New Kindle Oasis is a WTF Ebook Reader

Amazon has announced a new Kindle, the Oasis. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) At $290 or £270, this is a luxury item for those who collect Kindles.

Kindle oasisThat’s fine, there are people who will pay this price, but WTF is this form factor? Do a lot of people read their Kindles one-handed; enough to want a Kindle that is designed essentially for one-handed reading? (I could be snarky and suggest that this Kindle is designed for those who read erotic fiction…)

It’s got a charging cover, which doesn’t make sense, given how long the Kindle’s battery lasts. So you charge the cover, then put the reader in the cover to charge it? Having two items means it’s possible to lose or forget one.

Kindle oaisis with cover

Granted, it’s smaller; but not by much. You only save on the top and bottom bezels, but the right side is wider than the Voyage or Paperwhite. It’s about 20mm smaller vertically, but a few millimeters wider. And it weighs about 50 g less without the cover, but you’ll want to carry the cover around with it anyway. It does have real page turn buttons; the ones on the Voyage aren’t great. And while it’s thinner on the left side, it’s a bit thicker than the Voyage or Paperwhite on the right side.

Books have generally always been symmetrical. A device like this is very strange; a new form factor, or the charging case, should solve a problem, and there are no problems with the existing Kindles.

Kindle oasis customAmazon.com doesn’t provide a price for the wi-fi + 3G version of the Kindle Oasis, but on the UK site, it costs £60 more for the 3G model. That’s £330. That’s just 10% less than the base price of an iPhone SE. (To be fair, the other models cost an additional £60 for 3G, or $70 more in the US.) Oh, and these US prices are “With special offers, i.e. ads; you pay another $20 to get rid of that. So, a customized Kindle Oasis, with 3G and without special offers, costs $380.

Save your money. Get the Paperwhite (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) or the Voyage (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) instead. To be fair, while I like the Voyage, it’s probably not worth paying more for it than the Paperwhite.

Amazon’s New Kindle: Thinner with a Charging Case?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the new Kindle that Jeff Bezos announced on Twitter Monday will come with:

a rechargeable protective case for extended battery life, according to a person familiar with the matter. This removable cover will allow the Kindle to be thinner than earlier devices.

And that:

Also under development is a separate Kindle case with a battery that can be charged using solar power. It is unlikely this case will be released in the immediate future, another person familiar with the matter said.

This is odd. The Kindle already has excellent battery life. If it is thinner, the battery won’t last as long, but it should still last for days, even using the backlight. It sounds a bit clunky to have to charge a case, then charge the Kindle (or, presumably, charge the Kindle if you don’t buy the case), especially if you need to do so more often. I’m not sure the Kindle needs to be much thinner; it’s already thin and light.

We’ll find out next week…

Do You Have an Old Kindle? You’d Better Update it Fast

Amazon is warning users that they need to update old Kindles by tomorrow, or else.

Customers using an outdated software version on Kindle e-readers require an important software update by March 22, 2016 in order to continue to download Kindle books from the Cloud, access the Kindle Store, and use other Kindle services on their device.

This is quite radical, and it’s not clear why this update is so critical. This update is necessary for any device from the original Kindle through the first Paperwhite (which Amazon called the Kindle Paperwhite 5th Generation (2012)).

If you don’t update the device by tomorrow, then you’ll have to manually update it. This means you have to download an update file, and transfer it to the device from a computer via a USB cable. More information about determining which software version you need, and which device you own, is here.

Major Kindle Update to Try to Get People to Buy More Books

Amazon has announced an update to the Kindle operating system, which will be rolling out in the month of February. This update makes major changes in the way you view your content, but it also forces more “recommendations” – i.e., ads – in front of you, when you look at your Kindle’s home screen.

Kindle 2016When you view your home screen, you’ll still be able to access your library – surrounded here by the orange box – but it won’t be the only thing on the home screen. There will also be “Exclusive recommendations for you,” aka, “Buy this now!” at the bottom, which will rotate so you don’t just see four books. And at the top right, there are “Reading Lists,” which list books in your Amazon Wish List and any samples you’ve downloaded (Buy Me!).

