7 Kindle related surprising things

There ‘s been a lot going on in the last few weeks. Here are 7 Kindle related things that were particularly surprising.

Kindle eBooks selling more than hardcovers and Press and Publishers scrambling for excuses

It was quite a shock to find out Amazon is selling more ebooks than hardcovers. It’s almost unbelievable that the ratio for the last 3 months was 143 ebooks for every 100 physical books.

There were the expected reactions of surprise, pleasure, and dismay. However, almost as surprising as the news from Amazon was the fact that the Press and Publishers were still trying to find ways to pretend this doesn’t matter and to paint it as some sort of loss for Kindle.

My two favorite borderline delusional responses were – Paperbacks are the real target so what happens with hardcovers doesn’t matter, this is only due to the iPad.

The former reaction is pretty absurd – eBooks were 2.84% of the market in the first 5 months of 2009, they were 8.5% of the market in the first 5 months of 2010, and now they are selling more than hardcovers at Amazon. That’s a strong trend and it indicates that all the ‘ebooks will be 25% of the market by 2015′ predictions were overly optimistic – overly optimistic for Publishers.

The latter response (its all due to the iPad) is rather childish. It’s rather unlikely that the entire increase is due to the iPad given Amazon have been selling Kindles for $189 and refurbished Kindles for $139 in the last parts of the quarter and they released a pretty impressive software update that must have convinced a fair number of users to take the jump – Folders, PDF pan and zoom, etc. Even if it is entirely due to the iPad where’s the joy for Kindle haters in knowing that their great multi-color hope is strengthening the Kindle ecosystem instead of killing it.

Kindle 3 rumors getting increased credence

The Kindle DX 2 appeared and it appeared almost exactly as had been predicted – in black, with better screen contrast, and with little else. It also arrived with a B009 serial number which makes you wonder what B006, B007, and B008 are.

This was quite a surprise because Internet rumors tend to, well, not pan out.

It suggests that the rumors of a thinner, faster, cheaper Kindle 3 with better screen contrast might indeed be true and that Kindle 3 might indeed arrive in August.

Interestingly, Amazon has initiated a series of price-cuts that seem almost too much of a coincidence – Kindle 2 is just $189, refurbished Kindles are $169 and $109.

We’re almost certainly going to get a Kindle 3 this year. There’s no way Amazon would leave 4 serial numbers missing if it didn’t have something lined up for the second half of 2010.

Andrew Wylie doing a Kindle exclusive and getting excommunicated by Random House

The entire Publishing World is stunned by Andrew Wylie breaking some mysterious unspoken agreement. Perhaps something along the lines of – Let’s take advantage of authors and readers. Middle-men forever.  

Apparently, it’s an unspoken agreement we were supposed to know about - Except that, since it was unspoken, no one knew exactly what it was. So now we don’t know whether Andrew Wylie broke some unspoken agreement or Publishers decided the unspoken agreement was exactly what it would have to be for Mr. Wylie to break it.

Actually, the real problem was that Publishers wanted to take advantage of authors and Mr. Wylie, quite rightly, decided he didn’t want the authors he represented to be taken advantage of.

Publishers are coming up with all sorts of elaborate defences – How having an exclusive is wrong. How Agents are not supposed to make Publishers spill their espressos on their croissants.

All sorts of fanciful things meant to hide the fact that they are scared to death by the realization that Amazon + Wylie/Agents = End of Publishers.

Kindle DX 2 being Kindle DX 1.5

The improved screen contrast is marvellous (more on that later) – However, it’s the only significant difference apart from the Graphite casing. Perhaps there are a few other things that didn’t register in my brain (like the price-cut) - However, Kindle DX 2 really seems to the ‘50% better contrast and graphite casing’ show.

It’s the downside of Amazon’s kaizen philosophy. It’s consistent, relentless improvement and there are times when it impresses you (Kindle 2.5 upgrade, the international Kindle release) and times when you feel there should have been more in a major release (Kindle 2, Kindle DX 2).

Amazon’s incremental improvements philosophy almost makes you think Amazon will release Kindle 4 with Red and Green out of the RGB scale and not add the Blue until Kindle 5.

