SiliconFilter

Kindle for iPad Gets Updated Digital Magazine Experience, Support for Print Replica Textbooks

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Amazon today launched a major update to its iOS Kindle apps. While the iPhone and iPod touch apps gets some interesting new features, though, the most important updates are for iPad owners. iPad owners now get access to an updated magazine experience that is also available on Amazon's own Kindle Fire tablet. In total, Amazon offers 400 of these magazines and newspapers, including Martha Stewart Living, Food Network Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health and Popular Science. Most of these magazines also come with a free 14-day trial.

Kindle magazines ipad

Print Replica Textbooks

The iPad app is now also able to display "print replica textbooks." These feature the rich formatting and layout of their print editions and offer support for notes, highlights, zoom and pan, as well as a linked table of contents. For Amazon, this is a significant move, as it tries to get a stronger foothold in the lucrative textbook market – an area where the basic Kindle was supposed to shine but was never able to make a significant impact.

All iOS Devices: Send-to-Kindle

While these features aren't available on the smaller iOS devices, all of the current iOS Kindle apps (iPad, iPhone, iPod touch) now offer support for Amazon's Send-to-Kindle service and the ability to open PDFs from Mail or Safari by transferring them from iTunes or by sending them to a Send-to-Kindle email address.

 



4:12 pm


Catching Up: This Weekend’s Must-Read Tech Stories

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Weekends tend to be rather slow when it comes to tech news, but thanks to the launch of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, even those sites that usually don’t cover Apple news in detail kept pumping out stories as more and more details from the book leaked before today’s release date. The book, in its various e-Book and hardcover editions currently dominates Amazon’s sales charts, just as it dominated the tech news over the weekend. Having read about a quarter through the book by now, I have to say that it’s definitely worth a read – not just for the insights into Jobs’ life and thoughts, but also because it’s a fascinating history of Silicon Valley and the players that made it what it is today.

Today’s list then mostly focuses on Jobs, but we also found a number of other interesting stories that aren’t directly related to Apple.

To read these stories (which we curate with the help of Pearltress), just click on any if the headlines in the embed below. An overlay will then pop up and allow you to read the story and easily navigate to all the other ones as well.

Catching Up (Weekend 10/22) in Best / Frederic Lardinois (fredericl)



3:44 pm


Kindle Fire: A Minor Threat to the iPad, Major Threat to Other Android Tablets

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Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet runs Android, has a nice screen, is fast, cheap ($199), features an innovative browser, and – thanks to being an Android tablet at heart – offers support for thousands of apps out of the box. I doubt, however, that it’s a major threat to the iPad. The tablet manufacturers that should be very worried however, are those who are also in the Android business, including Barnes & Noble with its $249 Nook Color. The reason for this, I think, is Amazon’s superior ecosystem and the low, low price.

Before the Kindle Fire, There Was No Android Tablet Market

My basic theory of the tablet market until now was always that there really wasn’t one – there was only an iPad market (I must have picked this idea up from someone, but I can’t for the life of me remember where I first heard it). The Android tablets on the market today are about as expensive as Apple’s iPad, but consumers just don’t want them at that price point. In terms of hardware, they are often comparable with the iPad, though the software still lags behind in some areas.

When you talk about tablets to mainstream users, though, all they think about is the iPad. That may be due to Apple’s brand and smart marketing, or the failure of the other manufacturers to position and price their devices in the right way. The result so far has been very clear, though: Apple can barely keep up with demand and the others couldn’t find buyers.

The Kindle Fire: Let The Android Tablet Price Wars Begin

At $199, however, the Kindle Fire could change this. I doubt it will hurt the iPad (though it may siphon off some users), but it will hurt the other Android tablet manufacturers.

The Fire is a pared-down tablet – no doubt about it. It’s small, doesn’t feature a camera, and there is no optional 3G connection either. It’s a perfectly capable tablet, though, and does the things most users want to do on their tablets: surf the web (with the fast new Silk browser, that shouldn’t be a problem), read books, read magazines and watch movies and TV shows. All of this, Amazon is giving users for a price nobody else can currently match. There may not be a camera on the Fire, but I don’t think that’s a dealbreaker for many potential buyers. It does what most consumers want to do with their tablet and at $199, I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon ended up with supply issues ahead of this year’s holiday season.

