What is it?
The Kindle Fire device is an Android driven 7-inch tablet with an Amazon “skin.” What this means for users is that your device will come pre-loaded with all your previous Kindle purchases and allow you instant access to Amazon media products (Amazon Cloud) like music, movies and of course books. While the device is not quite as versatile as the more popular Ipad it is significantly less expensive. Coming in at less than half of the Ipad’s MSRP on the least expensive model, it might provide a cost alternative option for libraries with smaller budgets. Because this device is an Android platform, there are several similarities between the Kindle-Fire and other Android tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy. In the months following the Kindle-Fire release the popularity of Android tablets has increased. Because the Kindle-Fire and other Android tablets are remarkably similar we will include a brief overview in the learning segments below that are relevant to general Android tablets as well.
How it works:
This Android tablet is navigated by touch screen and appears fairly self explanatory. If you would like to see a video walk-through of it’s operation you can find it here. Some helpful tips and tricks and common Kindle-Fire problems can be found here and here. We strongly recommend viewing the second link since it teaches you things like how to protect your personal Amazon account information and to cut and paste. The Amazon “skin” provides seamless access to Amazon cloud service but it also limits access to the full Android Market store. Instead the Kindle-Fire connects you to what Amazon describes as a “curated” version of Android Market. This version of the Market is slightly restricted and does not contain applications that will not run on the device. We have also discovered that it has failed to provide access to applications that it is capable of running but may compete directly with Amazon’s services such as Google’s new music service or Google Books. This is important for those desiring access to full OverDrive features since the Kindle does not allow Kindle-Fire users to access all formats available through OverDrive. More information about this will be provided in the advanced section below. It is also worth mentioning that unlike earlier versions of the Kindle, the Fire requires access to an independent Wi-Fi network and does not utilize Amazon Whispernet.The Kindle-Fire browser runs a Silk browser, meaning it strips a lot of unnecessary visual content from websites to allow for faster loading times. Silk is a happy medium between mobile browsers and full browsers. It is capable of running flash and interactive website as well however it appears that these pages can load slightly slower.
Why it is useful:
The Kindle-Fire currently operates with OverDrive Ebook services. The checkout process is slightly different than with other E-Readers because the patron will be required to complete the extra step of logging into their Amazon account before the checkout process is complete. The advantage to the extra step is that you have access to Kindle features for the book. This means the reader can add highlighting, footnotes and annotations to the book. These will not appear to the next patrons but will if the patron checks the book out again, or if they decide to purchase the book. Some information about Kindle with OverDrive can be found here. Although it is not related to the Fire tablet specifically, it is worth noting that a Kindle reader download is available for most smart phones, personal computers, and Macs. These features will cross over between the devices as well. OverDrive’s media console app is available for non-Kindle tablets such as the Galaxy as well. Here is a full list of OverDrive supported devices.
The Silk platform seems to have difficulty running websites with heavy databases which makes it virtually impossible to run JSTOR or Ebsco hosted information. It is incredibly easy to send PDF’s to the device however. The Kindle-Fire and Kindle allow for PDF’s to be mailed directly to the device. This is a useful feature that is beneficial when conducting research. PDF’s can be attached to an email and as long as the word “Convert” appears in the subject heading, the device will automatically convert them to Kindle content and place them on your “docs” shelf in the device. You will need to log in to Amazon and add the sending email on your approved senders list. Full details on this process can be found here. We recommend downloading the Adobe PDF reader app for students and researchers however, this makes it possible to highlight and add footnotes to the documents. An explanation of this can be found here.
The Kindle-Fire also supports a variety of applications that are incredibly useful for both staff and patrons. It is important to note that many apps in the Android market are created by independent developers and the quality is not as highly controlled as with the Itunes app store. It is important to check customer reviews on any newer apps before you download or recommend them to patrons.
1. Adobe Reader -for reasons mentioned above: Free
2. Evernote – Allows users to capture almost anything (media, photos, etc) as well as your own notes and organize them. If you are new to Evernote set up and account and explore on-line before using the app: Free
3. Office Pro – A stripped down version of this app comes pre-loaded on the device. This app allows the user to utilize and display Microsoft Office files. If you plan on using the device to create Powerpoint and other feature I strongly recommend upgrading to the full version: Upgrade to full version: $14.99
4. Mashable – The powerful social-media news and web tips is available: Free
5. HootSuite – If your library utilizes Facebook, Twitter and other social media this app can allow you to manage all of them in one app: Free
Unfortunately there is currently no app for Pinterest but hopefully there will be in the near future. There are apps available for Facebook, IMDB, Wikipedia, US Census, NYTimes, USA Today, Huffington Post, Oxford Dictionary, Vimeo, Tumblr, Linkedin, WordPress, and a Flickr third party app called Flickrfolio.
Links to bloggers top ten lists of apps and and other useful information will be provided below. All of the apps listed are available on other Android devices as well.
Create & Reflect:
This process might be difficult if you do not have an Android device or Kindle-Fire. If you do not have access, We recommend exploring the following links to gain a better understanding of how you can assist patrons with the device should they have questions. If you are not familiar with any of the services affiliated with the above apps, please explore them. Evernote and Vimeo are two very helpful services worthy of checking out. If you do have access to the device and have not already, go through the process of checking out a book or assisting a patron to do so. If you desire please explore the apps above or links below.
In your reflective blog please describe your experiences and opinions on the Kindle-Fire or other Android device. Is it useful, easy to navigate, intuitive? Did you discover any new apps worthy of mentioning? Do you feel that these apps would be beneficial to library staff? Tell us about your opinions overall.