Well, only hours after my speculation that Amazon might intend to make a huge impact by being the first company to make the next obvious step in eReader innovation by jumping in with a Color Kindle they have leaked some information to the contrary. Instead, according to a recent Reuters report citing an inside source who has direct experience with the prototype, there will be new Kindle models coming this July that include the first front-lit monochrome Kindle eReader.
Naturally the comparison will be made with the Nook Simple Touch w/ GlowLight. We have to expect that Amazon will be making a more significant overhaul of their eReader than Barnes & Noble did, given how well the Kindle Touch has held up in direct Kindle vs Nook comparisons of late. Adding a lighting layer to the existing model would hardly be enough to get people interested.
That said, it will meet demands. Customers have been wishing for a light on their Kindles since the first version was released. While the complaint has not been enough to derail the Kindle, as many initially thought would be the case with so many LCD-based eReaders on the market, the demand has not gone away at any point.
The type of lighting we believe will be used in the new Kindle will allow for adjustable intensity for reading in any situation while not being a major source of eye strain or power depletion. Essentially we get to keep all the benefits of E Ink without making the sort of sacrifices that are usually involved in switching to lit devices.
Chances are good that Amazon will attempt to draw attention to the new Kindle by pricing it below the comparable Nook model. Reuters speculates on a $10 price increase related to the added light and that does seem reasonably in line with previous Kindle pricing, as Amazon loves to demonstrate how affordable they can manage to be. The normal, un-lit Kindle model or models will be priced the same as ever, most likely, with further cuts possible should they have managed to source cheaper parts. Clearly the strategy of selling at or near cost is working to their advantage and will continue.
While it is disappointing to not have a color Kindle on the horizon just yet, it makes sense that this upgrade had to come as soon as possible. The Kindle has not always been the best eReader available, especially in early comparisons with what Sony was offering, but there has rarely been a feature that could be pointed to as overwhelmingly important and only available through the competition.
Look for the newest Kindle eReader to be released before the end of July 2012 and the newest developments in Kindle Fire and color Kindle hardware in the months that follow. It is unlikely that Amazon will fail to pursue color E Ink in the year to come and we know that the Kindle Fire is due for an upgrade before the holiday season. This should be the first of many big Kindle developments.
The demand for a color Kindle has been relatively constant since the eReader was first introduced. It was the major point of contention in early Kindle vs iPad comparisons and likely resulted in the sale of no small number of iPads in the first generation. The Kindle Fire was a step in the right direction, but like the Nook Color it relies on an LCD display that is far from ideal for reading. The back-lighting necessary for such a display is both hard on the eyes and a huge drain on batteries compared to E Ink alternatives.
Now, E Ink eReaders have a new standard to live up to since the launch of the Nook Simple Touch w/ GlowLight. We can be relatively certain that Amazon is aware of this fact and interested in stepping up the game a bit with their next Kindle release. This means that there will obviously be a similar lighting feature that doesn’t intrude too much on the battery life users have come to expect from a Kindle eReader, but there will have to be more if they want to really stand out. The new Nook has been around for long enough that light alone will probably fail to impress even if Amazon could launch immediately.
There may be a case to be made for expecting a front-lit color E Ink Kindle in the second half of this year that will make besting the Nook’s GlowLight model possible. Consider the shortcomings of E Ink’s Triton displays. They do have color, yes, but it is dull and lifeless except in ideal lighting situations. Even in some specially selected showrooms there are times when Triton’s color fails to impress. Adding in a front-lighting solution along the lines of what Barnes & Noble has achieved with GlowLight may eliminate that problem. If the lighting is built right into the device and still doesn’t significantly reduce the battery power then there is no reason to avoid color E Ink anymore.
This is not new speculation, but it does carry slightly more weight than it used to. We have already had information leaked about Amazon’s possession of lighting technology for the new Kindle. It was reported on shortly before the new Nook was made public. Now DigiTimes, that highly unreliable but occasionally informative Taiwanese publication, has made the claim that parts suppliers are getting orders for color eReader components on a schedule that would set release in the second half of 2012. I would never rely wholly on DigiTimes for information and so would advise against considering that confirmation, but they have been right even more often than they’ve been wrong.
