20 Nov

Review of the Kindle Touch

TL;DR Review

The Kindle Touch is the Kindle that I’ve been waiting to purchase ever since the first Kindle was announced. The Kindle Touch feels good in the hand and is easy to read off of for hours on end. The touchscreen is surprisingly effective. Overall my opinion of the Touch is extremely positive, with some minor reservations. If you’ve been holding off on getting a Kindle because you didn’t like the keyboard or wanted something that was easier to navigate than the old Kindle, I would recommend getting this Kindle.

Shipping/Packaging

Amazon has been making a push towards packaging that they call Frustration Free, a nice step away from the ridiculous clamshell packaging that businesses seem to love. The Touch follows in this ethos, the shipping box is completely recyclable and easy to open with a single pull.

Once you get inside the Kindle Touch has some quick instructions for both using the Kindle and to charge it before use. The Kindle includes a USB charger that when connected to your computer enables you to transfer files to the Kindle. The Kindle used to come with an AC adapter to plug the cable into the wall to act as a charger, Amazon apparently cut that to keep the price down. You can still purchase one for $10 and I would recommend it if you wanted to have less cables around your computer.

Navigation

There are only two buttons on the Touch, a power button on the bottom, and a home button that looks somewhat like a speaker grille on the center of front bottom of the device. The power button is in a weird position being on the bottom as most hardware devices I’m used to typically put the power button on the top. However, the button in actual practice works fine and once you get used to reaching to the bottom to turn off the device works well enough. I have yet to have accidentally hit the button while reading which was my largest concern with the button placement. The home button does one thing and only one thing, regardless of where you are it takes you to the top of your home screen. On page 9 of 20 pages of your list of books, it goes to page 1, in the middle of a book, takes you to page 1 of the home screen, and so on.

The touch screen works much as you expect in terms of navigating around. Open a book by pressing the book’s title, hold when selecting a book and you are presented with actions to perform on the book. The largest complaints with the Kindle Touch reside here. The screen on occasion is slow or even fails to respond to touches. The screen will on occasion fail to load what you want and you have to back out and re-perform the action. Sometimes even the screen will over respond and think you made multiple touches, especially while reading I’ve had the Touch jump forward several pages as opposed to just one. Considering this is the first touch screen Kindle Amazon has shipped, I’m not sure how much is based upon the hardware or how much is fixable in the software itself. All that being said the screen performs quite well most of the time and the few times it messes up haven’t detracted much from my pleasure in using the device.

Typing

Typing works somewhat shockingly well on the Touch. E-Ink screens typically don’t fit the mold of what would make sense for typing on the screen but the Touch performs really well here. I’ve been able to type fairly quickly and the Touch keeps up. While it’s far away from what I could do on a real keyboard, I feel very comfortable using the Touch to search for books, enter in passwords and notes, etc.

Typing on the Kindle Touch

Reading

The whole point of owning a Kindle is to read on it. Here is where the Touch really shows off it’s stuff. The new Pearl e-ink screen is a joy to look at. The Kindle Touch also includes a new ability to only flash the screen every 6 pages and instead does a half flash between each page being read. This makes it much faster to go back and forth between pages. One reason I held off on a Kindle for so long was the full page refresh did throw me off while reading. The half flash is a very nice comprise that makes the majority of page flips faster and less distracting. The side effect of not performing a full page refresh is that the Kindle will develop artifacts on the screen as you read. While, I’ve seen these artifacts they have yet to be a distraction especially in comparison to the full page refresh.

While reading there is minimal chrome to deal with just you and the book. To flip forward, tap the right hand to center side of the screen or drag your finger from the right side of the screen to the left. To go back a page, touch the left hand side of the screen or drag your finger from the left to the right. Bringing up the menu to search, sync, change the typeface and size of the font and other options you tap the upper 1/4 of the screen. Overall this works extremely well and the touch screen feels easier to use than the former Kindle’s buttons especially because you don’t naturally rest your fingers on those buttons making accidental taps a much rarer occurrence.

I’ve read two short books on the Kindle and it’s great. The Kindle is easy enough to comfortably hold in one hand (for me my left using my right hand to hit the screen to flip pages), for long periods of time without feeling heavy or even more importantly unlike a real book having to adjust as you get further along in a book. The Kindle is a little bit smaller than a standard paperback book but not by much, this also makes the screen hold close to the same amount of text depending upon your settings.

