Monday, November 17, 2014

Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition Review


Amazon has put together their first true true tablet aimed at children with the Fire HD Kids Edition. This device incorporates a free subscription to Kindle Unlimited, which has thousands of apps, books and movies on a À la carte basis. It also has a child proof case that ships with the unit and a two year warranty.



The Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition on a fundamental hardware level is the exact same as the Fire HD7. It has a seven inch capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 1280 X 800 pixels. The colors look rich and vibrant, but it certainly won’t break any barriers in terms of the 216 PPI.

Underneath the hood is a quadcore 1.5 GHZ processor, 1 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of internal storage. There is also a rear facing camera with 3 MP and a fairly woeful front facing .03 MP camera.

When you buy the kids tablet it comes with your choice of colors for the rubber protective housing. There is a few that will appeal to boys and girls, such as blue, pink and yellow. There is ample room for the speakers, Micro USB and power buttons, as to not obfuscate them from easy access.

Speaking of speakers (see what I did there?) the stereo ones on the back provide some fairly bombastic sound levels. It does not exceed the Dolby Audio found on the HDX 8.9, but Amazon consistently delivers the best audio experience on tablets. This makes sense, because they are heavily invested in their Instant Video division, music and audiobooks.

If you have been a parent for long, when kids attach themselves to something that makes a lot of noise, it can be frustrating. This unit has a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can get them to attach some earphones, when they read the enhanced eBook for the 100th time.



The Fire Kids Tablet has Android 4.4 loaded on it, but since its so heavily skinned you will likely not tell the difference between an older version of Android. When you fire (see what I did there again?) up the device for the first time you are presented with the option to register some children profiles. If you have one, or many, they can personalize their app, book and video experiences so they don’t overlap.

Parents will get one year of Freetime Unlimited with purchase, this gives over 5,000 books, videos and apps. Anything accessed via the Freetime interface is completely free. So you won’t have to worry about any types of apps with micro transactions, there simply aren’t any.

There are a number of options that can be employed to keep your kids using the tablet on a respectable level. There are options to establish when the tablet can be used and when it automatically turns off. Parameters can be defined for the weekday and weekends. I like the fact there can be reading goals, such as read for 2 hours a day and play video games for X hours. It encourages kids to read, with the proverbial carrot being mindless entertainment.

This tablet is perfect for a household because on one hand you have a unique interface, clearly aimed at kids. When you enter the parental password it turns into a quintessential Amazon experience. You can buy eBooks, audiobooks, apps, movies, television shows and any other core digital content Amazon sells. You can read your favorite newspaper and read some manga.

The Fire HD Kids Edition is a tablet that is aimed at a household with not a lot of money to spend. They want these types of customers to feel confident that they will have an unlimited two year warranty if anything should go awry with it. It has enough bells and whistles on a software level to keep the little ones entertained, without having to spend anything extra for a year. Parents can access any of the content they bought on prior Fire models or if they had a Kindle, everything is preserved.

Wrap Up


There are many companies involved in the tablet sector that aim their products at kids. Fisher Price, Samsung, V.Tech and others have all sorts of gadgets you can buy at Walmart or your local Toys R US. Amazon did something different. They made a product aimed at kids, but also at adults. It doesn’t feel like a cheap tablet, made of plastic, its rugged and durable.

I would recommend this tablet to parents on an extreme budget and don’t have luxury items like the iPad. If you have the 2013 edition of the Fire HD, there really isn’t any need to upgrade to this.


1 Year Freetime Unlimited
2 Year Unlimited Warranty
Durable Rubber case to protect the tablet
Speaker quality is solid


Resolution could be better
Video service is only relevant in the US only
Hardware specs are average

Rating: 7.5/10

Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition Review is a post from: Good e-Reader

Snapchat Joins Mobile Payment Game with Snapcash


I am pretty sure that Snapchat’s new payment option, Snapcash, is either the best idea I have ever heard… or the worst. We are all familiar with the send and expire nature of Snapchat, and how easy it is to communicate with your friends quickly and easily. Thanks to a deal with Square Cash, you can connect up your debit card (as long as you are at least 18 years old), type in the dollar amount you want to transfer, and with a single tap be sending money to anybody on your contact list.

