Posts Tagged ‘amazon’

As I anticipated in my reading roundup, this morning Amazon launched its ebook and audiobook subscription service, Kindle Unlimited.  It’s not yet available to Canadians, but I was able to use my company’s US address to sign up for the 30 day free trial to check it all out.

Kindle Unlimited is competing with other ebook subscription services such as Scribd and Oyster.  I currently have a Scribd subscription, but I tend not to use it very much, mainly because it’s not tightly integrated with the rest of my ebook library.  Also, I’m not so fond of the app for Android – it doesn’t have the same options as full Kindle books.

The good

Like most of the Amazon ecosystem, Kindle Unlimited is very easy to use.  You can browse the titles from the Kindle Unlimited link on the homepage:

Kindle browse

When you choose a title it will say Read for Free

Readforfree

Also you can navigate from your Kindle Fire:  a KU book will say Read for Free

Screenshot 2014 07 18 09 56 07

Note that you cannot pick up audiobooks on their own.  They must be paired with a Kindle Unlimited ebook with Whispersync for Voice.  There is a section called Listen and Take the Story with you.  If you choose a book from there, it will be paired with the Audible audiobook.

Once you click on read for free, the book is added to your Kindle library like any other book.  It does have a symbol beside it stating it was from the Kindle Unlmited selection

Kindleucontent

Any matched Audible audiobook appears in your Audible library with a similar note

Audible

All of the books I tested worked perfectly.  In addition, they remained in my library when I switched back to my Canadian address, although I was unable to add any more new books.

In terms of ease of use Kindle Unlimited integrates perfectly with the Amazon/Audible ecosystem unlike its competitors.

The bad

US only.  Sigh.  

With Kindle Unlimited you’re renting the books in a sense.  If you let your subscription lapse, they will disappear from your library.  

The selection doesn’t include books from the Big Six publishing houses, so the selection doesn’t include a great deal of popular titles.  None of the books I had on my Amazon wish list were available for Kindle Unlimited. I did found several that interested me, mainly The Lord of the Rings.  I had the one volume compendium, but the three individual books came with the audiobooks.  There were also a few cat mysteries which I picked up as well as a supernatural suspense or two.  Scribd on the other hand is partnered with HarperCollins so, for example, all of Robin Hobb’s backlist is available.

I will certainly be monitoring the selection over the next month, but given that apart from the Lord of the Rings audiobooks there was nothing I picked up today that I would be sorry to lose from my library I suspect I will not be renewing my subscription.  Maybe IF it comes to Canada and IF the selection is expanded I might consider it.

By all means, take advantage of the free month to check it out for yourselves, if you’re in the US.  Let me know what you think in the comments.

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My Kindle Paperwhite second generation arrived today so I decided to take a moment to share my thoughts.  My initial reaction is that this second generation of Amazon’s popular eInk eReader is more evolutionary than revolutionary.  The improvements to the screen and processor, while noticeable, are not overwhelmingly so.  I, personally, was not particularly bothered by some light shading at the bottom of the screen, but I know that many people are sensitive to this.  That is improved considerably on the second generation of Paperwhite.

Here are some screenshots:

The new Kindle is on the right.  The new version does seem to have a warmer sense about it.

IMG 0914

and with the new Kobo Aura

IMG 0917

The new combined Dictionary/X-Ray/Wikipedia screen seems really useful:

Screenshot 2013 10 10T17 57 40 0400

(Note – the shading at the top of that screenshot is not a faulty screen – it’s decorative shading on the book itself)

Probably the most useful is the new page scrolling function – you can now move about easily within a book with a new navigation tool.  

Screenshot 2013 10 10T18 07 41 0400

The feature that I am most excited about, GoodReads integration, isn’t yet here – it is “coming soon” via software update.  This takes me back a few years when we were all anxiously awaiting the update that brought Collections to our eInk Kindles! I’m curious though.  Amazon’s Paperwhite info page says Cloud Collections is also coming soon – I thought we already had that on the Paperwhites? I wonder if they’re doing something new or if it’s referring to the Kindle Fires.

