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Amazon Kindle Fire Kid’s Edition Review

One of my clients, who I’m developing an app version of their children’s book for, sent me a Kindle Fire Kid’s Edition for device testing. I’m going to give a brief overview and review of the device from a consumer, developer, and parent point of view.

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Opening the Box: Inside the box is the Kindle Fire Kid’s Edition, MicroUSB charging cable, wall plug, and rubber case. I was pleasantly surprised to see a MicroUSB cable in there, as my first-generation Kindle Fire didn’t come with one and I’ve had to use one from a Palm Pre for development. I’m pretty sure this is just Amazon’s Fire HD 6″ tablet with a rubber case, an extra 1 year warranty tacked on, and FreeTime pre-installed at an extra $50-$90, depending on their current sales.

Interface: The interface has improved since the first-generation Kindle Fire, which is nice. The graphics are a lot more crisp and the speed is much faster. Just the speed upgrade alone might be worth it if your only other Kindle Fire device is a first-generation like mine.

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Size Comparison: In relation to the first-generation Kindle, the kid’s version is lighter, but also has a smaller screen size. Once you insert it into the rubber case that helps protect it from kids dropping it, it actually ends up a little wider than the first Kindle.

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Software: The main difference between the Kid’s Edition and regular Kindle Fires is FreeTime. This provides your child unlimited access to pre-approved books, games, and TV shows on the device. However, it does feel like the added FreeTime, parental controls, and profiles bog it down a bit. The device often freezes or has issues, which requires a reboot.

Developer Review: In comparison to the first generation Kindle Fire, you need special software to transfer .apk files to this device. Whereas my old Kindle Fire would instantly appear on my MacBook for me to drag and drop files, the Kid’s Edition requires Android software. However, with the Kid’s Edition, you can just close the software and unhook the device from your computer, you no longer have to eject the media. I’m not sure how you get your apps on Amazon’s Pre-Approved FreeTime listings, they may have to contact you if they deem it worthy. I was unable to find any of my children’s books and apps while logged into my daughter’s FreeTime account. Like every device after the first-generation, this one doesn’t have the 20 pixel tall menu bar hardcoded onto the screen, so that’s something to consider when developing apps for it.

Consumer Review: At the time, the Kid’s Edition was $150 USD, but now I see it’s gone up to about $190, which seems pretty steep. As I said, it’s really just a $100 Fire HD with a rubber case, FreeTime, and an extra 1 year added to the warranty. You can get FreeTime on your Fire TV, a rubber case for $3 on eBay, and just try not to break a $100 Fire HD after a year, and essentially save yourself quite a bit of money. Also, the bloatware of having FreeTime slows down the device and causes freezing. It’s much nicer than the first-generation Kindle Fire, but at this day and age, those random $40 Android tablets found in bargain bins are faster than the first Kindle Fires.

Parent Review: My daughter loves the Kid’s Edition Kindle. At only 2 years old, she immediately knew how to navigate the interface, download books and games, watch TV shows, and switch between apps without me showing how to do it. The rubber case makes it easy for her to hold and protects it against drops. The limited access makes it easy for me to hand to her and not have to worry about her downloading or buying something she shouldn’t be. However, while using the device in the car, I tried to switch from my account to my daughter’s and it wouldn’t let me without a wi-fi connection to verify my password. This is a terrible feature that Amazon needs to address.

Overall: At $150 or less, the Kid’s Edition is a great deal for parents. At $190, you’re probably better off with something else or just buying a cheaper tablet and getting a rubber case for it. The software can bog down and the fact that I couldn’t switch accounts without wi-fi is pretty bad. That being said, it’s still a nice device for younger kids and knowing it can be replaced for 2 years if it breaks is nice.

CreateSpace vs. Bookemon

As many of my regular readers know, I’ve created a few children’s book apps and am currently working on a new series. I took one of the books, “The Perfect Pillow“, and converted it into a paperback version through Bookemon.com. I liked Bookemon because there wasn’t a minimum order quantity, you could assemble your book on their website, and have a book ready to order in moments. However, I wasn’t thrilled about the price, nor was I happy that anyone could read the book in its entirety without purchasing it. That lead me to look for alternative publishing methods, one of which is CreateSpace.

CreateSpace is Amazon’s Print-On-Demand (POD) branch where indie authors can take their book, upload it to CreateSpace.com, and have it available to order through Amazon.com and CreateSpace.com. When a customer orders the book, CreateSpace prints it and then ships it out (Bookemon is also POD). This saves on costs since there aren’t a stack of books lying around that may or may not sell. I received the proof of my book from CreateSpace today, and would like to give you the pros and cons of both companies.

The Perfect Pillow
Bookemon (Top); CreateSpace (Bottom)

Pros

The advantage of using Bookemon (at least for children’s books) is that you can upload your finished artwork page-by-page to their website, drag and drop items as needed, and have it ready to go very quickly. The print quality is very nice with a thick glossy cover and pages that are also glossy and substantial to the touch. The learning curve is pretty small, I didn’t run into any major issues trying to figure out book assembly.

