New updates bring Audible to basic Kindle and new customization options

Today’s announcement of the all-new Kindle Oasis included big news on the integration of Audible audiobooks into the device.  Audible integration will roll out as an update when the new Oasis device ships on October 31, 2017.

Also included in the announcement was the news that the basic, entry-level Kindle (current generation 8), along with the first generation Oasis,  will also be getting Audible integration over the coming months. This may be a feature that makes the basic Kindle (which does not have a backlight) more desirable as a device for prospective owners. As noted in this post on The eBook Reader, at least according to its reviews,  the basic, entry level kindle is not well liked.

Today’s announcement also included news of new firmware updates that would add new settings for reading customization, including new font sizes, bolding options and new margin options including an option for left-aligned  /ragged right text..

The new features are:

  • New Font Size and Bold Settings: Now choose from more font sizes than ever before–and five levels of boldness–for whichever font you choose to read with. Combined with the new, 7-inch Paperwhite display, you can personalize your books so it’s perfectly comfortable for your eyes.
  • New Accessibility Options: In addition to the OpenDyslexic font, we’ve added a feature to invert black and white on the display if you have light sensitivity. The new enlarged display option also lets you increase the size of items like the text on the home screen and library as well as the book icons to make the all-new Kindle Oasis easier to read.
  • Light Settings: Built-in ambient light sensors automatically adjust the display to your surroundings whether you’re in a dimly-lit room or outside in the sun–and can be fine-tuned even further based on personal preferences.
  • Ragged Right Alignment: You can now read using left-aligned (ragged right) text.

To me, one of the most intriguing of the new features is the ability to invert black-and-white on the display for those with light sensitivity. This is generally a feature found on apps and tablets, not e-ink readers (although there is supposedly a hack for the Kobo line here.). My old Literarti e-reader had this feature, and I can tell you, being able to read white text on a black screen in a dark room Is a great feature for reading in the middle of the night without disturbing your partner! 🙂

The new firmware features will be delivered as a free over the air update to the Kindle Paperwhite and newer devices starting today.

Amazon announces new Kindle

new_kindleIf you had looked at the Kindle product page over the last few days, you might have noticed that the basic Kindle was sold out. That tends to be somewhat unusual as they are generally consistently in stock. So maybe, combined with the rumors of a new device, it is really not that much of a surprise that today, Amazon announced an all-new Kindle with some pretty nifty features.

  • The new Kindle comes in both black and white. We haven’t had a white Kindle here in the US for a while.
  • The new device is slightly smaller and lighter than the previous model. It also has a slightly more rounded design
  • The new Kindle has 4GB of storage and twice the memory of the old one (it now has 512MB).
  • The device is Bluetooth enabled. This is an added accessibility feature that readers who are visually impaired can use the VoiceView feature to navigate and read the on-screen content without the need for an adaptor. Hopefully, we will also see more Bluetooth compatible feature in the future – I want a foot switch for page turns so I can read and eat pizza! 🙂
  • Over the coming weeks, Amazon will be adding an Export Notes feature.  This will enable users to export their notes to a PDF file that can be printed out or exported to a spreadsheet.

Best of all, the price for the new Kindle is still $79.99 (with special offers, $89.99 without special offers). The new Kindle is available for pre-order now and is also being offered for 5 monthly payments of $16.00 payment plan. The e-reader will ship within the next few weeks.

Unlike the Kindle Paperwhite, the new Kindle does not have a built in light. Amazon also announced that the Paperwhite would also be available in white.

Daily Links and Deals: E Ink brings rich color to ePaper, but not to e-readers

daily_links_1Today, finally a color e-ink display, but no e-reader yet. Also,  a look at how Hollywood influences library purchases in Australia, a new ComiXology subscription service, the discontinuation of the Nexus Player, and new standards for captions and subtitles. In deals, 60% off some great luggage sets and $20 off Battleborn for the PS4.

