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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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October 2016
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Kindle Paperwhite Update Improves Overall User Experience and Comic Reading Specifically

We already know that Amazon intends for the Kindle Paperwhite to set the new standard for eReader hardware in every way they could manage.  Some people might still wish for physical page turn buttons (I certainly do) but other than that it is a clear step ahead of all of the competition right now.  That’s referring entirely to the US markets, of course, which may be a good reason that they have decided to update the Paperwhite firmware with some specific comic-related improvements in mind.

On a November 8th release, the new software improvements were made available for download.  If you have a Paperwhite and haven’t gotten everything automatically delivered to your device at this point, check out the side-loading instructions located here.

Foremost in the advertised improvements is the list of optimized fonts.  Palatino, Baskerville, and Futura have all been made sharper and smoother.  It’s a small thing in many ways, but the change will stand out for anybody who prefers to use these fonts regularly.

The ability to remove Recommended Content from your Paperwhite’s home screen is now also included.  This has become a point of annoyance for many users, but the ability to remove this particular advertising stream was added not long ago to new Kindle Fire models and was inevitable here as well.  A more interesting update would have been producing the same stream for older models on demand, honestly.

The settings menu has been brought to the front of things a bit more as well.  You can now jump straight into this menu directly from the menu while reading a book with no need to return to the home screen.

Perhaps most importantly, given the recent push into Japan, is the improved manga/comic display capability.  A new Fit-to-Screen option will stretch images to fill the entire screen, addressing many situations where small panels were practically unreadable previously.

The Paperwhite is also now able to retain a manga/comic specific setting for page refresh preferences that is completely separate from the same options for book reading.  This makes it easier to choose the proper setting to maximize both battery life and reading quality in two areas with distinctly different visual representation needs.

In preparation for a move beyond Japan into China, Simplified Chinese is now included as a font option.  It’s a small note now, but could be vital in the long run.

The only other really notable change is in book samples.  When picking up the full version of a given book after reading the sample you will now start off at the last position accessed in the sample.  The sample itself will be removed from the library.  Organization will be greatly improved as a result for anybody who regularly samples their books.

Many of these updates are small things, but added together they make for a great update.  There is more than can and likely will be done to improve things, especially with regard to comic-reading.  Now that we’re seeing a much bigger effort to get graphic storytelling into the Kindle marketplace, however, it’s safe to assume that a wider audience will demand attention and genre-specific features that will quickly optimize the eReaders as best a black and white display can be optimized.

Kindle Fire Passed By Nook Tablet in Web Traffic

Right now it is safe to say that the iPad is on top when it comes to tablets.  I’m assuming nobody genuinely thinks anymore that the Kindle Fire was ever about trying to bring down Apple’s device.  It is no surprise then that in a recent analysis of their web traffic impressions, the Chitika Ad Network found that 91% of tablet traffic on the web comes from iPads.

What was somewhat surprising was that for the first time we see the Nook Tablet beating the Kindle Fire in terms of use.  Since May, the Nook has jumped from making up 0.53% of all tablet traffic to accounting for 0.85%.  For just a month, that’s an impressive increase in presence.  The Kindle Fire saw no such increase and even seems to have fallen off slightly in the same period.

What does this mean for the two devices?  Unfortunately this data is hard to draw any real conclusions from.  Lacking any sort of information about data collection, we don’t even know as much about what devices we are talking about.  How much of the Nook’s internet presence comes from people running rooted tablets thanks to simple tools making use of the SD slot, for example?  That matters, since it is essentially a lost customer for B&N when they are selling their hardware at near-cost in order to lock people into their ecosystem.

Even if we assume that those users are completely removed, we are still left with a study that examines only web use.  Anybody who has spent time browsing the internet on either of these devices already knows that while pleasant enough for what it is, the browsing experience a 7” tablet offers will generally fail to impress.

