Kindle & Kindle Paperwhite under pressure from Kobo & Kobo Aura

The hard times B&N is facing with its Nook HD and Nook HD+ tablets seem like they will greatly strengthen Amazon’s position as the #1 eBook, eReader, and Reading Tablet seller. Good times for Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle Store.

Well, not so fast.

It seems Kobo is growing rapidly. Additionally, Kobo’s new Kobo Aura HD eReader is doing well. This puts pressure on Amazon to really deliver with Kindle Paperwhite 2.

Kobo morphing into the type of Competitor B&N should have been

Nate at The Digital Reader shares some figures from Kobo’s Strong Growth Press Release -

  1. Kobo’s revenue was up 143% in 2012. In Q1, 2013 it’s up 98%.
  2. Kobo now has 14.5 million customers worldwide. That’s pretty impressive. Perhaps even more impressive is that Kobo added 2.5 million customers just in the last 3 months.
  3. Hardware sales increased 145%.
  4. Half of the new Kobo Aura HD sales were to new customers. No details on precise numbers, but Kobo Aura HD accounted for 27% of Kobo devices sold at retail.
  5. Rakuten is Kobo’s Parent Company and it’s very strong. Rakuten’s Internet Services Division generated $3 billion in revenue in 2012. Rakuten’s Internet Finances Division generated $1.5 billion.
  6. Rakuten has very strong international presence and solid partnerships. As opposed to B&N, which is US-centric, Kobo is World-centric.
  7. Indie Author titles now account for 10% of Kobo sales (by unit sales, not revenue).

It’s really interesting to see these figures. Keep in mind that B&N’s Nook division sales were actually down in Q4, 2012. While a lot of that is due to poor device sales, it still makes Kobo’s 143% growth last year, and its 98% growth in Q1, 2013, really, really impressive.

Adding 2.5 million new customers in the last 3 months is very impressive too. Of course, these are registrations, so we don’t know how many are paying customers.

Nevertheless, a 14.5 million customer market makes Kobo an important eReader and eBook seller.

Does this really put pressure on Amazon and Kindle?

Yes.

Normally, B&N would have been the one to raise the bar by releasing a HD screen eReader. This year, perhaps because of its disastrous holiday season, B&N wasn’t able to.

That would normally have meant big gains for Amazon. It can keep selling Kindle Paperwhite while preparing a solid Kindle Paperwhite 2 for the Holiday Season.

However, Kobo stepped up and shipped the Kobo Aura HD.

This does a few things -

  1. The ‘new shiny thing’ in eReaders is now a HD resolution eInk screen. Kindle Paperwhite is now seen as ‘last year’s model’.
  2. People start assuming a Kindle Paperwhite 2 is around the corner. Lots of them delay their purchases. Regardless of when Amazon planned on releasing Kindle Paperwhite 2, it’ll have to revisit those plans.
  3. New customers to eReaders hear about Kobo Aura HD. If Kindle Paperwhite 2 were available, new customers would just gravitate to it because ‘Kindle = eReader’. But they hear ‘HD’ and want to check out the Kobo Aura HD.
  4. Internationally, it puts a lot of pressure on Amazon because Kobo has strong presence internationally. Amazon is well aware of the HUGE advantage of becoming the ‘default’ eReader and ‘default’ eBook Store in a country.
  5. Amazon now has to anticipate moves by both B&N and Kobo. Amazon’s strategy so far has been to let B&N take a shot, and then counter. That’s what it’s done with the Nook Color, the Nook Simple Touch, and the Nook Glowlight. If it suddenly starts seeing 1 release a year from B&N, and 1 release a year from Kobo, Amazon will have to adjust its strategy. Things become especially difficult if Kobo does spring releases and B&N switches to Summer or Fall releases.
  6. It ensures there is at least one strong contender left standing. If B&N were to quit the eReader market in 2013 or 2014 or 2015, Amazon would be left with no competition if Kobo weren’t around. Amazon might see a strong #2 fall away, and be promptly replaced by a stronger and more dangerous #2.
  7. It helps Kobo capture more market share. This will become very important in the long run. A strong #2 with 20% market share and a strong #3 with 10% market share is much more dangerous than having just a strong #2 with 20% market share. Things like economies of scale and word of mouth and network effects really come into play once you get to tens of millions of customers.
  8. Kobo can push harder worldwide. Outside of the US and UK, people are neither in love with Amazon to an incredible extent, nor are they already invested in the Kindle ecosystem. For those people, it comes down to better device and better ebook store and better service. While Kobo’s service is supposedly atrocious, their device is now shiny and pretty and HD. Kobo also has a good ebook store in most countries.

Kindle Paperwhite is no longer the ‘newest and best and default’ eReader. Well, it might still be best. We don’t know how well Kobo Aura HD works.

However, Kindle Paperwhite definitely isn’t ‘newest’ and it definitely doesn’t have a HD screen which can be used as a marketing differentiator. If enough people start thinking ‘HD’ eInk screens are a big deal, then Kindle begins to slip from its status as ‘the first eReader you think of when someone says eReader’.

What could make Kobo even more dangerous?

Buying Nook Media. That’s what.

If Kobo can get Nook Media for $1 billion or so, it would instantly go from approximately 10% market share to 25% to 30% market share. It would also give it a brand that’s strong in the US.

Worldwide, Kobo could leverage the larger economies of scale to really push for market share.

Finally, you can be pretty sure that a LOT of Nook owners would choose Kobo over Kindle. Kobo can read their existing Nook Books. Kobo supports ePub. Kobo isn’t Amazon.

Could B&N remain a strong #2 based on just Reading Apps?

It’s very unlikely.

B&N might exit Reading Tablets and eReaders. The former seems likely, and the latter seems a possibility.