Kindle DX 1.5 is delightful and cheaper and it’s also not sufficiently different to be an entire new release. The screen contrast improvement is bewitching - However, it would have been nice to get a few more features.

How much the Kindle DX 2 screen grows on you

There have been so many anecdotes about the improved eInk screen of the Kindle DX 2 - How it almost seems to glow in the dark (an exaggeration, though you might feel that way due to the better contrast), how people are delighted by it, how it increases the gap between eInk and LCD (it does – to the point that NY Times are in desperate search of an expert that will refute this).

Perhaps the best way to sum up the new eInk Pearl screen is – It’s really, really close to paper.

Perhaps the best way to explain the impact is that if you own the Kindle DX 2 you will love reading on it. Every other eReader and every other reading device will be unable to deliver as good of a reading experience.

It’s a pleasure to read on during the day, it’s easier to read on in low light settings, and it needs less light at night. The difference is clear and marked and the graphite casing adds to the improved screen contrast. It’s a pity the improved screen contrast is the only huge addition in Kindle DX 2 – However, it really is a hugely important addition.

The rise and stabilization of $12.99

We might have beaten the $14.99 price point. However, Publishers have established $12.99 as the new price point for new ebook releases. It’s our own impatience and reluctance to wait a few weeks for a book we desire that’s caused it. C’est la vie.

It makes you wonder if this was the aim all along – Perhaps $14.99 was merely an anchor to get us to feel $12.99 is reasonable. Perhaps it was a stroke of good luck on the part of Publishers. In either case a 30% price increase for ebooks is nothing to be smiling about (if you’re a reader) or to scoff at (if you’re a Publisher).

A mix of $9.99 and $12.99 is where we’re at and in 3 to 4 months Publishers will again slyly raise the price by a few dollars. They’ll announce $17.99 and we’ll gladly move to $14.99.

Publishers can enjoy $12.99 as much as they like. In a few years we won’t have Publishers and then they will have all the time in the world to tell each other grand stories of how they fooled their customers (without realizing that’s why they no longer have customers).

Barnes & Noble releasing Nook WiFi and having Nook 2 approved by the FCC

A perfect duplicate of the Nook with WiFi and no 3G for $149. It’s a remarkable accomplishment.

Who would have thought it is B&N, and not Sony, that is keeping up with Amazon. Not just keeping up – it’s a giant thorn in Amazon’s side. With its support for ePub and library books it’s quite a bother. Unfortunately (fortunately if you’re Amazon) it’s software and strategy keeps letting it down. The net result is that it’s become something of a motivational tool for the Kindle Team.

You have to wonder what the conversations at Lab 126 are like -

2 weeks before the new Nook launch: This is a serious threat. We better start working on new features to match it.   

1 week before the new Nook launch: What’s going to happen to our market share. Work faster. Plan out new features.

1 week after launch: Well, that was unexpected. It seems their test team was on vacation.

Perhaps with Nook 2 B&N will defeat its demons and manage to release a spectacular product. B&N doesn’t really have a choice – If it doesn’t get one out of Nook 2 and Nook 3 right it’s dead.

7 Things it’ll be fun to see

  1. What the Kindle 3 is like.
  2. What the Nook 2 is like.
  3. What the next generation of Sony Readers are like. They’ve just announced another price cut and it seems we might get Sony Reader 606, Kindle 3, and Nook 2 all in the same month.
  4. What Google Editions shapes up to be.
  5. What the Kindle App Store is like i.e. what apps are released and how Kindle owners react.
  6. What Authors and Literary Agents do over the next 6 months.
  7. What share of the market ebooks capture in the next 6 months.

eReaders and eBooks continue to be exciting and full of twists and turns. 2.5 years in and we still have no idea where everything is going to lead to.

Kindle 3, Kindle 4 vs Tablets – The Next Battle

Well, now that it seems the Kindle and Nook have survived the onslaught of the magical and master-of-all-trades iPad it’s worth wondering what next great battle eReaders will have to survive.

The Press, sensing that the iPad isn’t ridding them of these pesky little eReaders that threaten to destroy their Book Publishing brethren, have decided it is going to be super-cheap Android based Tablets.

