Kindle 3 Freezing minimization, Amazon testing fix

If the Kindle 3 is giving you trouble with automatic restarts or freezing you’ll be glad to know Amazon might be close to a solution. This post will also add some details on how to minimize the freezing.

Please note that these are workarounds that reduce the frequency, not remove the problem. The real solution is for Amazon to release an update that fixes the underlying issue – which Amazon seems to be in the process of doing.

Should you return your Kindle 3?

No, all signs point to a software issue that’s fixable and Amazon is already working on a fix and testing it. Two users left comments that they have the new firmware for testing, one left a photo showing the new firmware version, and another user was told by Amazon customer service that a fix would be out in 10 days.

Additionally, Amazon is offering a free replacement Kindle 3 if you’re running into freezing issues.

If you’re thinking about getting the Kindle 3 please note that this Kindle 3 freezing issue isn’t happening for everyone – From the responses on the Kindle forum it seems that there are more Kindle 3 owners not experiencing the Kindle 3 freezing issue than there are Kindle 3 owners experiencing it.

Keep in mind Mike deMaria’s advice –

To those of you who are second guessing your purchase/being sad/etc –> DON’T BE (smile) All that is most likely wrong is a bug that can be found and fixed without you doing much – other than connecting to Whispernet Via 3G or WiFi when the fix is released.

Should it have been caught before shipment? Maybe. But I do know from all my experience on the other side of things (being the programmer), sometimes bugs like these escape even the best testing. It happens.

A fix should be out soon and even in the rare case it’s an unfixable problem you can get a free replacement Kindle 3.

Possible firmware upgrade on the way to fix Kindle 3 Freezing Issues

Here’s a comment from BobLenx –

Hey gang, I got an email back from Amazon support today – good news I think. The email was as follows:

“I have heard back from the development team on our issue. It appears this problem will be addressed in an upcoming software update for the Kindle which will be sent wirelessly to you in approximately ten days or so.

In the meantime for a temporary fix you can slide the power button to the right for about 15 seconds to reset the Kindle.”

That would certainly be a good thing. Hopefully, that’s a reliable customer service representative.

K. Scarpelli even wrote to say the new firmware is being testing on his Kindle –

Good news people. I just received a call from tech support about a half hour ago and they pushed the new firmware to my Kindle. I’m running 3.0.1 (525120101).

That’s really good news. He’s even put up a picture and it clearly shows he has a different firmware version. Another user, CLS10, also got the new firmware.

In the meantime let’s figure out how to minimize Kindle 3 freezing.

What seems to work best to minimize Kindle 3 Freezing?

Here’s a rough list of things that seem to decrease the probability of restarts and freezing –

  1. A hard reset (hold down power button for 15 to 20 seconds) seems to often fix the issue. The reset via the settings page isn’t effective – you have to use the power switch reset.
  2. Let Kindle 3 charge for 3 to 6 hours before using it.  
  3. Don’t download hundreds of books at the same time.  
  4. If you’ve just downloaded books and they’re indexing (Kindle is preparing them for searches) don’t do lots of intensive things. If possible even hold off for a few hours and let Kindle index. Do a search for ‘xqwe’ and it’ll show a list of books (if any) that haven’t been indexed – Wait for that list to go to zero.
  5. Don’t visit lots of complex websites one after the other. The web browser seems to be causing a lot of crashes so if you can avoid it that’d be best.
  6. Don’t load up lots of PDFs from strange places. If you’re having problems with PDFs delete a few of them and then try reading the remaining PDFs.
  7. Don’t add tons and tons of highlights quickly.
  8. WiFi might play a part so if you have the option of either work with 3G. Using 3G solved the freezing issue for some Kindle 3 owners.
  9. Importing Collections is causing a problem often enough that it might not be a bad idea to hold off on it for a bit.

Some users are taking up Amazon Customer Service’s offer of a replacement Kindle. Will update this post if they report back that the replacement fixes the issues – since lots of people aren’t seeing the freezing there’s a high chance the replacement Kindle 3 will be free of the freezing issue.

Kindle 3 Freezing – Possible Causes

Let’s look at the various situations which seem to cause freezing or reboots. We’ll also look at what people found worked. Most of these are from the official kindle forum.

Freezing right in the beginning –

  • It’s recommended to let your Kindle 3 charge for 3 hours before using it. There are claims that if you don’t do this it’s likely to cause more crashing – No idea whether these claims are valid but it certainly doesn’t hurt to let Kindle 3 charge fully.

