$99 Kindle Touch – available for preorder

The $99 Kindle Touch is now available for preorder. It ships November 21st, 2011.

Kindle Touch is here and it’s just $99

Mr. Bezos introduces the Kindle Touch.

  1. It has an IR Touch System.
  2. There’s something called Easy Reach. So the Tap Areas for various functions like Previous Page and Next Page and Menu are different and supposedly easier.
  3. The lack of physical buttons is disconcerting.
  4. A new contextual reading feature called X-Ray. It takes information from Shelfari.
  5. Built-in Wikipedia – Now it’s stored on your Kindle Touch.
  6. Mr. Bezos talking about what would happen if Kindle were $99. Will Kindle Touch be less than $100?
  7. Yes, Kindle Touch is $99. That’s a very impressive price.

Various Interesting Snippets from Kindle Tablet Event

Pre-conference thoughts.

  1. The $199 price for the Kindle Fire got leaked around 15 minutes before the event actually started.
  2. The $99 Kindle price got leaked too – though the claims were $79.
  3. Reports that B&N’s Nook Color has been cut to $224 to compete. However, I don’t find it on their site.
  4. Two point multi-touch screen. For comparison the iPad has 10-point multi-touch. On the other hand, Kindle Fire is just $199.
  5. It’s WiFi based with no 3G.
  6. There is no camera

Note: There’s some funny business going on at Amazon with Kindle related links. So new Kindles are likely to be here. There are rumors of a $79 Kindle.

Thanks to TechCrunch for some of the details of the Kindle Fire.

Jeff Bezos on why he thinks Kindle is working:

because Kindle is an end-to-end service, and I believe it is because we have been inventing and improving that service at a rapid pace for the last four years.”

Apparently that rapid pace doesn’t apply to the screen technology.

There was a graph shown of Kindle Books catching up with physical book sales in just 3 years.

First 12 or so minutes is all rehashing what we all already know. Even the Graph isn’t really new news.

Then, long section on Kindle Touch – listed above.

Well, there are two more Kindles.

Kindle Touch 3G for $149

Kindle Touch with 3G. $50 more.

$79 Kindle

This is the big deal. The really big deal.

  1. It’s for people who don’t need Touch. It doesn’t have a keyboard.
  2. It ships today. You can get the $79 Kindle at Amazon.
  3. It is less than six ounces in weight. 5.98 to be precise.
  4. Extra Long Battery Life – No specifics yet.
  5. Free Storage in the Amazon Cloud.
  6. Most Advanced eInk Display – presumably that means eInk Pearl.
  7. 18% smaller than Kindle 3.
  8. Faster page turns. Page turn buttons and no keyboard.

The price just destroys the competition. $79 is unreal. $99 for the Kindle Touch is pretty unreal too.

$99 Kindle, Touch Kindle Next

A $79 Kindle and a Touch Kindle have succeeded the Kindle 3.

At least that’s what Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (who used to work at DigiTimes earlier) claims. Given his background at DigiTimes there’s a 50% chance he’s 100% spot on and a 50% chance Amazon never ever releases a touch Kindle.

His $99 Kindle and Kindle Touch predictions are at Apple Insider. Which makes sense given how much Apple Blogs care about the lost art of animated page turns.

Here is what he says Amazon will reveal on Wednesday (in addition to Kindle Fire, the Kindle Tablet) -

  1. $99 Kindle with a 6″ eInk screen, 256 MB RAM, and a faster Freescale processor. He claims it will not have 3G, not have a touch screen, and not have speakers. The $99 price-point will move 8 million of these $99 Kindles. At least that’s what Mr. Kuo thinks.
  2. Kindle Touch with a touch screen (via Infra Red), 6″ eInk screen, 3G capability, and speakers. The processor and RAM will be the same as the $99 version. Ming-Chi Kuo expects that 4 million of these will ship by end of 2011.
  3. A 7″ IPS Kindle Tablet. 512 MB Ram, capacitive touch screen, no 3G connection. He expects Amazon to target a $199 or $249 price point and sell 3 million units by end of 2011.
  4. The release dates are rumored to be – end September for the $99 Kindle and for the Kindle Tablet; early October for Kindle Touch.
  5. The final rumor – That Amazon has a 10.1″ iPad competitor lined up for early 2012 and a 8.9″ Tablet with an amazing form factor that manufacturers are struggling to recreate.

Apparently, Amazon is going to follow up Kindle Fire with Kindle Inferno and Kindle ‘Burning Hell’. Let’s hope Amazon doesn’t take those suggestions seriously.

What would a $99 Kindle mean?