Kindle 3, Kindle 4 vs Tablets – Assumptions

The Press’ Champion – Android powered Tablets. All of the iPad’s features and none of its polish. Super low prices and you get what you pay for. The infinite promise of Android which will one day, perhaps in the distant future, be fulfilled.

Readers’ Champion – Kindle 3, Kindle 4.  Dedicated to Reading unless you want to read videos. Focused on one thing unless the one thing is rat-in-a-maze level dopamine inducing distraction. Neither the absolutely-critical-for-reading sex appeal of Apple nor the openness of Android.

This will start with the Kindle 3 sometime this year. Kindle 3 will probably have an eInk Pearl screen. It will continue with a color Kindle 4 that has Qualcomm Mirasol screens or PVI color eInk. Kindle 4 will probably arrive in mid to end 2011.

The Kindle 3 will be taking on the first generation of Android Tablets that will be struggling to get their bearings. The Kindle 4 will be taking on far more polished devices that use Pixel Qi screens and Openness 3.0 (so open their processor chips fall out).  

The number of assumptions should clearly indicate the future illustrated in this post is as likely as the chance of a straightforward ‘the-buck-stops-here, we aren’t going to make any excuses’ apology from Steve Jobs.

Android Tablets’ two big advantages over the iPad – when it comes to Kindle killing

Do note that this part applies only when it comes to killing the Kindle and Nook. It is impossible for any product to be better than an iWhatever. If it is the universe ends (though not before Apple puts up a ‘look-when-i-hold-it-with-two-hands-and-squeeze’ death grip video to protest).

We are now faced with the painful realization that the iPad has not cleansed the world of the heathen eReaders. Thus, we look for another saviour and cheap, knock-off $150 Android Tablets are the Press’ new chosen ones.

They do come with several huge advantages including two even Apple people will recognize as indisputable -

  1. Very cheap prices – Android Tablets for $100 and $150. Basically prices closer to the prices at which Apple will be selling iPad accessories than to iPad prices.  
  2. Very open OS – Android is the OS of infinite promise and infinite openness. Open people love it.

There are also a few benefits Apple people might refuse to acknowledge – You get to buy something that is not Apple, you don’t have to sit through soap opera style commercials, you don’t have to worry about people trying to kill you to steal it away.

The Press will, therefore, make two seemingly paradoxical claims – iPad is outselling every Android Tablet because it’s better; Although Android tablets aren’t selling they’ll still kill the Kindle.

Kindle 3 Vs Tablets of the 1st Android Generation

It’ll be quite an interesting comparison because Kindle 3 will probably only have a black and white eInk screen and we know how important color and video are for books.

  1. Round 1 goes to Kindle because there’s Kindle for Android so even people on Android will be buying books from Amazon. This is akin to finding out that even if you win your pay check is half that of the loser’s. 
  2. Round 2 goes to Android Tablets because it gets tens of millions of dollars of free publicity and the Press lead naive people astray about its readability.  
  3. Round 3 goes to Android Tablets because there’s a color screen and it’s awfully easy to pretend people will be perusing textbooks in color as opposed to less noble pursuits.
  4. Round 4 goes to Kindle because there’s Free Internet and there are lots of good features for reading.  
  5. Round 5 goes to Android because openness is so important. It holds a promise so vast that we can’t comprehend it. Openness is a caterpillar that will one day blossom into a beautiful butterfly with poison tipped wings that it will gently brush against every closed competitor.  
  6. Round 6 goes to Kindle because it’s easy and free of distractions – easy to get books, easy to read, easy to focus on reading.   
  7. Round 7 goes to Android – There will be so many devices out there with Android and who cares about actual statistics on books read or books bought – The only important statistic is that there are 127 million potential readers who may any day break their vow of reading celibacy and all read a book a year and make Android the most important channel ever.
  8. Round 8 goes to Android – As the Kindle is reeling from the realization that half the stadium audience is Android’s entourage Android unleashes Google Editions.   
  9. Round 9 is almost a knock-out - People are wondering if the Kindle is out. How can it take on openness and millions of public domain books and orphan works? There’s no way it could come back.  
  10. In between rounds the Kindle’s coach whispers into its ear – It can’t box. What do you mean it can’t box? It almost knocked me out. Yes. But that’s an illusion. It can’t really box. Look carefully – Its hands aren’t moving.  
  11. Round 10 - The Kindle suddenly realizes that this is a battle of reading devices and it’s the only one that has a readable screen and it’s the only one that’s actually focused on reading. Android Tablets were sunning on the artificial beaches of Paris instead of training. The Kindle rushes in with new energy and the Android Tablets are shocked – Where did this come from?
  12. Round 11 – It’s a knock-out. The Press are distraught. As are all the Android tablet makers that spent weeks copying the design of the iPad. What do you mean we had to train for boxing? No one cares about boxing. So what if this is a boxing match. We trained in openness and watching movies.

