Amazon has had quite a bit of success expanding the Kindle Store beyond the confines of the Kindle proper and spreading it across just about every computing and mobile platform available. Utilizing Whispersync, users can move from one device to the next, never losing their place, and always reading where it is most comfortable to them at the time. It’s an extraordinarily potent selling point for the mega-retailer.
The latest platform in Amazon’s sights is none other than the web browser. They have debuted a new feature called “Kindle for the Web,” which enables users to read the first chapter of a book in their web browser, without the time-consuming process of downloading it on their computer or Kindle-enabled device. One simply clicks on the “Read first chapter FREE” button on a corresponding book’s page, and the user is whisked away to a simple browser interface.
While the utility of such a feature is fairly obvious, Amazon is pushing it as a way for affiliates to help promote books. Participants in the Amazon Associates Program can actually embed these samples into their websites, earning referral fees when readers purchase them through their sites. More than a convenience for users, this new program appears to be a low-cost investment in self-promotion. For authors, it’s an easy way to give fans a snapshot of their new works, while also generating small chunks of additional revenue.
While the experience of reading a sample in one’s web browser is simple and tactile enough, the holes in the program as it exists are somewhat glaring. The beta officially launched on September 28, but to date, the number of books that actually offer use of the feature is extraordinarily small. Few, if any, of the books in the Kindle Bestsellers sported the feature. This makes one wonder how affiliates are going to make any money if there isn’t enough content to push.
What’s more, why is Kindle for the Web restricted to short samples anyway? Google Books has millions of books completely accessible online, indexed and searchable. When you compare that to the clumsier, feature-barren offering Amazon is serving up, it’s hard not to feel like they could have put in a better effort.
Of course, this is only a beta, and it’s less than two weeks old, so Amazon has to be given the benefit of the doubt. At least, for now.
Games on the Amazon Kindle were something of a foregone conclusion. First there was the software development kit they released to developers at the beginning of the year. Then there was the news that the Nook, Amazon’s biggest direct competition, would be offering games. This is the direction the eBook work has been moving in all year, so it was only a matter of time.
So it was really no surprise when Amazon quietly debuted what they have so far called “Kindle Active Content.” Purchased on the Amazon Store exactly like a book, these games show up right alongside your books in your main menu, just with a little “Active” sticker next to them. We ran the first three games released through the gauntlet, and here are our impressions.
Every Word from Amazon
The basic gist of Every Word is that you’re given a list of seven letters and tasked with coming up with as many words from those letters as you can within the two-minute time period. In order to progress from one round to the next, all you have to do is find one of the words that utilize all seven letters. The game lasts just ten rounds.
It’s essentially a Kindle-native version of the classic flash game Text Twist. While amusing for a little while, the easy nature of the game makes the lasting power of the game highly suspect. Since it’s a free offering, it’s hard to argue with the value, but it’s not going to hold your attention for very long.
Shuffled Row from Amazon
Shuffled Row is an interesting take on a Scrabble-type game. You have to see how many words you can make from the 60 letter tiles in the game. Letters appear one by one on your row, every few seconds or so. Once the row fills up with nine letters, the first letter in the row is put on a timer before it disappears to make room for a new one. Scoring is done by the difficulty of the letter, with words four letters or longer getting hefty bonuses.
The timer makes the game extremely tense, and there’s an element of risk and reward involved, since you can either make short words with the few letters on your row or wait until it fills up to try and go for a massive x7 bonus. This is a game that you can really play for a while.
SCRABBLE from EA Mobile
There are many imitators and derivatives, but there is only one SCRABBLE. The first game developed for the Kindle in Amazon’s partnership with EA, SCRABBLE is basically exactly what you’d expect. You have to place lettered tiles on the game board to try and string together the biggest point totals, utilizing those all important double and triple score spaces to maximize your output. It’s easy to get into and impossible to master.
While SCRABBLE represents the most robust game on the platform so far, it fails to deliver the bells and whistles one might expect for a $4.99 game. While you can play solo, against the AI, or do a pass and play with a friend, there’s no option to play over the web with another Kindle owner. This is what 3G is made for! Still, it’s a solid first effort, but only true SCRABBLE nuts need apply.