusively offered in the app store, in a specifically designated category, where they belong.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

The ultimate e-reader?

The Good E-Reader is aiming to produce an 'ultimate' e-reading device, running Android, that offers all the premium features desired by dedicated e-readers. However, the product concept puts forward a device that already exists - albeit through niche and lesser known sellers. Icarus, Onyx, Hanvon  and Boyue, for example, all offer open Android firmware on dedicated e-readers. Another point is that Android, in my opinion, is not suitable for an an e-ink device. Most dedicated e-reader applications, available through Google Play, are designed for tablets and e-ink refresh rates render the use of these applications bothersome, to say the least. Also, the proposed device misses the point in regards to firmware - the problem with re-branded e-readers from Chinese manufacturers (sold by, for example, Icarus and Onyx), before the adoption of Android, was poor functionality and an overly complicated and unintuitive interface.

To develop an 'ultimate e-reader' requires not only the bulk ordering of hardware with premium specifications, but also, more importantly, the development of dedicated firmware that would compare and even surpass the experience available on the Kindle. This is problematic as Amazon offers a user experience that is difficult to match - this includes everything from extensive cloud syncing, send-to-Kindle and free conversion to mobi file format. However, there is a workaround to this through the integration of third-party applications into an operating system; this may include existing cloud storage services such as Evernote, Onenote and Dropbox. For example, Kobo offers the option to send web articles to their devices through Pocket, though this lacks the all-round versatility of Amazon's send to Kindle features. The point here is that Android is not a platform that works with e-ink; dedicated e-reading devices require the development of firmware that makes use of the unique strengths of e-ink, while considering its current limitations.

I do think the project of an 'ultimate e-reader' is a good idea but it needs something more extensive and collaborative. May be an alternative direction would be to crowd fund, at first, a project to develop a dedicated operating system for e-readers. Delivering on this means whatever iteration follows from this 'ultimate e-reader' would already have an existing firm basis. The trajectory of Android, as a mobile operating system, and its uses by other manufacturers for their own purposes, demonstrates this. Ultimately, this would be a bigger project but something that is sustainable beyond a one-off premium e-reader; further it may offer variety, in the future, beyond six inch devices that dominate at the moment. Of course, this does not solve the problem of cost that comes with ordering hardware for larger devices but it might, at least, kick-start the process for an initial six inch reader. If this synergistic experiment of both excellent firmware and hardware works, then this may be expanded to larger e-readers.