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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 Update Adds Real Page Numbers and More

It appears that Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has been doing some customer polling, or at least watching their forums, and came up with a few new features for an upcoming Kindle software update as a result.  While this has not rolled out to the public as an official release just yet, they are offering an Early Preview of the update for manual download through the website at this page.  I’ve got to admit, this addresses a few long standing concerns.

Real Page Numbers

Foremost among user complaints about the Kindle has often been the progress indicator.  Hard to share a passage you like with friends and family when you can’t just suggest that they turn to a specific page in their own copy, right?  Well, now Amazon is adding in corresponding page numbering between print and digital copies of their library, beginning with the top 100 most popular books that offer both formats and moving on from there.

Public Notes

You know how you can annotate and highlight things in your favorite Kindle books?  Well, now you’ll be able to share those markups with anybody who’s interested.  It opens up new avenues of communication for friends, families, reading clubs, authors, and pretty much anybody who spends time seriously thinking about their reading.  Note that this is an optional feature that is not turned on by default, so there is no danger of sharing inadvertently as far as I can tell (if that’s a concern for you).

Post-Reading Interview(aka “Before You Go…”)

Many people have realized the flaw of the user rating system on Amazon and many other sites.  Often users will only make the effort to comment if the book was particularly bad or amazingly good.  Even then, if you can’t get to it right away while it’s fresh in your mind, what’s the point?  Now, when you finish your book you will be given a chance to rate the book, share a note on the book (via the Facebook and such),and get some recommendations on things to read both based on the author you just read and from a selection of more general personalized recommendations.  It’s fairly unobtrusive and shouldn’t negatively affect your reading experience, while at the same time having the chance to improve the reliability of the rating system on the Kindle store.

New Periodical Layout

Magazines and Newspapers are becoming a bigger and bigger thing in the eReader world.  The new layout makes them that much easier to browse.  There’s not much more to say about it than that it makes more sense this way and seems to speed up browsing magazines for the Kindle considerably.

Lots of fun new stuff to play with in this Kindle software update.  Nothing game changing, necessarily, just a bunch of stuff that users have been asking for.  It’s nice to see that Amazon’s still interested in getting the Kindle updates going out even when there aren’t any major problems needing to be addressed in the software.  I’m going to play around with it a bit more and post some impressions in the near future if I get a chance.  Let me know how it’s working for you.

Latest Generation Kindle Update

This is just a quick note for those of you with the latest generation of the Kindle eReader.  Chances are good that that means a lot of you people reading this site, for example! Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has released a preview of update 3.0.2 for download by interested users.  This update should address minor speed concerns, optimize web browsing, and just give your Kindle little a tune-up.  This is a limited time offer from Amazon and there is no guarantee it will still be here for any length of time.  The idea is to solicit feedback from those of you who download the update and see what the general opinion is and perhaps even what’s left to do.

I don’t know how much of a chance you’re going to get, but if you are in time then things like this are always productive.  If you have a chance to submit feedback on an update then you’re expressing a voice in the ongoing state of the device.  Always a precedent worth supporting. I wish you all luck with your downloading, greatly improved web browsing, perhaps even some faster reading, and a fine day in general.  Time for me to go read something for a change.

Kindle Software 2.3 (399380047)

It definitely looks like I’ll have to eat my words… One month ago I made a statement that there will be fewer Kindle software updates and that chances of new features being added via update are slim. At least on the second count I was wrong. Amazon has released Kindle software version 2.3 for Kindle 2 US, Kindle 2 International and Kindle DX. It added significant features to all of these devices. In fact Amazon deemed the update so significant that they’ve sent out emails to Kindle owners about it.

  • Kindle 2 International (wireless by AT&T) got a significant battery life boost. You can now go for a week without having to recharge the device and keep the wireless on. Since it doesn’t apply to the US version of Kindle 2 (that uses Sprint for wireless connectivity) it looks like Amazon didn’t change the poll frequency but either fixed some bug in wireless driver or took advantage of a technology similar to PUSH email.
  • Both US and international versions of Kindle 2 got native PDF support based on the same code that was used in Kindle DX. Now you can also manually switch screen orientation to landscape. Kindle DX style automatic switching doesn’t work since Kindle 2 devices lack the accelerometer hardware. PDF files are better cropped now as blank margins don’t use up valuable screen space. This is especially important for small 6″ Kindle screens since PDF viewer still lacks zoom feature.
  • Since all Kindle versions now support PDF, sending PDF file to @kindle.com email will no longer convert it to native Kindle format by default. If you still want the conversion to happen, you should put the word “Convert” in the email subject.
  • Kindle DX screensaver activation time was increased from 5 minutes to 20 minutes. This makes sense since larger screen can contain more text that takes longer to read.
  • All Kindle versions will not require signed update packages. This problem however has already been solved.