Daily Links for Wednesday, May 25, 2016:

Twitter introduces 4 big changes that will make tweets much easier to send and read (PC World) Names and pictures won’t eat into your limit anymore! And a few other good things will be coming soon. Of course, not everyone is happy about these changes.

Google pulls the plug on the Nexus Player (Liliputing) So long, Nexus Player. You’ve been discontinued.

E Ink brings rich color to ePaper, but not to e-readers (Techcrunch) We are getting closer to that color e-reader everyone wants, but we;re not anywhere close to a color e-reader yet!

Comixology launches new digital comic subscription service (Entertainment Weekly) I am in the midst of testing ComiXolgy now. I am testing the app, so there’s more to come on this story. There are a lot of complaints about the app for the Kindle Fire tablets…

Accessibility Standards: World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Expands Work on Captions and Subtitles for More Accessible Video Content (Infodocket) New global guidelines so that the caption and subtitle experience is more consistent world-wide.

New Email Alerts and RSS Feeds on (In Custodia Legis) If you track different legislation, this is a great new tool! This is replacing Thomas and will be a LOT easier.

Hollywood films drive Australian library book tastes (SMH) Libraries have to concentrate on the titles that readers ask for. In Australia, books buoyed by film adaptations seem to be getting the lion’s share of the interest.

Deals of the Day:

Amazon’s selection of Kindle Daily Deals includes The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary by Joseph Michelli for $1.99.

In Today’s Deals, save up to 60% off luggage & accessories. Also, you can save $20 on Battleborn for the PS4.

The Barnes and Noble Nook Daily Find is The Shadow Revolution: Crown & Key by Clay Griffith, Susan Griffith for $1.99. The Romance Daily Find is Mr. Darcy Forever by Victoria Connelly for $2.99.

Kobo’s Daily Deal is Infinity: Chronicles of Nick by Sherrilyn Kenyon for $1.99. The Extra Daily Deal is Damaged by H.M. Ward for 99 cents.

iTunes’ Weekly Bestsellers Under $4 includes Do Fish Drink Water? Puzzling and Improbable Questions and Answers by Bill McLain for 99 cents.

(A note on Daily Deals: All prices current at the time of posting and subject to change. Most items marked Daily Deals are good for only the day posted.

Many large promotions have discount pricing that is set by the publisher. This usually means that titles can be found at a discount price across most platforms (with iTunes sometimes being the exception). If you have a favorite retailer you like to patronize, check the title on that website. There is a good chance that they will be matching the sale price.)

Daily Links are interesting links I discover as I go about my online day. The frequency and number of links posted depend upon the daily news. I also post other, different links of interest on Twitter, Facebook, and on the Google Plus eBook Evangelist Page.

Amazon Sells Kindle Audio Adapter separately

kindle_audio_adapterYesterday,  Amazon  announced the Kindle Audio Adapter  and VoiceView for the Paperwhite. The dongle, which would help the visually impaired navigate menus and read via text-to-speech was only included in a special accessible Kindle Paperwhite bundle. As soon as the news came out about the new Kindle Audio Adapter yesterday, a flurry of posts started on Kboards, Mobileread and the Amazon forums with people saying they wanted one.  Well, it turns out Amazon didn’t keep us waiting too long! Today, the adapter is available for purchase separately for $19.99.

The adapter is compatible with VoiceView for Kindle on the Kindle Paperwhite – this is the 7th generation device.  It plugs into the micro-USB charging port on the Paperwhite. The device requires headphones which are not included with the dongle. It looks like you could also use a speaker with a 3.5mm jack for listening as well.

As I noted in my post yesterday, the battery life while using the adapter is only about 6 hours of continuous use and you will not be able to charge the Paperwhite while using the dongle.

Amazon notes that the adapter “Works with millions of Kindle books that are compatible with VoiceView.” It is not yet clear what that means – I have been spot checking and, while I find books with text-to-speech enabled, I haven’t yet seen any titles listed as VoiceView compatible. Amazon also note that the adapter “does not support music or audiobook playback.”

I ordered mine today to try it. Are you interested in trying the adapter? And have you seen any titles listed as VoiceView compatible?