It’s quite conceivable that B&N stops making devices altogether. That it tries to fight the Book Wars using Reading Apps. There are a few problems with this approach -

  1. Users of a device tend to go with the ‘default’ Reading App. Kindle Fire owners use the in-built reading app. Apple users tend to use the iBooks App. And so forth.
  2. When users don’t go with the ‘default’ reading app, they go with the ‘Best’ or the ‘Most Well-Known’ Reading App. Best Reading App varies wildly by platform. B&N isn’t ‘best’ on any platform except Nook devices. ‘Most Well-Known’ tends to be Kindle.
  3. Outside the US, B&N has no mind share. Most people won’t even know B&N’s Nook Reading Apps exist, or for that matter B&N. On the other hand, if B&N were able to sell devices internationally, users would gravitate to the in-built default reading app (which would be B&N’s own).
  4. Serious Readers want a device focused on reading. The more focused a device is on reading, the less likely it is to have ‘lots of Reading Apps’ and/or the option to ‘choose a Reading App from another ebook seller’. Kindles don’t have reading apps from other stores. Kindle Fire allows sideloading, but Kindle doesn’t allow anything.
  5. On another company’s device, you get taxed and/or get treated like a third class citizen. Apple forced Reading Apps to remove their ebook stores from the app, and also to remove their ‘buy’ buttons. It wanted a 30% cut. Amazon would simply never allow B&N’s Reading App in its Kindle Fire Store. Google could simply hide the B&N Reading App by making it hard to find.

Unfortunately for B&N, there’s only one way to keep fighting the Book Wars – to have both reading apps for other devices and your own devices (both Reading Tablets and eReaders).

It seems inevitable that Kobo will become the Pepsi to Kindle’s Coca Cola

Kobo is making a lot of good aggressive moves. It is fighting in Reading Tablets and eReaders. Its first few efforts have been terrible – However, it has been improving gradually, and at some point of time it’ll catch up. With the Kobo Aura HD it has really put the pressure on Kindle and Nook. Now Kindle Paperwhite 2 and Nook Glowlight 2 have to deliver.

As it grows likelier and likelier that B&N is going to leave Reading Tablets and eReaders. As Kobo keeps improving and pushing and expanding worldwide aggressively. It becomes more and more likely that Kobo will become the #2 eBook seller and the #2 eReader seller worldwide.

Once that happens, Amazon will find that Kindle vs Kobo is a much more dangerous fight for it than Kindle vs Nook. Rakuten is an Internet giant conglomerate (much like Amazon), and knows how to fight the Digital Book Wars much better than B&N.

By 2015 we might have Amazon wishing B&N had done better with Nook, and stayed around as an annoying but contained #2. Kindle vs Kobo is going to make Kindle vs Nook seem like a walk in the park.

Lighted Nook leaving Kindle in the dark?

In a nutshell: Yes and No.

Yes, we know that doesn’t help. Let us explain.

Please Note: This post is a collaboration between Rajesh and Switch. Rajesh is one of 4 (yes, 4) new bloggers who’ll be joining Meaghan and Switch in writing for the blog.

Yes, Lighted Nook is leaving Kindle in the Dark

People who clamored about how you can’t read on a Kindle in the dark (while waxing poetic about how paper books are so perfect for reading) fell into three camps -

  1. Those who really did need an eReader with a light.
  2. Those who would never ever buy an eReader (because People magazine is so much better in Color LCD with EyeDeath technology).
  3. Those who had no idea what an eReader was but were inordinately afraid of the dark.

Nook with GlowLight AKA Lighted Nook suits the first group perfectly. The second group will now find something else to complain about (the textured back is not made of crocodile skin and the wireless ebook transfer process isn’t carbon neutral). The third group is trying to decide between a flashlight, a box of matches, a potassium crucifix dipped in garlic oil, and a lighted eReader (Please, go with the crucifix – it can double as a bookmark).

Lighted Nook has a Real, Tangible Benefit

Dark Double Retina Display Technology (Trademarked) lets you see in the Dark. It’s amazing. It’s as if someone went back in the past and invented the lightbulb – except it’s fit into an eReader screen. The technology is so forward-thinking it’s not a backlight. No Sir. It’s a front-light.

You can’t really argue that this isn’t an advantage. Dark Double Retina Display is the best thing since sliced bread and the wheel (except perhaps for fried ice cream).

On a more serious note, we are talking about a very illuminating and clearly thought out feature. Advantages of the GlowLight technology (for the Nook Simple Touch) include:

  1. Soft glow on the screen. Optimized for low-light/no-light reading.
  2. Can be switched on to read e-books during the night and switched off during the day.
  3. Brightness adjustment options.
  4. Even illumination of the screen.
  5. Warm feel to the eyes – Less tiring for the eyes.
  6. Even with GlowLight turned on, the battery is supposed to last for one month (when the Nook is used for half an hour everyday).
  7. Can also be used when there is insufficient light during the day, to improve the reading experience. Note: This is an underrated feature.
  8. The glow is created by using a front light, instead of the back-lit screens used in tablets/LCD monitors. This is better for extended reading sessions.

Of course, true hipsters will frown that there isn’t an actual 1918 light switch fixture on the side of the device and there is no animated lamp shade that flutters up the length of the screen when you turn the front light on. However, we’re sure our friends in Hipster Land are working hard and trying to start a Kickstarter Project for ‘Completely Useless, Perfectly Wonderlicious, Genuinely Vintage Light Switch Fixture for Things You can Pretend to Read Proust On’.

Too much meandering. The crux is that -

  1. Lighted Nook has a good, solid feature.
  2. Kindle does not have the aforementioned good, solid feature.

Amazon Damage Control

Taking a leaf from its last year’s ‘Library Book Support’ announcement i.e. the ‘Announce it Before You Have It’ strategy, Amazon has already announced (via its PR Department at Reuters) -

  1. Lighted Kindle will be arriving.
  2. It will be arriving in July.
  3. A New Kindle Fire Tablet will be arriving.

We’ll see why this is important later.

So, Amazon obviously recognizes this is an important feature. It actually had its extended PR department release a controlled leak to fight off the lighted Nook.

Coming Back to Tangible Benefits

Just think of the possible applications of this technology. You can not only use the Nook during bedtime (without disturbing your family members by switching on the lights), but you can also read your favorite books during power cuts. You can keep reading your books while sitting on the back seat of a car or taxi, even when there is no illumination. You can sit down in your balcony, terrace or garden and read your books while occasionally gazing at the moon. All paranormal romance fans – this is NOT going to turn you into an empath werewolf being courted by Alien Princes and Bodybuilding Shapeshifters who moonlight on General Hospital. Just an FYI.

Amazon’s equivalent is the lighted Kindle Cover. It’s a rather inelegant solution though it works very well if you aren’t fussy.

  1. You have to carry the case around.
  2. The Case costs a bit. $59 or so.
  3. The lighting isn’t even.
  4. There are no animated lamp shades (and no skeuomorphism either).
  5. Kindle+Cover doesn’t sound as cool as – My eReader glows in the dark, like the trees in Prypiat.