The gear icon in the toolbar gives quick access to certain settings, such as Airplane Mode, Syncing, and brightness adjustment. And you’ll also be able to share books or quotes via email, Facebook, and Twitter.

All this looks like Amazon is desperately seeking to shore up ebook sales. Instead of letting you see just your books on the home screen, you have to pass through a vestibule displaying items to buy. Instead of only going to Amazon to search for books when you want, you’ll be exposed to more books each time you visit the home screen. You can naturally then see just your books, but it’s another tap, after your eye has been caught by the books at the bottom of the display.

I’ve always liked the Kindle because it doesn’t force books on you; you buy the books you want, and the store doesn’t get in the way. But now, the Kindle is to become like iTunes, with the store baked into many elements of the device. This doesn’t look like an improvement to me.

New Kindle Paperwhite Adds New Typesetting Engine and Font

Kindle paperwhiteAmazon has released a new version of the Kindle Paperwhite (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), which adds the new Bookerly font that is already available on the Kindle iOS app. The new Paperwhite will also (coming soon) feature the new typesetting engine with improved kerning and justification. The new Paperwhite also increases its resolution to 300 dpi, matching the Kindle Voyage.

The Paperwhite, now at $119, or $139 without advertising, ($189 and $209 for the 3G model) offers the same display as the Kindle Voyage, but not the pressure-sensitive button on the sides, or the flush display. It also does not have the Voyage’s adaptive light sensor, which is a useful feature to keep the Kindle from being too bright in darker environments.

I’ve been using the Kindle Voyage for some time, and I really like it. It’s hard to tell which is better: the flush display of the Voyage, or the recessed display of the Paperwhite. It doesn’t make that much of a difference to me. I do find that I don’t use the pressure-sensitive buttons that much, and, since the most important feature to me is the display, I’d probably buy the Paperwhite today rather than the voyage. Amazon has not announced an update to the Voyage, and it has not inherited the new Bookerly font, so it’s not clear if there will be a Voyage 2, or if that more expensive Kindle will fade away.

Amazon Adds New Font to Kindle App for iOS; Coming Soon for Kindle Devices

I’ve long lamented the lack of fonts available on Kindle devices and apps. When Amazon released the excellent Kindle Voyage, they didn’t make any changes to the typography to take advantage of the better display.

Amazon has finally added a new font to the Kindle app for iOS. Called Boookerly, this serif font is quite attractive, and is a great addition to the app. This font will be the default font, if you accept it when you launch the app, replacing the slab font Caecilia.

Bookerly

While this font is only available in the Kindle iOS app, it will be rolled out to Kindle eink devices in the summer. Amazon is also deploying more typographical changes, adding a new layout engine, and offering hyphenation (though it won’t be a user option; it’ll be on for all).

Kindle new features

Apparently, this requires that Amazon update book files to take advantage of the new font and layout engine, so I assume this means that you’ll need to re-download any books you have that are updated for this purpose (unless Amazon updates them automatically, pushing the new versions to devices).

Read more

Kindle Books More Expensive on Kindle Device than Amazon Web Site?

Browsing some books on my Kindle today, then later on my iPhone, I noticed a discrepancy between the prices on the two devices. I first wondered if it was because I was logged in to Amazon UK with a different account (I have two accounts; long story). But I was logged in with the same account.

I was looking at an edition of Plato’s complete works, which retains for £36.56 in hardcover. On my iPhone, the Kindle version of this book shows up at £18.69. On my Kindle, it costs £28.72.


2014 11 22 21 35 30    Screenshot 2014 11 22T21 36 45+0000

I looked more closely on the Amazon UK website on my Mac. I found that there are two different Kindle editions, one from 1997, and another from 2011, both from the same publisher. The later edition is cheaper. But the Kindle only shows me the older, more expensive edition. Very odd…

How To: Set up Kindle Family Library

kindle-voyage.jpgUpdate: since I first wrote this article, Amazon added the ability to set up a household from their website; initially, you could only do so from a recent Kindle. I’ve updated the article to discuss these steps in addition to doing so from a Kindle.

