There's no denying that the Kindle Fire is a success for Amazon. While Apple still has a stranglehold on the tablet market, Amazon has carved itself out a nice little niche market. Even though Amazon might have three new Kindle Fire tablets coming out later this year, they aren't going to let that stop them from updating the software of the current models to include nice new features.
The Kindle Fire software has been updated to version 6.3. The update brings with it seven major changes that focus on ebooks, textbooks, movies and housekeeping. The big theme though is sharing as Amazon has added new social elements to reading ebooks.
The new sharing mode allows readers to highlight specific passages in ebooks and share them with other Kindle Fire users and across Facebook and Twitter. A user can also make a note, perhaps explaining a passage in the Tao Te Ching, that other readers can view.
On that same note, Amazon is also adding Book Extras to their ebook offerings. Readers can now view supplemental material about the book they are reading. This includes "descriptions of characters, a glossary of common terms referenced in the book, and more." A colleague and I both agreed that this feature would be especially useful in fantasy or sci-fi novels that use their own vocabulary and sometimes have convoluted character relationships.
All your notes and writings can now be backed up on Amazon Cloud. They can of course be retrieved at any time. This also allows personal documents to be synced with the server so that it saves your notes, highlights and last page read.
The Kindle Fire now features "print replica textbooks." It may not be as nice as Apple's interactive iBooks option on the iPad, but it still beats out having to buy the actual textbooks in stores. Amazon claims that students can save up to 60 percent off the list price. They're called "print replica" because they are exact clones of the print copies of the textbooks with all the "rich formatting, color and layout of the print editions."
A nice feature for online readers is a "reading view" for Amazon Silk. This feature brings a body of text on a Web site to the forefront while leaving the ads and other material behind. Silk will bring up the text content into a "reading optimized, single screen view."
In an effort to become more consumer friendly, movie rental times don't begin to expire until the user begins to watch the movie. It used to be that it would begin the countdown when the user began downloading the movie.
Amazon also says that the Kindle Fire is getting a few performance upgrades with the newest update. The most prominent being a faster reconnect of Wi-Fi after the Kindle Fire has been asleep.
For more information and instructions on manually downloading the update, check out the Amazon Kindle page. The new update makes reading more fun and social which brings an almost book club feeling to ebooks. Apple would be smart to pay attention and bring that kind of functionality to their iBooks service.
As an aside, it's worth pointing out that the new update will un-root your Kindle Fire. According to The Next Web, however, there is already a work around if you want to keep custom software on your Kindle Fire.