Amazon Kindle iPhone Application

When Amazon announced the Kindle 2, they showed off a new synchronization feature that would sync your position in all of your books between Kindle devices. At the time, “Kindle devices” meant the first and second generation Kindles. The intent was clear though, and Amazon soon elaborated that they were going to be bringing Kindle content to mobile devices. What an exciting idea, but I never expected it to happen so quickly.

Kindle iPhone IndexKindle for iPhone [iTunes link] (The name bugs me, as it works fine on an iPod Touch) is an app from Amazon that lets you retrieve your Kindle purchases from Amazon’s servers and load them onto your device. Along with the content comes your bookmarks and notes generated on the Kindle. Unfortunately,  you can’t create notes on the mobile device. Other things you can’t do: search, look up word definitions, highlight, and text to speech. Of course Amazon wants to keep the Kindle at the forefront of the Kindle experience. If the iPhone app performed every function the Kindle performed (short of the e-ink display obviously) then I think people would have a much more difficult time justifying the purchase of a nearly $400 Kindle reader. Continue Reading


What I’m Reading – How the Mind Works

howthemindworksFor the past few weeks I’ve been working my way through the book How the Mind Works (Amazon Link) on my Kindle in my spare time. I’m not going to try to give a full review here since I’m only about half way through the book, but I did want to write a quick post here recommending it. The author, Steven Pinker, does an amazing job of taking extremely complex concepts and distilling them down into language and metaphors that anyone can understand. Among many other points, Pinker touches on how the mind works mechanically, why it may have evolved into the form it is in today, and the differences between cognition and sentience.

The book covers much more ground than I can summarize here, so check out some of the Amazon reviews for more information. Pinker has written a few other books since How the Mind Works, and I’m trying to work my way up chronologically. I started to read the begining of his book The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, which covers how our mind developed and uses language internally and externally. It was very interesting and I’m looking forward to getting to read the whole book.


Amazon Buys Shelfari

For the last 7 days I’ve been carrying around an Amazon Kindle e-book reader, thanks to a new loan program from the NCSU Library. I’ve fallen in love with the device, and in these 7 days I’ve read much more than I expected. I’m also a big fan of Shelfari, a site that lets you manage your books on “shelves” (much like Delicious Library on the Mac) with shelves for Read, Plan to Read, Wish List, and so on. In the last week, as I start a new book on the Kindle (the one I have had over 50 books preloaded on it by other students) I’ve had to log into Shelfari and manually add the book onto my shelf for books that I’m currently reading. This feeds me reviews and suggestions on related books.

A few moments ago, as I filled out a rating for a book I just finished (Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely) I started wondering if there was an opprotunity here. What if Shelfari could tap into your Kindle’s information, automatically filling your shelves with books you have on the device. This would deliver an experience quite a bit closer to the way Netflix monitors what movies you have at home, what movies your friends are watching, and what movies you have listed in your queue. I brushed the thought off, though, figuring that for an outfit as small as Shelfari to get so intimately involved with Amazon’s systems would need a level of access that Amazon would be reluctant to give. I also figured that Amazon wouldn’t want to invite such direct competition to their own “Media Library” service.

No more than 3 minutes later, I came across a post in the Shelfari Discussion Group announcing that Amazon has aquired Shelfari!

Amanda writes,

We just announced that has acquired Shelfari! This is a very exciting time at Shelfari and there are a lot of new opportunities in the future that will benefit all members. In the meantime, members will continue to have access to the great community and tools that you’ve always known and used on the site. You can continue to build virtual bookshelves and socially interact around the books you care about at

We look forward to working with Amazon to continue with our mission of building great communities that celebrate books. Thanks for your interest in Shelfari and

Happy Reading,

It makes sense… as Shelfari has been using Amazon’s repository of information, even providing “Buy This Book at Amazon” links for titles you come across. It will be interesting to see if Amazon leaves Shelfari as it’s own entity, much like Yahoo did when it aquired Flickr, or if it will pull the developers and existing code into Amazon’s own Media Library site. I think that a lot of users would like to see Shelfari remain independent, but as a heavy user of Amazon (as I think most web-savvy readers are) and a hopeful owner of the second revision of the Kindle, I can’t help but hope that Shelfari gets much more tightly integrated into Amazon’s print and electronic book sales systems.