Kindle Fire with Scrivener, Some Questions

I’m one of those impressed with the feature set and price of Amazon’s Kindle Fire, slated for release in mid-November at $199. I like the coat-pocket size and the feature set. It’s 95% of what I might find useful in an iPad at 40% of the price. (Like all Kindles, it needs to support Bluetooth keyboards.) And for me, the smaller size is a plus.

I’ve got two issues though.

First, Amazon isn’t saying much about the apps that run on it. I assume that is not due to hostility toward anything that isn’t Amazon-sold media, but just that, right now, it stacks up very poorly in comparison to the iPad. If the rumors are true that Amazon’s making advance sales at 2,000/hour, the developers will flock to it. Amazon will have to bar the door to keep them out and, given that it has an app store itself, it has no reason to do that.

My second issue is more serious. It concerns how useful Droid apps are and how friendly they are with Scrivener.

Can I come close to duplicating an iPad to Scrivener workflow with a Fire? I don’t have $500 for an iPad, but I might come up with $200 for a Fire.

Are there text editing, note taking and index card manipulating apps for the current Droid phones and tablets that import/export to Scivener? The Fire isn’t out yet, but Droid phones and tablets are and provide a good indication of the state of the market.

For me, the key issue is likely to be whether Dropbox will be running on Amazon Fire. That’s a critical part of my Scrivener work flow. I contacted Dropbox about the idea, and their support staffer would not provide specific information about their plans, but encouraged me to start a feature request at:

I’ve done that and it’s already began to collect votes. If you’d like to support the idea, go to the site above and search for “Kindle Fire” to find it. You might also vote for the more general “Dropbox on Kindle” request that already has over 400 votes. Dropbox would a quick way to move book drafts to a Kindle for proofing.

So, if you’ve got a Droid device to Scrivener work flow, feel free to speak up about how good or bad it is. And if you’ve got opinions, pro or con, about the Kindle Flash, this is as good place as any to voice them.

–Michael W. Perry, More to William Morris: Two Books that Inspired J. R. R. Tolkien


I signed in to Dropbox and voted for your topic. Best way to locate that page is to use the search bar, and enter “Kindle Fire.”

Right now, the most reliable account of what the KF will do is Amazon, and they are only promising media: music, movies, books, games, etc. The only productivity elements mentioned are e-mail and file storage, and those may be read-only.

There’s no reference to a keyboard of any kind, but there is a USB 2.0 port, so file-transfer may be easy. These are the supported file formats:


To me, the strong factors are size, fast browsing via Amazon Silk, cloud storage of Amazon content, and lifetime Whisper Net. Amazon says it has pre-sold 2.5 million, so I suspect developers will follow, and a note-taking, outlining, writing app is likely to appear soon. BUT PROBABLY NOT A SCRIVENER LITE. :unamused:

I decided to pre-order one, so I’ll be interested to see how its app market develops.

That’s true, but what Amazon is promising is not too dissimilar from what Apple promised of the iPad. Basically they can only speak for what they are providing. Apple went a bit further with a mini “office” suite on launch, so they did set a slightly different tone in their announcement—but this aside it was the third-party community that made the iPad more than its billing, and the same will be required of the Fire. That’s going to be a tall order to stack up against. Apple developers and consumers were very excited to make the iPad more than what came out of the box. Will the Fire incite that kind of culture too, or will it be taken more as a super e-reader by developers and consumers alike?

I have one on pre-order as well; I’m anxious to see how and where it goes.

I just noticed in the Kindle Fire specs this sentence:

I would guess this means that anything in that store, you may buy and load onto the KF.

Here’s the list of productivity apps, to date:

There are keyboard apps, Office-type suites, and document managers.

Now I’m imagining hooking up a physical keyboard via the USB outlet. :open_mouth:

That’d be nice, but I believe Amazon has stated quite clearly that the Fire’s USB port only does two things:

  1. Charge the Fire.

  2. Allow two-way data flow like a flash drive.

Thus no keyboards or other device attachments like adapters for camera cards. That isn’t to say that Amazon won’t add such features in the future. They’d be well advised to do so, since the only cost is that of writing the USB drivers.

