Amazon has announced their new third-generation Kindle reader, but its changes, while nice, may not be enough to wrest attention away from other devices that have entered the field since the Kindle first appeared. The question is, are Kindle’s changes enough, and the right ones, to hold off challenges posed by the iPad and others?
The new Kindle is smaller (4.8″ x 7.5″ compared to the last generation’s 5.3″ x 8″) while still keeping the same 6″ screen. It’s 15% lighter and the screen gives 50% better contrast. Maybe the most notable change is that the Kindle is now available in a Wi-Fi only version for those of you who don’t roam far enough to need the 3G. In the U.S., free use of AT&T hotspots is included. The Wi-Fi version carries the lowest price ever for a Kindle, $139 (with 3G it will run you $189). This is getting closer and closer to a price point that may prove irresistible to financially motivated eBook holdouts.
The Kindle remains a single purpose device. With the exception of the still-experimental browser (a new WebKit-based version ships in this Kindle), Amazon’s reader is just that, a reader. This allows certain advantages such as adherence to an E-Ink screen that gives fantastic battery life, no glare, reduced eye-strain and the ability to read outside in sunlight. But the world around it is inarguably moving to convergence devices what can perform a wide range of activities while not requiring the user to bulk up their pockets and bags or hang an array of items from their belts. Of course, the price difference between a Kindle and an iPad will still likely be the biggest determiner for many people. If all you want is an eBook reader, a tablet device is expensive overkill.
What do you think? Do you want a Kindle that just serves as a reader? Are you willing to accept a monochrome display if it gives you the advantages mentioned above? Share your opinions in the comments.
Update: Kindles obviously still have a strong market. Amazon is reporting the device sold out until September 4.
I seriously considered the iPad but its’ limitations did not justify the price. However, I recently purchased the Kindle2 with full realization that it is just an e-reader. It has been a pleasant surprise as to how much I have enjoyed it. The reading experience is a pleasure both at home, outside, and when traveling. It is light, easy to carry and size is perfect. Since I purchased mine within the last 30 days I will upgrade to the Kindle3. Yes, there is room for both.
One can have both a car and a bicycle for transportation. They meet different needs even by the same owner.
I have to say there probably is room for it. I suspect these e-ink readers will be come a commodity soon when the tablets start rolling out. And as stated, Amazon is interested in selling you books to whichever you use.
At $140, the Kindle has finally become an attractive offer. I’ve used an iPad. It certainly is nice. Far far more useful as an all in one device. However, in the context of public transportation… I find the iPad a little too large and heavy. The Kindle is sleek and easy to hold if you’re squished or standing. And if someone tries to swipe it or it gets banged up, I feel better about it than a $500 iPad/tablet.
More importantly, it is far nicer to read on. Someone mentioned if you stare at an LCD all day, a tablet will be commonplace for you. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a better display to read on. Also, the comment about not bringing tech to recreation, the Kindle SUPPORTS that because it’s really focused on one thing… reading without carrying all the books physically. High tech-low tech mix.
In the end, the tablet will win marketshare. A lot of people awe over the iPad and the flashy book presentation (which has its place, I think mostly in kids books, but within reason). But hardcore readers I think will prefer e-ink any day, and it’d be worth a second device for them. Especially when they get into the double digit pricing structure.
But the biggest issue I have? Any e-book pricing is not enticing at all. They need to constantly be 20% below the cost of their physical counterparts. There needs to be incentive to buy these devices, whether it be tablet or kindle, to use for reading.
I have yet to jump on the e-reaser train, but this $139 price point makes it awfully tempting to me. Not to mention, I am holding off for the second generation iPad before I pull the trigger on one.
Matt S. says
I am a student and I think I am going to buy this new kindle. Sure, I would love an ipad but I don’t have that kind of money to spend. I have an itouch right now and want something for my books. This is a great option.
Gord McLeod says
Hmm, the $139 price tag is REALLY attractive. The iPad is tempting too but a whole lot more expensive, and I *love* traditional books; the eInk solution appeals to me a lot more than reading on a reflective glass screen, no matter how pretty it may be. It’s also hard to ignore a month of battery life.
The fact that it’s a month away from shipping also makes for an easier justification of the cost… I’m really, really tempted.