I would be more excited to see information about impressions and click-throughs on advertising in popular apps across multiple platforms.  That would be likely to give us a better understanding of the comparison since just about everybody loads up some Angry Birds or Words With Friends from time to time.

With the iPad still providing about fifty times the traffic of its closest competition this is all really a minor point.  You just can’t expect a small device designed for media consumption to do the same job or generate the same interest as Apple’s more powerful and popular product.  They have nothing to fear from Android tablets in general right now, let alone the budget side of the market.

Clearly this data will be helpful for anybody who is interested in trying to target tablet users specifically when designing a web-based advertising campaign.  For the rest of us, however, there is not enough detail to be worth thinking too much about it.  It would be nice if the Nook Tablet suddenly experienced a huge boost in popularity since Amazon couldn’t help but push back by adding new products or software features, but that isn’t necessarily the case here.

Maybe the next generation of tablets, with Windows 8 competing against the iPad and a Microsoft-backed Nook line providing intense competition for the Kindle Fire, but for now things are pretty much on hold.

Special Offers Now Available For All Kindle eReaders

The addition of advertisements to the Kindle line is what has allowed Amazon to drive prices down as low as they have on all eReader hardware in the US.  It’s really the only reason that the eReader was finally pushed down to the $99 and beyond.  While many people were initially upset about the idea of advertising intruding into their reading experience, something that has in recent decades proven fairly inefficient and therefore been disregarded, the way Amazon tackled the problem has left most people satisfied.  No ads in the books themselves is the most important part, of course.

The most surprising thing, in a lot of ways, is how effective the Special Offers have been in providing genuine value for customers.  Among other things, Kindle w/ Special Offers owners have had the chance to buy $20 gift cards for $10, $1 Kindle Edition eBooks, and more.  Amazon has been their own best customer when it comes to these ads despite having some big name partners join in from time to time, and recently there have even been some great local deals springing up as a result of their attempts to take on Groupon.  Naturally this has left some owners of older Kindles, as well as people who avoided the opportunity due to suspicion over the ads, feeling rather left out.

Recently an option was introduced to remove these ads from the Kindle by paying for the difference in initial purchase price.  Definitely an appealing option since it effectively allows new buyers who are hesitant to accept the idea of ongoing advertisements buy into the device now and get the rest of the experience they want when it’s affordable.  It doesn’t hurt that this makes it that much more appealing for new customers to give Amazon’s Special Offers scheme a chance to prove its worth.

The fun flip side is that they quietly introduced the option to turn Special Offers on for Kindle eReaders that either never had them in the first place or decided to buy out of them at some point.  By going into the “Manage Your Kindle” section of the Amazon.com website, most of the work is already done.  Find your eReader in the list (which may include no more than one Kindle depending on how invested you are in the line) and, under the “Special Offers” heading, choose the Edit option.  Turning the ads on and off takes place almost instantly, requiring nothing more than that you turn your Kindle on and connect it to the internet.

I no longer have a Kindle 2 to test out this process with, but I think it is safe to assume that it would not work.  The Kindle 3 (Kindle Keyboard) definitely works, and all newer devices should handle it without any trouble.  If you haven’t had a chance before now to check out the options, it might be worth a try.  Just today I’ve seen a couple tempting ones flipping my Kindle off and on.  I especially recommend if you are in an area covered by the AmazonLocal deals.  Amazon is clearly not pushing people into this, nor do they make it hard to change your mind.  If there’s value to be found, why waste the opportunity?

Amazon Kindle Special Offers Still Picking Up Steam

One of the ways that Amazon has managed to bring down the price of their Kindle eReader to a point that nobody else has been able to match is through their Special Offers.  This feature saves customers $30 – 40 on their new Kindle by displaying advertisements in place of the otherwise uncustomizable screen saver images that the device carries by default as well as on the bottom of menu screens.  In doing so, Amazon makes enough off the ads, in theory, to offset the discount and maybe even get word out about useful offers they could be interested in.