A lot of sales. Sony Reader gets destroyed. Nook Touch sales dip. Kobo sales decimated.

Every other eReader company would have to cut prices immediately and drastically. B&N has a new eReader lined up and it would have to make some hard decisions about whether it would match Kindle on price or not. Nook’s big advantage was library book support and now that’s gone. Which means price becomes very, very critical.

What would a Touch Kindle mean?

Amazon finally catches up with Kobo Touch and Nook Touch. It seems to me that Amazon was forced to do this - that Amazon’s heart wasn’t really in making a token touchscreen eReader.

For people who love touch and/or love having the newest features – Kindle Touch becomes a worthy challenger to the other touch screen eInk eReaders.

Is Amazon making a mistake by playing its hand so early?

Perhaps.

With the $99 eReader – other companies might find it very hard to match the $99 Kindle on price. So no big issues there.

With the Touch eReader – gives Kobo and Nook time to figure out how to beat Kindle over the Holiday Season. Perhaps a mistake.

With the Kindle Tablet – Definitely. Nook Color 2 has the advantage of being a second generation Tablet. By knowing exactly what Kindle Tablet will be, B&N can strategize around it. It probably already has a very solid Tablet and now it can counter Kindle Tablet much more effectively.

It’s very strange. The news of the $99 Kindle and the Kindle Touch is very unexpected. Logically, these were the two options Amazon had and everyone expected it to embrace one of them. No one expected Amazon to do both at the same time, and definitely not in September. Wednesday just might be the next very important date in the annals of eReader history.

Please wait at least 3 weeks before buying a Kindle or an eReader

It’s so EXCITING – Amazon has refurbished Kindles for sale.

Actually, it’s not.

It’s just the latest sign that Kindle 4 (AKA Touchable, Delectable Kindle with Politically Correct But Totally Boring Name that Kills Brevity and Chops it into a Thousand Little Pieces) is about to be announced in two to three weeks.

Given that there is a small chance we might see something exciting -

  1. 3% chance we’ll see a 100% amazing color screen or something equally cool like gesture recognition.
  2. 97% chance we’ll see a 10% amazing touch screen or a 1% amazing low-priced Kindle with Super Special 1-Day Only Offers with Cashback.

It makes absolutely no sense to buy a Kindle right now.

Of course, if you belong to the grand tradition of ‘Reading is not worth more than a $100 device’ then congratulations – You can get a refurbished WiFi for $99, and then write about how it sucks because unlike a real book it doesn’t work without external lighting … ummm … that’s confusing … you mean to say real books never used to work without external light.

Does this really mean a new Kindle is around the corner?

Yes, because Amazon loves to go indirect and put ‘refurbished’ Kindles on sale. Of course, it doesn’t mean that every (or any) refurbished Kindle sold for $99 will actually be new.

Please Note: This is conjecture – there is little chance that you’ll get a new Kindle. Assume that there is a 100% chance you will get a refurbished Kindle with Tommy loves Becky carved into the Silicon motherboard.

Amazon tends to do one or more of the following when it has a new model about to arrive – put the current model on sale or cut the price (which it did via the Kindle 3G with Special Offers move), put the ‘refurbished’ version on sale (which it just did today), organize a leak to BusinessWeek or another main stream publication (which should happen next week).

All signs point to a Kindle 4 being right around the corner. Amazon has become so obvious that even the main stream blogs are taking a break from writing about how iPhone 5 might be 0.05 picometer thinner than iPhone 4 to write about the amazing, journalistic-insight-filled news that Kindle 4 might be arriving soon.

Tip of the Hat to Google

Our favorite ‘All Your Books are Belong to Us’ company Google has managed a feat that Schroedinger’s Cat would be proud of -

  1. Google Spectral Presence 1 – It is so wrong that Apple and Microsoft are buying up patents and will make more money from Android than we will. Patents are wrong. Patents are just standing in the way of innovation. All these telecom patents are just limiting progress. After all, who cares about some algorithm that lets you get data faster?
  2. Google Spectral Presence 2 – Hey, did you hear about the cool new patent we got for our Google Doodles. Because it’s such a cool amazing idea – to draw Doodles and use that to get people interested in visiting our site. It’s deep and meaningful and not trivial and unworthy of patents like some random telecommunication patents which cover technology that billions of cellphones use.

It’s interesting how people develop religion around companies.

The person who has Google religion refuses to acknowledge that iPhone is easier to use.

The person who has Apple religion refuses to acknowledge that Microsoft’s Kinect is a pretty cool technology and probably more revolutionary than something like FaceTime which was already available via a dozen different companies.

