Protect your Kindle with Solarmio

These days many of us own the Amazon Kindle, and unfortunately many have found out just how fragile the device can be.  Solarmio, who recently won an Innovation Award at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, has some solutions to protect your favorite e-reader.  The new Solarmio Kindle case will not only protect the device, but it has a few other handy features like a light for nighttime reading with a separate battery to power it for up to 50 hours.  The case not only can be charged by a standard USB cable, but also has a solar panel cover that can keep it charged as well.

The Solarmio cover is available now for $79.99.  You can see a full demonstration in the video below, as well as find out more by visiting Solarmio on the web, where you can also purchase this cool case for your Kindle.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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SolarKindle Lighted Kindle Cover

SolarKindle Lighted Kindle CoverThe E Ink screens of e-book readers are much easier on the eyes than traditional LCD ones but as they’re not backlit, reading in low light or the dark is a little tricky. SolarFocus‘s lighted Kindle cover solves this problem and more. Andy takes a look.

The SolarKindle lighted Kindle cover is a combination of a hard case, LED light, battery and photovoltaic charger. The Kindle clips into the back of the case which has a white LED reading light at the top. The solar cell is on the front cover, letting the SolarKindle charge the battery when the cover is closed. The clever part is that the 1500 mAh battery not only powers the reading light but also the Kindle itself, giving several days of extra reading from a fully charged battery.

SolarFocus won a CES Innovation Honoree Award for the SolarKindle – congrats. Available now for $79.99.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net.

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GNC-2011-11-14 #721 CES Ramp Up!

Great to be back in Hawaii and in the Studio. The hard work begins over the next 6 weeks in getting ready for CES 2012. For the first time ever we are going to ask for additional listener / viewer support in helping us for CES 2012. We have produced 1000’s of videos for you and the operation has grown to the point that we want to take care of our support team in a bigger way. I have set a fund raising goal of $5000.00 and hope you will support our endeavor with a $25.00/$50.00/$100.00 donation which will 100% be used to pay our support crew.

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Listener Links:
Couple must Give Facebook Password to each Other!
Kindle Fire Review.
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Links to articles covered in this Podcast on the GNC Show Notes Page [Click Here]

Credits:
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Mike Baine – Associate Producer

It’s The Content, Stupid

Admittedly I’m coming in late to the party. I had all sorts of excuses – I already have a MacBook Pro, as well as the latest generation of iPod Touch. Why would I need an iPod with a giant screen to run mostly the same apps I can already run on my iPod?

After buying an iPad 2, I understand what all the fuss is about. It has also become immediately clear to me why there is a booming iPad market but currently not much of a tablet market. The reason is staring everyone in the face, yet few seem to see it, particularly large tech companies that are struggling to compete in the wrong arena.

The iPad is admittedly an incredibly nice piece of hardware – however, that’s not why it is so successful. The reason for the iPad’s overwhelming appeal and success is very simple – it revolves in large part around being able to run well-written targeted iOS iPad-specific apps that take advantage of the iPad’s screen size and svelte form factor. At about the size of a traditional magazine, it takes the best elements of the multimedia computer and puts them into a highly-readable, touch-interactive color screen that will easily fit into places and situations where even laptop computers don’t work so well.

In short, it’s all about the content and being able to easily consume it anywhere. The content isn’t just about browsing, listening to music or watching videos. The content in large part is the iPad-specific apps themselves, some of which are incredible, such as the 100% free Flipbook RSS reader app.

Amazon has a chance at success with the 7” Kindle Fire, not so much because of the $200 price point, but because Amazon has a lot of ready-made content hanging out in its cloud. Many people pooh-poohed the original Amazon Kindle, only to witness it quickly morph into a success. The Kindle was not and has never been a success because of the Kindle hardware – the plethora of Amazon ebook content is what caused the original Kindle rise to stardom. The availability of the content finally got the ebook ball rolling in a huge way, and the mass market finally realized the incredible convenience and advantage of having a cloud-connected ereader.

Would-be iPad competitors will never effectively compete with hardware alone, no matter how sexy or inexpensive they are able to make it. To borrow part of a phrase from an early 1990’s presidential campaign, we would all do well to paste this sign on our wall:

“It’s the content, stupid.”

GNC-2011-09-29 #709 Kindle Fire

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Credits: Jack Ellis – Executive Producer

$3 Dollar Tablet Stand

Ever wander into the iPad/tablet accessory isle at your local big box electronics store looking for an inexpensive stand for your iPad, Nook, Kindle, or other tablet/reader device? If so, you know these things have a tendency to be rather pricey and may not even do what you want them to.

I’ve got an inexpensive, very effective solution you may not have thought about. Make a trip to your local hobby store, a dollar store, or any store that sells nick-nack type items. What you are looking for are small easels either made of metal wire or even wooden ones with folding hinges. These can sell for as little as a $1 and up.

