Amazon spruces up Kindle Android app, but...

Text search, orientation lock, annotations, Wikipedia integration--all real improvements. So why am I still cranky about Kindle on Android?

Amazon's new Kindle app for Android lets you highlight and annotate text.
Amazon's new Kindle app for Android lets you highlight and annotate text. Amazon

Amazon upgraded its Kindle application for reading e-books on Android devices, filling in holes such as search and annotations to better match what other versions of the app can do. The release only partially assuaged my case of Kindle crabbiness, though.

I've spent some quality time with the reader application, and I'm happy to see those features, but the one that bothered me more directly was the previous version's inability to lock the screen orientation. I read in bed sometimes, with my head on a pillow, and to avoid reading it sideways I had to disable automatic screen reorientation for everything on the phone.

With version 1.1, the orientation lock option appears when you rotate the phone; touching it locks it in one orientation or the other.

Also new is the ability to look up words in Wikipedia and integration with Shelfari to show the book-oriented social network's information such as a plot synopsis and character description.

Sounds nice. So why am I still feeling cranky about Kindle right now?

It's partly my own fault, but I was double-charged for the same book.

I have a soft spot for Napoleonic war novels, and am plowing gradually through the Sharpe books by Bernard Cornwell. They're not up to the standard of Patrick O'Brian's tales of the naval adventures of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, but I still like them, and reading about the infantry is a refreshing change of pace.

A couple of weeks ago, I dipped back into the series. I tried to pick up where I left off, which is more complicated than it sounds given that there are 21 books, they weren't written in the chronological order of the protagonist's life, they have very similar titles, and I took a year or so off from reading them. My error was repurchasing a book that it turns out I'd already read more than a year ago.

After I started reading and realized my error, I was annoyed to discover that Amazon's ever-so-clever technology was unable to inform me the book was already in my library. It can remember my bookmarks, but not my collection. Although this probably isn't a big problem overall today, the more people move to digital collections of books, video, magazines, and music, the more it will become a problem.

My annoyance was aggravated when I discovered that I paid more the second go around--$7.17 instead of $6.39. As far as I can tell, the bytes I downloaded aren't 12.2 percent better.

I'm already testy enough that, unlike with a physical book, I can't lend, give, or sell a Kindle book. Maybe it's time to go back to reading free public-domain books with the Aldiko reader for a while.

Update 12:36 a.m. PDT September 23: Happily, it turns out double-charging for the same book isn't supposed to happen, Amazon told me.

"That's not the normal experience," spokeswoman Kinley Campbell said. "Typically customers get a note that reminds them they already purchased the book."

I'll update this further if Amazon figures out what went wrong in my case.

Update 1:13 p.m. PDT September 24: I still haven't heard anything further from Amazon's representatives, but my customer support request for a refund went through--alas, not in a way I'd have expected.

Amazon refunded me the $6.39 initial purchase, not the $7.17 second order that shouldn't have gone through and the one I specifically requested be refunded. I can bear the loss of 78 cents, but Amazon just irritated me more instead of smoothing my ruffled feathers.

 

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