Normally you Kindle would update itself automatically if you have wireless connectivity. However if you do not or the update failed because you had hacks installed, you can update Kindle manually. This time around though, rather than trying to hit dynamic URLs that are supposed to always provide the latest version, you can download the update from the appropriate static location. These locations are listed on Amazon.com Help page.

By bringing all Kindle devices to the same version, Amazon will simplify software development process in the long run. They may change the update process in the future to cut the update delivery costs. 2.3 update package was around 10 megabytes large. If they keep the current method update packages will get only larger.

At the moment there is no update for 1st generation Kindle. And dare I make another prediction – the chances of it happening are rather slim.

While we are on the topic of updates. There might be another update currently in the works in Lab126. On Kindle Facebook page Kindle developers have posted the following message:

Amazon Kindle Kindle Customers, We have heard from many of you that you would like to have a better way to organize your growing Kindle libraries. We are currently working on a solution that will allow you to organize your Kindle libraries. We will be releasing this functionality as an over-the-air software update as soon as it is ready, in the first half of next year. – The Kindle Team

Personally I have just one question left: Where are the bleeping Unicode fonts? Amazon, seriously! Is it too much trouble to replace the current fonts with ones that support wider range of characters? Although with PDF support in place there is workaround via PDF font embedding, it would be nice to have native support as well.

I guess this leaves me with little choice but to recompile Kindle Unicode Font Hack to work with Kindle Software 2.3… I’ll post as soon as it’s ready and tested.

Why there will be fewer Kindle firmware updates in the future

Personally I’m used to updating software. Pretty much every week one or another piece of software on my PC updates – be it Windows itself, the antivirus, iTunes or whatever. I’ve subconsciously come to expect the same from Kindle. And at first Kindle firmware did update quite frequently:

As you can see it seems that Kindle 2 got several updates soon after release and then there was silence.

Early update rush was caused by bugs in the new software. One or two updates were caused by law suit (Text-to-speech, and Orwell book deletion). However, note that none of the updates introduced new features. I guess Amazon sticks to the policy – don’t fix it if it ain’t broken.

Kindle DX and Kindle international share most of the software with original Kindle so there is little room for new critical bugs.

But most importantly, the number of Kindles in operation has exploded since the beginning of 2009. And this is probably the most important reason why we will not see many Kindle updates in the future and probably none of them will be feature driven. Amazon pays Sprint 12 cents per megabyte transferred. It would be safe to assume that Amazon gets similar pricing from AT&T for domestic traffic and a much higher price for data roaming. Average Kindle update is 2 megabytes in size. Because of the way Amazon structures the update packages, this accumulates as each subsequent update includes all previous updates as well. So first update was 2 megs, second one was 4, third – 6, etc.

6 megabytes times 12 cents is $0.72 per device updated. By some estimates there may be 2..3 million Kindle devices in operation. Let’s assume that 80% of devices are within wireless coverage (although in reality this number can be much higher). This adds up to $1,440,000 to $2,160,000 per software update deployment and increasing with every update version. And this is just to update domestic Kindles. I wouldn’t even want to think about the pricing to worldwide distribution. Also I wouldn’t want to be the software developer who makes a critical bug that causes an update or that software developer’s boss for that matter…

Given these numbers I don’t believe that Amazon would release update unless they have a very strong reason to do so. Strong reason being a court order or something else of this sort. This more or less addresses they questions of where Amazon will add folders, PDF support for Kindle 2 or official Unicode fonts for that matter via an update. The answer is a definite NO.

On the issue of fonts I’m most sure since Unicode fonts in the updates that I use (that add only partial support without all of the font styles) are 1.5..3 megabytes. Proper Unicode support can easily add up to 10 megabytes. So this would mean millions of dollars spent with potential to spend more millions in the future and near zero return of investment since although many people would like to have this feature, for most of them it’s not a deal-breaker (especially since on Kindle DX you can have any kind of fonts via PDF files). The few books that have non-Latin characters that Amazon sells use Topaz format to embed the extra glyphs that they need. So adding Unicode fonts would help customers read books that Amazon doesn’t sell. In this light the question about Unicode fonts via an update for existing devices is a no-brainer.

