Sunday, March 27, 2011

NPR: on e-reader value vs full tablets, plus added information

NPR's Jon Kalish has an article on using the tablet-like features on e-readers, titled "Cheaper than a Tablet: Rooting" your E-Reader," something that can be done with the NookColor to remove its mild Clark Kent eyeglasses and strip it down to the full-flying Android operating system capability, for a decent price.

 Google's Android OS, coming on strong against the Apple operating system (iOS) allows use of the Android Marketplace without the restrictions of the curated Apple app store, giving access to all Android apps, but  recently to some carrying malware, as they are not checked, and to apps that can cause crashes.
  For many, the risk is worth the freedom to choose.  An Android device should be able (if the software is robust)  to run ebook-apps from all the online bookstores that make them for the Android system.  The Kindle for Android app is one.

Android tablets have several features that the Apple iPad2 doesn't have, including a decent still-picture camera (not that I'd care about that), a USB port, SD slot, the ability to run Flash used on websites (some block them anyway), and real multi-tasking.
  Also people should note that the lowest-level $500 iPad2 is only 16G for storage, and if you use it for storing video you'd run out pretty quickly. So, the equivalent 32G-storage price is $600.  And that's before adding $130 for the 3G model of the iPad and $30 for the connection kit (camera and USB) + monthly data charges.

  With Apple's iPad2, background apps are suspended when the 'front' app is running, but Android devices can do true multi-tasking, with programs actually running in the background doing things while you work with the main one.

The article's words on the Kindle
  Despite the title of the article, the first few paragraphs are about the Kindle:
' In fact, San Francisco hacker Mitch Altman doesn't read e-books on his Kindle at all.  He only uses its Web browser to access maps and restaurant listings when he's traveling.

The Amazon Kindle-3 3G (UK: K3has 3G data connectivity so that readers can download e-books anywhere there is cell phone service  [by AT&T and its partners in 100+ other countries)]

 As many Kindle owners know, the device can connect to Google and Wikipedia to look up things mentioned in e-books, too.  That connectivity is all the opportunity hackers need to turn an e-book reader into a tablet. [AB comment: : Note that this is NOT doable with the Kindle]

Cheap And Portable Internet
"This is something that is starting to get around in geek and hacker circles, and it's a relatively cheap way to have Internet anywhere you go," Altman says.

When Altman says it's cheap, he's referring to the fact that the 3G Kindle costs a mere $190 and there is no charge for the 3G Internet.  Of course, there's a trade-off here: the Kindle doesn't have a touch screen, so you have to use scrolling buttons to navigate around the screen, which Altman has found cumbersome. But for $60 more, he could've gotten the Nook Color. '
3G vs WiFi
  Kalish does mention that, for that added $60, the NookColor does NOT have 3G access to the Net, which makes  access possible as you're walking down the street.  The NookColor uses only WiFi  for accessing the Net.
   I don't know about others' experience, but wherever I go now, all nearby WiFi networks are "secured," as security setups are now automated by routers today.  You'd need the password or passkey unless you find free WiFi.  Since that can be done at Starbucks or McDonald's, some will find it but they're not places I tend to visit.

 3G cellular access is almost always possible just about anywhere you happen to be.  But on an e-Ink screen, it's slow and requires patience.  I use mine mainly for look-ups while out and for reading feeds of text from various news sites.  I also use it to look up reviews of a product I'm undecided on when out and encountering an enticing sale.  The reviews usually let me know just why they're on sale.

 The definite slowness of e-Ink 3G web access on the Kindle does not encourage anything resembling web-surfing, but it's great for looking up (for no added cost)  info when you don't already have a smart phone with paid 3G data access.

From xkcd - Their home page

Ability to buy e-books when outside the U.S.
  Note that B&N's Nook books can be purchased only in the U.S. (and probably Canada now), and U.S./Canadian buyers cannot buy a Nook book when they are traveling outside the U.S.
  There's no such restriction on Kindle owners travelling abroad.

  The Kindle 3 not only has 3G use for downloading Kindle books, in 100+ countries, it also has free 3G web browsing in about 60 countries, usable by US customers when traveling.

  Also, most of the other 40+ countries that have 3G book downloads but which don't get free 3G web-lookups DO have instant, free 3G cellular network access to Wikipedia from their Kindle books (you get back to the book page by pressing the Back button after browsing Wikipedia).
   This is the great unmentioned feature of the Kindle.  For some reason it's not mentioned in review comparisons.  Great for those who are interested in finding out more about something they're reading. Certainly good for students.

An example of the free 3G usefulness
  I have a NookColor, which I really like for color magazines and lightweight portable web-browsing and I enjoy it without rooting it.  The Kindle is just tons more relaxing for my eyes for sustained reading of books, so the two types of devices are complementary in my case.  The new Notepad app (see discussion of how people use it at the Kindle forums) has me using it even more.
  But when I leave the house, it's the Kindle that goes with me.  It's lighter, easier to read outdoors, and it has that free 3G Net access, which is key for me, as it is for Altman.