My own wish is for Kindles (LCD and ePaper) to support Bluetooth keyboards. That’d let users choose whether to have/carry a keyboard and which one they like. And it’d be a better keyboard than anything that ships with any Kindle.

I’m getting more and more tempted to put my own order in for a Kindle Fire. It will get me further up the line when the release date comes and I can always cancel the order up until a few days before it ships.

But alas, I’m also a bit addicted to the convenience of Apple’s ecosystem. I have to use Windows 7, which I hate, for a job. This would mean learning Droid apps too. I may not hate them, but a second hand iPad in the same price range would mean no learning curve and being able to use my existing apps on a new device. That’d save some money.

And that Apple ecosystem can be handy. I just upgraded my two Macs to the latest OS X with iCloud and my iPhone 3GS to iOS 5.0, also with iCloud. Synching iCal, Contacts and my Safari bookmarks between my two Macs and the iPhone seems to work without a hitch and all I had to do is supply each with the same account information. iCloud seems to complement DropBox quite well. Time will tell how robust it is.

–Mike Perry

Rumors are that Apple will launch a mini-iPad in January to compete with the KF. And also a new iPad 3:

Also, like you, I updated to iOS5 on an iPad 1 with no problems. No go on the iPhone 3, however, and I’m not inclined to upgrade. All the new service plans are raising monthly charges by 10-20 $$, and to me it’s not worth it.

Amazon sent out a notice to Kindle owners tonight, citing improvements in the Personal Documents Service. Any documents stored on a Kindle will be archived and may be downloaded to a Kindle device.

The Manage Your Kindle page will be the place to list, store, or delete documents. So the KF will be easier for document management than the iPad, and who knows, perhaps some sort of keyboard will emerge as well.

I’ve been assuming this would be dramatically easier just in that the Fire will, like ordinary Kindles, allow access to the storage device as a USB disk when plugged into a computer (and that means being able to fire off your sync folder from Scrivener directly into the device—no messing about with the Internet, though I suppose some people prefer the latter. I’ve never acquired the modern condition of wirephobia). Hopefully Amazon’s web UI for this is better than their past attempts; I haven’t checked it out yet or updated my Kindle to 3.3.

As for keyboards, one of the advantages of the Android operating system is how open it is; not at all like iOS. You can write drivers for it and even override fundamental aspects of it like the keyboard. It’s much more “PC” in its approach. Whether or not Amazon’s OS modification layer continues to allow this remains to be seen.

A 7" iPad would put me in an interesting dilemma. On one hand, all my iPhone/iPad apps should work with it, saving money and reducing the learning curve. That’s worth at least $50.

On the other hand, the ebook ecosystem that Amazon has built around the Kindle is far better than anything Apple is offering. By the time Apple’s mini-iPad will be out, I suspect Amazon will have extended their personal document synching, markup & editing features to all their platforms. I could mark up a book-to-be on a Kindle Fire and use the markup with the Kindle app on my iMac. There’s no indication from Apple that by then (or any date in the future) there’ll even be an iBooks reader app for Macs, much less all the features Amazon offers. That contrasts very favorably with Apple’s attempt to grab 30% of in-app sales.

And it’s difficult to see how Apple will ever catch up. Amazon is adding features 2-3 times faster than Apple. Even more impressive, they aren’t limiting the features to just those that sell Amazon products. Library checkout and personal document markup make Kindles more useful, but they don’t directly sell more books.

Apple behavior is strange. The chief advantage of their products is the close integration of hardware & software. That’s true of iPods, iPhones and Macs. But for some reason Apple isn’t making the effort to offer that integration for the iBookstore. Apple doesn’t seem to realize that, like music was a gateway to iPods and then to Macs, so ebooks could be a gateway to Kindles and the Droid OS in general. People will get a Kindle Fire at that very good price for ebook reading. They’ll learn to use the Android OS and will be more open to purchasing a Droid phone.