Crux: The in-built light is a very cool feature.

It’s a tangible benefit and it gives the Nook an edge over the Kindle.

Please Note: Clip-on lights are just a terrible solution.

Manufactures provide clip on lights for Kindle but there are certain limitations. The clip on lights need to be attached and detached frequently. They add additional weight and cost to the e-reader. They have their own batteries that need to be recharged/replaced and there may be some reflection on the screen and glare on the eyes. Given a choice, people will probably prefer to go with a reader that is optimized to be used during the dark.

No, Lighted Nook is not going to affect Kindle sales very much at all

If the lighted Nook has a clear, tangible advantage, then why will it not affect Kindle sales much?

Quite a few reasons:

  1. Amazon has already leaked news of a lighted Kindle arriving in July.
  2. Amazon has got its customers locked into its ecosystem. Who’s going to leave all those paid and free books behind?
  3. Kindle Lighted Covers and Clip-on lights are a decent workaround until the Glow in the Dark Kindle arrives.
  4. Lack of Awareness – Not very many people know about the lighted Nook. They should have named it Dark Double Retina Technology or something catchy and outrageous. GlowLight? That sounds like something the Care Bears use alongside scented Tibetan candles.
  5. Lack of Awareness of the Benefits – It’s very easy for users to misunderstand the benefits and convenience. Things like ‘even lighting’ and ‘built into the ereader’ are not very easy to explain.
  6. Higher Price. At $139, Nook with GlowLight is quite a bit more expensive than the $79 and $99 Kindles.

The Nook’s GlowLight technology has a few limitations as well. The battery life will be less. Reading in the dark will cause some eye strain (only way to avoid that is to read during the day). Small imperfections on the screen (like fingerprints, dust) will seem like ants and spiders crawling across your screen.

The advantages provided by the lighted Nook easily outweigh the disadvantages. With GlowLight, people can read on their eReaders any time. However, the fact that users know a lighted Kindle is around the corner and the fact that they are locked into the Kindle and/or the Amazon ecosystem means that the impact will not be as strong as it would otherwise have been.

Barnes & Noble has made a good, positive move and yet again Amazon has to counter. My prediction is that Amazon has quite a few tricks up its sleeve with the Kindle Lighted Touch – one of which will be bringing it in at a price much lower than $139.

Why Kindle 3 is the best eReader

The Kindle 3 is, for all intents and purposes, the best eReader available.

Let’s ponder why this is – why Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch were unable to wrest the crown from Kindle 3.

Please Note: If you haven’t used a Kindle 3, or have already bought a Kindle Touch, then feel free to consider the Kindle Touch the best thing since sliced bread. This post is mostly for Kindle 3 owners and for people who are deciding between Kindle 3, Kindle 4, and Kindle Touch.

Why Kindle 3 is the best eReader

1) Kindle 3 is dependable. It’s the polished version of a familiar device. The magical third generation that sorts out 90% of the issues.

With Kindle 3, Amazon refined what it started with the original Kindle. It didn’t try any big design changes because none were needed. It improved lots of aspects and messed up only a few (keyboard being too tiny, number keys missing, etc.).

Kindle Touch and Kindle 4, on the other hand, aren’t familiar or dependable. They aren’t exactly 4th Generation Kindles – they are more like a branching out from the main Kindle family into some strange branch where being able to touch the screen becomes as important as reading from it.

They throw away the entire user interaction model. Kindle 4 does this in spectacular fashion by having neither a keyboard nor a touchscreen. Kindle Touch also involves quite a shift - using a touchscreen makes for an entirely different user experience. Amazon makes the change even more drastic by removing the 5-way and the page turn buttons.

For all intents and purposes, Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch are the first generation devices for their respective user interfaces. That means - they will not have the sort of polish Kindle 3 has. This is why lots of people are running into problems with screen responsiveness and are struggling with things like one-handed reading and page turns.

2) The Kindle 3′s keyboard and 5-way and page turn buttons add something of significant value.

Physical Keyboard = Faster typing of Notes. In things like crossword apps and games you can use the keyboard. Keyboard can be used for shortcuts (Alt+G for screen refresh to remove ghosting – Is that even possible on Kindle Touch?).

Physical Page Turn Buttons = Keep your finger on the button and press down (minimal effort). Also, makes one-handed reading easier.

5-Way = Faster moving around and more precise moving around. The touch screen of the Kindle Touch is a bit hit and miss with Menus and also is awkward in some places.

There is also familiarity and being comfortable. If you’ve owned Kindle 1 or 2, then Kindle 3 is comfortable. If you’re used to a physical keyboard then, again, Kindle 3 is familiar. The opposite applies too - If you’re in love with touch screens, then you’ll prefer Kindle Touch (just don’t expect LCD smoothness).

Here’s what you get by removing the keyboard and 5-way and page turn buttons: smaller size, lighter weight. These aren’t very important because Kindle 3 was already compact and light. It’s 7.5 ounces vs 8.5 ounces.

3) Amazon cuts a LOT of corners with Kindle Touch.

This is something that doesn’t become apparent until you actually start using the Kindle Touch.

All the cut corners add up - the interface being awkward in places, no charger included, no free 3G browsing. To get the price down, Amazon cut a lot of corners. You get the distinct feeling that you are using the ‘value’ version of the Kindle.

Think about it – there isn’t even a wall charger included.

Kindle 3 didn’t have any of this nonsense.

Kindle 3 is $99 with ads for a device that used to sell for $139 and had to be priced lower to compete with Nook Touch. Kindle Touch is $99 with ads for a device that often reminds you it’s a $99 device.

Interestingly, all the Kindle Touch’s drawbacks (and the Kindle 4′s drawbacks) stem from two very interesting sources.

The Fundamental Flaws – Amazon reacted to Nook Touch instead of improving Kindle 3, Amazon went for value over quality

It’s finally struck me.

Kindle 3 was really great. Kindle 4 should have been a higher quality device built on Kindle 3 as the foundation.

Instead, Amazon prioritized -

  1. Lowering the price to reach more users.
  2. Reacting to what it thought was the threat of Nook Touch and the new Sony Readers.

Neither of these have much to do with reading or quality of reading experience.

Why prioritize lower price over quality? Because every Kindle sold is a channel to Amazon. Amazon wants to reach as many users as possible.

