Saturday, April 21, 2012

Unsung Kindle Touch Software Update v5.1.0 improvements

As reported yesterday, the Kindle Touch 3G/WiFi e-Ink model is now shipping internationally, to over 175 countries.

This blog article will highlight some software enhancements not listed in the official announcement earlier.  At the bottom, I'll repeat the official list of enhancements.

Current Kindle Touch 3G/WiFi Models:
  US:  For U.S. residents;   UK:  For UK customers
  OTHER:  For Other International Shipping

Most of the unmentioned enhancements or Finds were made by avid explorer and commenter Tom Semple, whose full individual comments on all this can be found at the original software announcement article of April 11-14.  I'll try to put the additional items in listed order but it's best to read his explanations of what he's found.  There are also features found by members of the Mobileread Forum.  And I've added a couple of items I noticed as well, although as of TODAY, 4/21, Amazon still had not updated me, so I downloaded the update today, as I now have some time to experiment, and tried a few things out.
  • We can now highlight ACROSS pages (something the older Kindles did and which had been much requested for the Touch)
  • As mentioned by a few others, the screen background SEEMS lighter, and in the dark room in which I'm sitting right now, it looks more whitish than grayish though mine has always been pretty light relative to the older models.
      As a result the Regular font is strikingly clear and I don't have to choose Sans Serif (although I like it) to get consistently stand-out clarity in the fonts.
  • Now we can 'filter' the display of the home screen or Archived Items folder to show only one category (Books, Periodicals, Docs, Audible, or Active Content [apps]) or ALL categories.  We had this with older Kindles so it's good to see that again.  Tom, and most of us, would like a filter for Samples, but I put those into a Collection named 'Samples' as a work around.
  • The highlighting feature brings back to users of former Kindles the ability to search the highlighted word at Wikipedia (and via free 3G if you have the 3G version of the Kindle Touch and you're in a no-WiFi area) and furthermore something else we hoped for -- the ability to "Report Content Error."
      It also allows you to share passages at Facebook and Twitter, as the Keyboard models do.
  • Search seems to work more reliably and faster now, and the reason 'Go' has to be clicked is that SUBstrings can be searched successfully now (not true in the past).  I wouldn't want it to start searching until I felt I was through typing the search-string I want.  In the past we had to navigate to the right, several steps, to choose searching of a book, or All Items on the device, at Wikipedia, etc.
  • I agree with Tom that browser scrolling is smoother and scrolls a larger portion.
  • Menu option responses seem quite a bit faster for me now.
  • Re "Archived Items" folder: In reply to one statement, I can still get to it via Title-sorting.  The Menu access is an alternate method and has been there before.  The Search feature at top does help, in addition to "1 of __" at the top right letting you tap that to choose go to a Page number or "Titles starting with" -- which has been a nice, almost hidden feature on its own.
  • Tom also discovered they added "NCX navigation" features (though I thought I used "Next Chapter" swiping before the update.  The KTouch recognizes By-Chapter movement, via swiping up for the 'next' chapter (if the publisher activated this feature) and down for the 'previous' chapter, but Tom also explains that NCX-activated Kindle books now show "a (hierarchical) list of the navpoint labels corresponding to beginning of chapters/sections, showing current location in the book (label in bold) and associated page numbers (with books that have real page nmbers)."   As a result, "...showing the current position helps establish context.   When page numbers are present, it also gives you information about how long each section is."  This has helped extinguish Tom's "ePub envy" :-), he said.
  • Harry, in the UK, wrote at Mobileread Forums,
    "The 'biggie' for me personally is that my US-bought KT can now access the Amazon UK Kindle Store [he's in the UK], which it previously couldn't.  Definitely a worthwhile upgrade."
  • veezh at Mobile Read also mentioned that he was happy to see that when he switched the device language to UK English, the 24-hour clock was activated.
  • cscat at Mobile REad likes the fact that
    1. you can get to next page even when zoomed into a PDF, by panning to the right
    2. and when you press the Shift key twice, the capital letters stay (this is normally true but maybe not for Ktouch earlier).
  • Tom Semple mentions at that forum that the tap zones for single-character footnote links seem larger now and are therefore very easy to activate, even at the smallest text sizes.
  • Tom also points out that "appropriately formatted footnotes" (the publisher does the formatting) include a "RETURN" link that will take you back to the original reference, which is more convenient than using the invisible "Back" button that you have to activate with a tap to even see.  Only one tap is needed then.
  • tanteoma loves the landscape mode and being able to jump to different chapters with the simple "go to" function.
  • thomass points out that we can now long-press and archive personal documents such as instapaper deliveries, as this wasn't possible before the update.  Semi-commercial mass-deliveries of personal doc news-collections are a tender subject though.
  • mewmartigan found that the new homescreen display shows the ENTIRE title rather than ellipses for an omitted segment.  That's a relief for a series, especially.
ALSO re the Landscape feature we've wanted added to this panel-zoned touch device, rvdparis at Mobileread Forums said,
 "And the landscape function worked magic on a badly scanned OCR book I have in PDF format, I kept tapping to turn the page, and it automatically jumped down the page (in 3 parts, for me) and turned to the next page. The print is now MUCH easier to read. Love it."