There you have it – The match turning on the surprising realization that boxers are supposed to be able to box. The Kindle realizing at the very end that it’s the dedicated reading device and Android Tablets specialize only in doing everything and they aren’t very good for reading.

Kindle 4 vs Tablets of the 2nd Android Generation

Here we have a different sort of Android Tablet - one that has a special reading mode. Perhaps it’s Pixel Qi, perhaps transflective LCD.

At the same time Kindle 4 comes in with color – which means you can finally read Winnie the Pooh the way it was meant to be read. If that isn’t a life changing event don’t know what is. It makes Kindle 4 vs Android Tablets Generation 2 a sight to behold.

The Kindle 4 vs Tablets – A play in 4 Parts

A dark brooding main in a jacket reminiscent of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat is arguing with a relaxed and tall woman dressed in an elegant evening dress.

I am Mr. Android Tablet and I am open.

What does that mean?

Mean. Well, in practical terms it doesn’t mean anything – but it sounds good. Anyways, forget that. I have 200,000 Apps. So you should concede all readers to me.

Two hundred thousand Android apps – That’s impressive. How many of them are relevant to reading or, for that matter, useful for anything?

They don’t have to be useful – they just exist and that’s a really big number. Two hundred thousand – it even sounds big.

That doesn’t impress me and it’s not going to impress readers either.

I am open and I support ePub and Google Editions has millions of books that were never checked out of libraries.

Yes, but people only care about books. As long as they can get the books they want to read they don’t care about ePub or scanned books from 1887 that weren’t read even when they were in print.

This isn’t about reading. 

I thought this was about reading.

Well, you, my dear, are wrong. This is about readers doing what’s good for Publishers and Big Corporations.

The Curtains at the side part – A reader jumps in

He looks at the two protagonists and after a puzzled look at the technicolor outfit of Mr. Android Tablet speaks to him.

Mr. Android Tablet – You’re not really a reading device are you?  

The Android Tablet turns angrily to the customer and thinks – That came out of nowhere (I should have read the script instead of playing Tetris).

Then he speaks -

What does reading have to do with this. I can do more than just read. In fact, you don’t even have to do that stupid reading. You can just play games instead.

Mr. Android Tablet – Are you a reading device? I definitely think I’d like a device meant for reading.

The 2nd generation Android Tablet is puzzled – No one told me about this. Since when have consumers started thinking.

Openness. Openness. Openness.

More than just reading. More than just reading. More than Just Reading.

He smiles broadly at the reader as he realizes it’s true – it works.

Well, OK, but I want a device that’s good for reading.

Mr. Android Tablet is really flustered now. What sort of magic is this. Neither of the magical words worked. What was that I was told about the iPad playbook?

LCD is just as good as eInk. LCD is better than eInk. LCD is better than paper.

Get a device that does more than just read. I’m sexy. I’m desirable. I’m magical.

I have no death grip. (wrong playbook, think, think.)

LCD is beautiful. LCD is technicolor. LCD saves kittens and puppies.

But you’re hurting my eyes. And I’m tempted to check my Facebook. Could you recommend a reading device?

Mr. Android Tablet is distraught. It’s always worked before. How can it fail? How can Apple’s SexyCoolBeautiful magic fail? It’s all been a waste.

Mr. Android Tablet is in anguish as his thoughts flow through and streak his rainbow jacket with shades of grey – 3 years of waiting for Pixel Qi and I’m still not able to sell myself as a dedicated reading device. How come the Karate Kid becomes a 12th level Black Belt in 10 minutes and even after 3 weeks of pretending to be an eReader I can’t get it right? I’m a disgrace. I need to go read up on the iPad playbook a little more.