Why no keyboard? Amazon doesn’t want a keyboard because it wants the Kindle to be used for buying and consuming - Not for taking notes. Time spent on taking notes is time that could be spent buying and reading. Amazon has progressively made the keyboard smaller and more stunted and in the newest Kindles it has gone into full consumption device mode – forget typing, focus on buying and consuming.

Why react to Nook Touch? Because color eInk is too far away. Amazon was worried about a feature that is more of a marketing/selling feature than an actual benefit. And it almost certainly made the wrong choice.

Nook Touch used touch as a differentiator even though touch has nothing to do with reading (unless you’re reading braille). Touch is great for marketing and so B&N had to include it – because Kindle 3 was far ahead of Nook 1.

Amazon, however, had no rational reason to react to Nook Touch as if it were a big threat.

Why on Earth would Amazon react to the #2 and #3 eReaders?

Kindle 3 was doing great. It was the #1 eReader. (In the opinion of lots of Kindle owners, including me, it still is).

Amazon had two options -

  1. Wait until Mirasol was ready and release a color eInk Kindle. An actual big breakthrough. A Kindle 4 worthy of having that ’4′ in the name. A worthy successor to Kindle 3.
  2. React to what B&N and Sony were doing. Release a stop-gap Kindle. Create a me-too device that panders to the weird belief that a touchscreen is essential to reading.

For some strange reason Amazon chose the second option. It decided that it needed to copy the moves and designs of Nook Touch and Sony Pocket Reader. So it got rid of the keyboard and slapped on a touchscreen. To show just how avante-garde and zen minimalist it is, it even got rid of the 5-way and the page turn buttons.

It’s a puzzling decision. Every single book involves hundreds of page turns. The physical page turn buttons are super important. Why get rid of them?

With the new Kindles, Amazon has strayed from ‘a device that makes no compromises when it comes to reading’

Let’s consider -

  1. No charger. That’s a compromise. No computer needed … unless you want to charge it.
  2. No keyboard. You could push it and say it’s a trade-off. No keyboard does make taking notes tougher.
  3. No free 3G Internet. Note: This is for the more expensive 3G models.
  4. No physical page turn buttons. Again, you can argue semantics but seems like a downgrade to me. If Nook Touch can keep physical page turn buttons, why can’t Kindle Touch?
  5. Poorly thought out Touch interface (in places). This sometimes gets in the way of doing things. Touch should make things smoother, not rougher.

When we went from Kindle 2 to Kindle 3 there were 15 to 20 additions and 3 to 4 negatives. This time it seems like there are 5-8 improvements and 3-5 negatives. It almost seems to be a lateral move.

Amazon wasn’t really trying to make the best eReader

The most logical conclusion we can arrive at is that Amazon wasn’t really trying to make a better eReader than Kindle 3. Kindle Touch seems like something that is meant to prevent Nook Touch from getting too much of the market.

If we see a Mirasol powered Kindle in the first half of 2012, then it’ll prove this theory. That Kindle Touch and new Kindle are just stop-gap measures.

There are other possibilities -

  1. Amazon wants to focus on a ‘good enough for reading’ Kindle that is low-priced and which lots of casual readers can embrace. Obviously, for these ‘hard-core’ book readers, the ability to use a touchscreen is the most valuable feature an ebook reader could have. Kindle 5 will arrive with animated page turns and wooden bookshelves. By Kindle 6 we will have the option to buy bookcovers instead of books.
  2. Amazon really does think Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch are better than Kindle 3. Perhaps the Committee for the Death of Keyboards inside Amazon is celebrating the liberation of users from the tyranny of physical keyboards.
  3. Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch got a bit lost in all the focus on Kindle Fire. It’s possible.

Whatever the reason(s) for the cutting corners and lack of tangible progress – it’s disappointing that we haven’t progressed. Kindle 3 came out 1.5 years ago. Since then we’ve only had Nook Touch, which is not as good (but is close), and these two new Kindles that are clearly not as good (probably because they prioritize things other than reading and quality).

Dangers of assuming Amazon will destroy B&N

A long time ago I’d joked about the ridiculousness of B&N thinking their new CEO William Lynch could hold a candle to someone like Jeff Bezos who has a very proven track record.

Amazon may very well still destroy B&N – However, B&N has been the more impressive technology company when it comes to eReaders and Tablets. Read on if you find that hard to believe.

I owe William Lynch an apology. He and B&N have done a lot of things that everyone thought Amazon would do first.

B&N’s ability to compete with Amazon

This is some of the stuff B&N pulled off in the last year -

  1. Released a Reading Tablet a year before Amazon.
  2. Released a touch-screen eReader months before Amazon. Almost eliminated the page-turn problem.
  3. Turned Nook Color into the #2 selling Tablet after iPad. You can argue technicalities, but the bottom line is that Nook Color has sold more than any other non-iPad tablet.
  4. Showed that there is a market for non-iPad Tablets. This is a HUGE thing. It has given everyone else hope and will lead to the end of the iPad’s domination in Tablets. The biggest lesson it has taught everyone is – Don’t compete on your enemy’s strengths. A lesson that Amazon has learnt very well.
  5. Released a Nook Tablet that pulls off some impressive things – 1 GHz dual-core processor, 1 GB RAM, HD support, IPS screen, 16 GB memory. That’s a LOT of goodness for $249 – Tablets and smartphones with comparable specifications retail for $400 to $500.
  6. Built up a very interesting Nook Color App Store. 1,100 Apps aimed at Tablets.
  7. Added Email support and lots of other features to Nook Color and morphed it from a Reading Tablet to an almost full-fledged Tablet.

These are all things that no narrow-minded person expects a bookseller to be able to do. Glad to learn from that mistake.

Of course, the two most impressive things are -

  1. It Stayed Alive.
  2. It Built the Nook division into a $2 billion a year business.

B&N could just spin-off Nook into a separate company – Suddenly it’d be a company with a very good chance at surviving and thriving. It could also transform itself into a store that sells everything. It has options and it’s in a position of power.

The Main Stream Press are counting out B&N

Reading through people’s thoughts on Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet, it’s hard not to notice two interesting assumptions -

  1. Kindle Fire is $50 cheaper and it will destroy the Nook Tablet.
  2. B&N is a bookseller that can’t compete with a software company like Amazon.

The first is an interesting assumption. If it’s the iPad, then the $500 price doesn’t matter because it has better features. If it’s the Nook Tablet, then a $50 higher price will kill it – because price matters so much.