If we do get a color Kindle eReader before the holidays, expect a fresh boom in eReading in general. Not only would it be impressive new technology that addresses a major customer demand, it would benefit from the first major change in eBook pricing since the introduction of the Agency Model. We can’t be sure how soon Amazon will jump on the pricing issue given that there are still unsettled defendants in the DOJ case, but the end result will definitely benefit Kindle owners immensely. This could be a very big year.
When it comes to reading devices like the Kindle, E Ink displays are both the primary draw and the biggest marketing problem. On the one hand they allow for insanely long battery life and a reading experience as easy on the eyes as any paperback. On the other, they offer little advantage besides that ease of reading since the opaque nature of E Ink means that even optional lighting has not been possible before now.
Recent reports coming out of Seattle indicate that the next generation of Kindles will finally have built in lighting. While we have not had a chance to actually play with any, the technology reportedly being employed will involve front-lighting of some sort that can be controlled through the system’s menus. This both gets around the problematic opaqueness of the E Ink material and avoids doing so in such a way as to produce eye strain like that found when reading on an LCD.
This will be the first big step forward for either the Kindle or eReaders in general in quite some time. For the most part, the only think that differentiates the Kindle from its competition at this point is the integration with Amazon’s Kindle Store. Other than that the Nook Simple Touch is the slightly superior device and even the less well known competition is close enough to be comparable. E Ink Pearl has just been around for long enough that everybody who is interested has managed to adopt it.
Now it is definitely cool that we will be able to do our Kindle reading in dark or poorly lit rooms after all this time. It is even cooler to discover that it won’t have tradeoffs that negate the point of owning a Kindle instead of or in addition to a tablet. Most exciting for me, though, is what this means for the generation beyond what we’ll see this year.
The major shortcoming of color eReaders using displays like E Ink Triton are that, unless the lighting is close to ideal, the colors are washed out and dull. Once Amazon has some experience with including front lighting and has the implementation of a lighting layer down, there is no reason to think that they would have trouble adjusting to meet the needs of color displays. This would probably result in having a color/monochrome toggle that insisted on turning the lighting on any time you wanted your Kindle to pull up a magazine, but it would still completely change the color eReading marketplace and eliminate the need for LCD reading tablets.
All reports indicate that the newest Kindle generation is still in development phases while the company works on things like weight, battery life, and light quality. Even so, it is safe to assume that the Kindle 5 will show up before the end of the year. Should the Agency Model be eliminated as soon as as we now suspect it might be, Amazon will almost certainly celebrate that fact with a huge push in the product line. The coinciding release of a glow-in-the-dark Kindle would round that out nicely.
I would be the first to admit that the Kindle line is amazing. I love my Kindle Keyboard and use it daily. I also know that I’m not the only one. It is therefore unsurprising that when a Digitimes rumor indicated that Amazon was buying up truckloads of color E Ink screens in a size that would work in the standard eReader form, many people took it seriously. It turns out that this is pretty much confirmed to be a fabrication already, and that is not at all the bad thing that it seems at face value.
As those who have followed any of the rumor storms surrounding Kindle releases are probably aware by now, Digitimes is something of a questionable source. While they get just enough right that people keep checking back, this time other more reliable resources with far better track records have checked into the situation and confirmed that there is no chance at all that Amazon will be launching a color Kindle. Not only are the E Ink Triton displays currently being produced primarily in 9.7” rather than the 6” that Amazon would certainly require after the failure of the Kindle DX to take off in any major way, they would apparently need at least a year to gear up for fresh production of this magnitude.
Before you get upset, though, take a look at the Triton display a little more closely. Under ideal conditions, it is amazing. Everything we would ever ask for from a color eReader and perfect for a new Kindle to breathe innovation into the eReader market with. What we saw at CES 2011 was not that. It looked nice, but that’s about all. The colors were definitely on the screen and they were distinct and easy to make out, but they were dull. Uninteresting. Not quite ready.
