As I’m an avid user of the Kindle app for the iPad and the iPhone, I eagerly look forward to version updates. I’ve been using the app ever since its initial release back in 2009, and have written reviews comparing it to Apple’s iOS e-reader app, iBooks. Although the latter app has always been more feature-rich, the latest updates of the Kindle for iPad and iPhone include some much-needed features that users should know about.
Last week, Amazon released the 3.6 version of its Kindle app which now includes multi-color highlights, a Wikipedia-like feature that helps you learn more about notable characters, places, and terminology used in the book, and a few “Book End Actions” for rating and reviewing Kindle books. Previous updates include some useful book management features, and a few minor enhancements to the Brightness Control.
Finally after three updates, the Kindle app now includes multi-color highlights—a pretty simple feature available for quite some time in iBooks, and in a few PDF reader apps like iAnnotate and GoodReader. Now after you highlight a piece of text, you can tap on the highlight and a small menu bar will pop up for choosing one of four highlight colors (red, blue, yellow, and orange), a button for deleting the highlight, an icon for writing notes, and a Twitter and Facebook sharing feature added in a previous version of the app.
For students and non-fiction readers, these multi-color highlights are long-overdue. It has been quite frustrating to only have a single yellow highlighter for annotating Kindle books. With the additional colors, users can, for example, use different colors to categorize their highlights.
The highlight feature is simple to use, but as with iBooks, the last color you use will become the default color for the next highlight you make. So you have to tap again to change back to say the yellow highlight. The multi-color highlights makes it easier to find particular highlights in the app’s small pop-up window that includes all of your Notes and Marks. And fortunately your multi-color annotations get shared across devices, including the desktop version of the Kindle reader.
X-Ray For Books
In the 3.5 update of Kindle, Amazon introduced a feature called X-Ray for Textbooks, which is like a built-in encyclopedia for defining important terms and concepts in a textbook. This feature is now available for non-textbooks, including novels.
Amazon sees X-Ray for Books as the “bones of the book,” in that it defines notable characters, places, phrases, concepts and terms found in a book. It’s like having a custom glossary for Kindle books. After you tap on the X-Ray button in the Kindle menu bar (of the iPad version – for iPhone it’s found in the Books and Notes area) it will use search results from Shelfari and Wikipedia to define names and terms either on a page, in a chapter, or the entire book. This is a pretty handy feature that may reduce the need to Google names and terms in a separate app.
X-Ray for Books is only available for Kindle books you actually pay for and download to your reader, and the search results appear instantly. This feature however is only compatible so far with English titles, and it requires iOS 5 or later.
Book End Actions
For Kindle users who like to share the books they’re reading, the 3.6 update includes a nifty feature for writing, reviewing, and sharing a Kindle book you just finished reading. The “Book End Actions” page will pop up when you turn to the last page of the book. The feature also includes Amazon suggestions for similar books, and a prompt for writing a customer review, which must be a minimum of 20 words.
This feature is a nice little time saver, for it keeps you from having to go online to write a customer review.
While the multi-color highlights and other new features for the Kindle app are some worthy improvements, I can think of at least 10 other features found in similar e-reader apps that are long-overdue – including a better way to organize downloaded books into categories, and a larger window for user notes and annotations. If you are an avid Kindle app user, let us know what you think of the new updates.
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