Kindle for iOS Updated – Now a Better Textbook platform

The school year has already started in much of the US, so today's update to the Kindle iOS app is going to be a rather belated addition to most students' app toolbox.

Amazon has rolled out a number of improvements today, one of which was superficial and the rest quite important.

When I looked over the change list I was thrilled to see options for setting the margins, but it turns out that on the iPad they range from large to gigantic. That's really not all that useful. I don't see a reason to waste all that screen real estate with whitespace, but I've always wondered if the Kindle iPad developers favored the Apple aesthetic (I think they drank the purple Apple juice).

On the other hand, Amazon did make a number of changes to the app's  features and functions which students and teachers should appreciate. The highlighting behavior has been changed; now when yo select a block of text it will be automatically saved as a highlight without you having to select the option.

And the support for the Kindle Print Replica ebooks has also improved. The KPR ebook is actually a PDF wrapped in a standard Kindle file, and that has always added extra difficulty for basic ebook functions. But now the iPad app supports highlighting for illustrations and photos. You can now highlight photos, illustrations, tables, and charts in KPR ebooks and copy them along with text to the new Notebook.

Amazon's not above copying a good idea when they see one, so they've given KPR ebooks an external Notebook to organize all your bookmarks, notes, highlighted passages, and images. And just like the journal in the Kno app, this new Notebook is going to be an incredibly useful tool for students.

The KPR ebooks are also getting a new navigation mode.  There's now a slider bar and thumbnails on the bottom of the screen. That's a feature which won't work for reflowable ebooks but I'm glad that Amazon added it here.

Amazon left this update kinda late. Kno and Inkling pushed out their updates yesterday (bug fixes but no new features), and it's clear from the focus of today's improvements that Amazon is once again looking toward the textbook market.

Though with digital textbook prices being as high as they are, I'm not sure there's much point. For this fall semester college students will likely find that paper textbooks still offer a better deal than digital textbooks. And I don't see Amazon going after the K-12 digital textbook market like Kno just did a few weeks ago; the Kindle platform isn't set up to support a large number of devices on a single account. I found that out the hard way when I had to deregister a few Android devices so I could add a new one.

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Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

2 Comments

  1. Sherri29 August, 2012

    Amazon tends to operate on Amazon time, and schools out here mostly haven’t started yet. This is a “start after Labor Day” kind of area; even the University of Washington is on quarters and doesn’t start until mid-September.

    (Summer weather doesn’t begin until July 5th, so no point in starting summer before then…)

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