I purchased the pictured wire metal easel from my local Hobby Lobby store for $2.99 plus tax to hold my Barnes & Noble Nook – about $60 dollars or so less than I would have paid for a specialty tablet stand.

Save your money and have an effective solution all in one fell swoop.

Kindle Lighted Cover

Kindle Lighted Cover I have a Kindle and I grown to love it, however it’s one weakness for me is the lack of a backlight. This means at night even with lights on you need a book light to avoid shadows on the pages. Unfortunately, most book lights that are available are badly made, they are flimsy and don’t stayed hooked to the Kindle and you can’t replace the battery. Even if they work well it is one more thing you have too carry with you on a trip. I had tried a couple which were ok, but I wasn’t totally satisfied. Then I heard someone talking about the Kindle Lighted Cover. I was immediately intrigue since I also needed a book cover for the Kindle.

The Kindle Light cover is made of pebble leather and comes in 7 colors. When you first attach the cover, you have to make sure the hooks in the center are inserted correctly, that took me a little while. It has a great elastic cord that wraps around the cover. When you open the cover you can fold the cover back and use the cord to hold it. You can then hold the Kindle by one hand. In the upper right hand corner of the cover there is a piece of plastic, when you pull it out it becomes the light. The light comes on only when the Kindle is on. It is an LED light and it runs off of the Kindle’s power, so no batteries are required. The light is bright, and covers all the Kindle without a glare. It feels well constructed and pulls out fairly easily from it’s slot.

The biggest problem with the Kindle Lighted Cover is the price, most clip on book lights run from $5.00-$25.00. The Kindle Light Cover is $59.00, which seems like a lot in comparison. However you do get a cover which alone can run from $25.00 to $40.00. Plus since the light runs off the Kindle power so you don’t have to buy replacement batteries, therefore over the long run it should be cheaper. I read some of the reviews on Amazon some people have had problems with the Kindle Lighted Cover shortening the Kindle out, however most of the reviews were positive. If you have recently brought a Kindle and are looking for both a cover and a book light I would recommend the Kindle Lighted Cover.

Kindle Cloud Reader

Kindle in the CloudRecently Apple began to enforce it’s in app purchase policies which prevents ebook readers such as the Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook from linking out to their own stores and so avoid paying Apple 30% of the purchase. If you had the Kindle app downloaded from the iTunes on your iPad and did the latest update you will have noticed that you can no longer purchase a book from within the app. You actually have to go out of the app and into Safari to purchase a book. This was not something that would work for either the consumer or Amazon in the long run.

So this week Amazon announced that they were offering the Kindle in the Cloud. It is a web page created using HTML5 once you sign in to it using your Amazon account information, You will see a pop up that recommend that you create a bookmark and add it to your Home screen. When you click on the bookmark you will see a beautiful rendition of your Kindle library and in the right top hand corner an icon that will take you directly to the Kindle store. Any book you buy will show up immediately in your library. You library is organized so the book you are reading now is first. Your most recent books are automatically downloaded and available for offline reading.
While reading a book using the HTML5 app I did run into what for me is a glaring weakness, the inability to add notes or bookmarks. You can view them but you can’t add them. I have a regular Kindle and the one thing that the app on the iPad had over it (besides the beautiful screen) is the ability to easily add notes. Adding notes on a Kindle is rather awkward, at least for me. If I am a student and use my iPad as my sole E-reader, then the ability to add notes is a must. Hopefully this is something that can be fixed in an update.

As an end user I am not directly effected by the controversy over the Apple’s in app purchase policy at least not immediately. There is a part of me that says that Apple has the right to have any policy they want it is their store. However I do understand if I was a developer giving away 30% of what I earn to Apple would drive me crazy, therefore I am glad that HTML5 gives developers an option. Some people have complain that HTML5 is great for sites like Amazon who are already well establish, but smaller and newer developer’s depend on the app store to publicize their apps. There are more then 450000 apps, 100000 of them for iPad in the Apple app store, so if you are depending on being in the app store to promote your app, maybe you should rethink your marketing strategy. I like the Kindle in the Cloud, but to be honest since I have a actual Kindle I probably will not use it much.

Ebook Light and iPad Stand Reviews

Over the Memorial weekend, I purchased a couple of accessories for both my Kindle and my iPad. Neither are complicated enough for a full post, so I thought I would review both within a single post. The first is a eBook light from Belkin, the second is the Mini-Stand for the iPad from Targus.

I was looking for an e-book light that wouldn’t cost me an arm and leg but was fairly sturdy. I finally decided on the eBook light from Belkin. It works, but I am not sure it is going to be the last e-book light I purchase.

