Sep. 29th, 2011

loopychew: (Default)
So Amazon had their giant press release regarding the new batch of Kindles yesterday, and I've been mulling it over. Since this has absolutely nothing to do with music gaming and I haven't figured out how to work that newfangled tumblr account of mine, I figured I'd keep to using this as a forum for my thoughts on the situation.

It sounds like all these Kindles are now designed to complement the currently-existing Kindle 3--now rechristened the "Kindle Keyboard"--as opposed to being a replacement, which is a smart move--as much as the current keyboard disappoints (does anyone else who owns one hit 'm' instead of 'n' frequently because of the key positioning?), some people will always prefer a tactile keyboard to a virtual one, and none of the new models have one.

Let's start from the lowest price point up.

Kindle: At $80 (without ads, $110), this is one of the sleeper news hits: finally, an e-book reader connected to one of the most popular e-book platforms around, for less than a Benjamin. That's one major milestone down--it's now more affordable to students. However, this still doesn't work well for lower-income families, since 1) it's Wi-Fi only (how likely is it that someone would own a Wi-Fi router or Wi-Fi hotspot device without owning a computer?) and 2) the Kindle is really a personal device, not well-suited to sharing amongst families (at least with books, if someone's reading one, you can pick up another; it doesn't matter if you own all the books in the world on your Kindle if you've only got one of them and three people who want to read). The five-way switch would make it frustrating to input words if you want to use the Kindle shop, but it should work reasonably for reading, at least. Not good for vision-impaired people, as audiobooks and text-to-speech can't work without speakers. We'll have something that can really benefit the masses once the price gets down to maybe $50 with 3G support (or a good public Wi-Fi system--either way, really a pipe dream if trying to get e-books and readers to lower-income areas where even $50 may not be considered affordable, which I know is a lot of places).

Kindle Touch: Really can't say much until I hear more about the touchscreen, but the shorter profile makes it easier to fit into a pocket without things falling out. Front-facing speaker is nice, too. It's priced to compete directly against the Nook Touch, and it looks like it comes out favorably (more space, speakers for TTS and audiobooks, only $10 more for the 3G edition if you don't mind ads).

Kindle Fire: The belle of the ball, a $200 tablet which, while lacking in cameras and other devices usually taken for granted in tablets, this is both a Kindle in name only. Sure, it reads books and WhisperSyncs them to your system (when connected to Wi-Fi, natch), but this is in reality--for the US, anyway--Amazon's answer to the iTunes ecosystem, and revenge for iBooks. By pricing it at less than half the price of the cheapest iPad, Amazon has put forward a strong entry into the portable media empire. For $50 less than a Nook Color, you have a device with the ability to read lots more media. Granted, it only has limited carrying capacity (8GB will get you a couple of movies at full resolution and no external memory slot to my knowledge), but the price--and the promise of free downloadable media for Prime customers--makes it difficult to resist. If it's a loss leader, the uptick in Prime subscriptions and media purchases--books, Amazon MP3s & videos--should keep it afloat.

Well played, Amazon, well played. I'm not going to buy a new Kindle reader--I haven't even had mine for a year yet--but the Fire looks like something I may get somewhere down the line.

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