Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Alex, Kindle: e-reader web browsers. Apple 'pad' name-grab

E-readers and web-browsing capabilities

The long-awaited Alex is shipping today.  This e-reader has a lot of great features, including web-video in that small window below.  From what I remember, text accessed via the web browser can be transferred to the e-ink screen above to read on the e-ink screen.  I don't know if that will be done with still photos or illustrations; ads haven't shown any.  (The lawsuit Alex makers filed against Barnes and Noble re its somewhat look-alike Nook is still active.)

WiFi Only, No Cellular Wireless
Unfortunately, the Alex, in this iteration, will not have the feature of cellular wireless almost anywhere you happen to be (the way that the Kindle, Nook, and Sony do) for instant downloads of books wherever you are.

Any web-browsing would be done only when you're using a WiFi network -- usually at a home or office network or at (hopefully free) hot spots you find.  Unlike the Nook and Sony, the Alex would let you web to any website, and unlike any of the others it could show video in the 3.5" touchscreen LCD screen even if only with a WiFi network for now.

It's Android-based, so it offers a lot of flexibility for development, with cooperation from the makers and wireless providers (insofar as cellular wireless costs of apps would need to be calculated and paid by the maker or the customer, if the cellular capability which lies dormant in the Alex is offered later).  The Alex will be using the Borders book store and what they call the Alex Market of bookstores with downloads available.

Erroneous information on the Kindle in the review of the Alex
While reading about the Alex at GoodEReader (which has an excellent summary today of Apple's Steve Jobs's attempt to own the word "Pad" !), I saw this odd paragraph, which unfortunately is what many who don't use the Kindle (or who don't use its added features) tend to think, pegging the Kindle as a one-note device):

"The future should bode well for the Alex in the short term due to its Internet Web Browser built into it, something the Kindle and the Nook do not have the ability to do.  Although to be fair, Spring Designs web browser has driven Amazon to make its own internet browser as a firmware update for all Amazon Kindles within the next 6 months, and they have also opened up a SDK for developers to make applications."

Here is what I wrote in response to that clearly erroneous paragraph:
' The Amazon Kindle has had a web browser on it since 2007, and while it has always been slow, it has gotten considerably faster recently.

Moreover, it's cellular wireless and can be used on the streets - no WiFi network or hotspot needed.

And there is no cost for the ongoing access to this web-data. This weekend I found that a movie I wanted to see was no longer there and I needed to find a good movie elsewhere at the right time and not too far from the favorite restaurant with reservations already made.  Found a good movie in a nearby city, googling via my Kindle while in the (stopped) car.

Then when we got there I had time to use the Kindle in the theater, on a bench there, to find the phone number for the restaurant, so I could change the reservations.

The web-browser for Kindle is mainly due for improvements.  It's been an unusual feature of the Kindle from the start.  Internationally, all Kindle owners with wireless in their cities can access Wikipedia for free from their books. '

Coincidentally, I began this blog March 19, 2009 with an article comparing, using photos, the first Kindle (Kindle 1, 2007) with the Kindle 2 that was released in February 2009.   You can click on the Kindle image above-left, and here, to see that photo-comparison article.

There are also photos of the Kindle DX using the web-browsing feature.

  Both Kindles do the web with no website limitations except the extreme slowness of the first Kindle's web access.  As mentioned, the web access, especially for mobile-optimized sites, is considerably faster in the last couple of months.  Last weekend, both searches came up with results and stories right away, but the first page will always load more slowly as the Kindle pre-loads all the pages involved before showing the first page.  The rest of the pages then come in pretty quickly.

  You can begin a google search from the Home listing page by just starting to type the word(s) you want to google.  In my case, last weekend,
    "date night" theater berkeley
and then use the 5-way button to go to the right until you see the word "google" and then click on it.
There are other options in addition to 'Google' in the choices given.

For tips on getting best web-browsing speed (or dropping colors for better contrast in b&w), see Working with the Kindle web browser and also my blog article on Accessing Mobile-device-optimized Websites.
  In the latter article there's a free, downloadable file that acts as a book, with links to many mobile-device optimized sites, including good sets of them, with the full NY Times available in text format under News in one or more of the sets.

See the ongoing Guide to finding Free or Low-Cost Kindle books and Sources
  Check often: Latest Free Nonclassics and Late Listed Free Nonclassics pages
  Also, a page of links that confine searches to mid-range priced e-books for those looking for a larger selection of non-classics below $7. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

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  1. The Alex looks like a great e-reader. I hope the next generation Kindle gets some significant feature upgrades. I love to copy articles from online, paste them in a text document, then transfer them to my Kindle. Being able to print directly to the e-ink screen from the browser below would be a big advantage. However, I am not ready to leave the Kindle for the Alex. I still think Amazon has it beat with customer service, content, and sharing with other Kindles registered to the same account.

    I love reading your blog, but I don't comment much because I always read it from my Kindle!

  2. Courtney, thanks for both subscribing and visiting the webpage and taking time to give feedback. I remember when you wrote about your family's use of the Kindle.

    Yes, I think that at $400 w/o cellular wireless, the Alex is at a disadvantage right now but they have a great idea there.

    I agree it'd be nice to be able to highlight or save an article I'm reading on the Kindle web browser.

    I just followed, on the Kindle, a link from this article to the article on Apple not allowing apps developers to use, anymore, the word 'pad' in their titles. "JournalPad" is one of them - they now have to change the name of it.

    Clicking on the link, I was able to read the article fine. But using wireless to read news on the web can be quite a drain on the battery. If anyone wants to follow a link while keeping their battery charge high, they can read with the charger plugged in though.

    When I'm in a hurry, I 'disable images' in settings but it's nice to see them.

    I think we'll be seeing updates to the current Kindle before long. They said they'd come before summer, and that includes organizational features.

    Nextgen Kindle is likely to hit in October, from what I've seen. If they can do a model with color and video (using Mirasol technology), that'll be interesting.

    Thanks again.

  3. The Alex is definitely priced high, considering there is no 3G service. I don't like the idea of being tethered to WiFi. The FREE 3G service, albeit slow, is a major selling point for the Kindle. I have used it multiple times when out and need information quickly.

    I am looking forward to the organizational upgrades, especially. That seems to have been a major oversight in the development phase.

    I plan on buying the Nextgen Kindle when it comes out. Reading is my passion and I don't think money spent for it can ever be wasted. I didn't, however, rush out for the Ipad. It is pretty, but as an e-reader, it just fails for me. I often read outside and the e-ink is great for that. The weight of the e-reader is also a huge factor for my arthritic hands.

    Mirasol would be greatness!

  4. I hope Amazon keeps the Kindle centered around reading ebooks and does not make it a video player. It could end up being a jack of all trades and master of none.

    For video there is the iPad, for books the kindle with the e-ink :-)

  5. Courtney,
    I think probably 90% of Kindle users are not aware of (or care to learn how to use) the Kindle's "experimental" web browser. The Kindle 1's was so bad that it stopped rendering pages when half-way through sometimes but I'm finding the current Kindle's much faster and, like you, I use it outside the house often.

    As someone who doesn't have a data plan for my phone because I can't justify the expense, the Kindle is what I use for look-ups and it more than does the trick. .

    Since the Mirsaol technology (is said to be like e-ink but with color and speed, that would be okay by me, as long as there's enough contrast with text and background. I think they'd still offer the e-Ink for those who don't want the color or video capability.

    E-Ink itself should be capable of color by the end of his year but it's doubtful it'd be particularly speedy. But by the end of the year we'll know.


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