All in all the new Paperwhite is a very nice device – I’m not 100% certain that it’s worth upgrading from the original Paperwhite, which was already excellent, especially if it also gets a software update to allow GoodReads integration and the other new features.  As a first eReader though, it’s hard to beat.

A few days ago, Amazon announced the updates to its Kindle Fire line of tablets.  Here is the page with the details.

Naturally, it has an improved screen, and processor.  No surprises there.  What’s more interesting is that they announced a major update to the Kindle Fire OS, to called Mojito.   Some of the new features in Mojito include:

Mayday button.  This is the most innovative of the inventions and allows you to be connected to a video chat with an Amazon tech support person.  Your tech will have the ability to view and control your screen to assist you.  This could be a godsend for the novice user.  Amazon is at pains to stress that the agent can only see your screen, not you to alleviate privacy concerns.  This is a very interesting feature and one I think could really differentiate Amazon tablets from the others in a saturated marketplace.

On the other end of the scale, Amazon is touting better enterprise support.  This includes support for data encryption, Kerberos integration so that users can browse corporate intranets and VPN clients.  This is interesting. So far, Amazon has placed itself securely in the consumer market – I’m really not certain that a Kindle, limited as the OS is, is a big attraction for corporate use.

One of the most asked for features is finally coming to the Kindle Fire – Collections!  The biggest pain in the current Kindle OS is the inability to organise your content in any meaningful way.  Many people resented the recent upgrade to the iOS Kindle apps which added collection support.  The question was asked why this was available on iOS before Amazon’s own native system.  This feature will be coming in November.

Also in November, GoodReads integration will be included as previously announced for the new Kindle Paperwhite.

Other features include a revamped email client – good! – and printing support.

X ray has also been enhanced – it’s now available for music so that song lyrics appear onscreen as you are listening.  This, along with X ray for movies is of limited interest to people outside the US.

As of today, the new Kindle Fires are only available in the US.  I am interested to see how long they take to come to Canada.  What is unclear at this point is whether or not these features will be made available to current Kindle Fires via a software update. 

For me personally, some of these new features, especially Collections and GoodReads integration,  are very attractive and would be a good reason to upgrade if they’re not made available on the other Kindle Fires.  

Will you be upgrading?  Let me know in the comments.

So this morning Amazon announced its new Kindle Paperwhite.  According to the site, the new features are:

  • new display technology
  • 25% faster processor
  • better touch technology
  • next generation built-in light
  • Kindle Page Flip – easier navigation
  • smart lookup – dictionary is now integrated into X-Ray
  • vocabulary builder
  • GoodReads integration (Amazon recently bought the company)

For me, the most exciting of these is the GoodReads integration. It looks awesome

I love GoodReads and the integration will be very welcome.  One thing I cannot see from the images is whether or not the screen is flush with the bezel as it is in the new Kobo Aura.  That is a design feature I would love – I’m sure I’ve several biscuits worth of crumbs caught in the bezel.

For us Canadians, it’s also exciting to see that the new Paperwhite is available for order from Amazon.ca at the same time as Amazon.com.  Excellent.  It’s good to feel less and less like the country cousin.

One very disappointing thing is that it still does not provide audiobook support.

The other thing announced this morning – thanks to Bufo Calvin of I Love My Kindle for bringing it to my attention – is MatchBook.  Amazon states that for thousands of qualifying books, your past, present, and future print-edition purchases will soon allow you to buy the Kindle edition for $2.99, $1.99, $0.99, or free.  That is absolutely incredible news.  I’ve bought few print books since I bought my Kindle, but anything would be welcome.

Once again though, MatchBook seems to be US only <sigh>

So let me know – will you be picking up the new Paperwhite or holding out?

 

So now that Kobo has announced its new lineup, I’m pretty confident Amazon won’t be too far behind.  I have some updates I’d love to see in the new lineup.

My absolute dream device would be an eInk/LCD hybrid.  I’d love to be able to switch between a tablet and eReader.  I don’t think that’s going to happen, though.

