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.

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.

05 Sep

Locus Online Perspectives – Cory Doctorow: Why Should Anyone Care?

I get a lot of e-mail from writers starting out who want to know whether it’s worth trying to get published by major houses. The odds are poor – only a small fraction of books find a home in mainstream publishing – and the process can be slow and frustrating. We’ve all heard horror stories, both legit (‘‘Why is there a white girl on the cover of my book about a black girl?’’) and suspect (‘‘My editor was a philistine who simply didn’t understand the nuances of my work’’). And we’ve all heard about writers who’ve met with modest – or stellar – success with self-publishing. So why not cut out the middleman and go direct to readers?

There’s not a thing wrong with that plan, provided that it is a plan. Mainstream publishers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over decades learning and re-learning how to get people to care about the existence of books. They often do so very well, and sometimes they screw it up, but at least they’re methodically attempting to understand and improve the process by which large masses of people decide to read a book (even better, decide to buy and read a book).

I firmly believe that there are writers out there today who have valuable insights and native talent that would make them natural successes at marketing their own work. If you are one of those writers – if you have a firm theory that fits available evidence about how to get people to love your work – then by all means, experiment! Provided, of course, that you are pleased and challenged by doing this commercial stuff that has almost nothing in common with imagining stories and writing them down. Provided that you find it rewarding and satisfying.

via Locus Online Perspectives – Cory Doctorow: Why Should Anyone Care? Cory Doctorow who certainly doesn’t seem to need traditional publishers, penning a nice piece in favor of publishers.

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.

13 May

The Official Google Code Blog – Making money with Google In-App Payments for the Web

Today at Google I/O, we launched the developer API of Google In-App Payments for the web. In-App Payments enables any web application to receive payments from users and keep them engaged in your application. It is available to all US developers in sandbox today and will be followed by a consumer launch and an international rollout over the summer.

via The Official Google Code Blog – Making money with Google In-App Payments for the Web. The most interesting part of this is the 5% fee, most payment services charge 2-3%, so double that for Google to cover their hosting costs and such and it seems pretty reasonable. Here is where it gets interesting this puts Apple at a distinct dis-advantage. Apple charges 30% on everything (purchase an app, music, in-app purchases, etc). For ebook readers this creates a non-existent business model due to the agency model that publishers now require all books sold to recieve 70% of the purchase price (ie not wholesale price but what the customer actually paid). So 30% to Apple and 70% to the publisher means nothing get’s left over for the middle-person. That 70% cut could be argued as a problem, but the publisher is one paying for the advertising, development and writing of the book itself, 70% seems like an acceptable cut.

Google is really demonstrating what seems like the fairer margin for the service that serves, stores, builds the store, etc. Apples cut feels too high. Apple does valuable work and important work and it’s a fair argument that without all of Apple’s work there wouldn’t even be this store or platform for developers and publishers to sell their content. But the margin that Apple takes doesn’t seem right, especially when looking at e-books. Etsy is a great example of where the fees seem much more realistic, 20 cents per item listed and 3.5% sales fee. There is a business model that is working and doing much the same as Apple currently is with their App Store. Apple’s cut is so out of portion to everything else comparable is the real problem.

I’ll agree that this is defiantly a subjective claim as it’s hard to state what is and isn’t a viable or reasonable business model, and certainly Apple can charge a 30% or 5% or 90% fee and they are within their rights to do so. The argument can also be made, that a business shouldn’t bet their model on Apple treating them fairly cause that’s never a good idea, Apple defiantly does what is right for Apple. However if Apple doesn’t change their stance I can defiantly see Amazon just pulling out of the App Store and launching their service as a web app. It’s not the best solution for them, but it’s better than Apple taking every penny they make on e-books, especially when the competing smartphone platform takes only 5%.

11 Apr

NYTimes.com – Amazon to Sell Cheaper Kindle Supported by Ads

Amazon is shaving another $25 off the price of its Kindle e-reader, this time with the help of advertisers.

The newest Kindle is $114. Amazon will sell its e-book reader at the lower price by showing ads as screen savers and at the bottom of the home screen, and by selling special offers, similar to Groupon and other daily deal sites.

via NYTimes.com – Amazon to Sell Cheaper Kindle Supported by Ads. Uggh, really Amazon, not only is advertising not really your thing but only 25 dollars off. Forcing consumers to read/see ads but save them basically nothing just feels cheap. If it was priced between $50 and free, then it becomes an interesting idea. The biggest question I have is who wants to advertise to a group of consumers for whom $25 is enough to sell them on putting up with ads? Phrased differently who want’s to advertise to a group of consumers for whom $25 is enough for them to decide for/against a product?

22 Mar

Lendle – Amazon revokes Lendle’s API access Update

Update, March 22nd, 2011: We’re thrilled to report that Amazon has reinstated our API access, and Lendle is back up and running. Welcome back, Lendlers!

Late today, we received an email from an Associates Account Specialist at Amazon informing us that their concern only relates to our Book Sync tool, which syncs a user’s Kindle books with their Lendle account. Amazon informed us that if we disabled this feature, our access to the API, as well as our Amazon Associates account, would be reinstated. We appreciate Amazon’s willingness to modify the original access revocation email and work with us to get Lendle back on line. We have complied with the request to disable the book sync tool (which was a very useful, but non-essential, feature of Lendle).

We’ve learned a lot through this process, and have come to realize we need to work towards a Lendle product that does not rely on APIs provided by Amazon or any other third party. To that end, we’ve already begun brainstorming the next version of Lendle. Suffice it to say, we’ll continue to make good on our promise to keep Lendle the easiest, fastest, fairest, and best way to lend and borrow Kindle books.

via Lendle – Amazon revokes Lendle’s API access Update. Let’s hear it, good job Amazon on getting in touch with Lendle and coming to a reasonable solution.

21 Mar

Twitter – Lendle – Amazon has revoked Lendle’s API access

Amazon has revoked Lendle’s API access. This is why the site is down. It’s sad and unfortunate that Amazon is shutting down Lending sites.

via Twitter – Lendle – Amazon has revoked Lendle’s API access. It’s downright awful, Lendle was a great site where you could lend your Kindle books with people you wouldn’t even know. And the reason behind Amazon shutting down their account is lame:

According to Amazon, Lendle does not “serve the principal purpose of driving sales of products and services on the Amazon site.”

Lendle now has the full story posted.

08 Mar

guardian.co.uk – Ebooks: durability is a feature, not a bug

Ebooks have loads of demerits, especially as they are marketed to libraries. They are sold at full price, while print editions generally go at a hefty discount to reflect libraries’ volume purchasing. They can only be read with certain, proprietary readers, something analogous to insisting that the libraries require patrons to read their books by the light of one preferred manufacturer’s lightbulb. They can’t be sold on as a library discard once the library no longer needs them for the collection.

But they have virtues, too. For example, they don’t wear out. To pretend that this belongs on the "con" side rather than the "pro" side of the ebook chart is indefensible. You might as well argue that a surcharge should be assessed against paperbacks to offset the "losses" experienced by publishers when libraries buy them instead of the hardcover, or that charity shops should be obliged to apply fake rust to stainless steel cutlery to make up for the fact that it lasts longer than the non-stainless kind.

Of course ebooks don’t wear out. Programming them to self-destruct after 26 checkouts is tantamount to asking librarians to embrace entropy. Anyone who thinks that this is going to happen has never spent any time with a librarian.

via guardian.co.uk – Ebooks: durability is a feature, not a bug. As tends to be the case, so on your side Cory Doctorow.