A software update is adding some much-requested features to Amazon.com’s latest Kindles.
A preview version of the software can now be downloaded manually (here’s the link to the new Kindle software, version 3.1) before it’s rolled out later to the latest-generation Kindles and Kindle 3G models.
New features include real page numbers that correspond to the pages in print editions. This will especially help Amazon in schools, where I’ve talked with teachers who gave up on Kindles in part because the device’s odd page numbering system didn’t track to printed books used in the classroom.
It may take awhile for real numbers to proliferate, though. Amazon said it’s adding them to Kindle editions and so far has them in “tens of thousands” of volumes.
Amazon is also adding a “public notes” feature that lets Kindle users choose to make their book notes and highlights public, sharing their thoughts “with friends, family members, colleagues and the greater Kindle community of people who love to read.” I wonder how fine-grained the sharing feature will be — for instance, can a teacher share highlights just with students in their class, or family members share only with each other?
That’s one of several Web commerce features coming to Kindle. Amazon is also adding “Before You Go …,” a webby feature at the end of Kindle books designed to prompt users to rate the book, share a message about the book with a social network, get tailored suggestions of other books to buy and see more books by the same author.
The notes and “Before You Go” features may pull more Kindle readers back into Amazon’s digital Web, but it could turn off some who just want to read books on the Kindle.
The update is also bringing a “new and improved” layout for newspapers and magazines. It will give readers a snapshot of news “and helps you decide what you want to read first,” Amazon said in its release.
Here are screenshots of “Before You Go” and the paper layout: