Kindle Paperwhite 2 announced without fanfare – Why a stealth Kindle Paperwhite 2 release?

The Kindle Paperwhite 2 is now available for pre-order. It ships September 30th, 2013.

First, let’s look at what Kindle Paperwhite 2 brings to the table. Then, let’s ponder why Amazon announced it without confetti and cupcakes.

Kindle Paperwhite 2 – Death by Incremental Improvement

Here are the ways in which Kindle Paperwhite 2 incrementally improves over the Kindle Paperwhite –

  1. Improved Screen Contrast. Continuing with its ‘don’t kill them with happiness’ tradition of only improving contrast by a bit, eInk and Amazon have improved screen contrast by a little bit. Whites are whiter and blacks are blacker.
  2. Faster Page Turns. 25% Faster. Yes, we know it’s hard to make out. It really is faster.
  3. Improved Built-In Light. Guides light towards the surface of the display (whatever that means).
  4. 212 pixels per inch screen density.
  5. Improved Font Technology. Not sure what this means. The Font technology improves every generation and still don’t know what that means in actuality.
  6. 25% Faster Processor. 25% faster – notice the trend. At this rate, in 2015 we’ll have Kindle Paperwhite 4 which will be twice as fast as Kindle Paperwhite 1. Amazon must know something those speed doubling, tripling, and quadrupling engineers at Apple and Samsung don’t know.
  7. 19% tighter touch grid (seriously, can this not be explained in English). Apparently, this means touches are more accurately measured. It also means someone lost their job for not getting to ‘25% tighter’ touch gridness.
  8. ******* Improvements that fly under the radar (and some really deserve to)
  9. Page Flip Feature – Lets you skip around in the book without losing your place. Reminds me of when we had these archaic things called books and you had to actually fold the edge of a page to avoid losing your place. The horror! Note: Only Amazon could take something that should have been there right from 2007 and introduced it as a new feature.
  10. Improved Smart Look Up Feature – Dictionary and Wikipedia and X-Ray right on the page itself. Don’t have to leave the book.
  11. Vocabulary Builder – Words looked up in the dictionary are added to Vocabulary Builder. It only took them 5-6 years to figure out this would be useful. Better late than never.
  12. Read footnotes without leaving the page. Cool!
  13. [Coming Soon] Share with Friends on GoodReads. There aren’t really any social book networks left that Amazon doesn’t partially or fully own. So you might as well start sharing with them your hopes and aspirations and dreams.
  14. [Coming Soon] Kindle FreeTime. Track time spent reading for your kids, and limit their reading time (you wouldn’t want them left unable to communicate with their Reality TV watching and GTA playing classmates, would you?)
  15. [Coming Soon] Kindle MatchBook. Get the Kindle edition for past, present, and future book purchases at Amazon of SOME Books for $0 to $3. This is a VERY cool feature.
  16. [Coming Soon] Book Discovery – Find your next read using Good Reads and all their ‘zero wage slaves’ … sorry … social network enthusiasts.

It’s a lot of incremental ‘25% better’ improvements that add up to a Kindle Paperwhite V1.5. I don’t see any reason for Kindle Paperwhite owners to upgrade. However, for those with Kindle Touch or Kindle 2 or Kindle 3, it might be worth upgrading to Kindle Paperwhite 2. They would get noticeably better contrast and the in-built light is very useful.

Perhaps Amazon should switch to doing new Kindle versions every 2 years. They really can’t seem to advance the technology or the software enough to justify yearly Kindle releases.

Kindle Paperwhite 2 – Still not a Tablet, Still Better, Still Worse

Here are the ways in which Kindle Paperwhite 2 is better for reading than Tablets (unless, of course, you are LCD compatible and find no discernible difference between eInk and LCD) –

  1. With the Kindle Paperwhite 2’s eInk screen you can read in bright sunlight. This is impossible with nearly all LCD screen devices.
  2. The eInk screen is also easier on the eyes. Again, we get into lots of areas of grey with LCD compatibles. Some people are LCD compatible and find that reading on LCD screens for long stretches doesn’t tire their eyes. For other people, eInk works much better.
  3. You can focus on reading without Star Wars or Angry Birds or Angry Birds Star Wars 2 (wth) stealing you away. This might come as a surprise – A device that allows nothing other than reading, leads to more reading.
  4. The light and compact size makes Kindle Paperwhite easier to hold while reading, easier to store, and easier to carry and pack.
  5. The battery lasts for weeks, not hours. To be more precise – a Tablet might last you 8 to 10 hours, enough to read a book. A Kindle will last you 30 hours or more. Enough to read 3-4 books.
  6. No one is going to try and steal it. Perhaps some thieves are dumb enough to think it’s a super valuable device. Hopefully, most will know it’s not an expensive Tablet and aren’t fond of standing by libraries trying to convince people to buy their aunt’s Kindle for $25.

