Family-friendly Kindle updates include Family Library sharing, Word Wise definitions

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Amazon is adding some more features to its Kindle e-readers ahead of the holiday sales rush, including a way to power through more challenging books.

The new Word Wise feature can show brief definitions just above difficult words. Users can adjust the frequency of these definitions with a slider, and can tap each one to see a longer definition, synonyms and context. Amazon says Word Wise is especially useful for children and people who are learning English.

Amazon is also extending Family Library to the new e-readers, after launching it on Kindle Fire tablets and the Fire phone in October. This allows multiple accounts under the same billing address to share their collection of movies, videos, apps and—in this case—books.

Other new features include an expanded X-Ray view that lets users skip through images and notable passages, the ability to see previews of library and Kindle Store books in searches, deeper Goodreads integration and an “About the Book” pop-up that appears as you start reading. Amazon is also bringing over support for FreeTime Unlimited, a paid subscription service that provides a selection of age-appropriate children’s books.

Users can download the update immediately through Amazon’s website, or wait for an automatic update to roll out over the coming weeks.

Why this matters: While Kindle users have always been able to look up the definition of any word, the idea with Word Wise is to make it less of a chore. It’s an interesting way for Amazon to stand out through software, now that the company has clearly started to reach the peak of what e-reader hardware can do.

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