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 and Facebook.
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.