As you can see, there are some clear advantages the Kindle Paperwhite 2 has over Tablets. Of course, there are also downsides.

Here are Kindle Paperwhite 2 disadvantages (when compared to Tablets) –

  1. You can only read books on it. You can’t take photos, it won’t respond if you talk to it (a mixed blessing), you can’t play games on it, and watching movies on it is impossible.
  2. People might think you’re a book nerd. Depending on your perspective, this might be good or bad.
  3. The screen size, at approximately 6″, is smaller than tablets. This means less text fits on the screen. It also means that the screen size isn’t suited for PDFs and newspapers and magazines. No amount of wishful thinking will change that (I’m looking at you Mr. Grad Student who’s going about cursing ‘Kindle Paperwhite 2’s lack of PDF skills’ everywhere on the Pipes and Tubes of the Internet).
  4. Tablets come with a plethora of apps which extend what the Tablet can become. Kindle Paperwhite 2 comes with an extremely limited set of apps. There’s not really that much you can do on it other than read and play a few simple games. Things like Vocabulary Builder Apps would just show up a year or two after launch for most Tablets. On the Kindle Paperwhite 2 it took 6 years for the feature to be added (Amazon added it themselves).
  5. It’s sort-of expensive if you don’t read much. It’s $119. If you read a book a month then a Tablet is good enough.

Anyways, enough discussing boring things like technical features and lights that direct light towards the screen (apparently we’re breaking the laws of Physics now).

Why was Kindle Paperwhite 2 announced without any fanfare?

We didn’t have Jeff Bezos prancing around like Steve Ballmer and proclaiming – Kindle Paperwhite 2 is the best reading device … for any price.

We didn’t have some ‘special’ press conference where ‘Journalists’ can be fed Eggs Benedict and shown some so-cool-it’s-frozen band live, to try and nudge them into favorable reviews. Perhaps you don’t need to do that if you own newspapers outright.

Kindle Paperwhite 2 just arrived. Someone (a journalist actually doing their job?) found Kindle Paperwhite 2 details. Soon after, instead of confirming or denying the existence of the ‘25% Better in Everything, Revolutionary in Nothing’ Kindle Paperwhite 2, Amazon just made the Kindle Paperwhite 2 available for sale.

Long gone are the days when the entire news cycle would be about the new ‘Kindle’. Now people only care about wearable devices that make you look like a stalker (Guaranteed weird stares, or your money back). Amazon seems to have focused itself on things like Kindle Fire Tablets and perhaps Kindle Phones and Kindle Watches.

There are three main possibilities –

  1. Amazon has relegated ‘Kindle eInk Devices’ to the ‘we also make these, but we don’t really care too much’ category. Perhaps Kindle Paperwhite 2 is so far down the pecking order that arranging a Kindle Paperwhite 2 ‘25% is the New Magical’ Press Conference was simply out of the question.
  2. Amazon had planned to hold a big festival with Feist singing ‘1, 2, 3, 4 – 25% I love you more’ and journalists scarfing down truffles. When the Kindle Paperwhite 2 was leaked, they simply flew their French Chef back to Montpellier and decided – It’s spoilt now. It was so beautiful, but it’s spoilt. Next year, we’ll book Morrissey and Vampire Weekend and do everything properly.
  3. Amazon was going to announce Kindle Paperwhite 2 alongside Kindle Fire HD 2 and Kindle Toothbrush 0.5 and Kindle TV 0.25. Now it has to be announced all by itself since the Paperwhite 2 cat is out of the bag.

The first and the third seem most likely. Unfortunately, the first seems the most reasonable assumption.

Alas, Kindle Paperwhite 2 is now Cinderella without a Fairy Godmother (or, for that matter, without a dashing Prince). Amazon, which talked of ‘replacing paper’ and ‘building a reading device without compromises’, seems more interested in Tablets and Phones and other devices that people with non-reading attuned attention spans can love and cherish. Who cares about people who would read and use their imaginations when we can cater to people who want to throw pigs at Han Solo (or Han Solo at pigs, does it matter?).