Android Tablet exit – stage right.

Stage Left - A group of mean-looking men walk in. They seem overly anxious and uncomfortable on the stage.

The Press Jump In

Hey, Mr. Customer Man, since when have you been allowed to think for yourself.

What do you mean?

We told you the Kindle was dead. We’ve been telling you this for years and you still don’t get it. What’s the big fuss about a dedicated reading device anyways?

Well, I love to read and I want a device specialized in reading – like the Kindle 3 or the Nook 2 or the Kindle 4.

No, no – You aren’t getting the point. We tell you what to do. If you start reading and become smart how are our advertisers going to fool you into buying all their worthless products?

I would think that’s a good thing. You know – it’s probably good if we don’t buy worthless products.

How can you be so heartless? We save democracy. We work tirelessly for you. All we ask is that you buy a device that is so much better than any dedicated device. You broke our hearts once – Are you going to do it again?

Ummm… This is getting awkward. Goodbye.

The End

The reader turns to the Kindle and motions that they should head off.

Suddenly a svelte figure in black and white rushes on to the stage and cries out – No. This isn’t decided yet.

The reader turns in surprise – I thought this was decided. I want a dedicated reading device. Who are you?

I’m Nook 2.

Kindle 3, Sony Reader 606, and thoughts

Since there’s absolutely no interesting news and World Cup games are played in the morning it’s time to wonder aimlessly about the Kindle 3.

Kindle 3 may be arriving soon

The price drop of the Kindle 2 to $259 was just too smooth. We might all like to believe that Amazon are so fluid and responsive that they drop the Kindle’s price down to $189 mere hours after B&N announce their pricing surprise. However, that’s really hard to explain rationally.

You mean to tell me Amazon managed Kindle at $189, refurbished Kindle at $169, and refurbished Kindle 2 US at $139 in just a few hours. Amazon hadn’t been selling refurbished Kindles for a long time and then suddenly, at exactly the same time that B&N introduced the Nook Lite and cut the price on the Nook, Amazon got everything ready to ship in a few hours.   

It seems that either B&N didn’t hide their plans well enough or that Amazon were preparing for a Kindle 2 price cut independently of the release of the Nook WiFi. This makes a lot of sense if you consider that PVI/eInk has had a few things go its way and should be achieving better economies of scale – partnership with LG Display (the second biggest LCD maker in the world), sales to Amazon and B&N and Sony, lots of new customers for eInk. Perhaps PVI managed to cut prices on the display and both B&N and Kindle were planning to cut prices on their eReaders.

How does this tie-in with Kindle 3?

Well, the other factor that might be causing all the low prices is the arrival of the Kindle 3. Amazon tend to cut the price of the existing Kindle a month or two before a newer Kindle model is about to come out (based on a grand sample of 1). Add on a month or two from now (to avoid incurring too many returns) and you get a possible Kindle 3 release date - the end of July 2010 or sometime in August.

It’s almost as if Amazon were preparing to cut the price of the Kindle 2 and B&N gave them a good cover for the real reason behind the price-cut.

What could Sony be planning for their new Sony Readers?

Sony have already incorporated Touch into their Reader line. What will they be trying with their new Sony Reader 606?

My money’s on – wireless+WiFi, collaboration with Google Editions, cheap price point (well, they don’t really have an option), focus on international support, and Android.

We’ll probably see Sony concentrate much more on selling their Sony Readers all over the world. In the US they have a really tough time getting press coverage and have begun to lose the attention of potential eReader buyers. They might try a sales blitz to counter that. However, they’re stuck because they only focus on the device.

Basically, Sony want to sell people a device and then let them figure out everything else. That’s exactly what readers don’t want – Readers want everything already sorted out.

How soon could B&N release a Nook 2?

B&N showed us last year that they aren’t scared of rushing a product to market. Let’s say one or both of Kindle 3 and Sony Reader 606 debut in July/August. Suddenly we have the Nook competing with the third generation of eReaders. They’d have to do something drastic to compete.

Perhaps it’ll be price. Perhaps it’ll be rushing Nook 2. Perhaps it’s another gift card or another software update. Whatever it is, it’s going to be very interesting to see. B&N always seem to mis-time their moves. By playing the price card early they have left themselves vulnerable to the third generations of the Kindle and the Sony Reader.