It almost seems that the Press is married to two stories -

  1. iPad’s glory will continue to increase forever - until people use it instead of paper plates and credit cards and kitchen towels.
  2. Kindle’s glory will continue to increase forever - until Amazon is selling Prime subscriptions for pet kittens that come with one free baby mouse a quarter.

The truth is that the Press is constantly wrong - it was wrong about the Kindle, it was wrong about the Nook Color, and it’s likely to be wrong about the death of the Nook Tablet.

$50 is not going to destroy Nook Tablet

Firstly, we have a few million Nook Color owners.

Secondly, we have a few million tech-savvy people who want a powerful Tablet they can hack and run Android on. For them, things like 1 GB RAM mean a lot more than saving $50. They know exactly how valuable that 1 GB is going to be by end 2012.

Thirdly, we have a TON of people for whom $250 is not a big deal but $500 is a big deal. These people will have Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet as options – but not the iPad. Perhaps 75% choose Kindle Fire – that still leaves 25%.

Fourthly, we have lots of small groups that will pick Nook Tablet – people who want/need an SD Card slot, people who prefer the Nook Tablet’s screen, people who love B&N or are B&N members, people who MUST see the device in person, people who prefer the Nook Tablet’s design, and so forth.

There will be millions of Nook Tablets sold.

Nook Color is now at $199

One very important factor is that B&N has now priced Nook Color at $199.

Nook Color is a very solid and compelling device. It’s also battle-tested. While Amazon’s ecosystem gives Kindle Fire an advantage overall (though I haven’t done an in-depth analysis), there are lots of people who will find things like ePub support and expandable memory more compelling.

Neither company is making Space Rockets

There’s a pretty strong bias against B&N. The assumption that because it started off as a bookseller, it couldn’t possibly compete with a company that started off making a website to sell books.

It’s delicious irony.

Tech journalists love to spout nonsense – It’s really, really tough to do hardware. It’s really, really tough to do software.

It’s not. There wouldn’t be 5,000 different companies doing it if it were that difficult.

We aren’t building a rocket or mapping the human genome. We are taking things that have been done thousands of times and refining them a bit. The real problem is that most companies do a shoddy job. They try to provide $10 of value and charge $100.

The tech media says - B&N can’t compete with Amazon.

Let’s add some facts to that statement and see how ridiculous the complete assertion seems:

B&N built a Reading Tablet and shipped it 1 year before Kindle Fire. B&N proved there’s a non-iPad Tablet market. It sold a few million Nook Colors. B&N shipped a touch eReader before Amazon did. B&N has around 20% of the ebook and eReader market.

B&N can’t compete with Amazon.

Dear Tech Journalists,

You are absolutely right. Apart from a few little things like releasing Nook Color last year, building Nook into a $2 billion a year business, and releasing a very impressive Nook Tablet, B&N has shown zero ability to be able to compete with Amazon.

Quite frankly, the tech journalists are just upset that Nook Color was obstinate enough to survive.

There is no purity and there can be no clean endings

What are Amazon’s aims with eReaders and Tablets – expand, sell other things, sell digital products, sell kitchen sinks, sell books, create more Amazon customers, prevent Google from being the middle-man, prevent Apple from becoming the dominant tech religion, profit at some later point of time, grow Amazon, annoy WalMart, beat WalMart with a stick, poke Google in the eye, show Google how to make actual money from Android.

You know what’s missing – purity.

B&N’s aims are pretty convoluted too – survive, offset the decline of brick and mortar stores, compete with Amazon, show Amazon it can compete, evolve, sell books, sell rugs, capture children and families as customers, make fun of Borders, morph into a monster, survive in the digital age.

Again, the purity is missing.

We don’t have any company that is aiming to make the best possible Tablet, with no compromises. If there were, it would wipe out everyone else. Perhaps itself too.

Since there is no purity, there is not going to be a clean-cut winner.

Let’s see why -

  1. Amazon wants to sell other things so it builds a Tablet + mini Amazon Store.
  2. It bundles Prime.
  3. It uses a closed ecosystem.
  4. It focuses on selling other things when it constructs the UI and design. Ratio of Time spent on buying movies UI vs Transferring files to PC UI = 10:1.
  5. It closes off certain formats and certain features. Limited storage has more to do with pushing people to buying Amazon content than saving price. Do we really think Amazon was super concerned about the extra $5 to go from 8 GB to 16 GB?

At every step, it loses a small subset of customers looking to buy a Tablet.

It’s the same with Nook Tablet – However, it is making other cuts. So it’s losing other subsets of Tablet customers.

Because each and every Tablet maker has multiple goals and is lacking purity, we will have a market with multiple winners.

Amazon only knows two directions to attack in

Another factor in B&N’s favor is that Amazon seems to be wedded to two things -

  1. Very Strong Ecosystem.
  2. Very Cheap Device.

There are lots of things it isn’t even attempting i.e.

  1. Aesthetics. It could try to steal away Jonathan Ive – give him a chance to get all the credit and live in England. Let’s admit it – He could design the most magnificent TV ever and people would just say it’s Steve Jobs’ last gift. Jonathan Ive has a chance to show that he was the real genius behind the designs. If he goes to Microsoft or Google or Amazon and designs the next big device, then he becomes the real design genius. Do it in a company other than Apple and everyone will know who’s the man behind the magic. Right now, he’ll be forgotten in all the idol-worship. It’s sad in some ways. All these amazingly talented people like Steve Wozniak and Jonathan Ive and no one will ever remember them because one person will get all the credit.
  2. Validation. Lots and lots of kids who want to show they’re cool. It’s hard to understand that everything you need is inside of you. Let them ease their journey to self-validation by sporting the SuperValidatingKindle_Status++.
  3. Religious stuff. The current crop of technology people seem to be almost feudal in their need to have some Tech Overlord they can bow down to. Provide it.
  4. Social Connections between Readers. Social does not mean Book advertisements on Twitter and Facebook.
  5. Making a Tablet that will be the very best Tablet – even without the ecosystem.

Apart from a golden stretch with the Kindle 3, Amazon has never had the best eReader. It’s always the website and ecosystem that have been the difference makers. It’s the same with Kindle Fire. Silk Browser and Amazon Prime are the difference makers.

It’s as if Amazon has decided to completely ignore Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy and focus only on what it currently knows best – the Cloud and the Website and Scale and Low Prices. Not a bad strategy to focus on its core competencies – but it leaves a lot of opportunities for Amazon’s competitors. Can B&N take advantage of those opportunities?

