A free firmware update for Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader adds several new features, including an element of social networking.
The features are as follows:
- Page numbers for easier referencing, for example in essays, reviews and discussions. Page numbers must be included in the digital book for this to work. It is not clear how many titles include them; Amazon just says “Many titles in the Kindle Store now include real page numbers”.
- New newspaper and magazine layout with a “Sections & Articles” view. Each section has its own article list for easier browsing.
- Public notes with Facebook and Twitter integration. This is the feature that makes Kindle reading social. You can attach notes to a passage and make them publicly viewable by other readers who choose to follow you, either on a note-by-note basis, or by making an entire book public through the Amazon website. You can also register a Facebook and Twitter account and have specific notes and ratings posted to those who follow you on those networks.
The advantage for Amazon is that these features should promote books through viral marketing.
It comes at an interesting time, since Apple’s new subscription rules may make it difficult for Amazon to continue supporting iPhone and iPad with free readers. Apple is insisting on a 30% cut of the revenue for all titles purchased through apps, forming a financial barrier for competitors to its own iBooks service.
If Amazon can cement loyalty to Kindle though social network integration, that could help it maintain market share.