Summation

The Kindle Touch is a great purchase for anybody who has bought into ebooks and reads more than a few books a year. The few issues I’ve had with the Touch didn’t detract from the main use, just sitting down and reading on the device. To be fair there is a cheaper Kindle that does not have a touch screen that is also lighter that I did not review or have been able to play with. Some reviewers have recommended that one over the Touch for people who will not do a lot of typing on their Kindle. There is a $20 price difference between these two Kindles with Special Offers (on-screen advertising that is on the standard off screen and at the bottom of the home screen), or a $30 price difference between the two without Special Offers.

My initial impression of the Kindle has stayed much the same throughout using the device, overall it’s great and well worth purchasing.

16 Nov

Amazon’s cloud is the world’s 42nd fastest supercomputer

The list of the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers came out yesterday with a top 10 that was unchanged from the previous ranking issued in June. But further down the list, a familiar name is making a charge: Amazon, with its Elastic Compute Cloud service, built a 17,024-core, 240-teraflop cluster that now ranks as the 42nd fastest supercomputer in the world.

Amazon previously built a 7,040-core, 41.8-teraflop cloud cluster that hit number 233 on the list, then fell to 451st. But Amazon submitted an updated Linpack benchmark test with the addition of a new type of high-performance computing instance known as "Cluster Compute Eight Extra Large," which each have two Intel Xeon processors, 16 cores, 60GB of RAM and 3.37TB of storage. The full cluster on the Top 500 list is Linux-based, with 17,024 cores, 66,000GB of memory, and a 10 Gigabit Ethernet interconnect.

via Amazon’s cloud is the world’s 42nd fastest supercomputer. I posted about this on Twitter, but it’s still a little astonding. Amazon built EC2 primarly to serve as their internal infrastructure, today a piece of it made it on the list of the fastest supercomputers in the world.

27 Sep

gdgt – Oh, one more thing about the Amazon tablet: the second, better version is coming very soon

Yesterday I posted about how the Kindle teams used the RIM PlayBook to get a color e-reader product out the door (gdgt.com­/discuss­/the­-amazon­-tablet­-will­-look­-like­-…). I stopped short of saying they’re rushing it out the door, but by all accounts I’ve heard that it was indeed delayed. (It doesn’t seem like much of a secret now that Amazon seems to have been trying to get a Kindle tablet out a little earlier this year.)

Well, this delay to get the "stopgap" Kindle tablet out in time for the holiday season this year may have pretty serious consequences for early adopters and holiday shoppers: my sources tell me the second-gen Kindle tablet (or Kindle Fire, as it’s now been dubbed) will be out in Q1 of 2012 — yes, that soon. That was always the plan, but the delays of the v1 product have messed up Amazon’s release cycle.

And what’s worse, the second tablet — which Amazon didn’t just take more or less off the shelf from ODM manufacturer Quanta — seems to be the device Amazon really believes in.

Granted, in the hardware world there are often delays; timelines shift and cascade, strategies change, and launches get rejiggered all the time — so this true 2nd-gen Kindle tablet may be pushed back, too. One can rarely say with certainty that a product will get out on schedule. But if all goes according to plan, it looks like you’ll be seeing the second Kindle tablet not too long after you take the plastic off your first. If it was my money, I’d hold out a bit.

via gdgt – Oh, one more thing about the Amazon tablet: the second, better version is coming very soon. I think I’ll hold off on Gen1 of the Kindle Tablet, if Gen2 is going to be coming out that soon.

14 Sep

Write for Your Life – Why the Amazon Kindle might be the new iPod

In the future, owning a Kindle might mean a number of things. When you tell people you own a Kindle, you’ll have to say which one. The e-reader or the tablet. Maybe something entirely different, eventually.

Just like the iPod evolved and had its variations to fit different customers and lifestyles, from the iPod Shuffle to the iPod Touch, I can see Amazon building a similar type of product line. There will be no one Kindle, just like there is no one iPod.

Customers who want to read will choose an e-ink device, an improved Kindle 3, or whatever they decide to call it. Those who want to do more, or access all the other content that Amazon offers, they will go with the tablet.

via Write for Your Life – Why the Amazon Kindle might be the new iPod. That’s a key point and possibly the only reason why I might instead stick with buying the current Kindle as opposed to the new tablet Amazon is most likely going to introduce. I want something better than the Kindle, but I primarily just want to read books when you get down to it.

02 Sep

TechCrunch – Amazon’s Kindle Tablet Is Very Real. I’ve Seen It, Played With It.