Ebook Light

I was a little annoyed when I realized that it required three AAA batteries and none were provided. This is a pet peeve of mine, if you sell a product that requires batteries, either provide the batteries or clearly state no batteries provided. According to the Target site the package should have included batteries, so I double checked the box and there were no batteries. So I spent 10 minutes try to find batteries to test the light. The second more long-term problem is that when you clip the light to the Kindle it is not tight at the bottom of the clip. Because of the arm it is a little top-heavy, so the bottom pulls away slightly, this is something I may or may not get use to. I do like that the arm is adjustable in all directions. The light is bright enough even at the lower level that reading on the Kindle even with the room light off is quite enjoyable.

Mini-stand for the iPad

The second accessory was a stand for my iPad. I was again looking for something simple, not too expensive and easy to carry. I found the Targus mini-stand at Walmart and so far I am very happy with it. It is a simple clear block of hard plastic. There are spaces at both end where you can place the iPad. The angle of the iPad will depend on which end you choose. You can place the iPad in either portrait or landscape mode in the stand. It does not work if you have a cover on the iPad. The stand is about as thick as two original iPads, but not too heavy. I like that it is really simple with no parts that can break and easy to carry. Also at less than $15.00 the price was right. If you are looking for something fairly inexpensive that works, the Mini-stand from Targus is a good choice. An added bonus is it works well with the iPhone too.

Barnes & Noble Nook – A UK Perspective

When it comes to ebook readers, I think it’s fairly safe to say that there are three main contenders in the market – Amazon with the Kindle, Barnes & Noble with the Nook and Sony with the Pocket Reader range. Three contenders in the US market that is. If you live in the UK, your choice is more restricted with only the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Pocket Reader being widely available.

Regrettably, Barnes & Noble don’t exist over here but there are plenty of bookstores such as Waterstones and WHSmith. There are others readers available too, such as the Samsung E60/E65, the Kobo, the iriver Story but I’ve never met anyone who actually has one, whereas I know several people with Kindles and Sony Readers. The latter was previously reviewed on GNC in the autumn.

Like many of my compatriots, I’ve looked longingly at the Nook while on holiday. It seemed to have the best of both worlds – although it has access to a closely integrated store in the same way as the Kindle, it reads the more open epub format like the Sony Pocket Reader can. It doesn’t have the full touchscreen of the Pocket Reader but it does replace the Kindle’s keyboard with a small colour touchscreen, which I like.

But a little research showed that Barnes & Noble won’t sell ebooks outside of the USA, so I was reluctant to purchase a Nook in case I ended up with an expensive paperweight.

Further research on the forums suggested that sideloading ebooks onto the Nook worked fine, i.e. copying ebooks via USB, so in the end, I took the risk and imported a Nook back into the UK. I only purchased the wifi version rather than the 3G version as even if the 3G worked (and I doubted it would), there wasn’t going to be much I could do with it if I couldn’t buy directly from Barnes & Noble.

Here’s what I’ve discovered after a few days of playing around.

The good news is the you can easily purchase books from the likes of Waterstone’s and read them on the Nook. The first step is to download and install Adobe’s Digital Editions on to your PC or laptop. When the program is run, you “authorise” the computer to store and manage your DRM’d ebooks (not that you have any at this stage).

Once that’s done, the second step is to go to the ebook store of your choice and purchase what you’d like to read. When you download the purchased books, Adobe’s Digital Editions will automatically launch to receive them and once completed, you can see and read them within the software.

Finally, when you connect your Nook via USB, Adobe Digital Editions will ask you if you want to “authorise” the Nook reader. After accepting this, the Nook appears as another container within Digital Editions and you can then copy your newly purchased ebooks to the Nook. Disconnect the Nook from the PC or laptop and the ebooks will appear in “my library” on the Nook. Select one of your choice and you’re reading. Excellent!

That’s the main concern dealt with so what else is good? I didn’t exhaustively try to break B&N’s regional restrictions but some content, e.g. The Daily blog, is available to be read.

Disappointingly, the built-in web browser doesn’t allow downloads. There are many ebook stores such as SmashWords which offer un-DRM’d ebooks which could be downloaded direct to the Nook because there’s no need for Digital Editions to manage the DRM. Unfortunately, when you try to download anything directly to the Nook, the web browser refuses to do it. A little irritating.

The audio player works ok, though it relies on the small colour screen to select tracks. This is fine if you have a small music collection or you shuffle the playlist, but it’s not great if you have a big collection and want to listen to ZZ Top.

If weight is an issue, Nook is definitely a bit heavier than both the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader. Folio covers seem to work better on the Kindle with its latching mechanism whereas the Nook seems to rely on “pockets and elastic”.

Overall, I like the Nook. The loss of the connection to the Barnes and Noble shop puts in on a par with the non-Kindle ereaders in the UK and it’s really a choice between the touch screen of the Sonys and the colour navigation screen of the Nook. But the main point of this article is that if you are in the US and you like the look of the Nook, you can be confident that you’ll be able to purchase and read ebooks from bookstores here in the UK.