Software update may turn all Kindle users into a cloud-based book club

Today, Amazon posted an overview of what Kindle owners can expect in its version 2.5 software update now slated for late May.

This will be the first major feature upgrade to Amazon's e-paper device line since the launch of the Kindle DX last year. After the launch of that model, there was a single software update, which moderately improved the user experience by stretching battery life and adding native .PDF support.

But with that update, one hand gave while the other took away: It also turned off the default text-to-speech option, amid the disputes it caused with the Author's Guild. In the meantime, however, Amazon was busy growing the Kindle platform with applications that allowed the consumption of Kindle-formatted e-books on iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, Windows, and Mac OS devices.

The slow pace of innovation for the e-reader made me wonder last month if Amazon was already forgetting about the hardware that launched the whole Kindle brand.

Fortunately, it's not. And the 2.5 software update will add exciting and long- overdue features to the device.

Firstly, the native PDF reading function added in the v.2.3 software update was mostly useless because you could not pan and zoom within the frame to read your files. (I put a lot of vintage video game magazine scans in my Kindle, but they're all unreadable because each page is zoomed to format the screen and the text is tiny.) With the v.2.5 update, PDF pan and zoom will be added.

Secondly, the poorly-designed menu system will be upgraded to let you organize your books into collections. Currently, it's just a single paginated list that you have to scroll through to reach your files, which are organized alphabetically. With the v.2.5 software, you will finally be able to group books by author, genre, or publication type.

Finally, users will be able to share their highlighted passages with the rest of the world directly from their Kindle. They will be able to be posted on Facebook or Twitter, or will be counted in Amazon's "Popular Highlights" of e-books. In other words, users will be able to see what the Kindle community thinks are the best lines from their books or books they're looking to purchase.

There will also be more font sizes added, improved image clarity, and a password protection option in the update. The update will be rolled out in a limited beta soon and will be released as an automatic OTA update to all Kindle 2 and DX units in late May.

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