New Kindle Review: Is it good enough?

A few weeks ago, I opened my mailbox to reveal a slender brown box. Elated, I rushed into my apartment and tore into the packaging. I oohed and ahhed as I pulled out a sleek charcoal device, complete with a 6″ eInk display; it was the new $109 keyboard-less Kindle ($79 if you get the version with Ads). Since then, I have been tirelessly reading, downloading, researching, and just plain playing with it.

The reading process has, thus far, been my absolute favourite aspect of this Kindle. The beautiful six-inch display appears more paper-like than any eInk screen that I have seen to date. Page turning is very smooth and the buttons are well-located, if a bit difficult to push sometimes. The other buttons are central and perfectly responsive, making highlighting easy.

Along with reading, my eBook buying experience has been quite delightful. The Kindle’s store is easy to search or browse. The category filtering, thumbnail displays, and reviews appear as eInk versions of what would appear when searching the Kindle Store on a computer. The one drawback of the shopping experience is that the lack of a keyboard or touchscreen makes typing somewhat difficult; however, the quick-loading search suggestions often negate the necessity of the keyboard altogether.

Unlike in the past, buying eBooks is not the only way to get them onto the Kindle. ePub library books are now available from 11,000 American public libraries. The major issue with this is that the eBooks cannot be downloading directly onto the Kindle, but they can be easily transferred from a computer. There are thousands of titles available for free for a temporary period, making reading even more accessible.

Amazon also offers an alternative library for Amazon Prime members. It is a fantastic paid service, allowing members to borrow books without due dates and get other exceptional deals from Amazon.

Another way to view files on the Kindle is by viewing .PDF files. While screen rotation, brightness, and zoom are all adjustable, most .PDFs simply do not look right on the Kindle. Pictures are grayscaled and made to look grainy on the eInk screen and words within comic books and brochures are nearly always too distorted or small to read.

Finally, the Kindle has games, applications, and an experimental browser. These features all give the Kindle a well-roundedness. The Kindle has always been viewed as purely an eReader, but since the release of the Kindle Fire and these features, the image of the Kindle is changing, but this Kindle is lacking the ability to listen to music. That could be a step in the wrong direction for Amazon.

The applications and games available for the Kindle are similar to what applications and games are available for other tablets and smartphones, but with less animation. Amazon has focused these apps around reading, writing, and expanding your mind. Moving back and forth between the apps and eBooks is seamless; however, the browser does have some issues and without a keyboard, it is practically unusable.

The new Kindle has been altogether a surprisingly useful device, with far more features and functionality than I had expected. While the device definitely has its flaws, I cannot say that I regret buying it. Anyone who is seeking a fantastic eReader with great usability and a clear, beautiful display will be delighted with the new Kindle.

$79 Kindle – Kindle 4 available now

The $79 Kindle (Kindle 4) is now available to order at Amazon. It’s the only one available now – the Kindle Touch and Kindle Tablet are preorders and only ship in mid to end November.

The international version is $109 and is also available now.

Key selling points -

  1. 5.98 ounces. Making it 30% lighter than Kindle 3.
  2. 18% smaller body. Fits in your pocket. Just don’t use your back pocket.
  3. No keyboard.
  4. 6″ screen size.
  5. Most advanced eInk display – Guess that means eInk Pearl.
  6. WiFi.
  7. Library Book Support.

The $79 Kindle is super compelling. It blows away expectations. People expected it to be $99. If you don’t need touch then $79 Kindle is the ideal choice.

$99 Kindle Touch – available for preorder

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

Kindle Touch is here and it’s just $99

Mr. Bezos introduces the Kindle Touch.

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

Various Interesting Snippets from Kindle Tablet Event

Pre-conference thoughts.

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

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

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

Jeff Bezos on why he thinks Kindle is working:

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

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

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

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

Then, long section on Kindle Touch – listed above.

Well, there are two more Kindles.

Kindle Touch 3G for $149

Kindle Touch with 3G. $50 more.

$79 Kindle

This is the big deal. The really big deal.

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

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

$99 Kindle, Touch Kindle Next

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would a $99 Kindle mean?

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

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

What would a Touch Kindle mean?

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

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

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

Perhaps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Actually, it’s not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip of the Hat to Google

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

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

It’s interesting how people develop religion around companies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about the Kindle Tablet?

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

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

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

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

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

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