Snapcash is integrated directly into the existing Snapchat app, just preface your message with a dollar sign and the amount you wish to transfer. Use the green button and the cash will be sent instantly (if your friend isn’t signed up, it will be waiting for them as soon as they do) –as long as it’s received within 24-hours, after which time the unclaimed cash will be refunded to you.

There are plenty of good points here, not the least of which being the tens of millions of users already using Snapchat. Of course, the service has had a few security leaks as of late… and the anonymous nature of the service doesn’t lend itself well to financial transactions. My other concern is how they regulate abuse of the system: how many messages will be sent and received that transfer a few cents? what is the recourse for monies sent to the wrong contact? I’m sure these things and more will work themselves out as the feature is used and feedback gathered.

Even if you aren’t interested in this service in the slightest, I highly recommend watching the introduction promotional video released by Snapchat for the entertainment value –because words fail to properly describe how ridiculous it is (though I am warning you ahead of time that there will be no apologies for stealing 2 minutes and 6 seconds of your life that cannot be given back to you).

The Snapcash feature is already available in the US on Android with an iOS update coming soon.

Snapchat Joins Mobile Payment Game with Snapcash is a post from: Good e-Reader

Google Play Services 6.5 Receiving Updates


While it may seem that the news is primarily for developers, Google’s announcement that Google Play services is receiving a series of updates is good news for everybody –more features and more functionality all around!

The Google Maps API now includes a toolbar that provides users with turn-by-turn directions quickly to a selected marker. With the updates, Google Maps will offer a ‘lite mode’ that makes it easier to show locations in a list mode when it makes better sense (think of it like a thumbnail).

Google Drive will support public and application private custom file properties, allowing for developers to deliver quick searches and create apps that can save data that will persist. In addition, developers will have more granular control over when files are uploaded (like when a device is next plugged in or connected to Wi-Fi) –plus giving the ability to cancel an in-progress upload.

Google Wallet is reading to allow for “Donate with Google” buttons in addition to the existing “Purchase with Google” option.

For those of you using Google Fit, developers will now be able to create more effective apps that can add activity segments supporting pauses and multiple-activity workouts.

Apparently this list of updates will be realized gradually over the next few days, so we don’t have long to wait for all of these good things!

Google Play Services 6.5 Receiving Updates is a post from: Good e-Reader

Kobo and HarperCollins Engage in eBook Bundling Program


Boomerang Books and Pages & Pages Booksellers in conjunction with Kobo and HarperCollins Australia have engaged in a new pilot program to bundle print and eBooks.

Starting today until the end of January customers who visit a Boomerang independent bookstore or buy the print titles online from Pages & Pages will get a free copy of an eBook. This is the first time Kobo has played a role in this type of initiative.

There are only a handful of titles that are eligible for the promotion. You can think of it as a pilot project to gauge the viability of rolling out something more substantial.

The books that are apart of the bundling program are; Cleanskin Cowgirls by Rachael Treasure, Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetti, Kerry Stokes: The Boy from Nowhere by Andrew Rule, Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington and The Menzies Era by former Australian PM John Howard.

Kobo and HarperCollins Engage in eBook Bundling Program is a post from: Good e-Reader

DigiLand DL7 Tablet Gets Hardware Upgrades, Still Costs Just $49

This past summer Best Buy started offering a 7-inch Android tablet with Android 4.4 for $49 called the DigiLand DL7, model DL700D. Best Buy currently has it on “clearance” for $47. It offered decent specs and newer software for the price. A number of people left comments saying it was actually a pretty good budget […]

Blloon iOS App Competes with Leading e-Book Subscription Services


Some of us are already so hooked on reading that we can’t imagine our lives without at least a few books on the go; believe it or not, others need a little extra motivation to flip those pages (literally or digitally). Fortunately a Berlin-based startup has a great idea: gamification. By following a freemium-based model, Blloon is an app that promises to engage readers with e-books (particularly those aged between 18 and 28).

With a welcome gift of 1000 free pages when a user signs up, getting started is easy! From there, earning additional free pages can be accomplished by sharing books and writing reviews (among other tasks). Of course, you can always just avoid any of the hassle and pay for additional content (with top-ups and monthly premium memberships ranging from €1.29-€6.99 that deliver 100-1,000 extra pages).

Blloon features a user interface designed to have appeal for young people, making it easy for casual readers to use the app. Other features offer similar appeal, like those described by founder Thomas Leliveld:

"We're creating and frequently updating Readlists to reflect the lives of our users in specific moments or moods, for example 'Make me Laugh', 'Single Life' or 'The London Film Festival'. In the future we see it feasible that members of Blloon can create, rate and share these Readlists and earn pages upon creating the most loved Readlists. This is similar to what exists in some music services (playlists). According to recent studies, the younger generation believes firmly that eBooks are too expensive. Blloon addressed that by allowing the users to read free. Secondly, young people aren't yet engaged with eBooks and we want them to be. They read frequently on their phones and tablets, we know this, but they haven't yet found a platform that engages with them fits their lifestyle better."

At first glance, it would appear the Blloon competes directly with other existing services like Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. Leliveld asserts that this isn’t the case: while it may be true that the concept is similar, Blloon is trying to keep costs low by not offering more than their target audience needs.

Many publishers are already on board with Blloon, including: Allen & Unwin, Diversion Books, Faber Factory, Guardian Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Lonely Planet, Open Road Media, Profile, RosettaBooks and Workman Publishing (with others already being planned an negotiated).

Unfortunately, Blloon is only available for the iPhone and iPad in the UK right now, but there are plans for a US release in time for Christmas –followed by a full international rollout. There is no specific news regarding an Android version of the app, but it seems likely that one will be available in due time.

Blloon iOS App Competes with Leading e-Book Subscription Services is a post from: Good e-Reader

Disney Prepares for Holiday Season With Updated Apps, Services


According to Disney’s Chief Executive Officer, Bob Iger, children are turning to tablets for entertainment and education; and who understands children better than the creators of franchises like Frozen and Cars? In support of this trend, Disney announced a number of mobile initiatives last week that indicate their continued investment in mobile devices.

Disney Inifinity 2.0 was released earlier this fall, and now we know there is a mobile version due to be launched this holiday season; an addition that will surely be a success, particularly with the new Marvel characters now available. The updated version of Infinity allows for a multi-player mode for iPhone, not to mention being rebuilt using Metal (Apple’s latest graphics API) that promise to provide console-quality graphics.

ESPN will see a rebranded SportsCenter app, furthering their goal to unify all of Disney’s media outlets (ahead of an updated website due to be launched on April 1st, 2015). Ultimately they hope to be on the mobile home screen of all sports fans.

Disney Moves Anywhere was also brought up, referencing the new iOS and Android apps; indicating their titles will also be available on Walmart’s VUDU this week (offering the ability to browse and then purchase over 400 Disney, Pixar, and Marvel titles).

Iger’s presentation last week at Disney’s Mobile Product Showcase began with an anecdote recalling his time spent with the late Steve Jobs, adding a pleasant piece of nostalgia to these announcements for those of us that still miss him a little bit.

Disney Prepares for Holiday Season With Updated Apps, Services is a post from: Good e-Reader

Be entered to win a prize while shopping the biggest content sale of the year!


‘Tis the season for giving, and OverDrive is taking part by giving away hundreds of brand new devices and Facebook marketing credits to say "thank you" for being great library and school partners. Every purchase order submitted at OverDrive Marketplace from November 17 through January 11, will automatically receive one entry into the 2014-2015 Holiday Bonus giveaway! Prizes will be awarded to the user submitting the order and include Samsung Galaxy Nook tablets, MP3 players, Android tablets, and Facebook marketing credits.

One winner will be randomly selected four times every day during the promotion – once every six hours. To enter, simply log into Marketplace and place an order. Winners will be notified via email and also posted on the Holiday Bonus page as they are selected, so check back often. If you are logged into Marketplace at that time, you will see our Holiday Bonus widget make the live selection and display the winner!

Remember to shop often – the more days you submit an order, the better your chances of winning. And now is the perfect timing with our biggest sale of the year in full swing – the OverDrive Holiday Sale taking place from November 17 through January 11. During this sale, shop content from more than 400 publishers from around the world, more than 50,000 titles, at up to 50 percent off! You don't want to miss these amazing end-of-year deals on eBooks, audiobooks and streaming video. This also may be the perfect chance to invite other members of your library or school team to submit an order. Each user that enters an order is entered into the giveaway.

Feeling festive? Send us a picture of your team’s holiday decorations for a chance to be featured in the OverDrive blog. Best of luck, and happy holidays!


