One of the most underrated features of Amazon’s Kindle is the ability to highlight passages of text to save for later. If you’ve never done it before, just use the five-way joystick up or down when on a given page of a book and click it in at the beginning of your passage, scroll to the end of the text you want, and click it again. You can even type out your own notes and commentary by just tapping on the keyboard after highlighting the text and hitting “Save note.”
Where in the olden days you’d have to underline passages that caught your fancy (or highlight them, if you were particularly sophisticated and appropriately equipped), the Kindle catalogs your notes in a way that’s much easier to access after the fact than photocopying pages or (heaven forbid) copying out passages by hand. For full-time students or just studious readers, this can be in invaluable tool if you learn how to use it correctly.
You can access your notes and marks from the Kindle itself, but if you plug it in to your computer, they’re all available in a simple text file that you can then copy and paste into Microsoft Word and work with. With your Kindle plugged in, go to “My Computer” on your desktop and double-click on the Kindle in the list of devices. Go into the “Documents” folder and locate the file called “My Clippings.txt.” The notes are then sorted by the book they belong to and the date they were taken.
Honestly, though? If I were a student, I would probably find that barely sorted text file scarcely navigable, especially for the purpose of studying certain important passages. Luckily, there is another way! I originally derided the Kindle for PC application, because to me it seemed to defeat the whole point of buying the e-Reader to begin with. In the context of notes and marks, however, it’s a godsend.
If you’ve installed the Kindle for PC application, just double-click the book you want to look at, click the “Show Notes & Marks” button in the top right corner of the menu, and you’ll get a column on the right side of the screen showing all of your highlighted passages and notes in chronological order. When you click on an individual highlight or note, it pulls up that page in the text and highlights the words in their original context. Your notes appear as blue icons on the page that can be selected with a click. If I had a complaint, it’s that you can’t directly copy text out of the application, but I suppose that’s to be expected as an anti-piracy measure.
This is really one of those features that you never knew you needed until you use it. Once you start scribbling notes on your books, it’s hard to stop! If Amazon was smart, they’d expand on this feature in their pursuit of the student market. Perhaps, as seems to be the case with Kindle games, all it will take is a little competitive push from Apple. We’ll see.
With the January 27th debut of Apple’s long-rumored tablet PC right around the corner, I think some people are starting to look back at Amazon’s Kindle and wonder… What’s so special about that? It’s just an e-Reader! Of course, for those of us who purchased our Kindles just for the pleasure of reading books, that seems like a nonsensical statement, but it’s a question that’s asked nonetheless.
We’ve talked in the past about the potential of a Kindle App store, where one might be able to expand the functionality of one’s Kindle in a similar way that Apple does with the App store for the iPhone. As fanciful as that seemed at the time, recent reports have signaled that this may soon become a reality. Amazon announced on Friday that they’ve shipped a Kindle software development kit (SDK) to developers, so they can begin programming for the device.
Interesting as that is, it pales in comparison to the announcement that they’re partnering up with EA Mobile to develop games for the Kindle. That’s right, the same mega-corporation that has brought video gamers titles like Madden and The Sims is developing new content for your lowly book-reading Kindle. Of course, we have to temper any expectations with the knowledge that there are a limited number of things that a developer, extraordinarily creative or not, can do with the Kindle’s grayscale screen and leisurely refresh rate. Still, who wouldn’t like some solitaire?
Some gaming sites have reached out to developers to try and get any idea of what kind of games one can expect to see as a consequence of this. An interview with one such developer confirmed our suspicions. That is, these Kindle games will likely fall under the category of puzzles and simplistic card games – the kind of fair that can still succeed within the confines of the Kindle hardware. Other, more elaborate, bits of media incorporating actual book content may be feasible as well, though perhaps further down the road.
It also remains to be seen how Amazon plans to capitalize on these new developments. Whether they’ll be content to just add them for free to bolster the Kindle’s feature list, or whether they plan to sell them a la carte remains to be seen. So when Apple finally decides to drop their new consumer gadget bomb on us all not long from now, remember that Amazon’s still fighting to entertain us as well!