Well, the solid technology in the Nook Tablet suggests it can.

We have already passed the Inflection Point

We passed the inflection point for B&N’s death with the launch of the Nook Color. Mr. Leonard Riggio must have seen those 700,000 Nook Colors being sold every month and felt Tiger Blood coursing through his veins.

We’re talking about a company that everyone claims is dying and it’s built a completely new business that’s worth $2 billion a year. You know what company would love to be able to do that – Google.

There are very few companies that can build multiple billion dollar businesses. Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, … and a few more. It’s not a long list.

B&N has done it. It’s at around 20% in eReaders and perhaps at 10% to 20% in Tablets. It’s tasted blood. Right now, we are seeing the beginnings of a very long climb up. B&N went through its death rattle and survived. This fact is lost on everyone because people mis-understand inflection points.

If a company has 20% of the eReader market, and has one of only two viable competitors to the iPad – it’s neither dead nor endangered.

Look at the $99 Nook Touch. The $199 Nook Color. The $249 Nook Tablet. These aren’t the product offerings of a company that is on its deathbed. These are products from a company that has survived and is reborn.

Amazon is going to regret not buying B&N. It had a chance to snap up the only credible threat to the Kindle, and it didn’t. Now it is faced with a company that is a threat to both Kindle and Kindle Fire. Amazon is going to have a lot of opportunities to think back to when B&N was almost dead and was available for a billion dollars or so. Instead of buying Zappos and its ‘feel good and sell shoes for no profit’ strategy, Amazon should have bought B&N. You probably couldn’t write a Mother Teresa meets Dalai Lama book about it, but you’d have one heck of a business.

Which Kindle? Kindle Buying Guide

With Kindle Touch, Kindle Fire, and the new Kindle, Amazon now has a confusing number of Kindles to choose from.

This ‘Which Kindle?’ Kindle Buying Guide will help you pick the right Kindle for your needs.

Which Kindle – The Top 3 Choices

This section is the conclusion of the entire Kindle Buying Guide (so you don’t have to go through the entire Kindle Buying Guide if you don’t want to). The three best Kindles and the ones we recommend are -

  1. Kindle Fire (if you want a Tablet).
  2. Kindle Touch (best Kindle eReader with touch).
  3. Kindle Keyboard (best Kindle eReader with keyboard).

Please Note: Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch are not yet out. So the recommendation is with the Qualifier that these devices might not be as good as expected. With Kindle Touch it’s quite likely (given past Kindles) that it will be a very safe and solid bet. With Kindle Fire, we will only know when it’s actually released.

A little on why these were the winners.

Kindle Fire – A good choice if you are looking for a Tablet

Kindle Fire is a Kindle Tablet. It is optimized for consuming content (movies, books, TV shows, music), for surfing the web (with a fast browser), and for games (thousands of apps and games from Amazon’s Android App Store).

The combination of low price, good features, and multi-purposeness make it a good Tablet. It offers a lot of value for money and lets you both read books and also do lots of other things. It has a good-sized 7″LCD screen with IPS and color and two-finger touch.

Kindle Fire can be used as a reading tablet but does not have the eInk screen that is great for reading and is not focused on reading. It does have a reading light. It will not work in direct sunlight (you won’t be able to read off of it in direct sunlight).

It seems to be a very good choice (once it is out we’ll know for sure). If your budget is higher than $199 (the Kindle Fire’s price) then also consider iPad 2 (around $499) and Nook Color ($249, $170 for refurbished). Nook Color 2 is rumored to launch soon and iPad 3 and a 10″ Kindle Fire are rumored to launch in early 2012.

Touch Kindle – The best eReader choice if you don’t need a physical keyboard

Touch Kindle is just $99 for the version with ads and with WiFi only (ads are not in books, only in screensavers and on home page). It has a 6″ eInk Pearl that is great for reading. There is no color. There is touch. The touch is via IR so there is no layer over the eInk and no glare.

It is the 4th generation Kindle (though there aren’t very many advances over the 3rd generation Kindle) and thus offers the latest features. You get a focus on reading, the great eInk Pearl screen, and the convenience/appeal of touch. There is no backlight so you have to use a reading light. You can read it in sunlight. The eInk screen is great for reading and easy on the eyes.

The Kindle Touch and the Kindle Keyboard (Kindle 3) are the best choices if you are looking for a device for reading.

Kindle 3 aka Kindle Keyboard (WiFi only version)

Amazon has continued the Kindle 3 and it’s a good decision given the benefits of having a physical keyboard and the good, solid design and ease of use of Kindle 3.

Kindle 3 has a 6″ eInk Pearl screen (same as Kindle Touch) but doesn’t have a touch screen. Just like Kindle Touch, the Kindle 3 is great for reading and is readable in sunlight but doesn’t have a backlight for reading at night.

It has a physical keyboard which makes note-taking and highlighting and searching much easier. It also allows for lots of keyboard shortcuts (Alt+B to add a bookmark) and makes things convenient.

Kindle 3 is a good, solid choice.

Which Kindle – the Full List

Let’s look at every Kindle available and at what makes it unique and what situations and uses each is optimal for.

Please Note: There are sections later on that cover ‘Kindle WiFi or 3G’ and ‘Kindle with Ads or Kindle with No Ads’.

$79 New Kindle (Kindle 4 with Ads)

This is a very solid Kindle and incredible value for money. The downside is that there is no keyboard and no touchscreen – which makes things like taking notes very difficult and some other things awkward. There is also no text to speech and no music since it doesn’t have speakers. It has less storage space and less battery life than the $99 Kindles – However, it shouldn’t matter very much as there’s still space for 1,400 books and there is still 3 weeks battery life with WiFi on.

My recommendation: Add on $20 and get Touch Kindle or Kindle 3 Keyboard.

$79 Kindle 4 Review – Kindle 4 Review, Photos.

Thoughts on Ads: Not a problem. You get ads instead of screensavers and ads on the main page. No Ads in Books so it doesn’t hurt the book reading experience.

$109 New Kindle (Kindle 4 with no Ads)

Same as above. Just with no Ads. Don’t really see any reason to buy this instead of the $79 version.

$99 Kindle Touch (with WiFi only, with Ads)

Probably the best Kindle option.

For $99 you get – 6″ eInk Pearl screen that is great for reading, touch screen, ease of use and simplicity, access to Kindle Store (the best ebook store), text to speech, great battery life (2 months with WiFi off – assuming half an hour of reading per day). It is the latest generation Kindle (Kindle 4 Touch) so you get the benefit of all the lessons from the past 3 Kindle generations.

