Kindle Fire

Amazon released today the Kindle Fire at a mere $199. A recent trip to Apple’s website and at the Apple Store in San Francisco just confirmed to me how the iPad is out of reach to so many people including me. At least to the ones that are on a tight budget. Priced at $199, the Kindle Fire seems much more palatable to normal people like you and me.

Aside from the standard of reading a book, the Kindle Fire can also play movies, run applications, games, play music, and it comes with a revolutionary cloud-accelerated web browser called Silk. You’ll have access to over 18 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, and books. The application and games will be sold from the Amazon Appstore.

In addition to all the goodies so far, you also get free cloud storage for all your Amazon content. I really like this feature. If you fill up your memory, you can always retrieve it from the cloud. The Kindle Fire comes with a vibrant color touchscreen with extra-wide viewing angle. That’s neat. It’s also powered by a fast powerful dual-core processor.

If you’re a Amazon Prime member, you will have access to unlimited, instant streaming of over 10,000 popular movies and TV shows.

Ok. I’m sold! I want one. Check out the promo video here.

Amazon’s Black Eye

When I saw an article yesterday that Amazon had a problem with their cloud services, I dismissed it as something temporary, something that can be fixed, in perhaps in several minutes, in maybe an hour or two. But when the news today surfaced that Amazon was still struggling to get several hosted sites online, I started to wonder what in the world was happening with the cloud. The cloud was supposed to be this super, highly redundant. highly resilient system. Maybe it isn’t.

Foursquare, Quora, Reddit and a host of other social websites rely a great deal on Amazon Cloud Services to serve their content. Maybe, it helps to have yet another option, just in case Amazon, or any other the cloud provider stumble as we’ve seen these past two days. The fact is, the cloud is not quite perfect. They may promise 5 nines, but we all know its not a 100% proof. The downtime alone, the past two days, have already made a big dent towards reaching the metric. So what are the lessons learned for many online companies who depend much on the cloud?

Should these companies have another backup plan in case the cloud fails?

Kindle for the Mac

I was browsing the Apple App Store the other night, and I came across an application called “Kindle” for the Mac. And, it’s free. So, I downloaded the application and installed it. Amazon recently made the “Kindle Apps” available to anyone with a smartphone and a computer. You don’t need a Kindle device.

Kindle Apps will work on the PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android, Blackberry and the Windows 7 phone. If you own a Kindle, you can synch any of the Kindle Apps to work in conjunction with your Kindle device. So, Kindle owners are now able to read the books they’ve purchased, not only in the Kindle devices, but also on their computers and smartphones.

The Kindle app for the Mac comes empty. There are no books. You will need to download the books from Amazon’s website. To download, just click on the “Shop in Kindle Store” link on the top hand right corner of the window. You can purchase thousands of books, including the latest releases, as well as download all the free public domain books that are available.

If you already own a Kindle, you just have to register the application with your Amazon credentials. To synch the books you’ve already purchased, you just login and the application will download all your books. It will also remember the last page you’ve read as well as synch any annotations you have created on your Kindle device.

I downloaded two free books, the Art of War by Sunzi and The Adventures of Sherlock Homes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I can see reading on the Kindle can be an expensive hobby. Reading electronically does have it’s distinct advantages. At least, you don’t have to lug around a book everywhere you go.

Kindle vs Nook

Here’s a side by side review of Kindle vs Nook. I’m leaning more towards the Kindle since its only $139. For that price, I can have an e-reader that stores up to 3,500 books, with a battery life of over a month, and a monochrome screen since that’s a lot easier on the eyes. I just wished the Kindle supported the ePub format. That’s all.

A Color Nook is Coming

A color Nook is coming to a Barnes & Noble near you. The latest e-Reader from Barnes & Noble comes in a seven inch display and retails for $249. It sounds like competition for the iPad in terms of the color display, although the Nook is mostly just an e-Reader.

The competition is tough in the e-Reader business. With Amazon’s Kindle at just $139, it’s a tough sell for B&N’s to get consumers to buy a Nook for $249. Who knows?  The market will very much decide if color displays is the way to go with e-Readers.

