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This week’s Kindle questions

* Wondering when your Kindle will be upgraded with that new software update about which you may have heard? Well, don’t be so sure that it hasn’t already happened. Just to make sure that they didn’t sneak one by you, go to your “Settings” page by clicking on “Menu” at the bottom of Home. If it says “Version: Kindle 1.0.4” at the bottom of your “Settings” page, you’ve been upgraded!

* When will Kindles start shipping again in quantity? There are thousands of buyers waiting for their Kindles to arrive, but Amazon hasn’t breathed a word about what has caused a near total halt in Kindle shipments since the second week in February. Is this what happens when the “customer experience model” collides with the need for corporate silence on “proprietary information?”

* Amazon stock soared about 5% today when the company re-confirmed its 2008 financial forecast to the markets. The company CFO was especially cheery about the Kindle, saying that the device is still sold out and that the company is “scrambling” to ramp up production. Not to be snarky, but I can’t help but wonder how the markets would have taken it if he had mentioned that they haven’t shipped any Kindles in significant numbers for three weeks.

A few little known details about the Kindle

* CPU: The Kindle’s “brain” is an Intel PXA255 processor, originally designed for mobile phones and smart phones.

* e-Ink Display: There’s a reason why the Kindle doesn’t do color. Its e-Ink display involves millions of microcapsules that act as pixels that provide a sharp but easy-on-the-eyes black, white and gray display on the Kindle’s 600×800-pixel screen. These microcapsules are driven by a layer of transparent electrodes that consume far less power than LCD displays. I think it ranks fairly high in the small world department that e-Ink, the company responsible for this green and literally cool technology, is right across the street from my 9-year-old’s elementary school in Cambridge.

* Operating System: Your Kindle’s operating system is a modified Linux 2.6.10 kernel. Amazon has complied with Linux licensing by making its modified source code freely available. Among the modifications is support for XIP (execute in place), a feature that promotes more efficient, faster use of the system’s memory.

* Memory: Your Kindle is equipped 256 MB internal flash memory. About two-thirds of this memory is available for storing your documents, music, bookmarks, photographs, notes, and anything else you choose to store on your Kindle. The easiest way to see how this memory is being used is to open the “Kindle drive” while it is connected via USB to your desktop or notebook computer. You can greatly multiply the storage that your Kindle can access by adding an SD memory card.

* Battery: You can get the most out of your Kindle’s replaceable lithium-­polymer battery — as much as one week on a single charge — if you keep the wireless connectivity is switched off whenever you aren’t using that feature. But it is not a bad idea to order a replacement battery just so you have one handy in the event of a malfunction.

* Connectivity: The service that Amazon calls Whispernet is actually a 3G EVDO wireless broadband service through an AnyDate modem that enables the Kindle to connect to Sprint’s United States wireless data network. This service is available in most densely populated areas, but not everywhere. For more information about this service, and a discussion of the economic issues involved in providing it free or at a price, read The Amazon Kindle Basic Web Wireless Service: Why It Is a Revolutionary Feature, and Why Amazon Should Keep It Free or Cheap. The Kindle also comes with a USB cable for easy connection to your desktop or laptop computer.

Beyond all these rather dry “what’s under the hood” details, the really stunning details about the Kindle, of course, involve the various ways in which it simply blows away any notion that it is just an e-book reader. Tech writer/blogger Mike Elgan did an elegant job of breaking down some of these features early on in an article entitled Why Amazon’s Kindle is revolutionary on the ComputerWorld website. It is well worth reading. Mike also has a blog called The Book of Kindle.

200 books on your Kindle, or 7,500?

It’s up to you.

But if you’d like the luxury of scarcely ever having to think about the space limitations of your Kindle, perhaps you should consider this sweet little package:

The Kindle Reader

The Kindle Reader is just the kind of thing we need more, much more, of. It’s an intelligent, thoughtful, well-written blog maintained by Jan, a retired librarian and Kindle owner. She offers reviews on a wide variety of Kindle Edition books. My own preference would be for a few more indie and small-press titles, but Jan’s blog is well worth checking out. After all, I’m just glad she’s reading and sharing her findings. God knows she doesn’t need me or anyone else telling her what to read!

Book publishing trends to watch in 2008

9:15 AM PST, January 20, 2008

Back in 2002, in my book on online bookselling, I have to admit that I took an unenthusiastic view of the much-heralded e-book revolution: “The increasingly universal availability of good used books at good prices will tend to slow the growth of e-books and related concepts such as print-on-demand and diminish the likelihood of concomitant predictions of the demise of the mass-printed book,” I wrote in slightly overblown prose. 

Well, maybe in the world of new technologies 6 years is long enough to earn me a shot at a new prediction. E-books are here to stay, due in large part to the Kindle. Publishing industry guru Mike Shatzkin makes some very interest observations on this topic in his piece “15 Trends to Watch in 2008” in a recent issue of Publishers Weekly. It is well worth reading.

I agree with the basic thrust of the article, except that I would go a little further and say this: for independent publishers, the Kindle will be more important than any other technological development in the past decade because of its potential for helping to market-test publishing projects, to provide audience for quality writing of all kinds, and to begin building the kind of interactive, buzzy, indie community of readers and writers that has long existed in the worlds of indie music and film. To get in on the ground floor of this exciting transformation in independent publishing, you may want to start reading my book on publishing for the Kindle through this terrific pre-publication deal.