Thursday, June 9, 2011

Kindle Tips: Web 'Article Mode' / Nook Touch's "hidden" web browser.

  Click on 1st image to get Nook Touch web browser story with video.  Click on 2nd image to get the larger version of the Kindle 3 web pic.

Nathan of The EbookReader found that the Nook has a "hidden" web browser.

  As he points out, it's hidden for a reason.
' Scrolling, zooming, and activating hyperlinks are hit-or-miss, and pages don’t load half the time. I tried downloading an EPUB from Feedbooks, the download worked, but the ebook would not open...
...Overall, though, it needs a lot of work—probably why Barnes and Noble never mentioned it. '

  In fact, in their current Nook comparison chart, Barnes & Noble actually marked that the Nook Touch doesn't have a web browser.  By that, I guess they mean it doesn't have a correctly functioning one.
  Some see that as a challenge to "root" the device though it's a tad risky or frustrating with B&N doing unannounced firmware upgrades as they have.

  Nathan says the menu system, otherwise, "seems to work well" and it shows "promise."

The Nook Touch uses the Android operating system, as does the much faster LCD NookColor.  Both of them will find websites if you start a device Search while specifying a website or URL like "" for that search.

  Many of us suspect that's a basic Android OS feature which can be built on when developers want.  At Mobileread forums, there's an interesting discussion on this, and Antioch says:
' It could just be an artifact of using Android. The Android search functionality will take you to the web to find things so maybe this is just that. Unless it's not the native Android browser... '

  Definitely boosting that theory is what's explained at the android developers webpage on their Guide to the Basics, "What is Android?"
' Developers have full access to the same framework APIs used by the core applications. The application architecture is designed to simplify the reuse of components...
  Underlying all applications is a set of services and systems, including:

  . A rich and extensible set of Views that can be used to build an application, including lists, grids, text boxes, buttons, and even an embeddable web browser... '

As for its incomplete functioning, Mobileread Forum's tom e reports being at B&N trying it out, and he wrote:
' ...You seem to have to know the web address you want.  You can get to easily, but when you try to 'google' something you get knocked out of the browser. '
trescenzi agrees that
' There is a really good chance this is an artifact from it being android based.  The browser has the usual android browser features and if you swipe down it brings up the address bar and options.  Also when you go to search the button labeled "search" switches to "go" making me think it recognizes addresses as such.

Looks like even though you can use the address bar it wont actually connect to addresses entered there.  Just got onto my gmail account and everything works great.-Scratch that looks like any attempt to send mail crashes the browser. '

tom e adds to his earlier report:
' ...I did view my own blog on it though, by typing the URL, and I did see the main page for the google online apps.  I think I even saw a hint of multitouch capability (did the opposite of the 'pinch' on the screen)  It did appear to zoom in, but only barely and then got stuck.  Maybe the refresh rate was too slow?  Maybe I imagined it. (?) '

  He mentions Nathan's video (on Nathan's page, linked above) and seeing Landscape mode at one point. The (Android-based) NookColor, which I have and which definitely has a smooth browser, does have Landscape mode active for Web, although B&N programmers don't enable Landscape for non-children's books for some reason, nor for PDFs.
  The video shows the web browser to be, otherwise, pretty smooth and responsive.  It could be that the e-Ink screen can't keep up with what the enbedded Android browser needs.

trescenzi adds a positive note:
' With respect to RSS if you use google reader to read RSS the mobile app is awesome and worked great when I tried to use it on the nook touch's browser. '
forkyfork writes:
' It's neat from a "look, it's something we didn't expect" perspective, but DO NOT BUY THIS MODEL IF WEB BROWSING IS AT ALL IMPORTANT TO YOU. '
And tom e adds,
' Yep I totally agree that it's not a browser that is sufficient on its own, as is.  I wouldn't buy it just now (at least not with the belief that it's going to be more than they advertise) nor would I recommend anyone else do so.

  On the other hand I think it shows us that it's plenty able to do some simple things that I want...
  I do not think it's very capable for real web browsing though, no matter what people root and put on. Basically, it flashes so much just trying to load most pages (or scrolling down them YUCK!) that it would make me crazy... '

  At the pace of Barnes and Noble's updates for my NookColor (and even REMOVING highlight, copy, paste from the web browser, I don't know how much energy they'd put into working on the Nook Touch e-Ink web browser while on the verge of being bought by Liberty with the stipulation that the current BN head, Leonard Riccio, would join the buyout.  There are concerns about voting by other stockholders and the fact that Ron Burkle and Aletheia Research and Management own almost 31% of the stock between them and may have a say in things.

  As the NYTimes put it, B&N "faces some difficult choices about the company’s second-largest shareholder while simultaneously managing a conflicted sale to Liberty Media and the bookseller’s largest shareholder."

  As B&N has been stressing and analysts explain, in this technewsworld article,
' The market may now be ready for that type of simpler device for a crowd that isn't willing to invest in a complex personal device.

  "There is a group of people who are using traditional computing technologies today, and then those who say, 'This is too complex for me, I need a simple solution.' That audience is looking for a device that does one thing and does an excellent job at that, and the e-reader does that by being a replication of the book-reading experience and removing the complexity of that," said Orr. '

But I think B&N would be smarter to enable fully and develop the functioning of the e-Ink web browser and eventually unhide it, as the current gadget world just expects at least a simple web browser if only for emergencies, and their biggest competitor, Amazon, has a working one.