The person who has Microsoft religion refuses to acknowledge that it’s impressive (and disconcerting) that Google still has the clearly best Search Engine. That even after fitting in 19 ads and 19 links to Google’s other sites, Google still has better search results than its competitors. If that isn’t a miracle, what is?

Will we start seeing the same thing with Kindle and Sony Reader and Nook?

What happens if Amazon releases a totally pointless Kindle 4? Will Kindle owners be able to recognize its lack of impressiveness or are they wedded to the belief that Kindle is untouchable?

What happens if Amazon releases something truly impressive? Will Nook owners just pretend that color (or gesture recognition) means nothing?

What if Sony’s new eReaders (yes, those are around the corner too and promise to have WiFi) are way better than Nook Touch and Kindle 4?

What about the Kindle Tablet?

Truthfully, if Kindle 4 only has touch then it’s as unremarkable as a doorknob in a house with 25 rooms.

In that case, the Kindle tablet becomes far more interesting.

Will it talk to you and ask you how your day at work went? Will it come in for under $200? Will it be possessive and be jealous of your long walks with your dog? Will it come with free movies and free music?

The Kindle Tablet is the promised Tablet that shall turn the iPad market into a Tablet market. Will it really do that? What effect will it have on the delightful Nook Color? Will there be a Nook Color 2 that will steal the Kindle Tablet’s thunder and send Amazon back to the drawing board?

Exciting times – we live in exciting times. And sometimes the excitement ends up being justified.

Kindle 4 Release Date of October 2011 (rumor)

As if the news of the $139 Kindle 3G with Special Offers wasn’t enough, we now get news that Amazon might have a Kindle 4 Release Date of October 2011.

Thanks to some intrepid investigative journalism by the Wall Street Journal (or perhaps due to a planned leak by Amazon’s ultra-efficient and effective PR team) we find out the following -

  1. Amazon has an iPad competitor lined up for an October release (it has a 9″ screen – which of course means it sucks compared to the iPad 3 with its 10″ RetinaPlus screen that shows things in 3D even when they are 1D and has a magical 23% extra screen real estate so you can see the tears fall on your daughter’s shirt when you tell her how much Facetime means to you). At this point the Kindle Tablet is such a given that WSJ’s only contribution is furnishing a release date.
  2. Amazon has two Kindles lined up for an October release. These are rumored to ship around the same time as the Kindle Tablet - which would suggest a Kindle 4 Release Date of October 2011. Quite plausible.
  3. Kindle 4 Touch will be an improved and updated Kindle 3 with a touchscreen. It is rumored to be aimed squarely at Nook 2 and Kobo Touch.
  4. Kindle 4 Value (you know Amazon is never going to pick a name that short) will also be an updated and improved Kindle 3 but with no touch screen and a new, low price. It is probably aimed at people who think paying more than $99 for a device dedicated to reading is a terrible, terrible travesty.
  5. The rumors also suggest (and hopefully they are wrong in this case) that the screen technology will still be eInk Pearl.

Given Amazon’s amazing ability to release leaks at the most appropriate times, and through the most well-established newspapers and magazines, it’s highly unlikely that this information was gleaned by hacking through discarded hard drives or other investigative means. It seems to be part of a well planned offensive to take on Kobo Touch and Nook 2.

In fact, what’s the probability that this scoop would arrive on the EXACT SAME DAY as the $139 Kindle 3G with AT&T blessings?

Update: Rough guesses for what Amazon is going to name the two new Kindle 4 versions -

Kindle 4 Touch – Super-Newest Kindle with magical eInk Pearl screen and UltraTouch touch capability with free 3G sponsored by AT&T with super special get-paid offers (Global Wireless).

Kindle 4 Value – So Cheap It Makes Us Cry To Sell It Kindle with blissful eInk Pearl screen and revolutionary $99 pricing and Security-Enhanced WiFi (which is not the same as 3G but does pretty much the same thing).

Kindle 4 Release Date of October 2011 – Is it likely?

Actually, yes. It would be 1 year and 3 months since the Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi launched. It would also be right in time for Holiday Season 2011.