You don’t get – Color, Ability to do things other than read.

My recommendation: Best Kindle available (alongside Kindle Keyboard). If you prefer touch over a physical keyboard then this is the best choice.

$99 Kindle Touch Review – Kindle Touch Review.

Thought on Ads: Same as earlier, or please see Section later on ‘Kindle with Ads or Kindle with No Ads’.

$139 Kindle Touch (with WiFi only, no Ads)

Same Kindle Touch as Above. You pay $40 extra to be freed of ads in your screensaver and on your Home Page.

$139 Kindle Touch 3G (with 3G and WiFi, with Ads)

This is the same as the $99 Kindle Touch except $50 more expensive and with 3G.

WiFi and 3G are types of wireless technology. 3G means you can use AT&T’s cellphone towers and get wireless anywhere there is wireless coverage from AT&T. WiFi means you either have to have your own home wireless network or use a WiFi network at Starbucks or MacDonald’s or a Coffee Shop or at your work. Note: With any Kindle you get free WiFi access to all AT&T WiFi hotspots.

3G is more convenient. With 3G you get free Internet browsing and can browse the Kindle Store and buy and download books. It also extends (provided you are a US Kindle owner) to 100+ countries. You can be in England and still shop the Kindle Store and surf the Internet on your Kindle – as long as there is 3G coverage (from AT&T or a partner).

When do you need Wireless: You only need wireless when buying a book or downloading a book or surfing the Internet. You DO NOT need wireless when reading a book.

My Recommendation: Get this if you travel a lot OR don’t have a home wireless network OR will be reading on your commute or at work and won’t have WiFi access. Do get this is you travel internationally.

Quick Thought: If $50 isn’t a big deal to you, then always get Kindle Touch 3G instead of the WiFi-only Kindle Touch. The convenience more than makes up for it.

Thought on Ads: Same as earlier. Not a big deal.

$189 Kindle Touch 3G (with 3G and WiFi, no Ads)

This is the Kindle Touch 3G with no Ads. Same as above except no Ads.

$99 Kindle Keyboard (Kindle WiFi with WiFi only, Ads)

This is the Kindle 3. This is a really good Kindle and neck to neck with Kindle Touch.

For people who prefer a Keyboard this is the best choice. For people who prefer a touchscreen the Kindle Touch is the best choice.

For your $99 you get – 6″ eInk Pearl Screen, all the improvements learnt from Kindle 1 and Kindle 2, text to speech, very good usability, good operating system that’s easy to use, lots of options for font size, access to Kindle Store (the best ebook prices and the widest range of new ebooks), same 2 month battery life as on the Kindle Touch.

What you don’t get – the latest Kindle, touch screen, color, ability to do more than read.

My Recommendation – If you want a physical keyboard, then the Kindle 3 is the best choice.

Kindle Keyboard Review – Kindle 3 Review.

Quick Thought – A very safe choice. This is the third generation Kindle and third generation devices tend to be very solid.

Ads – Not a big deal. Saves you $40 if you are OK having Ads as screensavers. No ads when reading books.

$139 Kindle Keyboard (Kindle WiFi with WiFi only, no Ads)

Pay $40 extra and get the Kindle 3 without Ads.

$149 Kindle Keyboard 3G (Kindle 3 with WiFi and 3G, Ads).

This is identical to Kindle 3 except that you pay $50 extra to get 3G capability.

The exact same benefits as we discussed with Kindle Touch 3G – free 3G Kindle Store browsing, free 3G Internet, more convenient (works wherever there’s AT&T coverage), get free 3G in 100+ countries.

My Recommendation: If you travel often, or don’t get WiFi at home and work, or don’t want to bother with WiFi, then Kindle 3 with 3G is a great choice.

Convenience vs $50: If $50 isn’t much to you, then always get the 3G.

Wireless only needed for buying and surfing: You can read a book without wireless.

Ads: Not an annoyance.

$189 Kindle Keyboard 3G (Kindle 3 with WiFi and 3G, No Ads)

This is Kindle 3 with 3G and No Ads. Pay $40 extra and get back your screensaver and the bottom 20% of your home screen.

$199 Kindle Fire – The Kindle Tablet

A very good choice if you are looking for a low-priced Tablet that lets you do a lot more than just read.

The Kindle Fire is a 7″ Tablet. It has a color IPS LCD screen which makes it great for photos and movies and TV and games. It’s decent for reading and Amazon is doing some things like adding an anti-glare layer/treatment to make it a good reading tablet.

There is a gorilla glass display to make it tougher.

It’s a steal since the components alone cost $191. Add on manufacturing and software development and marketing and it’s probably costing more than the price Amazon is selling it for – perhaps as much as $50 more. Amazon is subsidizing it against the hope of future content sales.

That means you get a $250 to $300 Tablet for $199.

Kindle Fire vs Nook Color 2: Since Nook Color 2 is not out or announced, we don’t know what it will be. It is, however, a good idea to wait and see. You can still preorder a Kindle Fire to book your place. Then, if you find you like the Nook Color 2 more, just cancel the order.

Kindle Fire vs iPad 2: They are different devices. Can’t really compare a $199 Tablet with a $499 Tablet.

Kindle Fire Review: Not up yet. Here’s a post on Kindle Fire Specifications & Details.

My Recommendation: If you want a device for more than just reading, then Kindle Fire seems promising. Preorder one to book up a spot. If Nook Color 2 ends up being more tempting, you can always switch.

$379 Kindle DX 2 – The large-screen Kindle

Kindle DX 2 is the large screen Kindle. It has a 9.7″ eInk Pearl screen which is great for reading and offers all the benefits the smaller eInk Pearl screen offers – easy on the eyes, optimized for reading, readable in sunlight. It doesn’t have a backlight.

Kindle DX 2 is OK but not great for PDFs. The larger screen size is great and you can use landscape mode to get even better views. However, the PDF support is a bit limited – There is no text to speech for PDFs and highlights don’t always work.

In fact, something like the Kindle Fire or the Nook Color might be a better PDF reader due to color and touch and better PDF software.

Value for Money: When you can get a $79 Kindle 4 and a $99 Kindle Touch, the $379 price of the Kindle DX 2 becomes really unappealing.

My Recommendation: Wait for Kindle DX 3 or buy a Reading Tablet.