One bit of great news. I have updated my iPhone 3GS to iOS 5 and it’s a delight. It may be a tiny bit slower, but the difference isn’t a bother and the new features are quite impressive. I can go from a locked phone to taking a picture or a movie in a couple of seconds. Notifications are much handier and the to-do app, called Reminders, syncs with iCal. Just today, an iOS developer told me that there are quite a few hidden features in iOS 5 that will make iPhone apps are more stable and secure.

And my iPhone and Kindle 3 are why I feel in no rush to get a 7" tablet. What it does can be done, although with slightly less finesse, by either of them. I gotta make sure I don’t get too many gadgets.

Steve Jobs infamously said that people don’t read books any more, and by that I think he meant they would not read e-books, either. In that case, he was as wrong as all the print publishers who said e-books would never catch on, and now they are watching their industry dwindle, along with book stores.

Amazon started as a book store and understands the reader/writer market. I expect Amazon to stay way ahead of Apple on this score for a long while. Text is a cheap medium that requires far less investment than music and video, IF the authors and publishers are smart enough to keep prices down.

PS: I’m waiting for a Droid phone that’s got a reasonable pay-as-you go plan AND will synch with my Apple Address Book, Calendar, and Bookmarks.

I just finished reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs about ten minutes ago. One question that constantly recurs in the book is why Jobs was so mean and insulting to his colleagues, his friends and his family. Another is his odd dichotomy. Something is either “insane great” or “a piece of sh_t.”

Numerous reasons for both traits are explored in the book, but I don’t recall one being mentioned. Jobs was very much a child of Seventies California: rock music (especially Dylan and the Beattle), drugs (including LSD), and Zen Buddhism (a belief system openly hostile to logic). What all three lack is the sort of extended reasoning that you find in serious books.

Rock is mostly about feelings, about romance (typically brief), and about sex. You won’t many ‘great ideas’ in them and even when they are explored, they show and almost idiotic level of thinking. I’ve thought of writing a brief book called “Imagine: The Most Evil Song Ever Written.” Why? Because the ideas that Beatle song expresses, a world devoid of differences in nationality, conviction, religion, and ownership, lie at the heart of all the horrors of the last century. People want to be part of something smaller than One World. They want to adopt a particular set of religious beliefs. They want to own things that are truly theirs. The only way to achieve an imagination like that of John Lennon’s is to kill, literarily, billions of people. And even then you will fail. We are what we are and anyone who has read great literature knows that. And it’s also easy to point out the neither Lennon nor the other Beatles have shown any desire to apply those principles to their lives. All that unifying is for the little people. It’s easy to suspect that it only exists as a rationale for stomping on little people.

Drugs, particularly LSD offer chemical illusions (contra Jobs). Last night I had stomach troubles from eating too-spicy food. About 3 am, I said “To heck with this,” and tried a couple of Percocet pills left over from hernia surgery last spring. Then I remember why I hated the stuff. It did little for the burning pain, and I loathed the spacey, can’t think straight feeling it gives me. People who’re drawn to drugs aren’t like that. They want to be spaced out and have their minds distorted or taken over. I hate that sort of thing. I believe in changing feelings by thinking through life. Drugs attempt to bypass that thinking, replacing it with a direct experience that is not only an illusion, it distracts you from more effective ways of making sense of life.

Zen I won’t go into. Those who’d like an in-depth look at it and Hinduism might want to read Arthur Koestler’s 1961 classic, The Lotus and the Robot. At a time when Eastern thought was first being valued over Western, he made a pilgrimage to India (the lotus) and Japan (the robot). At the end, he looks at the failings he found in each and expresses his joy in being a product of Western rationalism.

What all three influences on Jobs share is an inability to teach him how to make sustained, reasoned and evidence-based arguments. If Jobs didn’t like something–and he did have a good intuitive sense about technology–he was unable to express why. All he could do was refer to bodily wastes and insult talented, hard-working people.