There are a few reasons this ‘two Kindles released in October 2011′ strategy seems very likely -

  1. Amazon was probably waiting for new screen technology (color eInk) and found out it wasn’t arriving in 2011. That forced it to release Kindle 4 this year with something that isn’t that big a deal (touch) to keep up with Nook 2 and Kobo Touch.
  2. The release of two versions of Kindle 4 seems very consistent with Amazon’s modus operandi of targeting the middle (earlier $189, now $139) and lower (currently $119, possibly $99 by October 2011) segments of the eReader market.
  3. Wall Street Journal doesn’t really print things unless it has a good source. In this case, for reasons stated above, it might have the best possible source.
  4. It makes a lot of sense. Amazon competes more effectively with 2 of its main competitors and also goes for the casual reader market (not to mention the magical price point of $99 where people magically forget it’s just $1 less than $100).
  5. Amazon has to release something. A Kindle Tablet to counter iPad 2/3 and Nook Color 1/2. A new Kindle 4 to counter Nook 2 and Kobo Touch. October 2011 is about a year too late – better late than never.

It just seems very plausible that a Kindle 4 Touch and a Kindle 4 Value are slated for an October 2011 release.

Kindle 4 in October 2011 – Why leak the news now?

It’s strategy similar to something Sony tried in 2009 (with limited success) – It released a Pocket Edition that was cheaper than Kindle 2 and a more expensive Touch Edition that had Touch (years before touch became a feature almost every eReader had).

Sony tried to squeeze Kindle 2 between value for money (Pocket Edition) and latest features (Touch Edition).

Amazon is now trying to do the same to Nook 2 and Kobo Touch. Kindle 3G with Special Offers attacks them on the value for money front. You can’t really fight against free global 3G (for US customers only) unless the customer just doesn’t want 3G. The Kindle 4 promises to be the ‘technologically better’ version with the latest features (which possibly help it outshine Nook 2).

The leaked news that a new, improved, shinier Kindle 4 is around the corner just ensures that people who are willing to wait a bit (or those who can’t bear to buy a device that might soon get surpassed by a competitor) will wait to see what the Kindle 4 is like. Nook 2 can’t compete with people’s wishes and imagination – so a lot of eReader purchase decisions get put on hold until October 2011.

Amazon also throws in two Kindle 4 versions – an ultra-cheap one, and one with touch and ‘improvements’. So, whether you are a person inclined to wait for a newer device, or a person looking for a sub-$99 eReader, Amazon is telling you that it’s best to wait 3 months and see what Kindle 4 Touch and Kindle 4 Value have to offer.

It’s a really interesting move. Amazon has probably taken its years and years of customer purchases data and figured out the best ways to fight against Nook 2′s evil touch (evil in Amazon’s eyes, not mine – lest Nook 2 owners get hurt).

$139 Kindle 3G and Kindle 4 Double Whammy

Consider the contrast -

Yesterday: Nook 2 was arguably the best eReader. Kobo Touch was fighting with Kindle 3 for the #2 spot. Nook 2 was also, arguably, offering the most value for money.

Today: Everything’s been blown up. $139 Kindle 3G with Special Offers is now offering the most value for money. Kindle 4 Touch (arriving by October 2011, supposedly) might be the new best eReader and what’s a wait of 3 months. Kindle 4 Value (possibly arriving in October 2011 at $99) is another contender for most value for money eReader.

In the course of one Press Release and one ‘scoop’ Amazon has ensured that Nook 2 won’t eat its lunch in the Back to School season. Amazon is likely to succeed in preventing Nook 2 from carving out a huge share of the eReader market. B&N still has time to make a big move but how do you compete against a black hole which prospective eReader owners will fill with their ideal features and wishes and dreams?

Kindle vs Ad Kindle vs Groupon Kindle

The recent release of Kindle with Special Offers seems to suggest Amazon is considering having a family of Kindles comprised of three distinct types of members -

  1. Kindles in a pure and unadulterated form.
  2. Groupon Kindles. The basic Kindles transformed into a means of offering deals on everything Amazon sells (and on lots of things it doesn’t).
  3. Ad Kindles (thanks to Mickery for the name AdKindle – it’s perfect). The basic Kindles transformed into an advertising vessel.

If you consider Amazon’s long-term approach to everything, it’s pretty obvious that Kindle with Special Offers isn’t where the journey ends – it’s just the first step.

Why would Amazon want to add deals and/or ads to the Kindle?