Kindle Paperwhite thoughts, Kindle Paperwhite 2 thoughts

Kindle Paperwhite Thoughts

  1. How important is weight? There was a very intelligent comment pointing out that the 7.5 oz weight of the Kindle Paperwhite is a big advantage over Tablets. Kindle Fire HD is 13.9 oz, which is nearly twice as much as the Kindle Paperwhite. iPad is 3 times the weight of the Kindle Paperwhite. If you’re reading for a long time, whether sitting or lying down or reclining, the weight of the device makes a big difference.
  2. How is the Kobo Aura HD affecting Kindle Paperwhite sales? We’ve seen in our Kindle Paperwhite vs Kobo Aura HD comparison that Kobo Aura HD’s HD eInk Screen will result in a better reading experience. Q1: How is Kobo Aura HD affecting Kindle Paperwhite sales in general? Q2: Out of people who actually know Kobo Aura HD exists, how many are still picking Kindle Paperwhite? My suspicion would be that the second question’s answer is scaring Amazon. Amazon might prepone the Kindle Paperwhite 2 release to lower the impact of the Kobo Aura HD. Of course, B&N has a part to play too.
  3. How is the anticipation for Kindle Paperwhite 2 affecting sales? Existing Kindle owners, and lots of prospective eReader owners, are perhaps used to seeing Fall launches of new Kindles. It’s a reasonable assumption that a lot of people are waiting to see what Kindle Paperwhite 2 is like, before buying their next eReader. Perhaps some are also waiting to see what the new Nook Glowlight 2 will be like. How is this affecting sales? With iPhones, we know that the quarter before the new iPhone release is relatively slow. Is it the same for Kindles?
  4. Does Amazon want to sell Kindle Paperwhites only to people who won’t buy Kindle Fire HDs? This is something I’ve wondered about a lot. If Amazon views the devices mostly as a means to sell content, and there are quite a few signs it does, then perhaps Amazon would rather sell a person a Kindle Fire HD. Why sell a Kindle Paperwhite and then only be able to sell books. There are some subtle things done i.e. the strip at the top of Kindle eReader product pages that shows Kindle Fire HDs and Kindle Fires. How does this impact Kindle Paperwhite sales?
  5. What are Amazon’s internal goals? Is Amazon now shifting focus to Kindle Fire HD 2 and Kindle Phone and Kindle TV? Is Kindle Paperwhite 2 an after-thought? Wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon is aiming to sell 10-15 million Kindle Fire HD 2s and Kindle Fires in rest of 2013 and just 3-5 million Kindle Paperwhites and Kindle Paperwhite 2s. Perhaps 90% of the focus is on Tablets now.
  6. What percentage of high-end eReader sales (ongoing, not cumulative) are going to Kindle Paperwhite, Nook Glowlight, and Kobo Aura HD. Perhaps, for high-end eReaders, it’s 70%, 20% and 10%. Perhaps Kobo Aura HD is helping Kobo get more than 10%. Perhaps Kindle Paperwhite isn’t at 70%. At the lower end of the market, the huge periodic sales on Nook Simple Touch must be having an impact.
  7. In the UK there are crazy sales on Nook Simple Touch and the Kobo eReader. Both are selling for approximately $44 (Nook Simple Touch is 29 pounds). Would be interesting to see what impact that is having on Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle WiFi sales in the UK.
  8. B&N is now claiming it can compete with Kindle in the UK, based on the increase in Nook content sales due to the crazy $44 Nook Simple Touch sale. Nook Simple Touch sold out once it was dropped from 79 pounds to 29 pounds. It’s still sold out. Kobo going for a similar price drop suggests that B&N’s strategy might be working very well. Kindle WiFi is 69 pounds in the UK, and isn’t really competitive if you consider the other two are selling at 29 pounds.
  9. Kindle Paperwhite 2 is becoming more and more important. Firstly, there are the periodic big sales on Nook Simple Touch. Secondly, there’s the advent of the Kobo Aura HD and its HD eInk screen. Thirdly, there must be 3-6 million people who are ready to upgrade from Kindle 1s and Kindle 2s and Nooks and Nook Simple Touches – What eReader will they buy?