Even better maybe, thomass at Mobileread posted a gorgeous sampling of screenshots he got with KF8 samples from a link given there.  This is encouraging for the reading of technical books on the small Kindle.

UNWANTED "feature" though and a caveat -- When I updated, I again lost an attached dictionary, and the Kindle couldn't find the two copies of New Oxford American Dictionary that are on it and kept telling me that it would look at Archived Items for one.
   No go, so I moved a current dictionary (unnoticed-by-the-Kindle) into Archived Items folder and then it suddenly saw a lot of dictionary candidates and I was able to attach the New Oxford American again, although it selected WordNet for rme at first and that was just one I happened to download at one time.

Tom did also point out that the Glowlight Nook "still has no landscape, no web browser, no wireless library borrowing, no personal document service."
   Not including some new features noted above, a Features Comparison, written before the v5.1.0 Kindle Touch update, detailed the Nook Touch advantages and also quite a lack of some very useful features.  It all depends on what's important to the buyer.

FOR REFERENCE - the Officially announced changes (vs the unmentioned ones above) From the Amazon update page New features in this update include:
  • Language Support: Customize your Kindle Touch with the language you prefer: English (US and UK), German, French, Spanish, Italian, or Brazilian Portuguese.
  • Landscape Mode: Switch between portrait and landscape orientation in books and PDFs to read maps, graphs, and tables more easily.
  • Instant Translations: Tap any word or highlight a section to instantly translate into other languages, including Spanish, Japanese, and more. Translations by Bing Translator.
  • Kindle Format 8: Formatting and layout improvements make Kindle books look even better.
  • Wi-Fi Enhancements: Connect your Kindle Touch to Wi-Fi with WPS and select WPA2 Enterprise networks.
  • Read-to-Me With Text-to-Speech: Have your Kindle Touch read English-language content out loud to you, now including summaries of newspaper and magazine articles when available from the publisher.
  • More Sharing Options: Tell others what you're reading on Facebook or Twitter from anywhere within a book — just tap to share a link along with your comments.
  • Onscreen Keyboard Suggestions: Search and shop faster with automatic word suggestions as you type.

Kindle Fire  7" tablet - $199
Kindle NoTouch ("Kindle") - $79/$109
Kindle Touch, WiFi
- $99/$139
Kindle Touch, 3G/WiFi - $149/$189
Kindle Keybd 3G - $189, Free, slow web
Kindle DX - $379, Free, slow web
Kindle Basic, NoTouch - £89
Kindle Touch WiFi, UK - £109
Kindle Touch 3G/WiFi, UK - £169
Kindle Keyboard 3G, UK - £149
  Keybd: w/ Free, slow 3G WEB
OTHER International
Kindle NoTouch Basic - $109
Kindle Touch WiFi - $139
Kindle Touch 3G/WiFi - $189
Kindle Keybd 3G - $189
  Keybd: w/ Free, slow 3G WEB

Check often:
Temporarily-free recently published Kindle books  
Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.  Liked-books under $1
UK-Only: recently published free books, bestsellers, or £5 Max ones   
  Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.  

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  1. whoa! "across" pages is huge. I assume you just drag to the bottom/side border and it'll change pages?