One of our most popular posts here at KindleChat is an old one we did over two years ago on the state of the Bible on Amazon’s e-Reader. As it turns out, there are loads of people out there who see their Kindle as a way to keep in close contact with scripture on top of their favorite classics and best-sellers. Things have changed for the better since then, so we thought we’d give you a long-overdue update!
What has always made Bible-reading on the Kindle particularly prickly is that most people don’t approach it like a Dan Patterson best-seller. One doesn’t read it straight through – you need to jump quickly to a particular verse when it comes up in a sermon or in a reading, and most people seem to find the table of contents method most versions employ to be overly cumbersome for that task. So how have things changed? Let’s look at some of the most popular versions available and see.
The top version of the Bible on Amazon, at least as it concerns sales, is the New International Version. I won’t get into the specifics of the translation, because that’s a whole different argument, but it handles navigation with a linked Table of Contents system. You select the book of your choice from the table of contents, then the chapter, then the verse. You can then go back to the table of contents either by clicking one of the linked chapter or verse numbers, or just hitting back button. This is still a good deal too slow for my taste, and the inability to search for a specific chapter or verse from any page slows things down. Very little thought seems to have been put into this one, and it’s a bit of a joke that it actually costs more than other superior versions. Is there any surprise that it’s only got 3.5/5 stars? I’d skip it.
This is the nerd’s version of the Bible, and I mean that in the most positive way possible. The ESV Study Bible goes beyond the text to give you all the history and context for fully understanding those same old passages. It’s got 20,000 notes sprinkled within the text itself, easily accessible by links. It’s also got scores of articles, charts, maps, and specially-formatted illustrations to really stimulate your imagination. Unfortunately, like the NIV, it uses the Table of Contents as its principal form of navigation. I still think it’s the most useful version, all told, but it could make better use of the Kindle itself.
A labor of love, this version of the King James Bible makes use of what its authors call Direct Verse Jump navigation. By utilizing their easy shorthand, you can jump straight to a verse by typing it into the search field. Looking up the ubiquitous John 3:16? Type in jn.3.16, hit enter, and boom, you’re there in just one click! They’ve even gone so far as to include a version that’s text-to-speech friendly. By removing the verse numbers, it sidesteps the problem where the text-to-speech would break up the text by throwing in numbers as well. I’ve always thought the KJV was a little vanilla for my taste, but you can’t beat the job they’ve done making this Kindle-friendly.
Done by the same guy that did the aforementioned King James Bible, this version takes the NET version of the good book, which features more than 60,000 footnotes straight from the translators themselves, and utilizes the Direct Verse Jump feature for navigation. For those who are interested in getting as close as possible to the original translation, this is the definitive version. Every version should have Direct Verse Jump!
King James Bible – FREE
Just because there are versions of the Bible you can buy doesn’t mean you HAVE to. Project Gutenberg, for instance, provides a perfectly passable version of the King James Bible. Unfortunately, the price you pay for going with their version is an almost total lack of formatting or indexing. A KindleChat commenter by the name of Thomas posted a link to a free version of the KJV that does actually feature indexing, so perhaps that will serve as a helpful halfway point for the budget-conscious.
Got a version you love that we don’t mention here? Found an especially easy way to read the scripture on your Kindle? Let us know in the comments!
The Amazon Kindle was once again in headlines this week, and this time, it wasn’t in an especially flattering light. No, instead of any mentions of the latest developments at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Kindle was guilty by association in a lawsuit filed by the National Federation of the Blind and American Council of the Blind against Arizona State University for discrimination rising from their use of the Kindle DX in the classroom.
Evidently, ASU had started a pilot program to see how useful the Kindle DX would be in a classroom setting. Ever since I first picked one up, that seemed to be the most practical application of e-Reader technology. I’m a few years out of college at this point, but I still get back aches whenever I think about the sheer quantity of paper I was carrying around on a daily basis. The NFB and ACB didn’t object to the convenience, however, so much as the fact that blind students wouldn’t get the same benefits out of the program because the Kindle’s text-to-speech system is inadequate for their needs.
