Last week Amazon updated the software for the Kindle Touch that now makes the Touch the most advanced Kindle of all. While the Kindle family continues to diverge, it is easy to see that Amazon is betting the future on the Touch and touch enabled devices.
The new versions is number 5.1.0. To see whether you have it, go to the Home screen, then tap menu > settings, and on the settings screen, tap menu again, and then Device Info.
If the version number does not read 5.1.0, you can download the new software from Amazon and follow their simple directions for installing it.
After update and restarts you will have the latest greatest. Here is what’s new:
Your Kindle Touch can now be customized for German, French, Spanish, Italian, or Brazilian Portuguese, in addition to US and UK English. This is in anticipation of the release of the Touch in the UK, Germany, Spain, France and Italy scheduled for April 27. (For those who attended last Friday’s eReader workshop, wait for this release to purchase a Kindle for your foreign family or friends).
If you don’t have family or friends in one of these countries, it still matters, because now the Kindle Touch alone among the Kindle models has a great new feature called Translate. You can translate a word or phrase from English (or other language) into one of x languages. Here’s how:
Tap and hold a word until it is highlighted. If you wish to extend the highlight drag over a phrase. When the menu pops up, choose More:
When the next dialog box pops up, choose Translation:
The From language will be the one you have configured your Touch to use—English, in my case, which is autodetected. Tap and hold the To field to select the language to which you want to translate the word or phrase. It will default to the last selected. You will be able to choose among Chinese simplified, Chinese traditional, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, or Spanish. (Those predicting Kindle growth markets take note). After you make your selection the translation occurs. Amazon uses the Bing translation engine to achieve its results.
Academically, this should be especially useful in ESL and language classes, not to mention research across the academic spectrum. It’s true, it is simple to do with a browser, but now with the Touch it is integrated right into the text, further extending and redefining the book as we know it.
For the first time the Touch gets a feature that has been common on the Kindle and Kindle Keyboard since the beginning, and is built into the Fire via its accelerometer: a landscape screen mode. To adjust screen orientation, within a book or document press menu then press Landscape Mode.
The menus and controls flip too, of course. From landscape mode press menu and select Portrait Mode to reverse the procedure.
For the first time the Touch also now has Text-to-Speech, a feature formerly available only on the Kindle Keyboard (and its ancestors). The feature is not available on the Fire, surprisingly enough. For my money the male voice is far more natural than the female voice, which sounds an awful lot like Rosey from the Jetsons. But that is for any given value of “far more natural.” In the early days I was quite enamored of this technology, just because it worked so well, but I have to admit that a little of a computer synthetic voice goes a long way, and it is a feature I seldom use any more. More of a conversation piece than practical technology, unless, of course, you are vision impaired and want to use a Kindle.
With this upgrade the Touch also gets support for Amazon’s latest eBook format, KF8. KF8 is the successor of AZW, which itself is a successor to mobi. More sophisticated, better controlled formatting will be available through the KF8 format.
Sharing what you are reading via Twitter and Facebook has been upgraded too.
If this is the sort of thing you do. As you can see, I tried it out, but most of us would agree that this is too much information… Of course, Amazon won’t miss the opportunity to market the book via your tweet or post.
X-Ray is not new on the touch, it was announced along with the device, but it remains unique to the Touch among the Kindle family, and I’m not sure why because it is a truly impressive feature. X-Ray is a sort of subject-scaffolding view of the book. Access it by opening a book and tapping in the menu area. X-Ray, when it is available—it varies by book by publisher, and is replaced by “Sync” in the page-bottom menu when X-Ray is not available—will appear among the bottom menu choices. X-Ray will show you the significant subjects on the page you are on, the chapter you are in, and within the book as a whole. When you tap on one of the significant subjects, it pulls a description from Wikipedia, and then displays the occurrences of the subject throughout the page, chapter or book. Casual readers won’t care, for the most part, but serious students will find it fascinating. It amounts to a subject lookup similar to the word lookup that the Kindle’s dictionaries provide, and, once again, further redefines the book.
If you don’t have the 5.1 upgrade yet, get it. If you have it, explore some of the great new features. If your first Kindle was the Touch, you won’t know that some of these features ever existed (like text-to-speech). You can also take pride in having the newest, latest features that your friends do not yet have.