Amazon finally allows you to share ebooks with your family, using the Family Library feature in the latest version of the Kindle software. But this feature may be a bit confusing to set up. Here’s how to do it.

First, find if your devices are compatible with Kindle Family Library. You’ll find the minimum software you need for each device to be able to access Family Library content; the minimum version to manage Family Library settings; and which devices support Child profiles.

You can set up Family Library on a Kindle if you own one of the following devices:

  • Kindle Paperwhite (2nd generation)
  • Kindle (7th Generation)
  • Kindle Voyage
  • Kindle Fire HD
  • Kindle Fire HDX
  • Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″
  • Fire HD 6
  • Fire HD 7
  • Fire HDX 8.9

You’ll want to check the software version on your device (on a Kindle, tap the menu, then Settings, then tap the menu again, and tap Device Info; I’m not sure where the settings are for the Kindle Fire), and update it if necessary. You can download the software for all of Amazon’s devices on this page. Follow the updating instructions on the page where you download the software.

There is no way to set up Kindle Family Library from the Amazon web site, or from a device running a Kindle app (such as an iPhone or Android phone), so if you don’t have a recent Kindle, you simply cannot use this feature. I find this surprising for two reasons. First, Amazon is saying that they have this great feature that is supported by every device they’ve ever made, but you can only turn it on if you have a recent device. Second, the settings are a bit confusing, and would be a lot easier to manage on the web.

I managed to set this up yesterday, from my Kindle Voyage, so my partner and I can share our content. She uses a Kindle Paperwhite (1st generation), an iPad and an Android phone; I have the Kindle Voyage, and also use my iPhone and iPad occasionally.

To set up Family Library on a Kindle that supports managing Family Library settings, tap the menu, then Settings. Tap Registration and Household. Then tap Household and Family Library. You set up a “Household” from this screen; add each person, entering their Amazon email address and password. What’s important is that, after they have signed in, they tap Devices and choose on which devices they want to see the shared content. The creator of the Family Library must also tap Share All Books and activate the feature to share their entire library; if not, you can choose to share individual books from your Manage Your Content and Devices page on Amazon’s web site.

You can also set up a household, and invite an adult to it, and add children from the Manage Your Content and Devices page on Amazon’s web site. Click Invite Adult, and follow the instructions. The other adult will need to sign into their Amazon account, but children don’t need accounts; you just create profiles for them.

Remember that, later on, if one of you gets a new Kindle, or adds a new device – such as an iPhone or iPad – to their account, you need to go back to these settings and select it in the Devices settings.

Unfortunately, if you ever want to change any of these settings – remove someone from the household, add a new device, etc. – you must do it on one of the newer Kindles. You can’t manage any of this on Amazon’s web site, where you have many settings for your Kindle and its content.

So you can finally share books that you and other members of your family have bought. This makes the Kindle a bit more useful, and it’s been too long in coming.

Review: Kindle Voyage Is a Nearly Perfect Ebook Reader

feature-beyond._CB325792767_.jpgI’ve been using Kindles since the first small model, back in the pre-touch, pre-backlit days. I never really got on with them: my eyes don’t like the lack of contrast, though I loved reading with them outdoors.

When the Kindle Paperwhite came out, I liked that device very much, and had each of the two versions. The first was okay, but the second had better backlighting and more contrast.

Now, Amazon has released the Kindle Voyage (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), the next-generation of the device. It’s a bit lighter than the Paperwhite, but also more expensive: at $199, that’s a big step up from the $119 Paperwhite. (The difference is less here in the UK; the Paperwhite is £109, and the Voyage £169.) It’s not clear whether many people will pay $200 for an ebook reader, but I’m pretty sure that there are enough die-hard Kindle users who will welcome the new device.

I’ve had mine for a few days now, and I can say that it’s not only the best Kindle yet (which isn’t surprising; tech devices generally get better over time), but also the first Kindle that I can truly forget about. Something about the design – the sleek, think body, and the improved 300 dpi display, makes this feel like it’s just not there when I read it.

To be honest, I’m not totally enamored of the form factor. I did like the rounded edges of the Paperwhite, and the Voyage has much squarer edges, and the back isn’t flat; it’s got five slightly angled sections, and is thickest at the top. That the back has a matte finish, with the exception of the top, which is glossy; that may be because the Wi-Fi and 3G radio antennas are behind that part of the device. On the front, the entire face is flush; there’s no more raised bezel, and I like that a lot. And the display is beautiful.

I’ve expressed my dismay at the lack of font choices on the Kindle, and I was worried that this would still be a problem on the Voyage. But with the higher-resolution display, the few available fonts look better. On the Paperwhite, the Palatino font was too thin, and Caecilia too bold. Now, both are very readable. I switch between the two: if I use a smaller font and wear my reading glasses, I use Palatino, but sometimes I like to eschew the glasses and zoom the font; in that case, the higher contrast of Caecilia is better.

One of the big new features of the Kindle Voyage is the PagePress sensors with haptic feedback. These are strips and buttons on the sides of the bezel. Press them to move forward and back a page at a time; when you do, you feel a brief vibration. There is a tall sensor to go to the next page, and a smaller one, above it, to go to the previous page. I find it odd that the sensors on each side do the same thing; I’d have expected the taller sensor on the left to go back a page. And, to be honest, I find it easier to simply touch the page to move ahead in a book; it’s more work to press the sensor. And I wonder if PagePress will have a big effect on battery life. (You can turn this feature off in the settings.)

The Kindle Voyage also has an adaptive light, which slowly changes the backlighting according to the ambient lighting when you’re reading. There is one problem with this, though: the light sensor is at the top-left of the device, and if you happen to hold the Kindle Voyage with your hand covering the sensor, it will dim the device slowly. You can turn this off, if you wish, by turning off auto-brightness.

I think the next area where the Kindle needs to improve is in the display of text itself. It needs more fonts, and even more font options; for example, for each of the available fonts, it could offer different weights: light, semi-bold, etc. Also, the Kindle really needs hyphenation. I personally don’t like having hyphenation on in general, but there are too many times when, on the Kindle, a line ends with a long space, because the next word is too long to fit. Since the Kindle seems to fail at justification in such cases, hyphenation – when needed – could be useful.

In spite of these reservations, I’ve been finding the Kindle Voyage a joy to read. The display is crisp, the fonts show up better, and it’s light and comfortable. I’ve long been a fan of the Kindle, and, while I could read on my iPad or iPhone – though not outdoors – I prefer having a reading-only device to not be distracted by notifications. The Kindle Voyage is what Amazon has done best. It’s not cheap, but if you read a lot on a Kindle, you should try it out. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

And if you need a case for your Kindle, avoid Amazon’s overpriced “Origami” case. I got this great felt sleeve, originally for the Paperwhite, but it is great for the Kindle Voyage as well.

One note regarding availability: I got my Kindle Voyage from Amazon UK, after pre-ordering it when it was announced. It currently shows as unavailable until December 16, which is quite surprising. Perhaps Amazon didn’t think there would be so much demand for a Kindle at this price. In the US, it is unavailable until December 1.

Update: I’ve had the Kindle Voyage for a week now, and I’m noticing that the battery life is a bit less than with the Paperwhite. It’s always hard to judge with a device like this, but I actually had a low battery warning last night, the first I’ve ever seen on a Kindle. It’s not that I’d forgotten to charge it; I had already charged it once after the first full charge, but I think the backlighting may use more power than the Paperwhite.

Kindle Family Library: Share Your Kindle Books with Family Members

One thing that has kept me from buying more ebooks is the inability to share them with my partner. In the US, you can share Kindle ebooks, on a one-off basis, but it’s not a simple process. Here in the UK, there is no such feature.

I noticed a new feature listed on Amazon’s Kindle Voyage page called Family Library. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

Safari001.png

This is something I’d been hoping for for quite some time. Now, if one of us buys a Kindle ebook, the other can read it. It’s not yet clear if this means we can both read it at the same time, but I would guess that it will function like that. It’s also not clear if this is specific to the Kindle Voyage; I don’t think it would be. But with this feature, I’m more likely to buy ebooks in the future.