Of course, while the principle motivation behind the text-to-speech feature is that it gives the disabled access to digital content, I’ve found that it’s actually a rather satisfying bonus feature when you figure out how to use it. I fired it up one time when I was on an airplane at night (this was, of course, before I got my m-Edge cover and accompanying e-Luminator2 book light), and I’ve also used it on occasions where reading and walking might get me killed – like walking to the store along a busy road.
I’ve never bought the argument that text-to-speech is a poor man’s replacement for the audiobook, because, frankly, the Kindle’s drab monotone is simply no substitute for an actor reading a part. More practically, the fact that just about every book I buy from the Amazon store has text-to-speech disabled by the publisher renders the feature functionally useless. It’s gotten to the point where I have to make sure I’m reading a public domain book on the side, just so I have something to turn to when a text-to-speech situation arrives.
If Amazon is categorically incapable of getting publishers to use the features of the device they sell and unwilling even to make the menus and Kindle Book Store handicap-accessible, than I think they should just drop the feature entirely. It’s one of the few novelties that they still have over the immediate competition, but it’s meaningless to have if your customers can never use it.
If you’re looking for a silver lining, the settlement agreement in the ASU case included a stipulation that acknowledged how Amazon is making progress in the accessibility of e-Readers for the visually impaired. Hopefully that represents not just empty conjecture, but a statement informed by Amazon itself. We’ll see.
We knew we could feel the winds of change coming, but I don’t know if anybody was really prepared for the sheer deluge of new e-Readers that are poised to flood the market in 2010. We’ve already touched on the rumored Apple iSlate, and Heart’s Skiff caught our attention just the other day. With the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas kicking into gear Thursday, I suppose it was inevitable that we’d be up to our necks in e-Readers. Here’s a quick rundown of the newest entrants so far.
Samsung’s E6 and E101
Price: $399 and $699 respectively
Release Date: Early 2010
Key features: The names of the readers refer to their size. The E6 is a 6-inch display, the same size as the Kindle 2, where the 101 is, predictable, 10.1 inches, and more closely aligns to the Kindle DX’s form factor. Probably the biggest differentiator is the EMR stylus pen that lets you annotate by hand-writing on the screen itself.
Our take: The stylus is a neat feature, but I’ve never had much of a problem typing notes on the Kindle’s QWERTY keyboard. Unless Samsung comes up with some differentiating capabilities, these things are dead in the water at their price point.
Plastic Logic’s Que proReader
Price: $649 for the 4GB version, $799 for the 8GB with 3G
Release Date: April 2010
Key features: The 8.5-by-11 inch flexible touchscreen is its biggest sell, allowing users to drop and bend the device without fear of breaking it. It also supports Powerpoint and Excel documents natively. As we’ve discussed before, it will draw its content from B&N’s robust content library.
Our take: Plastic Logic plans to market the Que towards professionals, which is good, because I don’t know that most people are going to look kindle on a device that does much the same as the Kindle DX for twice the price. Having said that, the technology they used to develop a light-weight touchscreen is intriguing, if it’s not soon trumped by another company who can do it in full color too.
Amazon’s Kindle DX International
Release Date: January 19
Key features: It’s the Kindle DX we all know and love, but now it features International 3G coverage by AT&T. This also means that would-be Kindle DX owners living abroad should finally be able to get their hands on one.
Our take: Obviously, this can hardly be considered a new entrant into the e-Reader market all by its lonesome, but Amazon’s continued push to make International 3G a de facto feature is a promising one. If you were thinking of getting a Kindle DX, just wait a few more weeks and you can get the fancy new version that will let you buy books on vacation in a foreign land.
In anticipation of the Consumer Electronics Show, which runs from January 7-10, the magazine publisher Hearst has taken the wraps of their own new entrant into the e-Reader club. Called the Skiff, it has a similar form factor to Amazon’s Kindle DX, presumably to offer the most possible screen room to display Heart’s content as it might appear in an actual magazine. And of course sports the now-obligatory e-Ink technology for ease of viewing.