Entrants and winners are subject to the Official Rules for the 2014-2015 Holiday Bonus Giveaway. Click here for the Official Rules.

Magzter Gives Free Access to Digital Magazines


Magzter, the largest and fastest-growing digital magazine store and newsstand in the world, with more than 22 million users globally, is offering all 4,500 of its publications for free in the month of November—exclusive to Android users.

Magzter offers top-tier magazines like Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Elle, ESPN, Maxim, Fast Company, Forbes, The Atlantic, and more. The new promotion will last until the end of the month and really gives new users the chance to check out the ecosystem has to offer.

The company has also unveiled a new gifting platform for the holidays. If you dig the entire  digital magazine experience and elect to buy a one year subscription to your favorite publication, you get a second one for free. 

Magzter Gives Free Access to Digital Magazines is a post from: Good e-Reader

Gertbot is here!

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been whetting your appetite for something new from Gert.

How is Gert performing this magic? He’s built a new add-on for your Raspberry Pi: the GertBot. GertBot is a motor controller and power management board, which you can buy today from Farnell or from The Pi Hut.


What makes it so special? Gert has put an ARM cortex-M3 processor on board, which handles all the real-time requirements, so the Pi’s processor is left free to get on with other things – this means you only need to send high-level commands to the GertBot, and the board handles all the rest for you.

This is a powerful piece of kit. While Gert expects most of you to use it for driving motors and building robots, he notes that you can also use it to drive other things: using all three RGB channels, for example, your Pi with the GertBot attached can operate 30,000 led lights. Which should be enough for anybody.

And, of course, there’s the ability to generate DCC signals, which will make model train enthusiasts pink-cheeked and happy.

Gert says:

It has four full H-bridges which can drive 2.5A each. Thus one board can control four brushed motors or two stepper motors. If that is not enough you can cascade up to four board which gives you sixteen brushed motors or eight stepper motors or any combination in between. Additionally the board can control model trains as it supports the DCC standard.

As to software: it comes with a debug and development GUI, C-drivers, Python drivers, and example code showing how to use the drivers, all available in source code. Hop over to where you can download all the code and can also see a number of videos demonstrating the board's capabilities. The board is distributed by Farnell and the Pi-hut.

Gert sits just across the room from me, where he plays with trains and stepper motors. When I loaded this video this morning, everybody looked to see if he was hiding under my desk. Over to Gert, who will show you how to set up GertBot in three minutes from a standing start.

Example programs, utilities, and more are all available at the GertBot site. As with all Gertenproducts, there’s a full and detailed user manual available for download too. If you can’t get enough of Gert’s mellifluous Dutch tones, you’ll also find more example video.

Thinking of buying one? What would you use it for?

Book Expo America Gives the Boot to the General Public


If you have been regularly attending the largest professional publishing event in North America, Book Expo America, you are likely used to the last day of the event opening up to the general public. It is normally at this time that most of the executives and senior staff flee, leaving the interns and hired help to man the booths, giving away free swag. Starting in 2015, the public will no longer be invited to BEA.

Back in 2013, Book Expo America started a program that opened its door for one day to the general public. In 2014, it renamed and restructured Consumer Day as BookCon, making it a publishing-meets-pop culture event aimed at reaching a broad swath of readers. Authors loved this aspect of the event, because it gave them a chance to meet with their most loyal fans and signed many autographs. But while that consumer-friendly day "exceeded our wildest expectations," says BEA Event Director Steve Rosato, selling 10,000 tickets before organizers had to draw the line, it mixed with the professional days like oil and water.

Staring in 2015 BEA will be held Wednesday, May 27, through Friday, May 29, while BookCon will be held Saturday and Sunday, May 30 and 31. Many of the top publishers and authors will likely stay the few extra days in New York to meet with the fans and professional companies that exist to market their services to libraries can take the chance to tear down their booths and flee for their lives.

I like the fact that there will be some separation between the best publishing event for professionals and the general public. It remains to be seen if BookCon can launch as a separate event successfully or not. The BookCon site compares their festival with the likes of Celebration X, PAX East and Comic-con. I seriously doubt they will even come remotely close to the cultural impact those other events have.

Book Expo America Gives the Boot to the General Public is a post from: Good e-Reader