Freezing and Restarts when Indexing a large number of books –

  • For some people the problems occur only when they are downloading/adding a lot of books at once. This suggests it might be an indexing issue.
  • The solution here is to not load up lots and lots of books at once.

Freezing and restarts when doing things very quickly one after the other –

  1. If you go into the photo viewer and do lots of changes at the same time sometimes the Kindle 3 freezes.
  2. The solution for this would be to not change settings multiple times in rapid succession.

For some people Every Word is causing problems – Well, Kindle Apps do freeze up on Kindle 3 and didn’t on Kindle 2. Kindle Apps presumably take up a lot of memory and processing power so if the crashing is related to processor overload or Kindle running out of free memory it would make sense that games crash more often.

Freezing and restarting due to WiFi –

  1. Quite a few people have had freezing when they were using WiFi. 
  2. A few people have had freezing disappear when they stopped using WiFi. It probably means the WiFi feature’s code is doing whatever causes the freezing more often than other features’ code.  

It seems more and more likely that there’s a single bug underlying all these freezing problems.

A common thread of a Memory Leak or a Processor Overload

If you look at all the things that might be causing freezing and restarts it seems that whenever you do memory intensive or processor intensive tasks on the Kindle 3 it crashes or freezes. We get errors more frequently when –

  1. Indexing lots of books.
  2. Doing lots of changes one after the other.
  3. Loading complex websites in a row.
  4. Loading lots of PDFs.
  5. Highlighting frequently.

It definitely suggests that either there is a memory leak or the processor is getting overloaded and is unable to cope.

Here’s a comment from Mike that suggests the same thing –

Being the good programmer that I am, to me it appears we are all having a memory leak issue.

The other day I could see things getting slower and slower until finally the K3 locked up and needed a hard reset. It would also explain the random reboots if something is eating program space.

A memory leak would make the most sense as it would be something that just gradually builds up and then suddenly when you do something that needs additional memory – it causes a crash. A problem related to a memory leak would also be be triggered more frequently when doing memory intensive tasks like web browsing or loading PDFs – which is exactly what we’re seeing.

the PDF restart issue 

There’s a particular, rare bug that causes a Kindle 3 restart every single time you open a PDF. There are two things found to work for this –

  1. This is sometimes fixed by a hard reset of the Kindle. Slide and hold the power switch for 15 seconds.
  2. Another solution is to delete a few of the PDFs you have. This suggests certain PDFs might be causing an issue or that PDFs aren’t cleared out from the memory properly until they are deleted. If PDFs aren’t properly removed from memory it would make sense that all PDFs cause a restart – PDFs and the PDF reader probably need a lot of memory and the PDFs left behind in memory would reduce available memory and the PDF reader wouldn’t have enough memory to load.

This will probably also be fixed by the new firmware. It’s good to know there’s a possible Kindle 3 freezing fix being tested and everyone will soon get back to enjoying the Kindle 3.

Kindle 3, eReader Wars – Sept 2010

The Kindle 3 faces two interesting new challenges – Sony released its new eReader models today and Borders cut the prices of the Kobo and Aluratek eReaders.

How much of a threat to the Kindle 3 are the new Sony Readers? What impact will the $99 Aluratek eReader have on the eReader wars?

Let’s dive into the specifics and see what impact these changes might have on the  eReader Wars.

Kindle 3, eReader Wars – Borders selling $99 eReader

Borders has reduced the prices of two eReaders – Aluratek Libre is now $99 and Kobo eReader is now $129. All the talk of us seeing $99 eReaders by end 2010 seemed presumptuous until a few months ago. Today, we already have $99 eReaders.

The Aluratek Libre at $99 puts some pricing pressure on Kindle WiFi but not much since Aluratek’s eReader isn’t very good. The Kobo at $129 isn’t really a factor since Kindle WiFi is much, much better than the Kobo eReader.

A few months ago the Kobo eReader at $149 was the first eReader from a big/well-funded company to break the $150 price barrier and there was talk of it stealing away market share from the Kindle. It’s a reflection of how quickly things are changing that today, even at $129, it’s an after-thought. The Nook WiFi at $149 and Kindle WiFi at $139 are much better options.

Not having a competitive eReader is the least of Borders’ problems.

A World without Borders?

Borders is really struggling. For Q2, 2010 it had a loss of $46.7 million and NY Times chronicles Borders’ dismal state

  1. In the last  3 years Borders has reduced its store count by almost half. This includes exiting the UK.
  2. It raised capital in Q2, 2010 by selling $25 million worth of shares to a cigarette executive who became the largest shareholder. 
  3. It sold its Paperchase chain for $31 million.
  4. It still has debt of $262.1 million.
  5. Sales at Borders stores open at least a year fell 6.8% in Q2, 2010.