As much as I would love to have a brand new color eReader that could bring everything in the print world together again without the need for the flaws of LCD displays, this is not the way to pull it off. When Amazon releases their first color Kindle eReader, let’s hope that they take it seriously and make it a serious product rather than just jumping to get something on the market to prove to customers that they haven’t completely given up on reading in favor of tablet sales.
Make no mistake, in time there will be a Kindle Color and it will not have an LCD display. Jeff Bezos said a long while back now that he was unwilling to release a color eReader before the technology was ready to do it right. This is not that time and I am happy to say that there is no reliable indication that either Bezos or Amazon in general have changed tune. Give it a year or two, then we can see what the future of eReading looks like. In the meantime, there is always the Kindle we know.
I’ve been speculating here about Amazon’s entry into the Tablet PC marketplace for months now. Finally, we have the Kindle Fire to actually look at. Sure it might not be here in person to play with yet, but what we know now is enough to come to some real conclusions for a change. Obviously this new Kindle is going to have a big market, and has already been changing the way tablets are priced, but what will it really bring users that is worth the hype?
The first thing to do is figure out what you want from a Tablet PC. To me, they are designed perfectly for passive computing. That is, anything you choose to do that requires minimal user input, be that movie watching, reading, listening to music, or browsing the web. I would not, for example, prefer to be writing this review on any tablet if I could help it. It is nice to have the option to do things like play games or edit documents when necessary, but there are (and in my mind will likely always be) better-suited choices for those activities. This assumption will color my perceptions here, and should you have other preferences my points might not make sense.
That said, I think that what Amazon is bringing to customers with the Kindle Fire is the cohesive media consumption experience. Most passive computing tasks obviously revolve around media. The Fire’s default UI highlights magazines, books, music, and videos without preventing more interactive usage. It is an all-in-one platform for shopping and usage tightly integrated with the Amazon store. That said, everybody will be using their tablet differently so it might be helpful to break down the potential uses and how they stack up for the price.
This is clearly where Amazon has been going with the Kindle Fire. Not only has the Amazon Instant Video service been significantly beefed up recently with selections from big names like CBS and Fox, but the Prime Instant Video streaming options are being highlighted through the bundled Amazon Prime membership preview every tablet will come with. While I am a big fan of the benefits of the Prime membership anyway, right now it doesn’t do much in terms of digital content distribution besides facilitate movie watching.
The Kindle Fire has a 7″ display with the same sort of wide viewing angle technology that the iPad makes use of. It’s supposed to be fairly anti-reflective, though that’s something better inspected in person, and looks to provide a great picture. Its local storage is sufficient for a few hours of video when you’re away from reliable internet connections, and the streaming through the service has proven reliable on other devices already. While it is a small screen and it would be nice if they had included some form of HDMI output, the video experience should be excellent.
There’s not too much to say about the anticipated audio capabilities of the device. It will have internal speakers and a headphone jack. Music will be playable both from local storage and through the Amazon Cloud Player. I think it is a safe assumption that the App Store will fill in gaps with things like Pandora and Last.fm, so selection and affordability probably won’t be too much of an issue, and Amazon regularly runs promotions for free songs along with larger purchases if you happen to do much shopping through the main site.
There are two sides to the question of reading that have to be talked about. First is the standard reading experience such as we are used to with existing Kindles. This will almost certainly be less enjoyable on the Kindle Fire due to its back-lit display, but since it uses the Kindle Cloud Reader the experience will be familiar and enjoyable aside from that.
In addition, we finally have real color reading capabilities. This means the Kindle Fire is the Kindle of choice for all sorts of things from Kid Books to Magazines that wouldn’t work quite right on the monochrome Kindle. Expect to see a big push with regard to these types of publications in the weeks leading up to the launch of the device. Amazon has already got a number of deals going, including exclusive deals on a decent selection of magazines and comics.