  Not only that, the Kindles (UK: K3's) have, as I've stressed, a truly unique and valuable feature, free 3G web-browsing almost anywhere you happen to be and this is possible in 60 of 100+ countries, while the 3G itself is enabled for Amazon book downloading plus free Wikipedia 3G web access in over 100 countries.

  If B&N Nooks had those capabilities, the press would probably be whooping it up, but the many features that Amazon has given the Kindle are given short shrift, as there's "nothing new" in any of that :-).  All Kindles have had that since 2007. Slow, but faster than zero, and other ereaders enable any 3G web browser for bookstore-sites only.

I've found that almost no one I know personally is aware of the web-browser feature added in August that makes the Kindle 3's web browsing more pleasurable and they're using instead only the Zoom feature, which I find awkward.  I'll illustrate the steps in another blog entry later, but here's, basically, what you do.

  1. Go to a website, which will default to 'fit width' of the screen, which means the fonts will be tiny and nearly unreadable.

  2. Use the Aa type/font key to choose 150% or more to zoom into a specific box-framed area of the display that you want to explore -- a given article, usually.

  3. Click to get the article.

  4. When the article's settled in (e-Ink is not speedy),
      Press Menu button and select "Article Mode"

  5. This will make it very readable by getting rid of extraneous ads, polls, side-columns, etc., while increasing the font size considerably.  The effect is similar to what you get when using "Readability," "Instapaper" or "SendToReader" web tools that show you just the article's text.

  6. If the font still is not large enough for comfort, you can press the Aa font/text key to choose to increase the size of the text.

  7. If you want to see more on a line than you can in Portrait mode, the Kindle 3 lets you use Aa font/text key to rotate the Kindle to Landscape, which gives you even more readable text across the screen, but working the next-page button or the scroll down cursor is a bit more awkward that way.

At any rate, it ends up VERY readable and the text reflows very nicely to fit the screen margins, etc.

  When I use (often) the step-by-step directions from/to a place on a Kindle (see Driving directions), using Google Map's text directions, the instructions are easy to read on the Kindle 2 or DX (or even Kindle 1), but they're tiny on a Kindle 3. Why, I don't know.

But you can treat the results for driving directions the way you do any article. Press Menu and select "Article Mode" and that'll make them easily readable.

Remember that you can download this mobiweb.azw file at any time, to your Kindle, from the Kindle.

  The file is explained (if you can stand any more verbiage) here.

  ONE Correction - With the GMAIL URL I recommend, SENDING an email reply required, I thought, exiting by moving the cursor down to the bottom of the reply box, and going to the SEND field.  It's actually EASIER to move UP to the Subject field and over to the SEND field at the top of the reply.

  It's times like that when we would prefer a touch screen.

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  1. Nice article. I am learning little by little about things I can do with my Kindle. With your tips, I guess I can read everything pretty well using the browser without using Instapaper.

    The only obstacle at this point is entering passwords. I use password management system which gives unique passwords to all sites, so I am not accustomed to entering passwords for individual sites--only a master one. Of course I know how to lookup the passwords online at, but it can be time consuming.

  2. Nook 2 owners could convert your Kindle website book to ePub and use that - both web browsers are webkit based and probably share many of the same limitations so the mobile-optimized sites should work just as well on Nook.

  3. Tom,
    "should work just as well" ? The problems are too many. People can't get results. They have to know what url to use.

    The file would help some, yes.

    K3 is very fast on results. For that matter, so is the K2. The hard part is loading pages with lots of images and then who knows what bumps people out of getting google search results?

    Some have problems inputting anything other than user/password. Gmail replies don't work.

    The pages and processes halt. I'm pretty sure it's the E-Ink not keeping up with processes as expected on Android OS.

    At any rate, there is a lot of work to be done, and as I said, B&N REMOVED Highlight/Copy/Paste from their NookColor web browser in the recent "update." That's just bizarre and frustrating.
    So, I'm not encouraged re the Nook Touch e-Ink browser and time to be alloted by them.

  4. I should add that the full-versions of those websites always worked on the K3 and almost always (if you waited long enough) on the K2.
    The full sites are just slower. The gmail site I use is the one for Androids, actually, which is what would come up for the Nook Touch.

    The file was made so that the access would be faster, with lighter pages. I'm pretty patient when something is free, but I know others aren't and faster loading is always better.

  5. A minimal web browser is necessary on the Nook to log onto wifi at venues that require a login screen. But obviously, the poor performance of the web browser as is suggests that it's not for anything more than this right now. Perhaps in time B&N will pay it more attention and it will become more robust in its functions.

  6. thislamp,
    That's a very good point. I remember when the Nook-1 originally had a lot of problems with WiFi connections that required a login-screen.


    4. When the article's settled in (e-Ink is not speedy), Press Menu button and select "Article Mode"

    5. This will make it very readable by getting rid of extraneous ads, polls, side-columns, etc., while increasing the font size considerably."

    Thanks for the tip Andrys , I must have missed that new feature !

    Another way to make the browsing experience on the K3 more pleasurable , is to use the mobile version of a newspaper site .

    Compare , for example , the 2 sites of the Chicago Tribune on your K3 :

    Or the 2 sites of the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant :

    BTW , comparing the 2 versions of a newspaper site is not always possible :
    1. the New York Times doesn't seem to have a mobile version of it's site .
    2. when you enter '' in the address bar of the K3 , the K3 automatically redirects to '' .

  8. I have to say that I have used the Kindle browser once to check it out and I've never been back since. I find it a bit too 'clunky' to make it worth my while opening it.

    For me my Kindle is about reading my book without any distractions.


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