Its share price also took a hit – falling 4.5%. Basically, Borders doesn’t look like it’s going to survive – It is hardly in a position to mount a serious threat on the eReader market. With the $149 Kobo Reader and the Aluratek Libre it was trying to corner up the lower end of the market but Kindle WiFi has destroyed that opportunity.

The lower prices of the Kobo and Aluratek eReaders don’t change the fact that they aren’t very good – they couldn’t even compete with Kindle 2. Put them up against the Kindle WiFi and the new Sony Readers and they are terribly inadequate.

Kindle 3, eReader Wars – Sony releases pricier eReaders

Sony seems to have given up on trying to beat the Kindle 3 and seems focused on creating the perfect product for a market that only exists in its imagination. It talks a lot about how it couldn’t afford to put WiFi into its $179 Sony 350 and its $229 Sony 650 without taking a moment to wonder how Amazon and B&N managed to produce WiFi capable eReaders at sub $150 prices.

It’s also got really strange priorities – It seems to be more interested in building a device, selling it, and running away than in earning money from ebook sales. In a sense it’s trying to build TVs and hoping cable companies supply the service and content. The only problem is the cable companies in this market have their own TVs.

The net result is a beautiful eReader (good-looking, good features, touch screen) that doesn’t really have good infrastructure or a good store to back it up. It’s an eReader made by a company that doesn’t really grasp that people are going to read books on the eReader. Sony is trying to provide one part of what the customer is asking for and is hoping the other parts just magically appear.

Is Sony using really smart strategy or deluding itself?

There are three entirely reasonable possibilities –

  1. Sony has figured out that it can get a solid #2 or even a #1 spot by selling higher end eReaders with touch screens and selling them all over the world via their retail channels.  
  2. Sony has decided it’s just too much work to compete with the Kindle 3 and has given up on the US market.
  3. Sony is delusional and it’s convinced itself that the product it has to offer meets the needs of the eReader market perfectly. If you look at Sony 650 and contrast it with Sony 600 the only thing Sony has changed is that the touch screen now doesn’t hurt readability. In almost every other way it’s the same product.

We do have to give credit to Sony for differentiating and managing to release eReaders with touch screens. The lack of WiFi and the high prices are madness – However, the touch screen gives Sony an angle that it might be able to leverage to generate sales despite the high price.  

Kindle 3 to be sold at Staples

Amazon isn’t exactly sitting still and it’s begun to expand the Kindle’s retail presence. Kindle 3 will be sold at Staples stores starting this Fall. Reuters reports on Kindle 3 at Staples

Staples will start selling the Kindle at its more than 1,500 U.S. stores starting in the autumn, the company said.

It plans to sell the $139 version of the Kindle, the 3G model and the more expensive Kindle DX.

Staples makes a lot of sense as the $139 Kindle WiFi and the $189 Kindle 3 are both good products that meet the needs of businesses looking to cut down on paper and printing costs. Additionally, the prices are low enough to entice some Staples customers into impulse purchases.

5 million Kindles sold?

The Reuters report goes on to talk about Kindle sales estimates –

Forrester Research estimates that Amazon has sold about 5 million Kindles since the product’s launch in 2007, and that Barnes & Noble has sold 1 million Nooks since their introduction last year.

Every day there’s a new Kindle sales estimate – 5 million is one of the higher ones. Keeping Kindle sales figures secret is the gift that keeps giving.

Nook 2 still missing in action

If Nook 2 really is slated to be launched in parallel with B&N’s big in-store push for the Nook (which starts around September 4th/5th) then we might soon find out what B&N has in store for us.

At the moment, Nook 2 is missing and every day readers are picking Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi over Nook and further increasing Amazon’s lead. It’s hard to understand what’s stopping B&N from announcing Nook 2 and letting readers place preorders.

Google Editions still missing in action

The other mystery is around Google Editions which was supposed to launch in summer 2010. It would make so much sense for Google to team up with one or both of Sony and B&N and with every smaller eReader to take on the Kindle Store.

It already has Android in nearly every non-Kindle eReader and it’s already providing a million public domain books (via Google Books) to nearly every non-Kindle eReader. It might as well add the store. Most eReader makers are desperate and this would be the perfect time to push and promote Google Editions. 

Apple doesn’t announce iPad 2 at today’s Apple Event

There were rumors that an iPad 2 would be announced at today’s Apple iPod event. That didn’t happen and there wasn’t any mention of iPad sales figures either. Perhaps they are being saved for a later conference that would also see the announcement of the iPad 2.