The big surprise at the press conference announcing the Kindle Fire was the Silk web browser. It is essentially a modified Android browser that will offload most of the work to Amazon’s servers. This has the potential to speed up browsing significantly and may even reduce load on the device itself, increasing battery life. The biggest advance that it brings to browsing is a predictive analysis of browsing habits that Amazon claims will speed things up even more by preemptively caching the data you are most likely to need next. We’ll see how it pans out, but it’s a great idea in theory.
Beyond making the observation that the Amazon Android App Store already has a great selection of apps to choose from, there’s not much point in talking about the app experience. It’s just too large a topic to generalize on. From what we have seen, though, the Kindle Fire will be bundled in with an email app and document reader app, both of which seem to be capable of doing the job as well as might be hoped for while maintaining the overall theme of the OS. Hard to argue with that.
Overall, this is a $200 tablet that seems to offer more functionality than anything else available for less than $500. It isn’t perfect. There is no 3G option, the hard drive is small enough that people without reliable internet connections to take advantage of the cloud storage might want to think twice, and the fact that it is a first generation device might mean there are some bugs to iron out in the first months after release. Even so, I’m of the opinion that the Kindle Fire offers great value for what it does and will make users very happy so long as they know what it can do and what they want out of it going into things.
Will have a 6″ latest generation eInk. There will be no keyboard, not even page flipping buttons, with all features accessible via “easy reach” system touch interface. Touchscreen uses the same infrared technology as latest generation Sony eReaders. Kindle Touch is made of silver plastic (again similar to latest Sony eReaders). It will be available on November 21st with pre-orders starting today in two flavors – WiFi only for less than a $100.00 (!!!!) -$99 and 3G for $149. Amazon is pretty consistent with charging $50 for “lifetime unlimited 3G access available in over 100 countries”. It seems like the software has gotten an upgrade as well with the new X-Ray feature that lets you do rich text lookups that go beyond looking up single words in the dictionary. It seems to pull Wikipedia description of general concepts mentioned on the page you are currently reading.
Features and specs:
Latest generation eInk Pearl screen (600×800 16 grayscale) – same as Kindle 3
IR touchscreen with multitouch support
Size: 6.8″ x 4.7″ x 0.40″
Weight: 7.5 oz (slightly lighter than Kindle 3)
Battery: 2 month battery life
Storage: 4GB internal flash memory. Only 3GB available for user content. No external card slots (DS/MMC/Memory Stick etc)
Wireless connectivity: 802.11b/g/n WiFi and optional 3G with no monthly fees for $50 extra
Wired connectivity: micro-B USB 2.0 connector
Audio: headphone jack and built-in stereo speakers
X-Ray: contextual lookup of concepts, people, places etc mentioned in the book though Wikipedia or Amazon’s community encyclopedia – Shelfari
Same 6″ screen, but no touch, no keyboard, only with page flipping buttons. Because of this the device is both very compact and inexpensive. It is 18 smaller than Kindle 3 and weights under 6 ounces. Priced at only $79 with Special Offers and $109 without and shipping today. The device is actually called just “Kindle”, with Kindle 3 being creatively renamed into “Kindle Keyboard”.
Specs and feature:
Latest generation eInk Pearl screen (600×800 16 grayscale) – same as Kindle 3
Size: 6.5″ x 4.5″ x 0.34″
Weight: 5.98 oz. This is 2.5 ounces lighter than Kindle 3, and only 0.5 ounce more than Sony PRS-350
Storage: 2GB internal flash, with 1 1/4 GB available for user content
RAM: 512MB SDRAM memory
Battery: 1 month battery life
Wireless connectivity: 802.11b/g/n WiFi. No 3G option available at this time
Wired connectivity: micro-B USB 2.0 connector
Audio: headphone jack and built-in stereo speakers
Amazon’s entry into the tablet market, currently dominated by Apple iPad. Kindle Fire features:
7-inch color backlit LCD display based on IPS technology that allows good viewing from wide range of angles
LCD is protected with extra-strong Gorilla-glass.