Bruce R. says
I didn’t read all the comments so I hope I’m not being too repetitive. The kindle will most likely cater to the class of buyers who don’t want to incur the high cost of the iPad 4G & still have limited access to cool stuff as well as a class e-reader. But has anyone noted, does the iPad promote eye fatigue. The Kindle with it’s single plane B&W LCD screen has less screen video processing, thus very little fatigue, yes/no??? “B”
I got a Kindle 2 for my birthday in the winter this year and I just love it. I’d been seriously lacking in the reading department for the last few years because I just didn’t want to lug books around everywhere and the Kindle fixed that problem for me. I’ve re-discovered my passion for reading and have red tens of books over the last few months. The battery life is AWESOME and it’s so light that when it’s in my backpack I barely notice it’s there. I know the iPad has the features of the backlit screen and all the additional apps and I agree that the iPad is a wickedly awesome piece of technology (reminds me of Star Trek Next Gen) and I can’t believe that we have it. But, the only things I wanted from Kindle are as follows and it does an awesome job of providing me with those requirements:
1) long battery life
2) easy to read screen
3) a library without the need for multiple IKEA Billy bookcases (you know the ones I mean!!)
That being said, I was missing the WiFi on it since I find I don’t use the 3G too often. One thing that’s kinda been bugging me about it is the feature where you can email your kindle an article and for a small fee it’ll get uploaded to Kindle format and onto your unit. Well I live in Canada and for some reason this feature is STILL not available. I don’t know what the issue is but hopefully they can fix it soon… 😀
Dave Peterson says
It’s great to get all the different points of view, thanks everyone for chiming in. I got Kindle 1, 2 and DX on their respective release days. Before the iPad, the DX was my favorite eReader because its screen size is about the same as a hardcover book page. The Kindle 3 looks like the first one I’m going to pass by, one, because nothing about it would make me reach for it over the DX if I was going Kindle, and two, because my iPad is turning into my everything device when I’m not sitting at my desk.
I have a 1st gen Kindle. I love it, but was really disappointed when it didn’t get the PDF upgrade.
The 2nd generation wasn’t enough to upgrade, but the new wi-fi only one made it an easy choice. I can’t wait until the end of August!
The iPhone 4’s display is what actually steered me away from an iPad. Side by side, text is so much more readable on the Phone.
So until the iPad gets the retina display, it’ll be kindle for most of my reading and iPhone for small chunks.
I see advantages of both devices, I’d love to have them both back at home. I have no problem with reading on a screen, and while a book looks beautiful I am solemnly sworn to digitalizing what is possible for convenience and mobility. Since my eyesight is bad, I wouldn’t trade an eReader for an iPad unless there was a screen solution which made it possible to put less strain on my eyes.
If I were to imagine the direction this small-devices market is heading I think the eReader stands a chance because of it’s price – it’s very is easy for me to imagine a subscription model where you pay-off your eReader in a year and get a discount on your digitalized books, newspapers etc.
Mike Dowden says
Chris Brogran wrote a nice article that I think sums it up (http://www.chrisbrogan.com/amazon-and-the-kindle-conspiracy/) “People are out there saying, “iPads are kicking Kindle’s butt.” Perhaps they missed the Kindle for iPad memo. Or the Kindle for Android memo. Or the Kindle for iPhones memo. It’s not about the device.”
It’s all about distribution. And if Amazon can get you to swipe for books, along with music, along with “insert product” then it doesn’t matter what the device.
“Don’t look at the device. Don’t fret about the device. Think of it as yet another way to gain ground in distribution.”
I would have to agree…
I have both an iPad and a Kindle DX. I don’t mind which one I use as an e-reader. But if you look at my habits, I hardly pickup the Kindle anymore. I tend to have the iPad already in hand when I think about reading.
For reading the kindle is king. I´ve tried to read on the ipad and the resolution is awful. I stick with the kindle and wait for an Ipad with that retina screen
Mikael R. says
I would rather carry a couple of great multifunction devices than a “$*%@ ton” of single function devices and having to sync books, files, etc. across ANOTHER device! I disagree that the iPad is “mostly not about reading books”. My wife would hardly read books, just magazines, before her iPad. Now she reads novels regularly on it. For those of us that are already in front of LCD monitors much of the day, another LCD for reading is just common place. If one is really that sensitive to monitor brightness or glare, they should try other options like the Kindle or Gunner glasses, etc. My take is that the kindle is only really good for those “less techy” folks that don’t care about the apps and other functions of something like a smart phone or tablet OR for folks that spend a lot of time outdoors at places like the beach, etc. where that type of screen functions better. Believe it or not, those people are more common than unicorns and leprechauns. Personally I try not to mix electronics and places of relaxation like beaches, which I try to visit as often as possible. That’s one of the few times I stick to analog media like magazines or just avoid them all together.
