Amazon to Allow Library Lending of Kindle Books

The Sony E-Reader has had the capability to allow libraries to loan e-books to their customers for a while now. It seems Amazon wants in on this action and are now going to allow libraries to loan Kindle e-books:

SEATTLE, Apr 20, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — (NASDAQ: AMZN)– Amazon today announced Kindle Library Lending, a new feature launching later this year that will allow Kindle customers to borrow Kindle books from over 11,000 libraries in the United States. Kindle Library Lending will be available for all generations of Kindle devices and free Kindle reading apps.

What I really like about how Amazon is going about this is any highlights or annotations you make on a rented book will be saved:

Customers will be able to check out a Kindle book from their local library and start reading on any Kindle device or free Kindle app for Android, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone. If a Kindle book is checked out again or that book is purchased from Amazon, all of a customer’s annotations and bookmarks will be preserved.

I’d say that’s pretty important because it would be a huge pain in the ass to lose any notes made on a book because the loan expired.

Ad Supported Kindle

In their drive to make the Kindle cheaper Amazon is trying something new; an ad supported Kindle that will be sold at a $25.00 discount. The advertisements will be displayed on the users home screen and as screen savers but no advertisements will be displayed while you’re actually reading a book. This was a smart idea because displaying ads while somebody is reading would probably destroy the image of the product. If you get sick of the ads you can also pay Amazon an additional $25.00 to turn them off which was the smartest move they could make. At least that way you don’t have to worry about buyer’s remorse.

Overall this move was better than what I was expecting. The system I figured Amazon would create would involve periodically display ads between page turns. I though they would go with a system where every ‘x’ (x being an arbitrary number most likely higher than 10) page turns would display a full screen ad similar to magazines. Thankfully they didn’t go this route because it would be annoying to anybody who purchased the discounted device.

With all of this said $25.00 is not enough to make me put up with ads so I’ll continue to buy the more expensive model (with 3G because I like being able to download books anywhere). For those of you who don’t care though this may be a way to save $25.00.

Doom Played on E-Ink

Doom is the game that has been ported to everything on the planet and some things not on this planet. Well it seems there was no port of Doom on an E-Ink based device but thankfully that has changed. Yeah it plays kind of crappy but it’s still pretty cool considering how slow of refresh rates most E-Ink displays still have. Here’s a video of the game in action:


Full Motion Video on an E-Ink Display

It’s not secret that I love E-Ink displays. Comparing reading on my Kindle to reading on my iPad always comes to the same conclusion, the Kindle is far superior for reading. Not only do E-Ink displays cause less stress on the eyes but they also consume far less power. The downside of E-Ink displays is the lack of color and the slow refresh speeds. It appears as through Bookeen may have found a solution to the latter problem and have demonstrated full motion video running on an E-Ink display. Bookeen claims that the display running in this mode sucks no more power than an LCD screen… that isn’t back lit.

Before anybody bitches that it’s not in color I realize that (believe it or not I can see color). Color E-Ink displays are in the works already. If we can get E-Ink displays to the point where they look comparable to modern LCDs we could increase the battery life on our mobile devices by a good margin (the main power sucker on modern smart phones and laptops are the displays). Likewise we’d actually be able to use out device in direct sunlight. Honestly I’m all for replacing current LCD technology with E-Ink displays once the technology has fully matured.


I guess I didn’t mention this day of release but Barnes and Nobel have released the newest version of their Nook (Nook, nook, NOOK, I’m not sure what the fuck the proper capitalization is for this product) e-reader, the NOOKcolor (capitalized as it appears on their site).

It should be obvious why I didn’t get all excited and post this thing day of release, it’s a yawner. Basically it’s an Android tablet. Yup, that’s really it. It has absolutely no e-ink display instead opting for a single touchscreen LCD. So it’s an lighter, smaller, and cheaper iPad running Android (you can’t actually access any of the sweet Android goodness at this point from my understanding).

Frankly this thing is a huge let down. Although I assumed the NoOkCoLoR (now I’m just going to fuck with the name) would simply be an e-reader with an LCD screen I was secretly hoping it would jump ahead of the Kindle by using a color e-ink display. Apparently Barnes and Nobel decided to take the low road instead and just simply make a tablet which there are only about a million of coming out at the moment.

Impressive Sony E-Book Reader Update

With all the posts I do about Amazon’s Kindle (of which my new one should arrive today) and Barnes and Nobel’s Nook I often forget to even mention Sony’s lineup of e-book readers. This is mostly because Sony’s line has had a major drawback, it requires syncing with a desktop computer using their software that only works on Windows. The only time I run Windows is via a virtual machine. Some time ago Sony introduced the Reader Daily Edition that included 3G capabilities allowing you to untether from your desktop but by that time the Kindle already had a solid foot in the door.

Today Sony announced some impressive updates to their Reader lineup. Namely all three models now have touch screens, E Ink Pearl (the same screen used in the new Kindles), and the Daily Edition now supports Wi-Fi (because everybody else was doing it). But one major speed bump lies between Sony and relevance, price. The Reader Pocket Edition, their cheapest device, comes in at $179.00. At this price it includes no connectivity options except tethering it to a computer. For $189.00 you can get the Kindle with both 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity and for $199.00 you can get the Barnes and Nobel Nook with the same. The only Sony Reader with connectivity options (both Wi-Fi and 3G) is the Daily Edition which comes in at $299.00.