Dual core ARM CPU
Weighs 14.6 ounces
Runs heavily modified version of Android operating system
Kindle Fire will have direct and easy access to a broad range of content:
First and foremost – over 1,000,000 (and counting…) of Kindle eBooks
Color versions of newspapers and magazines
100,000 movies and TV shows streaming from Amazon. 11,000 of these are available for free to Amazon Prime subscribers
17 million DRM-free MP3 songs
Amazon’s own Android app store.
Kindle Fire seems to rely heavily on Amazon Cloud Storage.
Same WhisperSync technology that synchronizes book reading position across multiple devices now works with movies and TV shows – it automatically remembers last watched position. You can resume watching the movie on your TiVo or any other Amazon-connected streaming video device.
Touch UI supports swipe gestures to bring out extra controls, very similar to Windows 8 concept. It looks nothing like vanilla Android. Homescreen features 3D carousel of most recently accessed content regardless of it’s type: in the demo Angry Birds game is shown right next to the latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine and Kindle eBooks. OS supports multitasking. So you can listen to music while you are reading a book. You can pin any kind of content (including a website bookmark) to your Home screen bookshelf. Full color magazine display seems to be much smoother than with original version of Nook Color.
Price point is $199 as was previously announced. This includes 30-day trial of Amazon Prime service that normally sells as $79/year subscription. Kindle Fire ships on November 15th, 2011 with pre-orders starting today.
Specs and features:
Screen: 7″ backlit IPS LCD with multi-touch and gestures. 1024 x 600 resolution with 24 bit color
Size: 7.5″ x 4.7″ x 0.45″
Weight: 14.6 oz. This is 1.2 lighter than Nook Color
Storage: 8GB internal flash memory. No expansion slots (SD/MMC/etc) are available. It does however have access to Amazon Cloud Storage which is unlimited for Amazon content
Battery: Up to 8 hours on a single charge. Very similar to Nook Color. There is no cheating laws of physics there.
Wireless connectivity: 802.11b/g/n. No 3G option at this time
Wired connectivity: micro-B USB 2.0 connector
Audio: headphone jack and built-in stereo speakers
Data formats: on top of supporting the usual bunch that Kindle 3 supports, Kindle Fire adds native support for DOCX and a number of DRM-free audio-formats
OS: heavily modified Android
1,000,000+ in-copyright books. 800,000+ of these are priced at $9.99 or below. Millions more – out of copyright
100,000+ movies and TV shows available for streaming
1000s of Android apps. This is only a subset of what’s available for Android. On the other hand, acceptance criteria is much higher so overall app quality is much better than you average Android app. Nook, Kobo app availability… I’m guessing not.
17,000,000+ DRM-free Mp3 songs from Amazon MP3 store
Email client that works with major providers like Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc. Additional email support is available though apps that can be separately purchased.
After months of speculation and a fair amount of information pieced together from parts orders, supposed inside information, and extrapolation from Amazon’s more recent choices as they expand their reach, we have to assume that we have at least a pretty fair outline of what the upcoming Kindle Tablet is going to look like. I would never simply trust a rumor, but enough of the little things add up and agree with each other lately that sudden conflicting information has to be viewed with some skepticism. This is why, when perusing the latest set of stories, blogs, and whatnot, I was rather surprised to see a sudden turnaround in the speculation that points the proposed device at the same market as the Nook Color. Apparently some people don’t think Amazon is quite ready for the larger game?
Tracing things back, the speculation along these lines seems to stem from a Business Insider article that simply cites “a source close to the company” as saying that it will basically be a color eReader with some apps on it. They build this on top of earlier reports of underpowered processors and the anticipated lack of cameras and leave it at that. For a couple reasons, I believe the evidence fails to support the argument.
Mostly, we know that in the time since the Kindle Tablet rumors started going out Amazon has built up its app store, cloud storage, cloud based music system, and video streaming library. Every one of these would integrate impressively will a full tablet offering and do next to nothing for a dedicated eReader, even if it were color. There are uses for each of these things as pieces to the Amazon.com experience, but they don’t seem like they could have a huge impact in any area taken as individual enterprises. A unifying experience is necessary to explain the overall plan.