For eInk readers, I’d love to see audio support reinstated.  I didn’t miss it when it disappeared from the Paperwhite, but at that point I wasn’t as heavily invested in Audible and audiobooks as I am now.  I would also love to see full Audible integration as we have it on the Fire, immersion reading included.  I would snap that baby up in a New York minute.  I ADORE the Audible integration on the Fire, but I do prefer reading on eInk.

In terms of the Fire, of course any improvement in specs and screen would be welcome.  Not that the current Fire isn’t excellent.  I would also welcome a better way of organising content.  The Favourites drawer isn’t nearly flexible enough.  I like Kobo’s idea of a Reading Mode where you can switch off all other distractions and optimise battery usage.  On the other hand, the Fire has something similar already – it’s called Airplane mode…

What would you like tot see in the new Kindle devices?  Let me know in the comments.

I have now had my Kindle Fire fir several days now and this is my update to my initial impressions.  Once I got over my disappointment in the lack of Audible integration for Canadians, I began to really enjoy the device. My other two tablets are an iPad 3 and a Nexus 7. I find the smaller form factors of the Nexus and the Kindle Fire very comfortable to use.

Until  now, my main tablet of choice has been my iPad 3.  I use it around the house, and if I’m travelling I take it with me.  However, I find it’s rather bulky to carry around, and I usually end up taking my Kindle Paperwhite too, as I really don’t enjoy reading books on the iPad.  I really don’t use my Nexus very much at all.

Perhaps the the best way to approach this review is to discuss how the tasks I usually undertake on my iPad translate to the Kindle Fire. I don’t use the iPad for work/production related activities.  There are many apps I use on my iPhone to check a few quick things.

Checking email

I was able to import all my personal accounts – two Yahoo emails, Gmail and a non standard account for my evelynne@scottishbookworminquebec.com email – with minimal hassle.  I have not been able to access my work Exchange email, but i generally check that on my iPhone rather than my tablet anyway.

Surfing the web

Surfing the web is fine on both devices.  On the Kindle I miss my synced iCloud bookmarks, but I can live without them.  I find no major difference between using Safari and the Amazon Silk browser

Checking social networking sites

I am active in Twitter, Facebook and GoodReads.  All of these have apps available on iOS and Android and are great to use and look at in both environments.

Reading magazines

Although I prefer reading novels on my Kindle Paperwhite or Kobo Glo, magazines are a delight to read on tablets.  I use Zinio for my magazine subscriptions and have a subscription to Entertainment Weekly as a standalone app.  Both are great on the iPad and Kindle Fire. Despite the smaller screen size, the high  resolution of the Kindle Fire’s screen means that the text is still easily legible.  

Watching videos

This is one area in which the iPad has superiority with its larger screen.  On my iPad I watch iTunes movies and Netflix as well as use the remote app to control my Apple TV.  The lack of Amazon Instant Video and inability to purchase movies from Amazon means that I am limited to Netflix on the Kindle Fire.

Most of my non book content is in iTunes, which I have not yet managed to access on my Android devices.  Other than Netflix, the only movie I’ve been able to get on my Kindle Fire is the one I have in my UV account.

Checking on the news

I usually get my news from the BBC News app.  Again, the app is available for both iPad and Android and is gorgeous to browse.  I noticed the La Presse app is available for Android and iPhone but not yet on the Amazon app store.  It may take a while for Canadian specific apps to make their way to the Amazon app store – I noticed the  Cineplex app is also not yet available – as it’s so new still.

What’s better on the iPad

Integration with the Apple ecosystem.  I’m a Mac girl, and I do appreciate the tight integration with Apple products.  I like that I can add a bookmark on my Mac and it’s available to me on my iPhone and iPad.  This includes movies and music.  

What’s better on the Kindle Fire

Integration with Amazon.  Kindle Fire is designed to promote access to Amazon content.  The Fire makes it very easy to access purchased content and purchase more.  Shopping on Amazon on the Fire is a real pleasure.  I almost never shop on my Paperwhite or the iPad; Apple has blocked in-app purchases from Amazon, so this requires leaving the Kindle app to go to either the website or the Kindle Store app.  On the Fire this is all integrated.