You see his failings most clearly in his response to his cancer diagnosis. He was actually very fortunate. His cancer was a rare, relatively benign variety caught much earlier than it is in most cases. Prompt surgery would have almost certainly left him cancer free. One Harvard expert said the success rate would have been about 95%.

Instead, he refused surgery, talked about violating his ‘bodily integrity’ and tried virtually every sham cure around despite the pleas of everyone who knew him. As the biography points out, having never learned that the external world has realities that can’t be willed out of existence. He irrationally attempted to will his cancer to disappear much as John Lennon tried to “imagine” a world that can never be. It didn’t happen.

In my own experience, none of Steve Jobs behavior was necessary. If he’d learned how to express his intuitions in words, he would not have had to scream about bodily wastes. He could explain was something was good or bad. And if he’d learned to apply reason to his judgments, his colleagues wouldn’t have had to go through long, convoluted, and often deceptive techniques to trick him into making the right decisions. His intuitions were often wrong.

Near the end of his life, Jobs did see a need for ebooks as a replacement for school textbooks. Children wouldn’t have to carry heavy backpacks. Textbooks could be cheaper and even, because they were free, bypass state educational bureaucracies. (Those ideas probably came from his wife, an educational reformer.)

But his attitudes toward education were focused on a geeky education in technical skills. He wanted our schools to teach kids how to work in and manage factories, so Apple production could be returned to the U.S. That is a good cause, but education is more than that.

For all he said about Microsoft being tasteless and technocratic while Apple was based on the “liberal arts,” that really wasn’t true. The liberal arts are more than typography and visual design. They deal with with ideas, with philosophy, with religion, with history, and with a literature that explores life’s real meaning. All that was foreign to him thanks to those three influences. And because all that was alien to him, books that are the best ways of expressing those ideas were foreign to him. For him, ebooks mean textbooks and only textbooks. If you want to understand life, Jobs believed, don’t read great literature. Instead, listen to Dyan, drop LSD, adopt fruit-only diets, and visit India’s gurus. All those themes appear and reappear in Jobs’ remarks in the biography.

Personally, I’m hoping Tim Cook will bring a larger perspective to Apple. Both he and I grew up in south Alabama and both studied engineering (graduating a decade apart) at Auburn University. Like me, he’s never been a liberal arts major, but that scientific and technical education hasn’t kept me from acquiring a taste for it. Perhaps the same will prove true of him. Perhaps he can broaden Apple in ways that Steve Jobs never could. Perhaps he can get the iBookstore to take ebooks seriously.

–Michael W. Perry, editor of Theism and Humanism by Arthur Balfour

Hmm, and yet Steve Jobs was responsible for bringing some of the most beautiful and intuitive interfaces to technology (detractors can say he just took other ideas, put them together, and made them better, but that takes genius in itself). That wouldn’t have happened without these various influences, and Apple probably wouldn’t have got anywhere were it not for him also being a bit of an a**hole. You can blame these various influences for Jobs’ attitudes (although I think that strays into amateur psychiatry :slight_smile: ), but you can’t separate them from the creator of the Mac and iPhone and iPad and so on. (You might also note that, according to Jacobson’s biography, Jobs acted in all these ways before he discovered Zen or drugs - just look at how he treated his adoptive parents.)

As for great literature having a better effect on its readers than rock on its listeners, I think that’s just wishful thinking on the part of those of us who like to read; and plenty of great writers, who have written wonderful books extolling moral virtue, have been massive arseholes in their private lives (although I share your dislike of Lennon). And as for Koestler, that’s only one take on Zen - you’ll find a completely different view if you read other westerners who have studied the discipline, such as Eugene Herrigel, or the incomparable haiku translator R.H. Blyth. As for so-called “Western rationalism”, maths wasn’t invented by westerners, and to my mind, at least, many spiritual traditions in the west are far less useful or meaningful than something like Zen - but that’s just a personal preference from someone who’s not particularly spiritual.

So, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree and say that I don’t think you can reduce Jobs’ behaviour to something as absurdly simple as, “He didn’t read enough serious books.” And I, for one, am grateful of his study of Zen and suchlike for the minimalist influence it had on his approach to UI.

Each to his own! :slight_smile:

All the best,

We can? Thanks Keith.
He just took other ideas, put them together. Not sure about the next bit. His empire has shown the benefit of marketing over having the best product. Of form over function. Of style over substance.

Also, I find I find it hard to believe that Jobs - if he’s half as good a businessman as people have made out - would have ever wanted to put manufacturing back in the US. Not without paying US citizens wages on a Far East payscale. And let’s not forget in order to do that you have to have the kind of factories that have strangely high numbers of employee suicides following technology leaks, apparently.

Also, in what I feel is probably the most important point in my response, “Imagine” is by John Lennon. The Beatles had f’ all to do with it.

Pfft. Windows users! :slight_smile: Style over substance my hairy rump. But I’m not going to get drawn into that debate…

Too late! :smiley:

Well, I just got mine a few minutes ago! The first thing I did, so as to be nice to its battery, was to plug it into the wall. As with all Amazon hardware to date, if you buy it with your account for yourself, it comes pre-configured. All I had to do was give it a WiFi connect and it immediately set about upgrading itself to the latest software. Well, that’s one thing that iPad can’t do; looks like their talk about not needing a host computer is thus far true, but not terribly surprising as Kindles have been able to download their OS updates off of the air since day one.

We’ll see how it goes, once that completes. I’m particularly interested in seeing how Dropbox and an editing app or two goes, in conjunction with Scrivener. I know there are actual RTF editors for Droid on Amazon’s store, so plain-text might not be a limitation.

First impressions on build quality: better than I expected. From the photographs (Amazon still doesn’t know how to do a decent product shot, though they are getting better) I expected something with ugly ridges that would trap dust over time, plastic feeling casing, and other issues. I wasn’t expecting a Cadillac, for $200 after all. I’m pleasantly impressed with it however. The back is rubberised, which means it sits nicely in the palms without requiring any gripping pressure. It is definitely heavier than the regular Kindle. I would say it feels like holding an 800 pg hardcover, except of course in a fraction of the size. So reading in bed will be less comfortable than the e-ink Kindle, but more comfortable than the latest Stephen King. The surface is unfortunately glossy like the iPad, so as with that, fingerprints will be a constant woe. Finding an anti-glare surface protector should help.

My early reactions are also positive. Easy to unpack and set up, and when plugged in, it says “Hello, X X,” using the name associated with your Amazon account. All of your Kindle books, music, and films are at once available. The software update was quick and painless.

I played with the Fire for about two hours. Downloaded a bunch of apps, like Netflix, Pandora, Tune-in Radio, Huffington Post, etc. Installation and browsing are quite fast, on a 15 mbs connection. Disappointing that there’s no Skype…and also no mike!

For writing apps, I’ve installed only EverNote and a free Office suite. It connects to Box, DropBox, Google Docs, and Mobile Me, but…it can’t read RFT files, a horrible limitation for Scrivener users. However, it will read DOCX files out loud, in an almost human voice. The virtual keyboard shows some advances over iPad, with oft-used symbols in a faint line above the letters and numbers.

Some glitches occur: turned up the volume control, and now it won’t turn down. Some buttons don’t respond quickly; the multi-touch experience is not always fluid, and I’m not sure that Android apps are anywhere near as good as those for iOS.

The absolutely best experience is reading books, because the device fits nicely in one hand or propped in a lap. Also, you don’t need ambient light. The movie and TV viewing is also good, and I found it solid for reading newspapers, magazines, or web sites. It makes the Kindle 3, bought a year ago, look very dated.

So, not a writing machine yet, but a great reader and media player when others are hogging the iPad for games.