Found via The Digital Reader

Amazon introduces a hardware solution for accessibility

access_pwIf you’ve still been hoping for Amazon to bring back the text-to-speech for the e-ink Kindles, you may be out of luck. The death knell for that sounded today when Amazon announced it’s new VoiceView For Kindle feature today.  The feature uses Amazon’s text-to-speech language system (Ivona) to help visually impaired customers navigate the Kindle Paperwhite.

Previous generations of e-ink Kindles offered by Amazon used speakers are or a 3.5mm jack to provide the sound for text-to-speech. This solution uses a separate USB dongle that requires the use of headphones. According to Amazon’s blog:

Visually impaired customers will be able to use VoiceView for Kindle with the new Kindle Audio Adapter—an Amazon-designed USB audio dongle—to connect headphones or speakers, which then allows the ability to listen to and navigate the user interface, in addition to listening to books. The Kindle Audio Adapter was designed specifically to be used with VoiceView for Kindle.

The new Kindle Audio Adapter is available now as part of the Kindle Paperwhite Blind and Visually Impaired Readers Bundle.  The bundle includes the Kindle Paperwhite with Wi-Fi and Special Offers and the Kindle Audio Adapter. According to Amazon, purchasers receive a $19.99 Account Credit back for the purchase of the adapter, “so they won’t have to pay extra for accessibility.”  The dongle is promised to be available at a future date for other Kindle e-readers.  Update: the adapter is now available separately for $19.99. New story here.

My reaction to this? I am seriously underwhelmed. IMHO, the hardware dongle is the wrong approach and one much too late in coming.

As a bit of background, I should note that I myself am vision impaired. In the past, I worked managing federal grants (which included monitoring ADA compliance issues) and had also represented my community at an Easter Seals Project Action Seminar. So this is an area that really interest me, personally and professionally.

Text-to-speech has been a thorny issue for Amazon since the feature was first introduced on the Kindle 2. The Authors Guild strenuously objected to the feature and claimed it was, in fact, illegal. Amazon finally backed off and let the publishers decide whether text-to-speech should be enabled on a title. While the Kindle Keyboard, the Kindle DX and the 2012 Kindle Touch were text-to-speech enabled, subsequent models have not included the feature.

The hardware USB dongle approach is problematic for several reasons. First, the dongle solutions limits independence. It means that, at least for right now, I have to buy a special Kindle bundle in order to have accessibility instead of all Kindles providing that accessibility. In order to use the dongle, I would also have to purchase or provide headphones or a speaker in order to make the device in order to use the disability features. (This is a barrier a sighted person would not have if using a Kindle Paperwhite.)

What about people who already own Paperwhites? The Kindle Audio Adapter is not available separately so that I could make one of the Paperwhites I already own accessible. From the product page: 

Kindle Audio Adapter [is] only compatible with VoiceView enabled Kindle e-readers (does not support music or audiobook playback)

Will there be a software update for current Paperwhites? It will be interesting to see how Amazon handles that issue (if at all). According to ADA regulations, Amazon can’t legally charge for the adapter,  so I really doubt that we will see the item available separately.

This hardware solution also seems to dramatically affect battery life on the Kindle Paperwhite. According to the product page:

A single battery charge provides up to 6 hours of continuous reading while using Kindle Audio Adaptor [sic]

Notice the difference in battery power. Current Paperwhites are supposed to get 30 days use at a half an hour of use per day or the equivalent of approximately 15 hours. That’s two and a half times the battery life you will get when using the dongle.

That battery life becomes a real concern as the dongle is using the same port that the Kindle uses for recharging. That means that you cannot use accessibility features and charge the Kindle itself at the same time. I see that as an issue that is going to severely limit the usefulness of the connected Kindle.

I intend to be watching this feature very closely to see how this story develops. We will see how this new feature actually performs in practice. It will be interesting to see if Amazon opens this up to existing Kindles and just how quickly it rolls out to other Kindle models.

Found via KindleChronicles / Teleread