Amazon.com announces that an upcoming software update will allow Kindle users to share passages from ebooks via Facebook and Twitter. Along with other features such as the ability to display text passages that the Kindle community finds most interesting, the social networking aspects of the update suggest that Amazon.com is looking for ways to make its bestselling e-reader more than just a simple display device, so that it can better compete against not only other e-readers such as Barnes & Noble's Nook, but also Apple's iPad tablet PC.
Amazon.com plans to release a software update for its Kindle and Kindle
DX e-readers, termed Version 2.5, in late May. Included will be tweaks to the
devices' user interface, and a social networking aspect that draws on Twitter
In a post on its Website, Amazon.com said the update would be pushed
"to a limited group of Kindle users" before the broader rollout.
Additions to the software include Collections, a feature that organizes
books or documents into specific categories, Popular Highlights, which displays
passages in the reader's current book that the Kindle community finds most
interesting, two new larger font sizes, sharper fonts and password-protection
capability. Other enhancements include the ability to zoom into, and pan
around, PDF documents.
The part of the update attracting the most attention, though, is that Kindle
users will be able to share passages from ebooks via Facebook and Twitter.
Amazon.com's announcement comes days after rival Barnes & Noble unveiled
a software update for its own Nook e-reader, complete with Android-based games
of Sudoku and chess. Other new Nook features include beta versions of a Web
browser and Read in Store, a feature that allows Nook users to browse the
retailer's library of ebooks for free at any Barnes & Noble location.
"We've also made additional reading and device performance enhancements,
including improved page turn speed, faster access to previously opened ebooks,
enhanced color touch-screen navigation and more," Paul Hochman, manager of
Content and Social Media at BarnesandNoble.com, wrote April 23 on the Nook and
BN eReader blog. "The new features and additional enhancements are
available with the updated Nook software now available via manual download at www.nook.com/update."
Some early reviews of the Nook
claimed that slowness and unpolished software made it a weaker competitor
to the Kindle, despite some innovative features.
Although some analysts proclaimed e-readers a niche item, both the Kindle
and Nook proved to be solid sellers during the holiday 2009 shopping season,
and their respective companies have struck deals with major retailers such as
Best Buy and Target to provide an additional sales channel. Both Amazon.com and
Barnes & Noble, however, face a serious threat in the Apple iPad, which
boasts an e-reader application in addition to a color multitouch screen.
Perhaps in a bid to counter the iPad's functionality, Barnes & Noble and
Amazon.com are moving to make e-readers more than just devices for displaying the
latest Stephen King ebook. Amazon.com
recently released an SDK (software development kit) for Kindle applications,
and acquired a company specializing in touch-screen technology. That latter
development suggests that future versions of the Kindle could include multitouch
functionality along the lines of the iPad, or else a touch-enabled navigation
screen similar to what the Nook possesses now.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.