Plastic Logic delayed, provides no release date

Plastic Logic could have released last year and found a niche. Now they are stuck between the $500 iPad that does everything and the $189 Kindle 2 that is excellent for reading.

How in the world are they going to sell a $649 business eReader?

It seems Plastic Logic finally figured this out and decided to change their strategy. It’s super impressive that they resisted the urge to promise a date. They seem to have realized that it serves no purpose to talk up an eReader, delay it to the point that potential competitors have raced far ahead, and then release it. Thus they’ve cancelled all pre-orders and said they’re working to improve their eReader.

It’s worth wondering what role the $100 million or so they took in investment is playing – Is it their safety buffer that ensures they can handle a few crashes on their journey? Are the investors overzealous about protecting their investments and scuppering an entry into the eReader market now that there’s lots of competition? Perhaps it’s both.

Plastic Logic technology is pretty important and they have a lot of money – They aren’t going to die out. It’ll be interesting to see what their next move is.

When will Qualcomm Mirasol displays arrive and in what device?

Mirasol seems to be ruled out of Kindle 3 – Mr. Bezos keeps insisting color Kindles are not arriving anytime soon. Meanwhile, Qualcomm keeps insisting that there will be mass market products using Mirasol displays in Fall 2010.

There’s an obvious disconnect.

The perfect use of Mirasol displays is in eReaders. It’s got to be in Kindle 3 or Kindle 4 or in the newer Sony Readers or in the Nook 2. What other device could be as good of a fit?

This is one of the big unresolved mysteries of the eReader market of 2010 – What eReader will have Qualcomm’s Mirasol Displays?

Will Pixel Qi be in Kindle 4? Nook 2? Another eReader?

Pixel Qi seems to be ruled out of Kindle 3 due to still not being out. Adam was a tablet that was supposed to be the first Pixel Qi powered device and would have proven the commercial viability of Pixel Qi’s screens. However, it got delayed and further delayed and now won’t arrive until Shopping Season 2010.

Some eReader maker is going to take a chance on Pixel Qi - The technology is just too good to pass up. Which of Amazon, B&N, and Sony will it be? Perhaps a company we don’t expect is going to release a Pixel Qi powered eReader+Tablet and steal a portion of the market.

Here’s the last update from Pixel Qi -

We are in 5 tablets, a few netbooks, and are also displaying multitouch, wide-viewing angle screens, and pen-based digitizing and all combinations thereof.

Notice the lack of mention of eReaders in that list. Perhaps Pixel Qi haven’t been able to convince any eReader company to try them out. That’s a bit unlikely though – the likelier probability is that they’re not supposed to talk about it until the product launches.

Kindle 3 rumors seem to have some weight - a July/August Kindle 3 release date seems likely

There are far too many coincidences – all the rumors talk of a July to August timeframe for a Kindle 3 release, most of the rumors talk of a thinner Kindle 3 with a sharper screen, the price of the Kindle 2 has been dropped.

None of the rumors and data points are conclusive. However, all of them point to the same thing – a Kindle 3 release in July or August. It’s certainly going to be interesting to see what the next generation of Sony Readers is like and what Kindle 3 offers.

Kindle 3 in July-August? 740K eReaders shipped in April-May?

Digitimes quotes Digitimes Research (the beginnings of an infinite recursion loop) and makes some pretty bold claims -

  1. 1.43 million eReaders were shipped in the first quarter of 2010. This is worldwide.
  2. 740K eReaders were shipped in April-May 2010. 
  3. B&N’s Nook accounted for 37% of shipments and the Kindle accounted for just 16%. That would mean 118,000 Kindles shipped and 273,800 Nooks shipped.

The last piece of data is rather sketchy – Amazon was readying up a launch at Target and just announced refurbished Kindles and refurbished Kindle DXes. Surely, those must have shipped in May.

That brings us to Kindle 3.

Claims of a Kindle 3 launching in July-August

Digtimes adds further fuel to the Kindle 3 in August rumors -

Amazon is reducing its Kindle inventory as it prepares for the launch of a new version of its e-book reader in July-August, Digitimes Research explained.

