Amazon will soon roll out a new software upgrade for its Kindle and Kindle DX e-readers, and the coming enhancements look pretty good. The online retailer, which kick-started the e-book market by launching the original Kindle in 2007, has already begun distributing the version 2.5 update to a limited number of Kindle users. A broad release, which will be sent via automatic wireless updates, is slated for late May.
A More Social Kindle
Version 2.5 has some good stuff for a seemingly minor release. This is a dot release after all--not version 3.0--and yet the changes appear significant. Kindle users will now be able to share book passages with their friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter, although it remains to be seen just how intuitive that process will be. (I haven't tested the software yet.)
Amazon appears intent on bringing out the Kindle's social side. The upgrade also lets you see what other folks in the Kindle community rate as the most interesting passages in the books you're reading.
Privacy and Ergonomics
Version 2.5 lets you password-protect your Kindle to keep snoops at bay. This security feature has been surprisingly absent until now, particularly on the Kindle DX, which Amazon hopes will make some inroads in the educational market as an e-textbook reader.
Sight-challenged and elderly users will appreciate the Kindle's sharper fonts and two new larger font sizes. Another ergonomic upgrade is the ability to zoom into PDF files and pan around to view tiny print and detailed graphics and tables.
Finally, you now can organize your Kindle e-books into one or several collections--a boon to serious readers who want or need to categorize their content.
It's No iPad, But...
Version 2.5's nod to social networking may provide a clue as to where Amazon is heading with the Kindle. Given the iPad's successful launch, it seems logical that the Kindle must become more Web-friendly to compete not only with Apple's multifunction device, but also with similar tablets coming later this year.