    1. Ted - Yes, it'll save a lot of time, wear & tear. You highlight to the end of th epage and pause a second and it moves you to the next page and keeps highlighting. I usually go back a bit as it's very fast.

  2. Andrys-- do you know if Amazon is planning any changes to the screen for the Touch read-aloud feature? I used to love using that for proofing manuscripts but the menu now covers the bottom of the "page" and you cannot see several lines of text. I need to hear the text AND see it at the same time. The same is true for my daughter-in-law, who is dyslexic and finds the read aloud feature very useful in overcoming the tendency to transpose words and letters. I like having the menu always on screen but it would be much more useful if they shortened the page to match.

    1. Karen,
      No, have heard nothing about this from anyone even in the normal community forum areas, surprisingly.

      Be sure to write to and ask for follow up on it. I'd also mention it on the forums to see if there are threads on it already that have been missed or to let others know if it interferes with the lear ning aspect which has been touted by many with TTS in the past.

      Kindle Community forums

    2. Karen,
      Hopefully I'm not misunderstanding you. Here is how I use Text-to-Speech. I choose Menu/Turn On Text-to-Speech. This immediately starts Text-to-Speech, and shows the dialog at the bottom. To get rid of the dialog, just touch in the middle of the screen. It will disappear, but text-to-speech will continue. It will turn pages for you fine and keeps the dialog hidden. To get the dialog back, just touch in the middle of the screen, and the dialog will pop back up. You can easily pause/change volume as needed when you pop the dialog back up.

    3. jtt - Thanks very much for what seems the needed and, as it turns out, easy fix for Karen's dilemma. I've not tried it but it sounds great.

  3. They also fixed an annoying bug. If you had a personal document archived and you had that same document on your Touxh, you could not delete it off the Touch. Pressing the document would yield nothing. The only way to remove the document from the Touch was to remove it from the archive first.

    This has been fixed and you can now simply press on the doc to view the menu that allows you to remove it from the Touch.

    1. Betty, thanks for the feedback on this. I remember it being a problem, especially with the news collections.

      I think I saw language to 'move' a document to Archived Items rather than remove it from a device.

      I admit that I don't understand how a personal doc can be archived (meaning it's not on the device) and yet be on the Kindle Touch at the same time. Must have been a really bad bug.

  4. Thank you for taking the time to put together the list of improvements. There were many I didn't catch and made me very happy.

    1. Corneliu, thanks very much. I felt the same way as you did when reading what I found out so am glad I could pass them on in a batch. Thanks for taking the time to let me know it helped :-)

  5. I'm seeing a pretty bad problem with a specific book that's 'now' in KF8 format. It started out in mobi format and I seemed to have some sync issues with Fire, so I downloaded it again to get the KF8 version. The default text size is several sizes smaller than it should be, I have to bump it up to size 5 or 6 to get sizes comparable to what 2 and 3 normally are (on Kindle Fire it looks fine). Not sure what the origin of the problem is, but it is hard to blame the publisher since they uploaded the book prior to 5.1 update and there would have been no way to detect this problem with Kindle Previewer or Kindle Fire. Maybe the kindlegen version they used for publishing had bugs, or they have set a specific size for default text, which is not a good practice, or KT implementation of KF8 has a bug. In any case, hope this proves the exception rather than the rule for KF8. But fortunately now we have 'Report content error', which may help close the communication loop when problems like this crop up (which is probably inevitable).

    1. Tom, yes, the 'Report content error' is useful that way though I'm not sure they mean layout but that should be covered too if it's practically unreadable. It was probably overlooked so they should be told about it.

      I noticed that a Mobi Reference book, I think it was, had Sans Serif selected as font while the Regular and Condensed were both grayed out. Not a Topaz book but one where a non-embedded font had been pre-selected and the only clickable option. Unusual, I thought.

      Be sure to let know and I'd also call Kindle Customer support at 866-321-8851 to register or log feedback on the book. They will give refunds if layout is unreadable or badly lacking in basic linking to chapters when it's needed, as in a reference book, and I've reported publishing probs that way. Rarely, I've returned a book (before reading it) for a refund, and sometimes I have reason to keep it despite its problems but I want them to know about them and to fix them later. Amazon Kindle Support takes note of the complaints and passes them on to the publisher, they say.


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