Leaving aside the arguments about hardware speculation, since those bits of information don’t give us information on what what display technology the Kindle Tablet line will take advantage of and therefore leave too much to the imagination so far in my opinion, I could see this simply as a misinterpretation of the situation by all parties. We have indicati0ns that there will be at least two Kindle Tablet offerings this year, including a 7″ and a 10-11″. The fact that the smaller, lower powered version of these does not compete well with the specs of the iPad may well make it smarter to market as an eReading Tablet rather than a fully powered Tablet PC.
I think the general idea is going to be a staggered release, in the end. The fact that the first, smaller Kindle Tablet will be released alongside the new Kindles may make it a transition point between Amazon’s eReaders and Tablets. Easily advertised as the next step in eReading and focused overtly on tying that experience in, but without any of the initial restrictions that crippled the Nook Color as a Tablet on release. To say that Amazon is not focused on the iPad competition still seems naive, since we can expect something much more powerful and functional in the next 6 months.
As the weeks go by and the holiday sales season gets ever closer, we get more and more details about the upcoming Kindle Tablets. Yes, their very existence has only been hinted at in anything resembling official Amazon.com communication, but we know it’s coming. It’s only a matter of figuring out in what forms and with what focus. Now we have a bit more of a line on what the higher-end option of what appears to be the initial release group will be.
It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to find out that the Kindle Tablet reportedly codenamed “Hollywood” would have a visual media focus to it. Now, though, we have a bit more to go on than random conjecture based on that name. A recent report note from investment firm Detwiler Fenton indicates that the anticipated tablet will have a 10″ color screen as well as a bundled trial of an Amazon video streaming service such as, or possibly exactly the same as, that offered at the moment as a perk to Amazon Prime members. It will also feature significantly more processing power than the other Kindle Tablet offering or offerings expected to launch around the same time, which when added to the anticipated pricing of around $399 would seem to make it a very real threat to the industry leading iPad.
Now, we know that Amazon has been doing so amazingly well with the existing Kindle line because of their focus on selling content for the whole platform rather than simply a line of physical eReading devices. Rumors go so far as to say that the Kindle itself is being sold near cost. It makes sense, by extension, that they will want to continue this approach in other forms of media if possible. Video makes perfect sense, as does music. They have a presence in the retail market for both, in addition to the app marketplace that we have to assume will work exceptionally well with the new Kindle Tablets. I anticipate an expansion of all of these either in terms of content or functionality before the launch, of course.
If the Kindle ‘Hollywood” Tablet is going to be pointed at the iPad, like many of us are assuming, it will only really have a chance if Amazon can compete successfully against the iTunes store. That means streaming audio and video, cloud storage, and an amazing selection. Nothing less will do. Right now the Amazon Instant Video Store is a decent start, but it only does so much. We are definitely likely to see an expansion of the offerings by the holidays as well as an extended Amazon Prime membership benefit list that takes advantage of it. What else happens will depend in large part on what the other new Kindle offerings are focussed on. A pocket-sized Kindle, perhaps, with a heavy music or audiobook emphasis? There are a bunch of different openings for new media-consumption devices that remain to be exploited. You have to admit, though, video is a great start.
Color eReaders are getting more and more press as time goes on. Now that we have the Hanvon release just months away, there’s not really much room left to say that non-LCD color displays aren’t ready for release into the market yet. As such, it’s pretty reasonable to expect that 2011 will see the release of a new Kindle. Call it the Kindle Color, Kindle 4, or whatever you want…we already had a number of excellent ideas from readers about that in another post…it’s all but to be taken for granted at this point. What will we be getting along with it though?
Here are the major things I’m hoping to see when the time comes:
6″ Display w/ Higher Resolution
Yes, I know some people are clamoring for an increase in screen size and this isn’t really any different from what we have now. To me, the screen is the right size already, we just need better resolution. Also, it helps keep the Kindle distinct from your average 7″ Tablet, which I can’t help but feel is important. eReaders have got to continue to stay their own category if we’re going to avoid major compromise in quality in favor of more tablet/phone type features.