One of the most notable initial offers was that of a $20 Amazon.com gift card for only $10.  This was only available to active Kindle w/ Special Offers owners and got a fair amount of press at the time as a smart move on Amazon’s part.  Other ads have included Buick, Olay, Visa, ABC, and more.  There was, and for some still is, some question as to how effective this advertising method would prove to be in the end, but responses are coming in from Advertisers that put that to rest for the time being.

For example, while Buick was mainly concerned with building a connection in customers minds between their brand and what they viewed as an innovative new product (the Kindle), they have been reported as noting that their customer engagement matched what they’ve come to expect from other, more established media.  ABC’s promotion also went well, with over 24,000 people taking advantage of their free script offer in support of new show “Revenge”.

In the past month, however, people in supported areas might note having seen a focus on the new Amazon Local service.  This is meant, by all appearances, as Amazon’s own competition for the popular Groupon site.  Nationwide offers in such areas have been somewhat scarce as a result.  This has led some to jump to the conclusion that Amazon has been having trouble finding people interested in advertising via Kindle.  One Amazon advertising VP, however, was able to come right out and say that there has yet to be a drop in the number of interested advertisers.

In spite of the fact that this appears to be a fairly narrow media venue to exploit, the Kindle has brought reading back to the front of peoples’ minds in a way that many wouldn’t have believed possible five years ago.  Millions have been sold and, while Amazon does not and is unlikely to ever, release sales numbers for the Kindle, it is safe to say that several of those millions had the Special Offers included.  These devices are cheap, allow for an unhindered reading experience wherein ads will never appear to disturb you, and can even come in handy when bringing deals to your attention.  Personally, I was just glad to stop seeing the same dead author portraits over and over again.  It seems clear that while there is expansion to be done and experience to be gained, this was a smart move on Amazon’s part.

Does the Ad-Supported Kindle Go Far Enough?

There have been a wide range of responses to the announcement of Amazon’s new ad-supported Kindle release this past week.  For the most part, people seem to approve.  Amazon made a smart move when they decided to have the ads be unobtrusive and potentially personalized.  This leads me to wonder what the future holds as far as advertising subsidized eReading possibilities.

Let’s face it, it’s impossible to get away from ads on a day to day basis.  They’re all over the net, the roads, buses, walls, shipping containers…I could go on.  How much do we really care anymore, though?  The reason that this was such a great move for Amazon is that people are already so used to seeing ads and simply filtering them out without giving it much thought that this small addition won’t have any major effect.  It isn’t as if they were being placed in such a manner as to interfere with immersion while reading, after all.

I wonder how long it will be before we can get books with the same advantage, though?  Obviously, some people have already caught on to the potential and made a business model out of it (WOWIO).  It is demonstratively possible, therefore, to have an unobtrusive advertising presence in a book.  Not really that much different from your average paperback’s large note that it has recently been made into a movie or television show, when you think about it.  I’m really hoping this becomes a trend for the Kindle.

While I don’t support the inclusion of ads mid-text, I think most people would be willing to glance through one or two as they flip to page one of a new book if that meant that the book was cheaper or even free.  This could definitely work as a way to alter the existing Agency Model pricing scheme that makes eBook purchasing an almost comically overpriced experience from time to time.  Give users the option of the normal book for the usual price, but a copy with ads included for 50% off.  How many people will really turn down that opportunity to save money just because ads are obnoxious?

I’m not advocating the WOWIO model, necessarily.  I see this as having potential as a flag in the downloaded file that turns ads on or off on a case by case basis.  This would allow for the updating of advertisements from time to time and avoid the problem of outdated messages.  What would be the point of a sales announcement if you didn’t get around to seeing it until two months after the fact, right?

Still, the Kindle‘s new pricing due to ad inclusion is a huge step in the right direction.  If, as has often been speculated, Amazon is selling their products at or below cost then something needs to be done to drive the prices further down.  I know we’re all really hoping for those rumored free Kindles toward the end of the year, however unlikely the prospect.