It’s pretty likely that we’ll see the iPad 2 arrive by October/November of 2010. The main question is price – At $350 or higher there is little threat to the Kindle 3 but at $300 or below iPad 2 would start eating up pieces of the eReader market.

There’s still a lot left to be unveiled

Nook 2, iPad 2, and Google Editions are far more important than the over-priced Sony Readers and the irrelevant Aluratek and Kobo eReaders.

Kindle 3 has the eReader market all to itself but that might change any day as Nook 2 is probably going to be released/announced soon. Apple will probably wait till holiday season to make a splash and Google might just be waiting for a certain settlement. Sony has kicked things off and Borders is doing it’s part – However, the real fun has not yet begun.

Kindle 3 reviews from users at Amazon

There are now Kindle 3 reviews from Kindle 3 owners available at Amazon.

There are just 168 Kindle 3 reviews at the moment but they are very revealing. Let’s dig in.

Update: This post discusses reviews and it’s not really helpful if you’re trying to decide whether to buy a Kindle 3. Please take a look at my Kindle 3 Review or read the reviews at the Kindle 3 product page.

Kindle 3 Reviews at Amazon – The First 168

Here are the things that really stand out –

  1. There are 124 five-star reviews and 27 four star reviews – That means 89.9% of Kindle 3 owners love their Kindle 3. Update: Actually, it’s more like 80% since some of the 4-star reviews are not very positive.
  2. Just 3 three star reviews and 2 two star reviews but 12 1 star reviews.
  3. The most helpful 4 star reviews are – a comparison of Kindle 3 and Sony PRS-505, a comparison of Kindle 2 and Kindle 3. The most helpful 5-star review is a comparison of Nook and Kindle 3. That’s quite a trend.
  4. The most helpful 4-star review claims Kindle 3 and Sony 505 screens are in a tie – Yes, our color-magical-revolutionary-spectrometer found 50% better screen contrast but your eagle eyes think an eInk screen from 2 years ago is just as good.
  5. There are a noticeable group of people paying Kindle 3 back-handed compliments. In fact, a quarter of the 4 star reviews read more like 1 star reviews. Which makes the break-up more like – 80% love it, 10% think it’s only marginally better, and 10% hate it.
  6. There are still people talking about how the Kindle 3 isn’t good as a do-it-all device. It’s marvellous that despite Amazon trying to hammer home the fact that it’s a dedicated ebook reader people still try to see Kindle 3 as a do-it-all device.
  7. Just the way people are attached to their physical books people are attached to their Kindle 1s and Kindle 2s and Nooks and Sony Readers. It’s quite interesting to see some of the criticism the Kindle 3 receives.

If we go into more detail we find out some interesting things about the Kindle 3 such as the fact that the Korean font used is barely readable and ‘not pretty’.

12 One Star Kindle 3 Reviews, 2 Two Star Reviews, 3 Three Star Reviews

1 star reviews are always fascinating to me –

  1. Review 1: Something rolling around inside the Kindle, buttons and casing felt delicate.
  2. Review 2: This user is upset she can’t transfer books from Kindle 2 to Kindle 3. Well, they’re specific to the Kindle so they can’t just be transferred over. Felt buttons on the side were too delicate. Didn’t like buttons and not having number keys.
  3. Review 3: Browser worked but Kindle Store didn’t.
  4. Kindle 3 Review  4: Upset with Customer Service.
  5. Review 5: Claims you lose all your Kindle books if you change your email address. Not going to test the validity of that claim – too much of a risk if it turns out to be true.
  6. Review 6: Didn’t like default Korean Font.
  7. Didn’t like default Korean Font.
  8. Korean font.
  9. Someone who bought a Kindle 2 for $259.
  10. Someone who ordered August 1st and hasn’t received it yet.
  11. A complaint about there being no magical 1 device that does everything. Steve Jobs, your magical powers have deserted you.
  12. On cue, someone pushing the iPad.

Here are the two 2-star Kindle 3 reviews –

  1. Korean Font is not readable.
  2. Negative flash you get when you turn pages.

Finally, the three 3-star reviews –

  1. WiFi problems for this user with browser not working. This user says he bought Kindle 3 for the browser – when he gets the browser working he’s going to come to the painful realization that it really is an experimental browser – Amazon didn’t just put in experimental because it goes well with browser.  
  2. Complaint about Customer service. 
  3. 10-20% of Asian language characters are not supported. Also says Kindle 3 crashed 4 times in 1 day.  