What About the Nook?

As a 7” tablet from a company known mostly for selling books, the Kindle Fire also obviously competes directly with the $249 Nook Color from Barnes & Noble. The price difference here may only be $50, but I doubt B&N will sell a lot of Nooks (even if they reduce the price to $199, too) given that Amazon’s ecosystem is vastly superior to B&N’s.

Will Users Want a Basic 7” Tablet?

The tablet market outside of the iPad world is still young. It still remains to be seen whether consumers will really take to smaller tablets. I have no doubt, though, that many will look at the full-price competition from Samsung, Acer and others and buy the $199 Amazon tablet instead (and maybe a basic $79 Kindle as a stocking stuffer as well).



4:58 pm


Amazon Announces $199 Kindle Fire Tablet, $149 Kindle touch 3G, $99 Kindle touch and $79 Kindle

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Amazon today unveiled its long-rumored tablet: the Kindle Fire. Based on Android, but with a custom-designed user interface, the Kindle tablet will cost $199 and go on sale on November 15. It’s available for pre-order now. The company’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos also announced a new version of the Kindle eReader: the Kindle Touch. This device uses the same E-Ink display as the regular Kindle, but uses some basic multi-touch capabilities instead of the regular Kindle’s keyboard and buttons.  Pricing for the Kindle touch will start at $99 with support for Amazon’s Special Offers. If you don’t want to see Amazon’s ads on the device, you will have to pay $139. The version with support for 3G will set you back $149 with Special Offers and $189 without. Finally, Amazon is also launching a very basic Kindle model without touch or keyboard for $79 with special offers and $109 without.

As far as we can see, the current Kindle models with keyboard will remain on the market for the time being.

Kindle Fire

kindle_fireAmazon’s tablet doesn’t quite rival the iPad in terms of basic features. There is no 3G, no camera and no microphone, for example. It does, however, come with a 7” multi-touch capable 1024×600 glass display, a dual-core processor and 8GB of built-in storage.

Amazon promises about  8 hours of battery life of continuous reading or 7.5 hours of video playback (assuming the wireless is off). It should take about 4 hours to fully charge the device.

Amazon, of course, is also using its current library of books, magazines and videos to market the device. The Kindle Fire will have easy access to all of Amazon’s products. The company is also expecting to see special interactive editions of numerous magazines (including Vanity Fair, Wired, and GQ) for the Kindle Fire.

As far as standard Android apps go, the Kindle Fire will support Amazon’s own Android App Store, which currently has about 10,000 apps in it.

As far as the specs go, the Kindle Fire is comparable to the Nook Color in most respects (the screen size, weight and battery life are virtually identical, though the Nook only has a single-core processor). The $199 price point sets it apart from its competition, though. The Nook Color costs $249.

Browsing with Amazon Silk

silk_browserOne surprising feature of the Kindle Fire is the new built-in Silk browser. With Silk, Amazon is rethinking how a browser should work in the age of cloud computing (though one could argue that Opera Turbo already pioneered some of its technologies). Silk uses Amazon’s EC2 cloud computing network to offload a lot of the computing necessary to render a page. Amazon will also pre-load pages it feels sure you will visit next. The browser also keeps a persistent connection to the EC2 network open so that it can respond to new requests faster.

The New Kindle Lineup:

(click on image to see a larger version)

new_kindle_lineup



3:45 pm


Amazon Launches HTML5-Based Kindle Cloud Reader to Sidestep Apple’s Rules

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Amazon launched Cloud Reader today, a browser-based eReading application that allows it to work around Apple’s rules for in-app purchases and subscriptions.

Apple has set strict rules for how vendors can use its platform to enable in-app sales and subscriptions. To work around these rules, Amazon and many other e-book vendors recently removed links to their websites from their native iOS apps, allowing them to skirt some of Apple’s rules and avoid paying extra fees to Apple. This, however, also degrades the user experience significantly. Thanks to Apple’s rules, though, we are now also seeing even more development efforts around HTML5-based web apps for offline reading of books, newspapers and magazines. As these apps run in the browsers, they don’t have to follow Apple’s rules and don’t have to go through the App Store approval process.

The Financial Times, for example, decided not to give Apple 30% of the money it makes from in-app subscriptions and launched an HTML5 app instead. Today, Amazon joined the fray by launching Cloud Reader, a web-based e-book reader that can also be used offline thanks to HTML5’s built-in caching mechanism. Cloud Reader works in Safari and Chrome, but not in Firefox. It looks especially good on the iPad, but doesn’t work on the iPhone (yet).

cloud_reader_large

HTML5 vs. Native Apps

Cloud Reader is, without doubt, one of the finest examples of how a well-designed HTML5 app can easily compete with a native app. The fact that the focus here is on text, of course, helps, as an e-reader doesn’t need fancy animations to work well. The app does, however, feature some nice animations here and there and, most importantly, offers deep integration with Amazon’s Kindle store, something that is still missing from the company’s native apps.

Among the few things that don’t work in the web app are swipe gestures (to skip pages, you can only click on the edge of the screen), but otherwise, every feature you would expect from a Kindle app is here. Once you add a bookmark to the app to your iPad homescreen, you wouldn’t even know that you’re not using a native app if it wasn’t for the slower response time when you skip pages.

Right Now, Mostly Developed for iPad – Coming to Other Devices Soon

In the long run, Amazon will likely bring Cloud Reader to other platforms as well. Right now, it seems specifically targeted at iPad users, but the beauty of a web app is that it could allow developers to bring the same service to virtually every web-capable device.

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3:28 pm


Apple's Rejection of Sony Reader App Sows Confusion

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To buy a Kindle or Nook eBook for your iOS device, you can’t use an in-app bookstore. Instead, you have to go to Amazon’s website to buy your book. The same holds true for virtually every other iOS e-book reader. Yesterday, however, Apple rejected Sony’s e-reader app for the iPhone, arguing that apps that offer users to buy content outside of the app also have to make their virtual goods available through in-app purchases (read: purchases that allow Apple to take its 30% cut).

Kindle for iPad

This is a very odd development – though, as Harry McCracken and John Paczkowski note – for the most part, it’s fully within the realm of Apple’s existing developer guidelines. Apple, however, never enforced these rules. Here is the statement Paczkowski received from Apple:

We have not changed our developer terms or guidelines. We are now requiring that if an app offers customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app, that the same option is also available to customers from within the app with in-app purchase.

The actual rules, however, say nothing about the need to offer the same content for in-app purchases that’s available outside the app.

11.2 Apps utilizing a system other than the In App Purchase API (IAP) to purchase content, functionality, or services in an app will be rejected

11.3 Apps using IAP to purchase physical goods or goods and services used outside of the application will be rejected

Based on this, it would also be hard for companies like Amazon, Google and B&N to let you buy books inside an app and then read the book on your Kindle, too. Assuming Apple follows through with the rules it outlined in its statement, we can expect some major changes in the way e-book vendors go about their business on the iOS platform. Also, giving Apple a 30% cut of all their e-book sales could potentially drive quite a few vendors away from the iOS platform as it would be almost impossible to make money from their books after Apple gets its cut.

This could have consequences for Apple itself as well, though. As Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey told the L.A. Times, he “wouldn’t be surprised if phones were ringing at the FTC today about this.”

As of now, all of the current eBook apps are still available in the app store and none of the other vendors have received any notice from Apple about a change in its policies yet. It could just be that Apple didn’t do a good job at communicating the reasons why it rejected Sony’s app and the reasons for rejecting the app aren’t quite as drastic as it currently looks. It could also be, however, that Apple has simply gotten greedy and want to drive its users to the iBookstore instead of its competitors…



3:55 pm