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Kindle Fire

Amazon rolled out a software update for its Kindle Fire tablet today that adds lots of new functionality for sharing, offline media consumption, movie rentals, textbooks, and more.

With the new update, Kindle Fire owners can share passages or notes from their ebooks on social networks without navigating away from the page. You can also choose to share those notes/passages with other Amazon users  interested in reading the same book. While sharing video clips and snippets from news stories has become much easier over time, books have always lagged behind. This feature, in theory, could change that.

Another way Amazon is trying to enhance the reading experience on its Fire tablet is through a new “Book Extras” feature, which is powered by Shelfari. Book Extras gives you character descriptions, a glossary of common terms, author information, settings/location references, and more. It’s basically like an imdb for readers.

The update also adds support for an archive of personal documents via Amazon Cloud, a simplified reader mode for viewing things in the Amazon Silk browser, improvements to Wi-Fi connectivity after waking a sleeping Kindle Fire, and many general performance enhancements (like the movie rental availability time beginning only after you first start watching the rental).

Probably the strangest addition included with the new update is for what Amazon calls “Print Replica Textbooks”. This is basically a photocopy version of a traditional printed textbook, meaning you cannot select text like you can in other digital books. You also can’t search for words, which is a deterrent for a digital version of a book. (This is especially true when studying.)

The Print Replica Texbooks do, however, let you add notes, highlight sections, zoom in, and quickly jump between chapters listed in the book’s table of contents. Why on earth would you want to bother with a textbook without being able to utilize the actual text itself? Well, apparently they are up to 60 percent less expensive than the printed version, which will come in handy for poor college students. And I’m guessing that since most textbooks don’t have digital counterparts, this is also a nice alternative to lugging around a heavy backpack full o’ knowledge.

Overall, the Kindle Fire 6.3 software update adds lots of new stuff not available on both more expensive tablets (iPad, Galaxy Tab, Xoom) and similarly priced competitors like Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet.

The new software is available as an over-the-air update on the Kindle Fire or through Amazon’s website. (And for those who like to tinker, it’s also worth noting that a 6.3 Kindle Fire update root is now available, too.)


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