The retail giant was recently awarded a US patent for a "Customized electronic books with supplemental content" (Patent #8478662). The patent was applied for in November 2010, about 10 months before Amazon unveiled Kindle X-Ray, and in spite of the less than specific wording of the patent I do believe they are related.
As you probably know, Amazon launch X-Ray in Fall 2011. This addition to the Kindle platform featured character bios, place descriptions, and other supplemental content drawn from Shelfari, one of Amazon's social networks.
If you ask me, that sounds like it could be covered by this patent. Here's the abstract; tell me if you can see the similarities:
Architectures and techniques are described to provide customized versions of electronic books with various supplemental content items. The electronic books include a framework having core content that is provided with each electronic book and supplemental content portions that are populated with supplemental content items based on the preferences of particular readers of the electronic books. In some cases, the electronic books may include supplemental content options that are selectable to provide access to supplemental content items by readers of the electronic books. The supplemental content items accessible via the supplement content options may also depend on the preferences of the readers.
The claims listed in the patent go on to list quite a few more sophisticated possibilities that aren't part of X-Ray, including a decision point for adding supplemental content based on whether the creator of the supplemental content was in the same social network as the recipient, as well as a decision point which adds the content based on the reputation of the creator of the supplemental content and/or some relevant personal detail about the recipient.
Public Notes was launched in early 2011, only a few months after Amazon filed for this patent. Tell me, have you ever read a Kindle ebook and looked at what other users highlighted and typed? That activity is covered by this patent.
I'm not surprised that Amazon included multiple activities under a single patent; they are efficient like that. You might recall the story from February 2013 about Amazon's newly awarded patent on selling used ebooks. Buried in among the used ebook claims were several that closely fit the description and activities of the Kindle Owner's Lending Library, the free program that lets Kindle owning Amazon Prime Members borrow one free ebook each month.
The KOLL program had been launched over a year before that patent was awarded, which again came as no surprise.
P.S. Wired beat me to the story, but they missed the fact that Amazon had already implemented several parts of this patent. Whoops.