Reading novels.  I still prefer long form reading on the Paperwhite, but the Fire’s high res screen makes reading not too painful. I find the iPad a little too heavy for long form reading.  I would certainly be happy to take the Fire away for a weekend and leave the Paperwhite and iPad at home. 

The notifications. I find them much more subtle and unintrusive on the Kindle Fire, which is nice if I am engrossed in a book.

Book and app recommendations. I love books and reading, and I’ve always enjoyed Amazon’s recommendations.  Yes, I know, they’re just trying to get me to pay them more money,  but they do seem to suggest some great books.  This is all integral to the Fire experience.

Typing.  I really love Android’s suggested words when typing – I find this system much less typing intensive than iOS’s

So what about the Kindle Fire vs the Nexus 7?

Perhaps a fairer comparison would be between the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7 as they are both Android and 7 inch.  As I mentioned, I’ve not really used it as much as I would have hoped.  I’m not entirely sure why that is.  Perhaps it’s more that other than a few functions I tend to focus on content.  The Nexus can’t access my iTunes content easily and although I can access my books with no issues, it’s not the core function of this device.  

And the iPad Mini?

I do like the smaller form factor.  If the Apple iPad were in a similar price bracket to the Kindle Fire and had the same high res screen I would certainly consider it.  However the Kindle Fire beats it in those two regards

In summary then, while the Kindle Fire is not my perfect device – I don’t think they’ll make a device which can switch from eInk to LCD, has a month long battery life and is integrated fully into both Amazon’s and Apple’s ecosystems – I can see it will fit quite nicely into my range of devices.

Today the Kindle Fire launched in multiple countries including Canada, and one was delivered to my door for your reviewing pleasure.

My initial impression is that, although the device is nice, for Canadians it is still very, very limited.  It is a lovely device, but the Amazon services which distinguish it from the other tablets out there are sadly missing.

There is still no support for Amazon’s music or movie store or Amazon Instant Video for Canada.  iTunes movies will not play on the Kindle Fire due to DRM.  Through the movies for Flixter though you can view any movies you have on your UV account.  They do not have the cool X-Ray for Movies feature that gives you details of the actors in a movie when you hit pause.

For the last few years, iTunes music has been sold without DRM so can easily be copied to the music folder and will be available in the music section of the Kindle Fire.

For me, personally, I was very disappointed that the Audible integration is missing for Canadians.  The whole Audiobooks section is missing from the top menu, and although Whispersync for Voice continues to work, immersion reading is not available.  Audible advised me that right now, this feature is for US-only. It hopes to expand to Canada in the future, but no ETA yet. 

As with the Nexus 7, the Kindle is not recognised by Adobe Digital Editions on the Mac, making transferring epub books to the device very difficult.  I have not yet tried the Overdrive app on the Kindle to try to borrow library books.

On the positive side, the device feels solid in my hands, I found it responsive and I did like the ease of shopping on it.  I’m not certain I could consider it a full tablet – lack of multitasking, decent organizational system – it’s definitely more of a multimedia Kindle, but what it does it does very well.

At this point, I’m not certain if I’ll keep it – the lack of Audible integration is a real blow to me, but I will work with it over the next week or so to see what I think.

 

Today a friend alerted me (thanks Stèphane!) that Amazon has sneaked its 7inch Amazon Kindle Fire tablet into the Canadian store for pre-order.  I have put one on pre-order for your reviewing pleasure.  I may return it as I did the Kobo Aura, but I do want to check it out.

(more…)

Ereading still causes a lot of confusion.  I thought it might be useful to put together a post of some common questions regarding ereading and to do my best to answer them.

What is eReading?
Simply put, ereading is reading a book, comic, magazine or other similar content on an electronic device rather than in hard copy.

Why should I give up my paperback and switch to ereading?
Like many things, ereading is not an either/or activity.  There is no reason why you cannot read books in both hard copy and ebook formats.  It is very much a personal choice.