For lots of reasons -

  1. Amazon can cut down on price and increase sales. While the $114 AdKindle isn’t impressing too many people, a $99 version would have a big impact.
  2. There are people who want Groupon type offers. Tens of millions of people follow deal sites like SlickDeals and subscribe to Groupon and Living Social. Quite a few of them would want a deal delivering Kindle – even ones who don’t read very much.
  3. Rather than challenge other niches like phones and tablets head-on, it makes a lot of sense to expand the Kindle’s functionality and market gradually.
  4. Amazon is making a concerted push in advertising. It’s been showing ads on Amazon.com and it’s probably begun thinking of the Kindle as a means to add to the advertising push.
  5. Groupon and Living Social are threats to Amazon in the long term. They are the #1 and #2 destination for group buying deals on ‘events/experiences’ - they could easily expand into deals of all sorts. Imagine Groupon having deals on computers and books. It’s not very far-fetched.
  6. Google is bound to bring advertising to books. Perhaps Amazon wants to do it before Google does. Perhaps Amazon is just beefing up its advertising in books patent defence by introducing a product that uses ads to an extent.
  7. There might be a very big market for people who want to use Kindle as a shopping device for everything.
  8. Perhaps ebooks going to $1 (or even zero) is looking like a strong possibility. Amazon might need to figure out a way to make profits from the Kindle in other ways.
  9. Amazon might have hit a wall in its attempts to increase Kindle sales (or perhaps it expects to). If so, then the only way to further increase sales would be to expand what the Kindle can be used for.

There are actually a lot of very good reasons for adding in Groupon style deals and iAds style advertisements.

It’s very interesting that Amazon is going about it in such an incremental fashion – All it is, is a minor software upgrade.

Economies of Scale

Amazon has brought the Kindle price down to $139 (for the Kindle WiFi). The next big milestone is $99.

How does it hit $99 quicker? One option is Kindle with Special Offers.

What does it do after hitting $99 (to expand further)? One option is a Groupon Kindle that offers deals in addition to ebooks.

To develop eInk and Kindle further Amazon needs money. To get money it needs lots of sales. To get sales it needs to offer lots of value for money and low prices. To lower prices and increase value for money Amazon needs a better Kindle. It’s a bit of a cyclical problem. One way out is to sell AdKindles and Groupon Kindles.

Amazon is stuck – It needs to compete against devices like phones and tablets that are evolving very quickly. It doesn’t yet have the economies of scale to do so - So, it has to figure out a way to get similar economies of scale. Increasing Kindle sales is the only option.

Why would Amazon want to create a Groupon Kindle?

Because it sells everything.

Amazon always talks about how people buy a lot more books from Amazon once they own a Kindle. It never mentions another possibility – That Kindle owners buy more ‘things that are not books or ebooks’ from Amazon than they used to.

The last thing it wants is for WalMart and brick and mortar retailers to know that it’s found the next big magical step in customer loyalty and increased sales.

It probably has.

Kindle with Special Offers is a tentative step. Trying to get one step closer without anyone realizing what this is really about. Once Amazon has gotten a Kindle into a customer’s hands, and gotten that customer onto Amazon Prime, it’s game over – other companies can’t touch that customer 90% of the time.

Its enemies are probably using lobbyists to attack Amazon via the sales tax movement (just conjecture). Meanwhile, Amazon is building up two channels/advantages (Kindle and Prime) that will more than make up for the lost sales tax advantage.

Why would Amazon want to create an AdKindle?

The signs are clear that ebooks are migrating towards very low prices. Water for Elephants is at #1 and it’s priced at $4.17. There are lots of $1 indie author novels, and quite a few sub-$5 published author novels, in the Top 100. In just a few years we’ve gone from $5 books being considered deals to $1 books being deals.

All along, the premise has been that low-priced Kindles don’t make much profit but ebooks do. What happens if ebooks drop in price to $1 and $3?

Perhaps an AdKindle is a hedge. A device for a world where eReaders are $99 and ebooks are $0.99. It might not be a very far-fetched scenario given the speed with which ebooks are spreading and the rate at which ebook prices are dropping.

The other possibility is that Amazon knows, and it should be pretty obvious, that Google will burn up yet another market to protect search. Google could care less whether ebooks are $0 or $1 or $10 – As long as it owns one more source of content and can channel those readers into Google search and show them ads. The Book Settlement was struck down so one of the two golden pillars is gone – the other is ads in ebooks.

Amazon can’t fight ad-sponsored books with purity – because there will always be a non-trivial number of readers willing to bear ads for a 50% discount. Amazon has to be prepared to sell actual ebooks with ads. Which means that AdKindle and Kindle with Special Offers are necessary releases – a pre-emptive defence against the Destroyer of Profitable Markets.

Where does that leave us readers?

In an unsettling place. Amazon might not have very much choice. In the end it will have no option but to offer -

  1. Regular Books for $9.99 and $4.99.
  2. Ad-sponsored Books for $4.99 and $1.99.

AdKindles and Groupon Kindles are a given. AdKindles to preserve Amazon’s place in selling books and Groupon Kindles to preserve Amazon’s place in retail.

Hopefully, there will always be pure Kindles and pure books available.

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