  The NookColor doesn't have that, so it stays home.  This was emphasized on March 20, when electricity in my city went out, for several hours that night.  I looked out the window and the whole city was dark.  No WiFi, no TV, and that's when an e-reader comes in handy (or a tablet though it has less battery time).
  With e-Ink readers, a clip-on battery-powered lamp or case w/built-in lamp, or something I use for everything, the Beam n Read, are  useful at night or in dim light.

 But I'm so used to being connected to the Net, I went to my NookColor to do some email, forgetting that this was not possible, because while I can read books and magazines on it w/o electricity, I need the router to be On to use WiFi.

  As usual, the Kindle was the answer. I keep the battery high, as recommended by Kindle Support Team.
I was able to do brief emails and caught up some with Facebook (which needs a special URL for Kindle access). and also tweeted about the outage and using the Kindle.  The link is to the actual tweet.

Mobiweb file of best-for-Kindle links to websites
 The good Kindle link for Facebook ( is included in the freely downloadable "MobiWeb" file, a booklet of URLs or links that work best with the Kindle, plus info on workarounds when encountering navigational oddities at some sites.
  Included in this also are umbrella-menu sites like, Kinstant, ReadingTheNet, Skweezer, and Cantoni.  You can open it as you would any Kindle 'book' and click on links to be taken to the sites, if your wireless is 'On'... Otherwise, it asks if you'd like to turn Wireless on to do that.

You can download the file at  That download will work on the Kindles.  Information and tips on using the file are at

As for the NookColor, rooting it may be easy for many active on the forums, but it has not always been as easy for others, and Barnes and Noble will be updating the device to run Flash and will have an appstore available mid-April.  These new features would satisfy most who buy e-readers and want some tablet features, I think, without the hassle of re-doing the rooting each time B & N releases software updates.  As mentioned in NPR's article, you should know that the warranty is voided, on a rooted Nook, and many are willing to take that risk, since there is always help on the forums.  But I'm not recommending it to those who are not very familiar with file management tools.

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's),   DX Graphite

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

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.

Send to Kindle

(Older posts have older Kindle model info. For latest models, see CURRENT KINDLES page. )
If interested, you can also follow my add'l blog-related news at Facebook and Twitter
Questions & feedback are welcome in the Comment areas (tho' spam is deleted). Thanks!


  1. Thanks, Andrys. I always enjoy reading your blog.

    Would you consider adding (google translate formatted and operational on the Kindle) to the mobiweb downloadable file?

    There are write ups about it on Lifehacker and Wired.!5785837/kindlefish-brings-google-translation-to-the-kindle

  2. MrBooknerd,
    I use GoogleTranslate everyday, so I'm happy to see this. I put in the English word for my surname and got the correct Chinese character right away.

    Did you provide the photos? A very good job on them, whoever did that.

    Last time I updated the mobiweb.azw was in January so I should be due soon and will include this for sure. Until then I can tweet it and also include it in a blog entry tomorrow probably. Nice work!

    Your placements were very good the last few days!

    I got a blank page at first but it woke up later.

  3. Nicholas / MrBooknerd
    I saw the photo credit finally over at one of the review sites, and see you're a fellow Canon Powershot fiend :-) You did a beautiful job on the photos on this. Just saw your blog and also took a look at your foodie pics.
    Will pass mine too. :-)

    I'll probably do a quick blog entry for yours today/tonight.

  4. I'm not Nicholas - just one of your readers - but I agree Nicholas did a great job with the pictures as well as the adaption of google translate to the Kindle.

  5. MrBooknerd,
    Thanks for the correction!

  6. MrBooknerd,
    If you know the people who did Kindlefish, let them know that INPUT 'French' and OUTPUT 'English' outputs English in both cases?


NOTE: TO AVOID SPAM being posted instantly, this blog uses the "DELAY" feature.

Am often away much of the day, and postings won't show up right away. Posts done to use referrer-links may never show up.

Usually, am online enough to release comments within a day though, so the hard-to-read match-text tests for commenting won't be needed this way.

Feedback and questions are welcome. Thanks for participating.

Technical Problems?
If you're having problems leaving a Comment, Google's blogger-help asks that you clear the '' cookies on your browser's Tools or Options menu bar and that will fix the Comment-box problems (until they have a permanent fix).

IF that doesn't work either, then UNcheck the "keep me signed in" box -- Google-help says that should allow your comment to post (it's a workaround to a current bug).
Apologies for the problems.

TIP: There's a size limit. If longer than 3500 characters or so, in a text editor, make two posts out of it.

[Valid RSS]