Having said that, there are pros and cons to ereading.  I have listed some here to help you decide if ereading is right for you.

Pros:
Convenience
.  With ereading you can carry your entire library around with you on your eReader, smartphone or tablet.   Can you imagine carrying around all 14 hardback books in the Wheel of Time series?  With ereading that is no issue. Likewise, if you’re living in a small space, an ereader takes up much less room than forty shelves of books.

Accessibility.  Most ereaders and ereading applications allow you to adjust the font size to suit your eyesight.  This is a real lifesaver if your eyesight isn’t what it was.

Never lose your place.  Most eReaders and devices keep your place for you, and some automatically synchronise over multiple devices.  Amazon even synchronises between the Amazon Kindle ebook and the Audible audiobook.

Additional cool features.  eReading gives you lots of extra features.  These range from such inbuilt dictionaries (if you’re unsure of the meaning of a word, click or tap on it and the definition will pop up) to additional background information and references and social sharing of your reading.

24-hour bookstore.  Imagine the scenario.  You finish a real page turner of a book at 2am and you really can’t wait to see what happens next.  With eReading, a few clicks later you can be reading the sequel, often by 2.01am.  Also, if you’re anxiously waiting for that hot, new release by your favourite author, most new release books are released at 12am PST (in Canada) and delivered automatically to your device at that time if you pre-order.  Of course, if you’re trying to watch your book budget, that Buy Now button can be more of a con…

Millions of free books.  That’s correct.  Thanks to efforts like Project Gutenberg, there are millions of legally available free ebooks for your ereading pleasure.   

Free ebooks on Amazon
Free ebooks on Kobo 
Free ebooks on Sony 

Your books are backed up by the store.  If anything happens to your eReader, you can rest assured that you have not lost your entire library.  Simply log back into the store and redownload them.

Cons;
You’re renting not buying.  When you “buy” an ebook, you’re actually buying a licence to read that ebook on your devices, not an actual ebook.  This means that, in theory, it’s easier to lose access to your entire library if, say, your ebook provider goes out of business.

Read eBooks cannot be resold, donated or regifted.  Linked to the above, the licence you buy cannot be resold, donated or regifted to another person, at least not at this point.  This may be a deal breaker for some of you who like to share your reading material with others.  Amazon Kindle customers in the United States do have limited options to lend Kindle books to others, but this is highly restricted by the publishers and usually allows only one loan per ebook, and on very select titles.

DRM is a pain in the neck.  DRM – or digital rights management –  is software applied to ebooks to prevent your illegally sharing them or changing their format.  It locks the ebook to a specific format and sometimes account and device.  It means, for example, that you cannot read a Kindle book on a Kobo eReader and vice versa.  There is no way to legally convert the ebook to make this possible.  

eReaders and devices are more fragile than paperbacks.  If you drop a paperback in the bath, you’re only out $7 or so.  That cost is considerably more if you drop your eReader…

These are what I see as the pros and cons.  It is really your personal preference if any of these are deallbreakers for you.

I like to borrow my books from a library.  I can’t do that with eBooks, can I?
Certainly you can!  Let me refer you to my post on borrowing eBooks.

I need a specialised eReader, don’t I?
Not at all.  If you have a computer, smartphone or tablet you can get started on eReading.  You would need to download an application.  Many are linked to a specific eBook store.  Here are some of the most popular.

AmazonKoboSonyBarnes & NobleApple

There are other, more general applications, but if you are new to eReading, I would recommend you begin with one of the major providers.

You may also prefer to start off with a free application to see if ereading is for you before investing in a dedicated eReader.

OK, I’m interested.  How do I get started with eReading?
Excellent!  The first thing you would need to do is choose an ebook provider.  I would recommend you try some of the free ebooks from one or two providers to see which one best suits your needs and is best for you.  

Here are links to the main stores (for Canada):

AmazonKoboSony 

In each case the steps are very much the same.