Color displays usually requires more power and can be an issue under direct sunlight.

The New and Kindlier Kindle

It’s kindlier to the pocket that is. I’ve never paid much attention to Amazon’s Kindle products because I thought it cost too much. It’s an extraordinary product. No doubt. Recently, Amazon made an announcement that raised my eyebrow. The price of the latest Kindle is now just $189. It’s still somewhat pricey, but that’s my opinion. In addition, there is WiFi-only Kindle for only $139.

With the 3G wireless, you can download and start reading books in 60 seconds. The screen has no glare in direct sunlight. A single charge can last one month. It can store up to 3,500 books and it weighs only 8.7 ounces. If you ever run out of space, you can delete books with abandon and Amazon will allow you to re-download your books at anytime for free.

The 3G network works in the US as well as abroad. There are no monthly fees. Getting a Kindle with 3G Wireless access at $189 is nice to have, but the Kindle WiFi-only at $139 is simply irresistible.

Check out the latest Kindle.

Amazon Kindle DX Down to $379

Amazon just the Kindle DX down by $110 to just $379. The latest Kindle will ship July 7. You can read more about the Kindle DX from IW’s article:

Called “Pearl,” E Ink says the contrast ratio of the display is about 50% greater than the previous generation. E Ink technology, which is used in most e-readers, only displays text and graphics in black and white, but offers a reading experience with less eyestrain than a typical LCD screen used with PCs. In addition, E Ink-powered displays can be viewed in direct sunlight with no glare.

Amazon started taking pre-orders Thursday for the new Kindle DX, which sports a 9.7-inch diagonal screen. The standard Kindle has a 6-inch screen and sells for $189. Both e-readers come with 3G wireless technologies that Amazon provides without charge for buying and downloading e-books from its store.

Amazon’s focus on selling e-books is reflected in other recent announcements. The retailer this week released a new version of the Kindle software that makes it possible to play audio and video embedded in e-books. The new app is only for Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, but is expected to be expanded to other platforms in the future.

In releasing the software, as well as a handful of multimedia books for $10 each, Amazon is trying to stay ahead of rivals, particularly Apple. The latter company launched its own iTunes bookstore along with the iPad tablet computer in April.

Kobo eReader from Borders

The eReader market just got crowded. Borders just introduced the Kobo eReader for $150. It’s set to compete with Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. The Kobo offers users access to over 1 million eBooks via USB or wireless Bluetooth.

Unfortunately, there is no WiFi support. The Kobo comes pre-loaded with over 100 classic books. It’s capable of storing 1000 titles in less than 1GB of flash memory. The Kobo can read a number of eReader formats including PDF, ePUB and Adobe DRM.

Here’s a Kobo eReader review.

One last thing, the battery life is 2 weeks. It’s a cheaper alternative to Amazon’s Kindle.

Amazon can reclaim your book

When you buy a book, it’s yours. You can read it, store it, sell it or even burn it. Not so if you bought a book from Amazon Kindle. There is very limited sharing. You can’t really sell it and apparently you may not even own it. Amazon apparently has the right to reclaim the book from you if they want to. They will refund the price of course (that is so nice of them), but they can still pull it away from you if they want to. Amazon also imposes the number of times you have downloaded a book. If you’ve reached a download limit, you may have to buy it again. What we need is a DRM free e-reader, but with the ability to preserve author copyrighted material. Book owners should have the freedom to buy, lend, share and sell books if they want to. If you are so sick with your Kindle, you can always burn it, but its probably not as good as burning an actual book. At least with a book, it’s an excellent kindle (pun intended) for your fireplace.

USB Penguin Drives

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This may look like ordinary penguins, but try stuffing it to a computer and it becomes a USB drive. Active Media Products along with WWF (World Wildlife Fund) are promoting USB drives themed after endangered animals. The USB Penguin drives come in 2GB, 4GB, 8GB and 16GB versions ranging from $12.95 to $42.95 at Amazon. My only gripe is: the penguins look really suffocated when they are plugged in to the laptop. Penguins just don’t get any respect.