These are fine – People don’t like Kindle 3, they give it 1 stars and that’s alright. The ones that really threw me off were the 4 star ones that were so critical and demanding.

Two Categories of Positive Kindle 3 Reviews

There’s no way to avoid saying it. There are clearly two categories of positive reviews –

  1. The people who love the Kindle 3.
  2. Those who begrudgingly are saying Kindle 3 is the best eReader. It’s almost like they’re trying to find out any way they can to avoid saying – Great job, Kindle Team. You made a great eReader.

The latter group of reviews are troublesome. It’s rather depressing that it pains people to give a straight compliment after there are something like 15-20 solid improvements. Here are 16 reasons why people paying Kindle 3 back-handed compliments (it’s marginally better than my Sony 505) are being rather unfair –

improved battery life, better PDF support, better browser, article mode.

faster page turns, eInk Pearl screen, smaller size, lighter weight.

3 font types, sharper fonts, double the memory, $189 price.

more words per page, better button placement, lighted cover powered by Kindle 3, Voice Guide.

We’re used to seeing 4 to 8 improvements in an eReader release (Example: Nook brought LCD touchscreen, LendMe, PDF support, SD Card Slot, replaceable battery).

To see 16 solid improvements is very, very impressive. Kindle 3 is the first time we’re getting a massively better eReader since the Kindle 1 was released and perhaps we should appreciate it and acknowledge it.

Nook was a good solid release and it got crucified and Kindle 3 is a super solid release and people are trying to damn it with faint praise. It seems no matter how much you improve a product some people will still find flaws and ignore the good things.

Real Problems identified in Kindle 3 Reviews

Here are my predictions for things that are going to cause Amazon problems –

  1. Ghosting. Basically, the much darker black also means more ghosting – that’s probably why Amazon does a screen re-flash after every single page. It’s also why there is a tiny bit of reflection/glare if you have a dark image (because the dark is so good at being dark).   
  2. Freezing. There’s little doubt that Kindle 3 freezes more than Kindle 2. Have run into a dozen different threads on this and at some point people are going to realize that it’s not just a first few days thing. Perhaps it is just a ‘first few days’ thing and it goes away – However, it certainly seems that Kindle 3 crashes are here to stay.
  3. Reading Light’s effect on Battery Life. This is pretty unfair because people should take into account that using a reading light will obviously drain the battery. However, customers are so mollycoddled that they want their reading light and their wireless and their 1 month of battery life.

The first two will have to be fixed – except the first might not be fixable. It just might be the price of having a super high contrast.

We’re getting more and more spoilt as Customers

There’s this belief growing, and it’s fed in large part by companies with ridiculously good customer service like Amazon, that amazing customer service is the norm and easy and doesn’t cost anything. In parallel, we have the expectation that products will keep getting better and better while also getting cheaper and cheaper. Again, companies like Apple and Amazon are feeding this.

It’s reached a stage where we manage to look at a very impressive product, block out all the good things, and complain about one 1 or 2 things that we would have liked –

  1. The iPhone has changed what smartphones are and what they can do and people still fixate on the lack of Flash and it not being an open system. 
  2. Kindle 3 has managed to raise the bar for eReaders sky-high and we still have people complaining because the magical reading light that is powered by the Kindle itself and frees you from ever having to worry about batteries drains the battery life. Sorry, we couldn’t put a mini-Sun in there that combined hydrogen with oxygen to power your reading light.
  3. Nook came out and it forced Kindle to add PDF support. B&N also tried to get a working model in place for lending ebooks. However, Nook got crucified because it would freeze and was sluggish. They didn’t do enough bug-fixing – they’re human- to forgive is divine. You still got your amazing ebook reader that can download books wirelessly and has a LCD touchscreen so you can see book covers in color. Does that register? No. People are upset because they have to wait a few extra seconds to read their books – That is obviously far more important than the fact that their books magically appear out of the ether.

Apple and Amazon are training us to expect superhuman performance and it’s just not sustainable. Zappos too – the whole notion that you can order three pairs of shoes and send back the two that aren’t a perfect fit. No wonder they had to sell themselves – they were training customers to kill profits.

It’s encouraging that 80% of Kindle 3 owners love the Kindle. It’s also disheartening that even after releasing a super impressive Kindle 3 Amazon still can’t get some people to appreciate the work put in.

The Kindle 3 has had a lot of work and thought put into it – Criticizing the lack of support for library books or other real Kindle 3 flaws is valid. Criticizing the cord on the lighted cover or the fact that the reading light uses up the Kindle 3’s battery is absurd.