Kindle DX 2 Review: Here’s my Kindle DX 2 Review.

Thought on All the Kindle Choices

The introduction of the WiFi or 3G choice with Kindle 3 in 2010 made things confusing.

Now, with Ads or No Ads and 2 new models of Kindles, Amazon has made choosing a Kindle a royal mess. Hopefully this post (including the sections below) clears up the choice for you.

My recommendation would be -

  1. Kindle Tablet (Kindle Fire) – preorder one and then wait to see what Nook Color 2 is like.
  2. Kindle Touch – Best Choice if you’re looking for a touchscreen Kindle and want the latest model.
  3. Kindle 3 – Best Choice if you want a keyboard and the most stable, battle-tested Kindle.

Between Ads and No Ads – The Ads version is OK as Ads are not in the actual books.

Between 3G and no 3G – If you can afford it, or if you travel, or if you don’t have WiFi at places where you will want to buy books or surf the Net, then do get the 3G variant.

Which Kindle – eInk or LCD?

Kindle Fire is the only Kindle with a LCD screen. It is also a Tablet and not an eReader.

Kindle Fire Tablet with LCD screen – 7″ screen, usable for movies and TV shows and color games, two finger touch, IPS panel for great viewing angles, can be used for more than just reading, backlight so readable at night.

Kindle eReader with eInk screen – 6″ screen, eInk (with Touch if you get Kindle Touch), no color, no backlight, readable in sunlight, easier on the eyes, optimized for reading.

They really are two completely different devices.

If you read 2 or more books a month, or would like to read more

Then a Kindle eReader with an eInk screen is the best choice. Even if you get a Kindle Fire you should consider getting a $100 Kindle Touch or Kindle 3 for your reading.

Which Kindle – 3G or WiFi

Firstly, wireless is only needed when buying and downloading a book and when surfing the Internet. You don’t need wireless to read a book that’s already on your Kindle.

Secondly, if you can afford the extra $50 then it’s almost always a great idea to get the 3G version. It’s a lot more convenient, it works in 100+ countries (if you are a US Kindle owner), and it gets you free Internet browsing.

Thirdly, here’s the difference:

WiFi – A wireless technology where a router creates a wireless network in a particular spot (like a cafe or a house or a store). So your Kindle (both WiFi-only model and 3G model) can connect to this network and then connect to the internet through the router.

3G – A wireless technology where cellphone towers create a large wireless network over huge areas (like an entire city, or large areas of a city). So you Kindle (only the 3G model) can connect to this network and then connect to the Internet through the cellphone tower.

They are both ways to connect to a wireless network and then to the Internet. However, the latter (3G) is much more expansive as it works wherever an AT&T cellphone would work. It also works in 100+ countries where there is an AT&T partner 3G network.

WiFi will only work if there is an accessible WiFi network. You might have one at home. There are 10,000 AT&T hotspots in the US that your WiFi-only Kindle can access.

However, WiFi won’t work in a lot of cases like when driving around or when travelling. 3G will work much more often.

My Recommendation: It’s better to get the 3G Kindle but you can get by on the WiFi Kindle if you have WiFi at home or are OK downloading books to your PC and then transferring to Kindle via USB.

Which Kindle – Touch or Keyboard or Neither

This is usually a clear preference – If you like typing notes and prefer a physical keyboard then the Kindle 3 is the clear choice. If you fall into the camp of ‘touch is so cool and I can type faster/as fast on a touch keyboard as on a physical keyboard’ then the Touch Kindle is the clear choice.

Please keep in mind that the Touch Kindle isn’t here yet so we don’t know how well that on-screen keyboard works.

Which Kindle – 6″ eInk screen or 9.7″ eInk screen

At $379 the Kindle DX 2 is too expensive to consider. If Kindle Fire is just $199 and Kindle Touch is just $99 then the Kindle DX 2 at $379 becomes a puzzling choice. Just buy a Kindle Fire and a Kindle Touch instead and still have $80 left over.

Which Kindle – Should You get a Refurbished Kindle? What about a used Kindle?

Not a fan of all the refurbished Kindles and used Kindles.

Kindle Touch is $99. Kindle 4 is $79. Kindle 3 is $99.

There really isn’t a strong argument for buying a refurbished Kindle. The two exceptions would be:

A refurbished Kindle DX 2 if it is significantly cheaper than the $379 price of a new Kindle DX 2. My thought: Yes, as long as you don’t expect it to be a fantastic PDF reader.

A refurbished Kindle 3 with 3G and no Ads if it is in the $100 to $120 range. My thought: Yes, this is a good deal.

In nearly every other case it makes no sense to pick a refurbished Kindle over the latest generation, super-low-priced Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch.

Which Kindle – Reading Experience

One thing worth pointing out, especially if you are looking primarily for a reading device, is the core reading experience. My rough ranking would be:

Please Note: Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch are not out yet.

  1. Tie between Kindle 3 and Kindle Touch.
  2. All variants of Kindle 3 and Kindle Touch.
  3. Kindle 4 and variants. The lack of both keyboard and touch screen takes away from the reading experience.
  4. Kindle DX 2. The large size gets in the way.
  5. Kindle Fire. Equivalent to other reading tablets like Nook Color. Slightly better than general Tablets like iPad 2.

All Kindles have a very good core reading experience. Kindle 3 and Kindle DX 2 and Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch have the same identical eInk Pearl screens with very minor improvements in the latest generation Kindles.

Kindle Fire’s LCD screen is neither optimized for reading (apart from the anti-glare treatment) nor is it easy on the eyes. It will still be fine for reading – just not as good as dedicated reading devices like the eInk Kindles.

Which Kindle – Closing Thoughts

The answer to Which Kindle? is -

  • Kindle Fire (if you want a Tablet that can do more than just read). Do compare with Nook Color 2.
  • Kindle Touch (best Kindle eReader with touch). Can’t go wrong with the $99 WiFi-only model with Ads.
  • Kindle 3 (best Kindle eReader with keyboard). Again, the $99 WiFi-only model with Ads is something you can’t go wrong with.

If you want a device dedicated to reading, you are pretty safe if you go with the Kindle 3 or Kindle Touch. Based on what Kindle 4 is like, and assuming that Kindle Touch will basically be Kindle 4 with a touchscreen, I’m pretty comfortable giving it a strong recommendation in advance of actual release. A touchscreen really would address most of the shortcomings of the Kindle 4 (apart from the lack of a physical keyboard).

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