Amazon launch 6th gen “Kindle Paperwhite” touchscreen e-reader

new-amazon-kindle-paperwhite

When Michael Cronan was asked to name Amazon’s new e-reader, the branding consultant suggested Kindle. Kindle, as we know, means “to light a fire” and Cronan felt it would be an appropriate metaphor for reading and intellectual excitement. Since the original Kindle was released in November 2007, six generations of the Amazon e-reader have followed. While Amazon has not released official sales figures, according to Forrester Research, as of mid-2010, sales estimates for the Kindle were around four million.

Yes, it’s safe to say that six generations and millions of sales prove that Amazon remains the undisputed leader in the e-reader category. However, will the sixth gen Kindle, the new Kindle Paperwhite live up to the product’s “to light a fire” metaphor?

It was only announced on the Amazon website on September 3 and won’t be released until October, 2013, so it’s a little premature to dissect the technical powers – or even lack of them – of the Paperwhite, right? Not according to the wave of excitement the yet-to-be-released product has already ignited in gadgetry media.

It’s “zippier and better than the original Paperwhite” CNet insists, pinning the new Paperwhite’s superiority on being the first product to feature E-Ink’s Pearl 2 display, which offers better contrast. CNet’s also quick to associate the new Amazon e-reader’s greatness to its 1GHz processor, which is 25% faster than the 800MHz processor that the original Paperwhite comprises of. The latest model is also a hair lighter than the original Paperwhite, weighing 7.3 ounces instead of 7.5. But will we really notice such a marginal difference in weight?

Meanwhile Bloomberg Businessweek Technology emphasises how the new Kindle is showing how Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is, “Link by link, constructing a wall around his digital reading ecosystem that manages to be both alluring to readers and virtually insurmountable for competitors.” The Kindle-loving Bloomberg reporter is especially excited about the Paperwhite’s Vocabulary Builder feature, which stores all the vocab words that readers look up while reading and then enables them to quiz themselves with flash cards.

So let’s not beat around the bush, what exactly is all the fuss about what makes the new Kindle Paperwhite allegedly better than ever?

One of the Kindle’s biggest assets is that reader’s can read without straining their eyes. With higher contrast and better reflectivity, means that as Amazon states, “White are white and blacks are blacks, so the pages are virtually indistinguishable from a physical book.” What’s more, with next generation built-in light that guides light towards the surface of the display, readers won’t get any eye strain.

With a 25% faster processor, pages turn faster than ever and with the new Kindle Flip Page, ‘skim readers’ can be in their element, scanning chapters, skipping to the end or browsing pages without losing their place.

Another key feature that is new to the latest Kindle is the Smart New Lookup. This pioneering trait integrates a full dictionary along with Wikipedia so that user’s can access information and definitions without leaving their page. Although it has to be said that resorting to Wikipedia for information is a a little on the dubious side of credible.

There’s tonnes more we could say about Amazon’s sixth generation of Kindle, such as maintaining its eight weeks of battery life and having built-in Wi-Fi but what we really to know is the price and availability.

The new Kindle Paperwhite is £109. Pre-ordering started on 4 September at www.amazon.co.uk and shipping in the UK will start 9 October.

Makers: A revolution in the world of things

Bit tired of hearing about the internet revolution? You’re not alone. As marvellous and transformative as the power of interconnected living is, it still has its limits. The internet changed the way we deal with information forever. But what about the way we deal with things?

Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of Wired magazine and author of the oft-quoted *The Long Tail* is fascinated with how the democratisation of the internet (a democratisation that means you can read the words I am writing to you right now), has lead to a quiet revolution in the world of manufacturing.

Makers

Anderson’s enthusiasm for his subject matter really shines through and the book kicks off with a very personal anecdote about this grandfather, who manufactured an innovative timed sprinkler. Anderson himself peppers the book with various anecdotes about the high level tinkering has been involved with and the various communities and companies that have sprung up around them. This isn’t a journalist taking a casual interest in a passing fad. This is someone who has a pretty serious grip on what he’s talking about.

There are lots of interesting jumps into burgeoning subcultures that are developing around various new technologies. It’s pretty hard to put the book down and not run out and buy a MakerBot or start a small business selling customised knick-knacks.

If you are looking to get into the business of making things, especially for a niche market, then Makers functions almost as a “how to” manual from someone who has tried and succeeded multiple times. Every other sentence seems to start with “of course if I wanted to make that now I would …” with helpful hints and tips casually strewn

However Makers is also fascinating from a historical perspective. Anderson is careful to place modern innovation in an historical context and why the future makes sense in a past filled with spinning jennies and dark satanic mills.

Makers is out now in hardback (how old-fashioned) for £20 from Random House Business Books.

Unventions: The coffee table book to cure gadget fatigue

Christmas is fast approaching and with it comes our old, much-beloved friend, the coffee table book. Whilst I’ll happily trade most paperbacks for a Kindle version in a heart beat (I read all of John Schwartzwelder’s amazing Frank Burley detective series on e-screens and loved the experience) coffee table books are still very much a thing of paper beauty, although I’m sure lots of iPad apps will be heading my way soon, all trying to convince me the exact opposite. But what’s a great coffee table book for the gadget lover?