The eReader space is interesting again – thanks to Kobo and thanks to the crazy sales B&N is running. It’s now beginning to shift more and more towards ‘take a loss now, make money from content sales’. That’s great news for customers.

Additionally, Kobo Aura HD raises the bar for eReaders and forces Amazon and B&N to deliver with Kindle Paperwhite 2 and Nook Glowlight 2.

Kindle Paperwhite 2 Thoughts

  1. B&N ran out of Nook Glowlights. It had the only eReader with a built-in reading light and the demand shocked B&N. That, in part, set the stage for Kindle Paperwhite to come in and take the majority of eReader sales in Holiday Season 2012. It also helped that Amazon had improved on the Glowlight in several important ways – screen resolution being, perhaps, the most significant improvement. Kobo, with the Kobo Aura HD, has set the bar this time. What will Amazon do with Kindle Paperwhite 2 to steal the Holiday Season? Will it be Nook Glowlight 2 that wins this year?
  2. How important is Kindle Paperwhite 2 to Amazon? There’s a legitimate case to be made that Kindle Fire tablets are more important. However, in books, Kindle Paperwhite 2, since it will be bought by hardcore readers who buy a lot more books, is perhaps more important.
  3. How big is the team working on Kindle Paperwhite 2? If Amazon has teams working on Kindle Fire HD 2 (definitely), Kindle Phone (almost certainly), Kindle TV (perhaps), and new devices (who knows what these are – perhaps a Kindle Watch), then how many people at Lab 126 (which makes all Kindle devices) are truly focused on Kindle Paperwhite 2?
  4. What’s the ratio of content sales generated per Kindle Fire HD owner to content sales generated per Kindle Paperwhite owner? My rough guess would be 2:1. My rough guess for Amazon sales generated would be 1:1. Perhaps I’m wrong on the latter. Perhaps Tablet owners buy a lot more things from Amazon. Perhaps they become Prime subscribers quite often.
  5. Is Amazon going to call Kindle Paperwhite 2 the Kindle HD? It would make sense. It’s much shorter and sweeter. HD should also sell better than ‘PaperWhite’. What does Paperwhite even mean?
  6. What prices will Amazon go with. The problem with the HD screen is that it’s more expensive (at least that’s my assumption based on the Kobo Aura HD coming in at $169). Amazon currently has Kindle WiFi at $69, Kindle Paperwhite with Ads at $119, and Kindle Paperwhite 3G with Ads at $179. If Kindle HD ends up being $169 or $159, due to the HD screen being pricier, then Amazon might keep the Kindle Paperwhite around. Another option, although a limiting one, would be to make a Kindle Paperwhite 2 that doesn’t use the HD screen.
  7. How much do eInk screens cost now? When the Kindle first came out, the screen was the most expensive component. Since Kindle WiFi is selling at $69, it’s obvious that eInk screens have dropped in price quite a bit. However, the new HD resolution eInk screen is newer technology and probably quite expensive – Perhaps between $59 and $79 per screen. What price could a Kindle HD (or Kindle Paperwhite HD) come in at, if the screen itself is $69? Perhaps $149. It’d be hard for Amazon to get it any cheaper if it’s adding a HD screen and also a fast processor and enough RAM and memory to make it a good Kindle that can compete effectively with Kobo Aura HD.
  8. Is Amazon going to continue with its iterative approach? It certainly seems so. That would mean that the main improvements we will see are – slightly lighter, slightly faster, HD screen (this is a big improvement), perhaps a bit more compact, sharper fonts, a few software improvements, a few features. Wish Amazon would start thinking ‘revolutionary’ instead of ‘incrementally evolutionary’.

Kindle Paperwhite 2 is a very important release.

Firstly, will Amazon show it still cares about dedicated readers and dedicated eReaders? Secondly, what improvements will Amazon add to out-duel Kobo and Kobo’s Aura HD? Thirdly, is there still life in eReaders?

We’d like to think that there will always be a large market of hardcore readers that want a device dedicated to reading – built without compromises, built without the ability to slice fruit and throw birds, built for people who love to read. If Kindle Paperwhite 2 is a big step forward, or even a little step forward, from Kobo Aura HD, then we know Amazon thinks there’s still life in eReaders. If Kindle Paperwhite 2 is disappointing, then it’ll be left to Kobo and B&N to drive eReaders and digital reading forward.