I will say that for something like a tablet, or even a Kindle, I don’t see the need for 3G service. I personally think most people that don’t have some sort of MiFi like device or applicable cell tethering for the WiFi devices they travel with, they are just burning monthly recurring charges anyway. Why pay for separate data plans for each device when you can have one platform that supports several at once. OR just wait until you are near WiFi to download new things or updates. Built in 3 or 4G just seems like a poor business case if you have multiple connected mobile devices.
On a side note, at this point, if cost of an item (under ~$1000) for most new tech makes you pause, you’re probably not likely to be an “early adopter”. At that point, just wait it out until what you like gets whittled down to your price range (could also translate into “dated technology” by then), or until the next version which is often cheaper and better anyway. This seems to be a natural progression of tech and economies of scale.
Robert Bigelow says
While the iPad is multifunctional, the Kindle presents a better reading experience. For those who want to *do* things, it’s the iPad. For those who just want to read books, the Kindle. For extended reading, I’d prefer the Kindle. Thus being written, it may perhaps be a good idea to make their e-reader as good an experience as can be done, and keep improving on it to compete with the other e-readers and likewise products currently and soon-to-be shipping. ^..^~
Tom Hansen says
I have a Kindle 2 and iPad. I make sure to keep my books synced because I’ll pick them up at different times and for different reasons.
During the day I prefer the Kindle, and back to the ipad at night when reading in bed while my wife sleeps. If I travel away from home for a day or longer, I take the ipad for email and other stuff as well as reading. if I’m headed down to the local bookstore to read while sipping on a dirty chai, I take the kindle.
That being said, I already pre-ordered a new Kindle 3. My family will be happy when this one gets passed down. I think there is room for both. I read just fine on either and tend to grab whichever one fits my particular need that reading session.
DB Ferguson says
As far as electronic gadgets, I have an iPhone, Barnes & Noble nook e-reader, and MSI Wind netbook. Technically, I have access to all kinds of portable readers. However, I do all of my reading on my nook. When the iPad came out, I compared the hand feel to my nook, and my nook was lighter to hold and easier on the eyes.
I’ve read more on my nook than I have in years with paper books because I always have it with me, and it’s easy to carry with me in my purse because it’s small and light. When compared to an actual book, a book too is a “single purpose device”, except with an e-reader you only need one and you’re done. After owning my nook for six months, I still read on it almost every day, and would recommend e-readers to anyone who likes to read on the go.
I have an iPad and love it. I read a ton of books (and comics, and blogs, and rss feeds, etc. etc. etc.) on it. Plus, you get so much more.
A free Kindle would be the way to go, they would make up the hardware costs with book sales. Leo Laporte had a guest on TWiT that said that the New York Times could give a free Kindle to every one of their yearly subscribers and make up the cost in savings on paper, ink, and delivery. If the Kindle were free, I would get one and it’s somewhat better portability and less worry about breaking a costly item would cause me to use it more.
As it is, however, the iPad wins on nicer screen, color, and all the added functionality.
Lori Todd says
I use my Kindle even though I have an iPad. But, my Kindle stays on my night stand, my iPad travels with me.
Brian Hartman says
I have a Kindle 1, and I still love it. I’ve resisted upgrading to the Kindle 2 because of its lack of an expansion slot and removable battery, but if the screen is a higher contrast on this new Kindle, I might just upgrade.
I’m torn about the idea of a Wifi-only Kindle. It’s kind of nice to be able to download books from wherever I am, but honestly, most of the time I want to download a book, I’m within Wifi range, anyway.
As for Kindle vs. iPad, I think you’re talking apples and oranges. The iPad experience is mostly *not* about reading books. It’s about running apps. The ebook experience on an iPad might be decent, but if you’re an avid reader, you’d do much better with a Kindle. Even the cost of a Kindle plus the new cover with the included nightlight is less than an iPad would cost you.