Unventions

Unventions, a new coffee table book from Cléon Daniel (who as you will have guess from his wonderful name is from Dorset) seems to fit the bill exactly. Subtitled “alternative uses for everyday objects”, Unventions is a clever use of lampoon, spoof and satire when looking at modern technology. If like me you spend hours of each day on gadget blogs, it’s a welcome respite from the Sisyphean pursuit of the latest and greatest. And almost every invention has an equal and opposite unvention.

Possibly the best thing ever conceived on a train from Cheltenham to London Paddington, Unventions features page after page of charming low-tech sketches re-examining a number of everyday objects with what can only be described as a quirky eye. Like any good observational comic, Daniel has the ability to view the mundane and reimagine it from fresh and exciting angles. Images of checkerboards as places to store penguins, first drafts of cats eyes with candles or the sandwich mark (useful for marking your place in a sandwich to pick up where you left off) are all fun creations. If they manage to crack the smallest of smiles then I’d recommend getting a hold of the book.

Unventions is launched on Friday 11 November and if you are the sort of person that loiters around the Gower Street Waterstones with all the bright young things of the University of London, you’ll be pleased to know Cléon Daniel will be there in the flesh signing copies.

Want to see more? Check out his blog at www.unventions.co.uk

Script It!: Budget screenwriting software

Do you have unfulfilled dreams of creating the next Twilight or True Blood? If so leave this review now, throw away all your pens and pencils and let us never speak of this again. If however, you are hoping to write something sensible for the stage, screen (big or small) then read on.

Script-It!

“Script It!” is a new software packaged aimed at the first time writer learning the craft of screenwriting, without the cash to splash out on big ticket items such as Final Draft (which if you don’t know is like the Photoshop of screenwriting software). It helps you plan and organize your story, and uses the simple technique of step-outlining to build your story scene by scene. The intuitive design helps you to build and navigate your outline, script and notes step by step through an AV remote-style console.

Script It! has a powerful Scratch Pad which allows you to easily organize your notes and categorize them into folders. The handy ‘Send to Scratch Pad’ menu option you can create an instant copy of selected text in your Scratch Pad for future reference or use. The ‘Tab and Enter’ keyboards shortcuts and auto completes allow you to focus on your story and characters.

As countless LA producers will tell you, formatting is crucial. If you script isn’t laid out in the classic style (Courier font and all) it will be binned. Frustrating though this is, Script It! features industry standard script formatting with auto-pagination and auto-complete and a script writing glossary with over 250 filmmaking terms and definitions. In keeping with the theme of helping you out on your journey to becoming a screenwriter, Script It! includes scene by scene story and analysis of Ghost, Spider-man and Scream so you can take apart some classics … or create a bizarre hybrid of all three. There’s even a Character Name Wizard with over 140,000 first and last names that can be categorized by origin, gender and meaning.

Priced around £49.95, Script It! is available to download immediately from DownloadBuyer.com and in boxed formats from Amazon.co.uk.

The Adventures of Simon Pegg: A digital comic for Android, iPhone and the iPad

You’re scared of mice and spiders, but oh-so-much greater is your fear that one day the two species will cross-breed to form an all-powerful race of mice-spiders, who will immobilize human beings in giant webs in order to steal cheese.

Lines like that made a generations of young adults fall in love with writer, actor, comedian and all round lovely-chap Simon Pegg, star of Spaced, Big Train, Sean of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. And How to Win Friends and Influence People, but we don’t like to talk about that.  The titular hero now has his own £.179 iPad/iPhone/Android app chronicling his comic adventures.

Simon-Pegg-iPad-app

Taken from the pages of his recently released autobiography Nerd Do Well (which it essentially advertises but in a fun and original way) The Adventures of Simon Pegg is digital comic, with full screen or panel-by-panel navigation. If you’ve not read a digital comic before I should point out they are pretty much perfect on tablets. A little too niche to describe as a “killer app” for tablets maybe, but it’s magic being able to have all of “The Authority” or “Scud the Disposable Assassin” in the palm of your hand. Full screen comics are great, and panel by panel (in some cases) can really bring a

The app also features character biographies with lots of details on Pegg’s alter-ego, his faithful robotic manservant Canterbury and the flame haired French cat burglar The Scarlet Panther.  Other added content includes wallpapers, which you can use as background for you phone (or just gaze at).   There is also a bit more info on Mr Pegg, a free sample chapter from Nerd Do Well.

There are also lots of sharing options that enable readers to share single panels via email, Facebook Connect or Twitter – something which is also pretty cool. There is also a shortcut to following Simon Pegg on  Twitter – but if you’ve gone through all the trouble of downloading an app then you probably already have  that. £1.79 from a Marketplace or App store near you.