  1. go to the site for your preferred ebook store
  2. register for an account if you don’t already have one (look for a sign in or register link)
  3. download the application for your computer, smartphone and/or tablet
  4. sign in to the application with the store account
  5. browse the store for a book you’d like to buy
  6. add to cart and go through the payment process.  
  7. in the ereading application look for a “sync” function to have the book downloaded to the application if it doesn’t appear there automatically

And there you have it – your first ebook.  Congratulations!

Which dedicated eReader should I go for?
This is a very personal decision.  It really depends on what you want and what is important to you.  Please check out my eReader reviews for some suggestions or please feel free to get in touch with me if you have more specific questions. 

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WARNING – THIS POST CONTAINS LONG RANT. PROCEED AT OWN RISK

For those of you in Canada who purchase Kindle books from amazon.com, you may have noticed that the site has been pushing you to switch your account to the newly opened Canadian Kindle store at amazon.ca. It appears in the last few days, the vast majority of Kindle books are no longer available from amazon.com for customers with a registered Canadian address.

I have been a loyal Kindle customer now for several years and now I have suddenly found myself cut off from services on which I rely, some of which, for me, raise Amazon above the competition.

In Jeff Bezos’ presentation in September 2012 to launch the new Kindles, one of the new innovations promoted was Whispersync for Voice with Audible books. I was very excited about this, and since its launch, I have made extensive use of this service. Naturally, I am very disappointed that it appears I will no longer have access to it for future purchases. It is infuriating that Canadian users had access to this service and now have had it removed. For me this is a significant deterioration in the service I have come to expect from Amazon. It is my sincere hope that Amazon will find some way to reinstate this service for Canadian users.

The Amazon site says it’s “great news” yet tells you the following:

Periodicals and Newsstand
Currently active subscriptions will be canceled upon transferring to another country. A pro-rated refund will be applied if there are any remaining issues you have already paid for. Once subscriptions are canceled, you will not be able to access past issues. Periodical subscription availability varies by market.

Music
Amazon Cloud Player is not supported in your new country. You will no longer be able to access your Cloud Player music library from your device after you have transferred your account to your new country. However, you may continue to access your music locally on your device by downloading it from Cloud Player prior to transferring your account to your new country.

Video
Videos purchased in your current country will no longer be available after transferring your account.

“Great news!” Really? Loss of access to purchased content is “great news?”

Over the three years that I have had my Kindle, and happily purchased from amazon.com/kindle, I have used my Wishlist as a way of keeping track of books which interest me. It has now grown to 6 pages and is now rendered useless by the forced swap to amazon.ca for Kindle purchases. Although this may seem a minor complaint from Amazon’s point of view, from the individual user’s point of view, users who are Amazon’s bread and butter, it is a cause of significant frustration. It would have been a nice touch to have offered a way to export this list to amazon.ca.

When I contacted Kindle support to ask about this, I received a very unreassuring reply:

I’m sorry, at this time, ability to buy books with Whispersync for Voice to sync with Audible is not available on Canadian Kindle store. We’re regularly working on improvements to your Kindle experience. I’ve let the Kindle team know you’re interested in this feature.

Also an options to import wish list from one site to another is not available. I apologize for the inconvenience you experienced.

The business of our international customers is very important to us, and I have also passed your message along to the appropriate people in our company for their consideration.

We’ll consider your feedback as we plan further improvements. Customer feedback like yours is always important to us. I’ll be sure to pass your message along to the appropriate department as we continue to improve the Kindle experience for our customers.

I really hope that Amazon will be able to restore this service. I understand that this is a very personal gripe, and will not have any major impact on your average Canadian Kindle user. However, taken in line with Amazon’s policy of restricting many services to its US customers, this has left a foul taste in my mouth. I love my Whispersync for Voice and am very unhappy to have lost yet another service.

In a similar vein, Amazon recently announced that it has extended its Prime service to Canadian users. Although for many, the free shipping may justify the $79 per year price tag, even though they are paying the same as our American cousins, Canadians do not have access to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (one free Kindle book a month) and free instant streaming of movies and TV shows.

Right now I feel really let down by Amazon and I’m beginning to see fewer and fewer reasons to stick with it and not move to Kobo.