Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kindle to the Stars

Here's a cool freebie that was recently mentioned on the Kindle 2.0 Blog--a set of star charts comprised of 14 PNG files and optimized for the Kindle. Created by Roban Hultman Kramer using PP3--Celestial Chart Generation software by Torsten Bronger, the images were designed to cover the entire sky, with significant overlap. As he explains on the page where the charts can be downloaded, "After my brother generously gave me an Amazon Kindle for my birthday, I started looking around the web for star charts that would be usable on it. The Kindle has an 600x800 pixel eInk display with four shades of gray. This means that most star charts meant for computer screens don't have enough contrast or are overly reliant on color, and most star charts meant to be printed require too high a resolution to be easily used on the Kindle. Compounding these problems is the Kindle's primitive image display interface, which doesn't allow scrolling of over-sized images."

After considering various planetarium programs for his charts, Roban found PP3 to be "perfect for this purpose." For more info, stargazers can check out this thread on the Amazon Kindle forum.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Kindle Comic: "Talk to Me"

Working on a creative project about the Kindle has resulted in all kinds of interesting side thoughts. The idea for this cartoon popped up at about the same time the whole text-to-speech fracas broke out. Of course, it's been pointed out many times since that the Kindle can't hold a candle to the intonations and dramatic heft of a real voice--at least not yet. But I thought it might be funny to turn the tables a bit, and my wife made it a reality. More soon!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Kindle to Kindle: The Bottoms

This bottom view of the Kindle and the Kindle 2 together give a really good idea of what kind of an evolution in design took place between the two, and what an odd bird the original Kindle (bottom) really was. The K1 crowded five elements in, including the headphone jack, the USB connector, the charge indicator light, the power adapter jack and the volume controls. The new Kindle has only a charge indicator light and dual USB/power port, with the volume controls now on the upper right side and the headphone jack on the top.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

KC Book Review: "The Last Sonofabitch of Klepton" by Scott Bieser

If you're one of those who waited eight long years for a comic fable that would draw parallels between our world under the previous administration and Superman's doomed home planet of Krypton, then hang on to your non-renewable energy crystals. "The Last Sonofabitch of Klepton," a razor-sharp political satire by comic artist Scott Bieser ("The Probability Broach," "Roswell, Texas") has been released as a 34-page Kindle comic and is definitely worth a look.

The story is populated by thinly-veiled political figures like Gore-El, who recruits buddies Dorb-El and Nob-El to help him wrest power from King Dubb-Ya and Dict-Cha. Along the way Dubb-Ya wages woof against Terrierists and Gore-El concocts a scheme involving the faraway planet Earth and something called the O-Zone. In Bieser's world, both sides of the political spectrum get their due.

Granted, most of the main characters in "Klepton" have shuffled off the national stage since Bieser's story first appeared last year in strip form. There are also quite a few typos in the text, and for some reason three of the pages seem to be softer than the rest (Locations 4-5, Locations 11-2 and Locations 8-19), which can presumably be fixed. But this is mostly noticeable because of the crispness of the other pages, which seem to use all 16 of the Kindle's shades to great effect in sharply defined lines and wonderful gradient backgrounds that give added depth to many panels. And for just 99¢, this is the best way I've seen yet to check out how clean the device's graphics can look in the right hands.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Kindle to Kindle: The On-Off Switch

The Kindle comparisons continue with a shot of the on-off switches. A lot of people still seem to be asking, "What's better about the Kindle 2?" Well as far as exterior design goes, this is at the top of my list. On the old Kindle (right), users deal with separate switches for Whispernet and power; this can be pretty unwieldy when the K1 is in its standard-issue cover. The original also requires users to push keyboard buttons to get the device to sleep.

The Kindle 2 (left) eliminates the Whispernet/Whispersync switch (it's now operable as a menu function) and moves the power switch to the top, where it also has a sleep mode enabling function and is much easier to get to. I'm not crazy about the decision to move the headphone jack from the bottom to the top, but I don't find myself using the headphones much anyway.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sony Vs. Kindle: The Text Ad Wars

Last week the Kindle 2.0 Blog ran a great capture of a text ad in which Sony's Canadian counterpart appeared to be trying to siphon potential Amazon Kindle customers by inviting them to "Re-kindle your love of reading."