CreateSpace is great because it’s through Amazon, so you have an enormous potential customer base. They will also assign you an ISBN for free if you don’t already own one for your book. The card stock used for the cover is very similar to that used by Bookemon and you can choose glossy or matte. I’m also able to offer the book to customers for $5 less (shipped) through CreateSpace than I was through Bookemon. Also, if there are any mistakes in the book that will make it look bad when printed, each proof is looked at by someone at CreateSpace and you’ll receive a detailed report telling you what you need to fix. This was very helpful, I had issues the first two times I submitted my files.

Free ISBN provided by CreateSpace
Free ISBN provided by CreateSpace

Cons

I don’t like Bookemon because as I said before, it’s more expensive ($5 per book) than CreateSpace. I can’t see too many people willing to shell out $15+ for a small indie children’s book. Also, there’s no incentive to buy books from Bookemon since they let visitors read the entire book in the preview. Not sure why you’d pay for a book that you can read for free on the site that’s trying to sell it to you. You can avoid this by making the book private, but then you have to buy a bunch of books yourself upfront and hope you can sell them on your own.

The only issues I can see with CreateSpace is that it’s a little more difficult to get the book to them. There’s no option to upload images and assemble the book on their site, you have to export each page and then covert it into a single PDF file to upload. This might not be a big deal for a typical novel, but for something like a children’s book, it’s a bit of trial and error, especially when it comes to full-bleed cropping and print size. Also, after you approve the proof, it takes a week or so to show up on Amazon.com.

Differences

I originally drew the book at 1024×768, which is the resolution of an iPad 1 (the primary device I targeted back in 2011). For print sizes, I had to look for dimensions that were similar when exported at 300 dpi. Bookemon’s closest version is 7.75″x5.75″ and CreateSpace’s closest is 8.5″x6.25″.

Bookemon provides more of a true spine to the book whereas CreateSpace’s spine just looks like the card stock is bent around the interior pages. Bookemon prints at more of a true color of what you see on the computer screen and CreateSpace’s colors are darker. This is probably because you build the book on Bookemon’s site using an RGB profile and CreateSpace you need a PDF that’s print-ready at CMYK.

Bookemon’s pages are glossy and CreateSpace’s pages are a matte finish. I’m not sure which I prefer to be honest. The matte finish makes you feel like you’re turning real paper book pages and the glossy pages feel a little plasticky. With younger children, the glossy pages might be easier to clean sticky fingerprints off of though, so glossy might be better.

Bookemon (top) - Lighter colors, glossy finish ; CreateSpace (bottom) - Darker colors, matte finish
Bookemon (top) – Lighter colors, glossy finish ; CreateSpace (bottom) – Darker colors, matte finish

Verdict

Overall, I think I’m going to go with CreateSpace for my upcoming Maddie Bear book series. It allows me to offer the books at a better price to customers, the books can be found on Amazon.com, and you get a free ISBN. Now that I’m familiar with the CreateSpace publishing process, I think it’ll go more smoothly next time.

Poll

I’m considering writing a book that explains my process of writing/illustrating a children’s book and then converting it into an app and softcover book. Would this be something you’d be interested in reading?

Wacom Bamboo Stylus vs. Targus Stylus

I was using styli to write on mobile devices well before Steve Jobs deemed them uncool and Draw Something made them cool again. You didn’t have much of a choice if you wanted to use the old Palm devices, they all came with a stylus for a reason.

Now I just want a stylus that is good for the occasional sketch in Sketchbook Pro, but more importantly, feels like I’m writing with a pen when using a note taking app like Penultimate. I try to keep all of my work as digital as possible, but writing on an iPad with a fingertip feels awkward so I always found myself hunting down a sticky note to jot down something.

The first stylus I had purchased was the Targus stylus ($19.99) at my local Best Buy. I went with this model because at the time, it was one of the very few styli on the market. It functions okay, but you feel as if you’re using one of those tiny pencils they give you at a golf course since they don’t trust you with an expensive adult-sized pencil. For light use, it will operate just fine as long as you don’t rush it along. If you’re just looking for a stylus to make Draw Something easier than your finger, this will suffice. However, if you’re looking for something that you can use to easily write notes, the sluggishness of the rubber tip and the small size isn’t great.

Targus Stylus - image propery of BestBuy.com
Targus Stylus

I also received an all-in-one stylus/ink pen from Adobe while at a conference in Toronto, but it’s like using a fat pen with a car tire as a tip. Please stick to making software, Adobe.

Finally, the most recent stylus I’ve purchased is the Wacom Bamboo stylus. I was hesitant to spend $29.99 on a stylus, especially after some so-so reviews I have read on the internet. However, I’m on my 3rd and 4th Wacom drawing tablets and they just keep getting better, so I figured it was a name I could trust. It’s only about 3/4″ longer than the Targus stylus, but combine that with the Wacom being substantially heavier, and it feels like a much better experience. The rubber tip glides effortlessly across a glass tablet screen and the added weight makes it less taxing on your hand after long periods of use since you don’t have to press down nearly as hard. I tried the Bamboo in Penultimate, Draw Something, Sketchbook Pro, and Wacom’s app, Bamboo Paper, and it worked well in all of them. I would recommend this stylus to anyone who uses note taking apps on a regular basis.

Wacom Bamboo
Wacom Bamboo- Image property of Wacom

Overall, the Targus stylus is good for light use and it’s $10 cheaper than the Bamboo. However, if you’re looking for a stylus that’s comfortable to hold and good for note taking and drawing, the Bamboo is worth the extra money.