Friday, October 21, 2011

Kindle News - 10/21/11 - Kindle Format 8. EFF 'clears' Amazon's Silk browser, Android tablet market share: big jump, Steve Jobs on Android, Amazon to do ao phone?

AMAZON'S NEW "KINDLE FORMAT 8"  (KF8)- with HTML5 Support ... Also, Android tablet sales growth

Despite what has effectively been a one-tablet market, FierceWireless' Phil Goldstein writes that research firm Strategy Analytics is reporting that the Android tablet market share grew from 2.3% to 26.9% in 12 months.

  And that's before the Kindle Fire hits.  The Kindle Fire is of course Android-based.  Google just intro'd Android 4.0, called "Ice Cream Sandwich" enticing buyers again with powerful memories of childhood's ideal-food types (which I didn't outgrow).  Android 4 bridges the differences between Android smartphones and "Honeycomb," which was designed to optimize use of tablet space.

  Andy Rubin, Google's sr. vp for mobile, said this week that there are 6 million tablets running Android but readily concedes that it's dwarfed by Apple's 30 million.  The operating system version "Ice Cream Sandwich" will eliminate the need for tablet-specific apps.  There's a link at the end of this blog entry to the news story on Steve Jobs'  promise to focus on destroying Android for stealing from Apple's work.

Kindle Format 8  ('KF8')
I first heard about the Kindle format enhancements from a tweet by the vigilant Mike Cane leading to his take on it.

  Amazon's announcement
  Amazon's MOBI format and the ePub format are HTML-based, but Amazon's addition of HTML5-based options will add flexibility and layout control missing from the current Mobi version7 at a time when ePub revision 3 has  finally been put in place to make for a more consistent experience on different reading systems.  (HTML5 is the base language of ePub3.)
  The KF8 format change from Mobi7 is also timed with the release of the Kindle Fire Android tablet.

The types of books that will benefit from KF8 are those that benefit from complex graphic layout -- textbooks, children's books, comics, graphics-oriented books, cookbooks, etc.  There'll be over 150 new formatting capabilities, including fixed layouts, nested tables, sidebars, etc.

  You can see the List of supported HTML tags and CSS elements, which will be very familiar to HTML programmers and gives an idea of what they'll be able to do in the way of page layout.

Essentially, the HTML5 support includes the following (from Amazon's table):
* CSS3 support * Floating elements
* Fixed layouts * Text on background images
* Embedded fonts * Numbered and bulleted lists
* Drop caps And much more

Some important points in Amazon's KF8 FAQ
  • Embedded fonts are supported, so those of us who couldn't stand the TOPAZ format (preferred by publishers who felt they wanted more control over the Look but who didn't seem to know how ugly those books could be and the software problems they could cause) have reason to be hopeful.

  • The Kindle Publisher Tools for KF8 including KindleGen2 and Kindle Previewer 2 will be available soon. Publishers can still submit only what they did before and the conversion (w/o the special features) will be done, but they'll be getting, soon, Guidelines on how to take advantage of the new capabilities.  

  • The Kindle Fire will be the first Kindle device to support KF8, and in the coming months Amazon will roll out KF8 to their latest generation e-Ink devices as well as their free Kindle reading apps.

  • Mobi files: "All currently supported content will continue to work."

  • "ALL Kindle books currently available in the Kindle Store will be available on Kindle Fire."

  • Publishers won't have to provide two versions of titles, since the upcoming updates to the publishing tools will take care of that.  KindleGen2 will convert submitted content "so that it works on all Kindle devices and apps."
       Publishers will be able to preview, with Kindle Previewer 2, how their titles will look on the range of Kindle devices and apps.

      This would mean that current Kindles would be able to read the books formatted with KF8 but without seeing the enhancements that allow the many new features mentioned.


I'll just give links to these for those interested in the many Kindle-related news stories on the Net over the last two days when I couldn't be here. The shorter links are noted at the end of each for Kindle-edition subscribers.

CNet's Seth Rosenblatt's headline is "Amazon's Silk browser: Now EFF approved. Really!"
  Customers can turn off the "cloud acceleration" feature if they have privacy concerns.  Most of it is aggregated information and it's more important that the Silk browser get you to secure sites fast (since they have slower processes) than to bring you back to their servers first, etc.  But some concerns remain.  (Link: )

Will Amazon produce a Kindle phone? (Link: )

Steve Jobs reveals to biographer Walter Isaacson his strong intent to destroy Android.  (Link: )
  The reactions in comments are interesting.  There's a fine line between "inspired by" and "stealing from"... (Two words: Xerox, PARC)

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  1. I was thrilled to see the Amazon announcement. I think this addresses the biggest remaining weakness of the Kindle platform, i.e. its dated and limited formatting. This does not quite bring it up to ePub3 level, but KF8 will be in our hands much sooner sooner and does represent a significant closing of the gap, and a solid foundation for other pieces to be added later. It looks like they are managing the compatibility issues well.

    If only they would add an NCX navigator, and/or support for the ePub3 replacement for it. TOC functionality on Kindle is very weak, and nothing in the announcement indicates how that will work with KF8.

    Note that recent versions of kindlegen archive the source files that were fed to them inside the resulting file submitted to Kindle Store (this archive is not part of the download that customers get). So Amazon can take that source and run it through kindlegen2 and get a bona fide KF8 file that retains more of the formatting of any ePub files that served as source files. So some books we've already purchased will get a free 'upgrade', I think.

    I trust KKeyboard will get an update.

  2. Tom,
    Thanks for your take. Me too, on the new capabilities. It seemed a natural thing, I thought, since it built on the old HTML basis but uses the strength and flexibility of HTML5 -- and Amazon had finished quicker than anyone had imagined (while Kobo was announcing they WOULD do it) their HTML5 browser that got past Apple's app-restrictions.

    Good point re the repeat of the full book in source format that was included in Kindlegen's conversion.

    After KFire, then the K4's will get to 'understand' the new versions and at that point we can download the new-version copy or whatever process they'll use for this.

    They do the most complicated things these days, with respect to sync'g so many varied aspects of it all.

    They've definitely been busy.

  3. I heard on Steve Gibson's security podcast that all web browsing on the SILK will be encrypted, so one does not have to worry about privacy when using a public Wi-Fi connection....and that all https connections bypass Amazon servers completely. That is great news!

  4. Hi, J.R. -

    <<...public Wi-Fi connection....and that all https connections bypass Amazon servers completely. That is great news!>>

    Yes, that's what I meant about it being more important to process things quickly and https:// calls would definitely not be diverted to Amazon servers first.

    Since Amazon is always sending me mail about things I recently saw on their site, I've been used to their history and some of what I do is research for the blog but if I were not wanting them to keep a history on their servers, I'd just not shop there because at the same time I want to be able to reference everything I've ordered.

    It's a wash. I've cleared my history there, but it just clears what I would see.

    At any rate, I'm not worried, but I do think that people who remain concerned should turn off their silk-browser cloud-acceleration feature.



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