Though the ad has since disappeared, a new ad from Sony Central had the #1 spot all week until Amazon finally placed the above. Note Sony wasting no time incorporating the 1/2 million free public domain books they added days ago via a new deal with Google.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Kindle 2 vs. Sony PRS-700 on CNET

Here's a silly review from CNet in which the Kindle 2 just edges out the competition. But do you really want to take advice on an eReader from a company that can't even spell "readability" right? Calling Cap'n Typo!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Pesky Patent Problem for the Kindle

Discovery Communications has slapped Amazon with a lawsuit claiming that the Kindle violates a patent they filed nearly a decade ago, according to a story which appeared today on Ars Technica.

Discovery founder John S. Hendricks is named on the patent, which was filed on September 21, 1999 and anticipated many of the functions that would eventually appear on the Kindle. Titled "Electronic book security and copyright protection system," the patent's official date of issue shows November 20, 2007, a day after the original Kindle's debut.

Despite similarities ranging from wireless content delivery to page-turning buttons, bookmark options and what looks like a menu wheel, Discovery missed the mark on a few things in its prescient patent. A placemark pricelist in the patent shows full bookstore prices for all selections, plus different charges for method of delivery via cable ($2.95), phone ($4.95) or cellular ($8.95) on top of that. The "screen shots" also suggest touch screen technology and--gasp!--folders, an idea Amazon has steadfastly refused to implement despite the protestations of its Kindle customers.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cool Kindle 2 Drop Test Video

Some nice footage here of a Kindle 2 being dropped in slow motion. Check out how it flexes from one end to the other on impact as it absorbs the shock wave. It makes me feel a little bit better about not springing for that extended warranty.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Kindle to Kindle: The Backs

People asking about the differences between the Kindle 1 and the Kindle 2 usually get a lot of good spec answers. This weekly series of photos will put the focus more on the aesthetics and design. The K2's sturdy metal back (right) has been getting a lot of attention, but the K1's character-covered rubber back had a great feel to it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Kindler's Guide to the Galaxy

xkcd - A Webcomic - Kindle
I mentioned this cartoon yesterday so I figured I'd post it today. It's from XKCD, a thrice-weekly web comic of "romance, sarcasm, math and language." It's been up for a few weeks now but I've only just noticed the roll-over text on the comic in the original post, which reads: "I'm happy with my Kindle 2 so far, but if they cut off the Wikipedia browsing, I plan to show up drunk on Jeff Bezos's lawn and refuse to leave!" Nice!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Metal Etching on a Kindle 2

This is just the kind of thing Kindle Culture is all about. Following a theme established in a popular comic strip about the Kindle which compared the device to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Adafruit Industries etched the phrase "Don't Panic!" on the metal back plate of a Kindle 2. Awesome.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Celebrity Kindlers: Stephen Fry and Demi Moore

Celebrity Kindlers Stephen Fry and Demi Moore both gave the Kindle some love yesterday on Twitter in a string of tweets that went on throughout the day.

Fry announced the occasion of his first tweet from a Kindle, then gave tips to another user on how to use the "bare bones browser" and m.twitter.com to get the job done. He reassured die-hard print fans that he would "no more throw out 'real' books cos I have a Kindle than I'll jettison pens cos I have a Mac," then commented on the advantage of not having to carry heavy books around before encouraging a Kindle newbie to "Plunge in and enjoy. You'll soon be swimming in the deep end."

Moore, known among Twitterers as mrskutcher, shared that she had just finished Sara Gruen's "Water for Elephants" and was starting in on Nancy Horan's "Loving Frank." She also acknowledged that she had "read more in two and a half weeks on my kindle than I have in the past 3 years" but that she hadn't really used the text-to-speech feature. "I prefer reading it myself," she said, "The access and ease of moving through the material is amazing."

The actress went on to give the Amazon website for those looking for a Kindle and even touted the device's positive impact on the publishing industry. "Book sales are on the rise because of Kindle!" she wrote, "and the actual book cost is less so it offsets the cost of the kindle overtime!"

My favorite part of this story is that it reflects what is going on among Kindle owners everywhere: a need to share the wonders of this device with those around them, even going a step further to assauge the fears of Kindlephobes who often haven't even seen one. This is the kind of brand enthusiasm that I think will keep the Kindle on top when more serious competition starts showing up later this year and throughout 2010.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Kindle 2's UPC Reader

You've heard the Kindle 2 had even more bells and whistles than the first one, but did you know it comes with its own bar code reader? If you're buying a K2, make sure not to miss this little artistic flourish on the back of the box; the old UPC lines rendered as a serene, rolling hillside where someone is enjoying a good book, presumably on the Kindle, while enjoying the shade from a tree growing from a thick root/code line.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Kindle Anticipation

Welcome to the "Kindle Culture" blog!