Of course Sony can point to their touch screen but that really doesn’t enhance the experience enough to justify the massive increase in price. E Ink displays are slow meaning you aren’t going to get instant feedback when you do something that requires the screen to change. Even with a touch screen you’re not going to be able to scroll down through a book on the Sony Reader as you can with your web browser on a smart phone. If you try to flick the page down the entire screen will take a noticeable fraction of a second to refresh. It’s not that big of a deal really but it means the addition of touch screen controls really isn’t going to add anything over the hard button controls the Kindle uses. The Nook has the second LCD touch screen that avoids the Sony Reader’s problem as LCD’s refresh faster than the human brain can notice making it appear instant.

Still the addition of a touch screen E Ink display is pretty cool and I have to had Sony some credit on that.

The Kindle Violates Civil Rights

I must write too much about the Kindle because every possible story involving my favorite little device gets e-mailed to me en masse. No I’m not complaining, let me thank those of you who e-mail this stuff because it’s always good. But this story boarders on stupid as shit.

Apparently in lieu of having real things to do the Justice Department threatened universities with lawsuits for taking part in the trials to see if Kindles would be a good replacement for text books. Their reasoning? Because the Kindle violates the civil rights of the blind.

It seemed like a promising idea until the universities got a letter from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, now under an aggressive new chief, Thomas Perez, telling them they were under investigation for possible violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

From its introduction in 2007, the Kindle has drawn criticism from the National Federation of the Blind and other activist groups. While the Kindle’s text-to-speech feature could read a book aloud, its menu functions required sight to operate. “If you could get a sighted person to fire up the device and start reading the book to you, that’s fine,” says Chris Danielsen, a spokesman for the federation. “But other than that, there was really no way to use it.”

Emphasis mine. Why do I emphasis that? Because the Kindle has a text-to-speech feature while real books fucking don’t! OK the menus are not text-to-speech but it could be added in trivially and honestly a blind person could memorize the series of clicks and movements to activate the features. Even though the feature isn’t perfect (or even close) it’s still far better than regular fucking books which the universities were looking to replace.

Instead of looking to lawsuits maybe those idiots should have contacted Amazon and offered to help improve the text-to-speech functionality. Oh and this makes sense:

The Civil Rights Division informed the schools they were under investigation. In subsequent talks, the Justice Department demanded the universities stop distributing the Kindle; if blind students couldn’t use the device, then nobody could. The Federation made the same demand in a separate lawsuit against Arizona State.

So if blind people can’t use books than nobody can? That should save students buckets of money right there! Maybe this is the Obama administration’s solution to lower the cost of education. As usual the government isn’t actually representing the people they claim to be:

It’s an approach that bothers some civil rights experts. “As a blind person, I would never want to be associated with any movement that punished sighted students, particularly for nothing they had ever done,” says Russell Redenbaugh, a California investor who lost his sight in a childhood accident and later served for 15 years on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. “It’s a gross injustice to disadvantage one group, and it’s bad policy that breeds resentment, not compassion.”

That’s right actual blind people don’t want this, the government pretending to represent them does. Oh and get this:

One obvious solution to the problem, of course, was to fix the Kindle. Early on, Amazon told federation officials it would apply text-to-speech technology to the Kindle’s menu and function keys. And sure enough, last week the company announced a new generation of Kindles that are fully accessible to the blind. While the Justice Department was making demands, and Perez was making speeches, the market was working.

Wow who would have thought that would happen? Anybody? It’s good to see all of your hands are up. You don’t need to pull out a lawsuit when the company is more than happen to correct the problem for its potential customers.

One of the major advantages to e-book readers over regular books is they can be made accessible to people with disabilities. You can never made a real book read to you but you can make an electronic device read text to you.

New Kindle Up for Pre-Order

Speaking of competition for Barnes and Nobel Amazon has their new Kindle up for pre-order. The new models share the same improvements of their recently released DX cousin. The new Kindle has the options of either black or white and either Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi with 3G. They screen supposedly has a 50% higher contrast ration and the internal storage has been bumped up to 4GB.

Yes I pre-ordered one; black with 3G. I’m a fan boy of this device and I realize that. But I’ll certainly have a review of it once I have it in my hands for a couple of weeks.

New Kindle Released

Yes I’m a Kindle fan boy and no I don’t care if you’re sick of hearing about them. Amazon annouced a new version of their gigantic uber-Kindle, the Kindle DX. The new Kindle DX sports a new color (graphite), a screen that is advertised to have a 50% higher contrast ratio, and a new lower price coming in at $379 (which is high in my opinion).

I have to say going by the pictures I like the new graphite color. It’s muted enough to not be a distraction when reading (as shiny black would be) but also different from the previous white. I would very much like to check out the screen and see how much of a difference the higher contrast ratio makes.

Anyways it ships on July 7.