It’s called simply the “Amazon Kindle”. But it’s not like any Kindle you’ve seen before. It displays content in full color. It has a 7-inch capacitive touch screen. And it runs Android.

Rumors of Amazon making a full-fledged tablet device have persisted for a while. I believe we were one of the first to report on the possibility from a credible source — the same person who accurately called Amazon’s Android Appstore. That source was dead-on again, it just took Amazon longer than anticipated to get the device ready to go. They’re now close.

How do I know all of this? Well, not only have I heard about the device, I’ve seen it and used it. And I’m happy to report that it’s going to be a big deal. Huge, potentially.

via TechCrunch – Amazon’s Kindle Tablet Is Very Real. I’ve Seen It, Played With It. If I could buy one today, I would. This thing is going to sell like hotcakes.

29 Aug

Shawn Blanc – The Amazon Tablet

If and when the next iPad ships with its Retina Display, it will obviate the need for a “better” dedicated reading device in the minds of many consumers. Amazon doesn’t need another me-too tablet. They need something that pulls on all the strengths they already have: the high readability of e-ink, a low price, lightweight, a huge ecosystem, and a strong brand. If not that, then what?

via Shawn Blanc – The Amazon Tablet. Best summation of what the Amazon tablet if it’s going to make a splash needs to be. I would totally buy one in a heartbeat, I want a Kindle that just has slightly better hardware and drops the keyboard or at least designs it better.

26 Jul

Read Write Web – You Can Read, But You Can’t Buy: iOS E-Reader Apps Remove Links to Bookstores

New rules governing how iOS apps handle in-app purchases went into effect on June 30, and the date passed without much fanfare and seemingly without much compliance from many apps that continued to offer content for sale. These apps included e-reader apps with links to their associated online bookstores, as well as a variety of others that offered users the ability to subscribe or make purchases.

But over the weekend, updates were issued for many e-reader apps, removing links to their bookstores in order to comply with Apple’s new rules. These stipulate that Apple receive a 30% cut from in-app purchases and subscriptions, something that many publishers balked at, contending that that cut was too high.

When the new policy was announced back in February, one of the first apps to run into trouble was Sony’s e-reader, which was rejected as it contained a link to the Sony Reader Store. But for apps already in the iTunes App Store – the Kindle app, the Nook app and so on – the links and the ability to buy books remained. Until this weekend.

One by one, it appears that most of the major e-reader apps have now complied: Kobo, Borders, Nook Kids, and finally this morning, the Kindle apps have all been updated with links to their respective stores removed.

via Read Write Web – You Can Read, But You Can’t Buy: iOS E-Reader Apps Remove Links to Bookstores. The end of this battle between Apple and publishers.

20 Jul

Cloud Computing News – Amazon storing more than 449B objects in S3

Amazon Web Services announced on Tuesday afternoon that its Simple Storage Service (S3) now houses more than 449 billion objects. The rapid pace of S3′s growth is a microcosm of both AWS’ overall business as well as cloud computing in general.

At Structure 2011 last month, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels told the crowd that S3 was storing 339 billion objects. At this same time last year, the service was only storing 262 billion objects. One might also draw a parallel to the ever-growing cloud revenues at Rackspace, the incredible amount of computing capacity AWS adds every day or the mass proliferation of new Software-as-a-Service offerings.

via Cloud Computing News – Amazon storing more than 449B objects in S3. That is crazy impressive both the sheer number of objects stored and the growth rate.

15 Jul

Wired – How Online Companies Get You to Share More and Spend More

You’re not stupid, but you can be fooled. For millennia, the best salespeople have known how to exploit the vulnerabilities of the human mind. In the burgeoning field of behavioral economics, we’ve begun to give precise names to the mental weaknesses that make us all susceptible to a well-crafted pitch. Drawing on the insights of psychology, behavioral economists have explained why we buy more stuff at $0.99 than at $1.00 (the “left-digit effect”), why we commit to gym memberships we’ll never use (“optimism bias”), and why we don’t return things we buy as often as we should (“post-purchase rationalization”). The giants of the web, from Amazon to Zynga, use similar tricks to keep us coming to their sites, playing their games, and buying their goods. In fact, that’s how they became giants in the first place. Here’s how they game us—and how, in some cases, we wind up gaming ourselves.

via Wired – How Online Companies Get You to Share More and Spend More. Always neat seeing psychology at play especially with companies that excel at it.