The new Amazon e-book reader will still use E-Ink solutions, but picture quality will be better than the present Kindles. Production cost and street prices will also be lower.

Street prices will be lower – that’s certainly very enticing news.

Kindle 3 rumors are all pointing to August

The Kindle 3 rumors are quite an odd bunch – However, they all point to August and to a cheaper Kindle.

  1. The Digitimes article and a past report on a rumored Kindle WiFi both suggest a lower price. Kindle WiFi would obviously be cheaper due to a cheaper wireless radio and not  having to subsidize wireless costs. If the Kindle 3 3G version were cheaper too that would be quite impressive.
  2. Bloomberg reported on a thinner Kindle 3 with sharper screen contrast and they said it was scheduled to come out in August. Now Digitimes are also talking about a Kindle 3 that comes out in July-August and has better picture quality. 

If nothing else the rumors are all very consistent.

Was Kindle 2.5 a fond goodbye to Kindle 2?

This has come up on the forum and you have to wonder whether Kindle 2.5 is Amazon thanking Kindle owners and getting ready to move on to Kindle 3.

Kindle 3 is a much-needed release

At $500 you have the iPad threatening to Retina Display your eyes and at $149 we’ll soon have the Nook WiFi. That leaves Amazon in a rather precarious position with the Kindle -

  1. There isn’t any killer eInk technology (at least to the best of my knowledge) on the near horizon.
  2. Update: Kindle 2 is now $189. Which matches very well with the $199 Nook and $149 Nook WiFi. A $259 Kindle vs $149 Nook WiFi comparison will cause the Press to become delirious and will end up creating a whole new perception problem for the Kindle.
  3. There’s only so much you can do via software.

Amazon’s already added PDF and rotation support in end 2009 and Folders and Supersize Fonts recently – they’ve squeezed more out of the Kindle’s hardware than you would think possible. Surely, they can’t keep coming up with software improvements to make fonts sharper and battery life longer indefinitely.

At some point of time you have to stop depending on software upgrades and improve the hardware drastically. The only way Amazon can do that is with Kindle 3. So, hopefully, the rumors are true and an improved, cheaper Kindle 3 is indeed on the way.

Kindle WiFi – Kindle 3 WiFi for $139

Update: Kindle WiFi is now available for $139 at Amazon.

The big news this week is from Engadget. They managed to leak a screenshot from Amazon that shows a list of Kindle models (more below) with the ones related to Kindle 3 supposed to be -

  1. Shasta
  2. Shasta WiFi 

Engadget are saying that Shasta is the codename for the rumored thinner, faster, better screen contrast Kindle 3 and that Shasta WiFi indicates that there will be a Kindle 3 WiFi version.

Well, let’s take a look at the Kindle codenames and see what we can ferret out.

Kindle 3 internal codename, Kindle WiFi revealed by Engadget

Here are the Kindle 3 and Kindle related codenames Engadget has shown in their screenshot and what each probably corresponds to -

  1. Shasta – Kindle 3 is rumored to be codenamed Shasta.
  2. Shasta WiFi – This is supposed to mean that there’s either a Kindle WiFi model or a WiFi variant of Kindle 3. 
  3. Dummy Device.
  4. Lassen (iPad) - Kindle for iPad.
  5. Lassen (iPhone) – Kindle for iPhone. Note that its all one app which works across iPod, iPhone, and iPad and that would explain them sharing the same name – makes even more sense when you consider Lassen is a National Park full of Volcanoes.
  6. Lassen (iPod) – Kindle for iPhone.
  7. Redding (Android) – Probably Kindle for Android.
  8. Mazama PC – Probably Kindle for PC.
  9. Mazama Mac – If the previous guess is correct this has to be Kindle for Mac.
  10. Kindle Simulator (Turing) – The Kindle Simulator that comes with the Kindle Development Kit. Since the Simulator works for PC, Mac, and Linux there should be three variants – there are actually 4.
  11. Kindle Simulator (Nell) – One of the three variants.
  12. Kindle Simulator (Platform) – The third variant.
  13. Kindle Simulator (Turing WW) – Not sure what WW stands for. Perhaps it means worldwide. Perhaps not.  
  14. Turing WW – No idea what this is. However, the fact that there is one corresponding to the Simulator and one without WW hints this might be something related to Windows or Worldwide. Update: This is the codename for the hardware of Kindle 2. The codename for the software of Kindle 2 is/was Mario.
  15. Nell WW – Again, no idea what this is. Might be the codename for the hardware of Kindle DX.
  16. Miranda – Reminds me of Dragonfly and Serenity. It probably has to do with The Diamond Age. 
  17. Klamath – Not sure.
  18. Audible (iPhone) – Is this an Audible app for the iPhone?
  19. Audible (Android) - Probably an Audible app for Android.