It is possible that this support would be included in Kindle 3 or whatever else the next generation Kindle will be called since in this case the cost for Amazon is just licencing fee for the fonts.

Kindle 2.0.4 (353720025) and Kindle DX 2.1.1 (351050064) updates

On the Kindle source code page two new packages recently appeared:

Some users have already reported receiving these updates on your devices. Manual Kindle software update URL still returns 2.0.3 for me and there is no known URL to check for Kindle DX updates at the moment. There doesn’t seem to be any update for the original 1st generation Kindle at the moment.

If you notice any differences after your Kindle updates, please let me know. This would also be a good time to temporarily revert Unicode Font Hack or any other firmware-altering hacks that you have installed so that automated update installation will not fail. You can safely reapply hacks after you get the updates.

Symbol Keyboard Shortcuts gone from Kindle 2?

As I was comparing Kindle DX and Kindle 2 I’ve noticed that some of the keyboard shortcuts that originally worked in K2 now don’t. Pressing Alt-6 used to type question mark, Alt-7 – comma, etc. Now these don’t seem to work in my Kindle 2. It looks like this functionality got disabled with one of the software updates: 2.0.1, 2.0.2 or 2.0.3.

Can you please check your Kindle 2 and verify if this works or not and post your Kindle software version. You can see this version in the bottom portion of the settings screen.

Kindle Software 2.0.3 (327610024)

Kindle software update version 2.0.3 is being rolled out over the WhisperNet. I decided not to wait for the automated installation to fail because I have font hack and Savory installed and did a manual update. Uninstallers for both hacks worked just fine and official update installed without any problems. I used Igor’s script to take a peek inside the update packages and copied some files from Kindle before I installed the update. I then sucesfully applied the official patch, made another copy of the files that were updated but didn’t find any exciting changes.

All-in-all, it looks like a collection of bugfixes. It’s possible that TTS change is there.

First thing after the official patch – I’ve reinstalled the Unicode Font Hack and it installed just fine.

Kindle Software Update 2.0.3

Kindle Software Update 2.0.3

Kindle 2 Software Update 2.0.2 (309510017)

My Amazon Kindle 2 just updated itself to new firmware version 2.0.2 (309510017).

kindle software 2.0.2 (309510017)

At the moment there are no official release notes from Amazon.com, however by looking at the source code I could speculate that there are some changes related to sound system (most likely bugfix). There seem to be changes related to watchdog timer. In plain English it’s a software and hardware system that will reboot your Kindle automatically in case it freezes and stops responding to user input.

Some people have reported that screen seems to refresh a tad faster now. Now that I’ve read it I seem to notice it too but it could be the placebo effect. Please leave a comment if you noticed any changes in your Kindle 2 after the update was applied.

If you have Kindle 2 Screensaver Hack installed you’ll need to uninstall it first and then apply the update manually. After update is installed you can re-install the hack.

Kindle Software Update 2.0.1 (303870012)

Today my Kindle 2 updated itself to 2.0.1 (303870012) without even me noticing it. I had very hard time figuring out what this update is about since it’s not officially announced by Amazon (although it’s listed on the source code page) however – here’s what I could gather:

  • This may or may not be related to selectively disabling text-to-speech feature on some books since on one hand the updated started circulating among limited number of users before the decision was announced. On the other hand it’s very logical that Amazon prepared the code that started testing it on limited number of Kindle’s before it made the official announcement.
  • Some users have reported that 5-way controller got an acceleration feature (cursor starts moving faster after a second of holding the controller in some direction). I checked and it really seems to be the case now, though I can’t say that the feature wasn’t there in the first place.
  • At first it was rumored that this update addresses some kind of hardware issue that affects only some devices however this proved false since gradually more and more Kindle owners are getting this update.

I’ve downloaded both 2.0 and 2.0.1 source codes, ran a WinDiff (a program that finds changes in the source code) and here’s what I’ve found:

  • Several changes in power management code including the code that talks to MC13783 power management controller. These are most likely to improve battery life.
  • Minor change in code related to ISP1504 USB Hi-Speed transciever.

This only entails changes made to GPL portion of the Kindle source. Amazon code that controls high-level Kindle functions is not published so there’s no telling what was changed there. My personal guess would be that it is the text-to-speech update that was released before decision was publicly announced.

kindle-software-2-0-1

Instructions for manually installing this update can be found here. Use at your own risk!