Hearst also announced that they’re teaming up with Sprint to offer wireless 3G connectivity for the Skiff, and Sprint revealed plans to sell the Skiff on Sprint.com and in their many Sprint retail outlets. Particularly astute Kindle aficionados might recall that Amazon severed their ties with Sprint back in October, due in large part to concerns about their ability to handle 3G coverage abroad. The newer Kindle International, now the de-facto Kindle 2 SKU, runs on AT&T’s more robust wireless network. This appears like Sprint’s way of getting back in the e-Reader game.
A big question mark for the Skiff right now is whether they’ll be able to infuse the device with enough content partnerships to get people to even give it a second glance. Hearst is leading a consortium of publishers that includes the likes of Time Warner, Conde Nast, News Corp., and Meredith, all of whom are likely to offer their magazine content for the device. Evidently, they’d like to branch out into newspapers, comic books, and blogs as well, but it doesn’t appear like books are on the table.
Just about the only thing about the Skiff that really strikes me as intriguing is the partnership they’ve inked with Nielsen and comScore to handle advertising analytics for the device. Presumably, they’ll be able to tailor the advertising in the digital version of a magazine to suit a user’s particular reading habits. Do you read a lot of articles about travel? Expect to see a bunch of ads for Expedia and Travelocity. This is an area that Amazon and B&N haven’t even begun to broach yet, so it’ll be interesting to see how they handle it.
I really don’t think the device stands a chance. Unless they leverage the advertising revenue to offer the Skiff at a deep discount at retail, there’s no way people are going to spend the cash on a device with such a limited range of content. And while advertising models are interesting to geeks like me, there’s almost nothing about the Skiff to set it apart from the other also-ran entrants getting into the e-Reader market this year.
What is important is whether Amazon begins to consider such an advertising strategy as well. Speaking personally, I always thought of my Kindle as a calm peaceful place in a world insistent on cramming advertising into every nook and cranny of our everyday lives. Here’s hoping we don’t lose that.
It didn’t take very long, but the word on the internet grapevine is that the long-awaited Apple e-Reader is practically at our doorstep, promising early fulfillment of one of our Top 5 predictions for 2010.
The consensus name for the device is iSlate, a conjecture based on Apple’s registration of the domain name islate.com as far back as 2007. The iSlate reportedly sizes up to about 10 inches across, is about the same thickness as an iPhone, and sports the same multi-touch screen that people have been enjoying on their iPhones and iPods. Of course, with all good things comes a price, and in the case of the iSlate, rumors peg it at about $800. Ouch.
Based on the price and the fact that they haven’t considered some sort of e-ink technology, I have a hard time believing that this is going to be positioned opposite Amazon’s Kindle as a straight-up e-Reader. The ability to read eBooks will likely be there, but it will likely be just one of its selling points, on top of the ability to play videos and music with a portable form factor.
A recent report by the Financial Times seems to back this up. Apple is apparently courting TV networks in the hope of building some sort of subscription TV service they could deliver over the iSlate. Kathryn Huberty, a Morgan Stanley analyst quoted in that story, said, “The driver behind it will be content.”
It’s an interesting landscape that’s developing here. It does seem likely that Apple is going to be the major driver behind video content, but I’m not so certain they’re going to be as aggressive about books. Amazon has already released a Kindle app for the iPhone, and the Barnes & Noble will no doubt follow through with their own in due time. So strictly speaking, Apple may not have a need to pursue their own publisher deals where they already exist.
My best guess is that Apple will go after the newspaper and magazine market – a sector where the iSlate’s ability to integrate video and multimedia will give them a competitive advantage. I just don’t think the eBook market is big enough for Apple to really set their sights on it. The vast majority of folks are going to be drawn in by the flashy lights and attention deficit inducing features, and that’s to whom Apple caters.
In any case, Apple has scheduled a press briefing on January 26th in San Francisco, so we’ll find out all about it soon enough.