The first Kindle was codenamed Fiona.

Almost as interesting as Shasta being Kindle 3 and Shasta WiFi being a Kindle WiFi are -

  • Audible (iPhone) and Audible (Android).
  • Klamath and Miranda.
  • The WW appended to some of the codenames.

Well, let’s dig a little deeper into what these names might mean.

Kindle 3, Kindle codenames – The Diamond Age or a Drive from Cupertino to Seattle?

Shasta reminded me of Mount Shasta – on road trips from Seattle to San Francisco you can always see it (it’s in Northern California) and if you’re lucky you’ll see it when its summit is covered by clouds.

According to Engadget comments Shasta, Lassen, and Mazama are all volcanoes and Klamath could refer to a lot of things including Klamath Falls, Oregon.

What’s the possibility that Lab 16 engineers driving back and forth (or flying back and forth) between Cupertino (where Lab 126 is) and Seattle decided to name all their releases according to landmarks on the route?

Here’s a Google Maps outline of some of the codenames – Cupertino to Miranda to Redding to Shasta to Klamath to Seattle. Mazama is a drive in Klamath Falls and Lassen is a volcanic Park close to the route (close to Redding and Shasta). Also the route makes a lot of sense as you can drive along Highway 1 between Cupertino and Miranda.

What about Nell and Turing?

Well, there’s The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson which had the main character, Nell, solving Turing machines and Miranda was an actor who becomes a mother figure for Nell. It also ties these to Fiona, the codename for the first Kindle, as Fiona is a character in the book who’s exiled and the daughter of John Percival Hacksworth, the second main character in the novel.

Kindle WiFi would almost certainly be a cheaper Kindle

There are two possibilities for Shasta WiFi if it indeed represents a Kindle WiFi (or a Kindle 3 WiFi variant) -

  1. A cheaper WiFi model. 
  2. A model that has 3G and WiFi.

Heelo at Engadget points out the aims each of these might have -

WiFi+3G: Will be slightly more expensive (relative to the non-wifi version) and aimed at customers who lack 3g coverage.

WiFi only: Will be slightly cheaper (relative to the 3G version) and aimed at getting costs as low as possible.

Quite frankly, the rationale for having a cheaper WiFi Kindle is much stronger than tagging on WiFi to a 3G model that is already working well. The 3G radio in the Kindle is supposed to cost $50 to $60 – to the best of my knowledge. That would indicate pretty significant cost savings and a Kindle WiFi might come in as cheap as $199 (perhaps even at $149).

The other strong motivation for releasing a Kindle WiFi would be to take on the Kobo eReader ($149), the forthcoming Nook Lite, and the Sony Reader Pocket Edition ($169).

It’d be good to get a cheaper Kindle WiFi

Well, there are quite a few people who are waiting for Kindle prices to fall. Meanwhile most Kindle owners don’t really want to lose the 3G functionality and all the Kindle 2 features 3G enables like WhisperSync. Releasing a Kindle 3 to cater to the latter and a Kindle WiFi (probably Kindle 3 WiFi variant) to cater to the former makes a lot of sense.

The manner of the recent set of leaks – Bloomberg talking about a Kindle 3 that is thinner and lighter, CrunchGear with a leaked photo of a supposed black Kindle 3 (or Kindle DX 2), Engadget with codenames that indicate a WiFi model – hint at a well planned campaign to gradually stir up interest in the Kindle. Amazon has got to be looking at how Apple get so much free publicity and they’re learning quickly.

Hopefully all this means that we do get a Kindle 3 and a Kindle WiFi soon and perhaps they both share some great new features that make the long Kindle 3 wait worthwhile.

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