More User Customization
User-defined nested folders, personalized screen savers, more sorting options, an improves search function, basically anything that will make the process of using the Kindle move faster and more pleasantly so I can get back to reading on it.
I know, fat chance, but we can dream, right? It would save some people, myself included, loads of trouble on eBook conversion and it would make library usage finally possible.
Optional Color and/or Media Integration
One of the things that worries me about the new release is the potential for intrusive advertising. I’ve already said that I think WOWIO does a pretty great job of avoiding that, but they’re not the only ones out there. Definitely wanting to avoid talking ads, horribly blatant product placement mid-text, and other such distracting things. A setting to switch things to the classic Kindle monochrome would be great, just in case.
Restored Memory Card Slot
Much as this doesn’t come up for me personally, I used to work for a company that was trying to use Kindles to help visually impaired kids get their reading done using Text to Speech and Audiobooks. It worked pretty well, but you could only have so many Audiobooks at a time. What if I wanted to load a whole school year’s worth of audio books on for my kid or something? I feel like that should be an option. Which leads into the next point…
Improved Audio Controls
Let’s face it, what we have now is a little sparse. I’d like to see some improvements, perhaps even when it comes to song selection while reading?
That’s all I’ve got for the moment. Some of these are long shots, others might be already in the works for all I know. There’s some good discussion going on over in the Kindle web forum about exactly this topic. Check it out and chime in with your opinions, if you have any. The way I figure it, the more input Amazon gets on what its customers want, the better the product will be in the end.
And the prize goes to… Taylor Harris who lives in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, and has been a Kindle owner since March of 2009. He’s a fan of Willa Cather, reads Robert D. Kaplan, and can’t get enough of Louis Meyer’s Jacky Faber series.
Yep, you are reading this right. It’s actually quite easy now to get Kindle books on Nook color and have both eBook stores available to you on a single device. This is possible because Nook Color is more of an entry level Android tablet than a dedicated eReader. As it comes out of the box it just happens to start the Nook application by default and not let users run anything else.
However that can easily be fixed by rooting the device and enabling the Android Market. With Andoid market you can install all kinds of applications, including Kindle, Kobo reader. You would also be able to play Angry Birds and watch Youtube videos. Installing the Kindle application for Android will let you read Amazon Kindle books on your Nook Color device.
The downside however is that as with all hacks, you risk bricking the device and voiding the warranty. You may also lock yourself out of future updates from Barnes and Noble. So it’s a trade off but in my opinion a profitable one.
It took me less than 5 minutes to execute all rooting instructions from NookDevs.com to root the device, enable Android Market, download Kindle for Android and have WhisperSync open the book I was reading on the same place I left it off on my Kindle device.
On Windows use Win32DiskImager to write the image to microSD card (please note that all data on the card will be lost). For Linux or Mac, check out NookDevs.com for detailed microSD imaging instructions.
Completely power off NOOKcolor by holding the power button until the screen blurs and “Power off NOOKColor” dialog appears. Select “Power Off” and wait for the device to shut down completely.
Turn device face down and open the microSD card container in the lower right corner. Push the card in with metal contacts facing down.
Connect the device to your computer via USB cable. The device will power up and book from the SD card but the screen will not turn on. This is normal.
After about a minute your computer show detect the new device. This means that the rooting is complete. Your Windows computer will complain about missing drivers. This is normal.
Disconnect the USB cable and remove the card from the reader.
Power cycle it by holding the power button for 20 seconds and then releasing it. The press the power button briefly to power the reader on.
As the reader boots you will see a red splash screen.
Once the reader boots, you will be prompted for you Gmail account (as usually with Android) and some initial settings. This will only happen once.
As you open the extras folder you will see that it now contains Android market icon and some extras (Youtube, Gmail, etc)
You can now start the market app and download other apps that you like. You will need to reboot the device for apps to appear on the extras page. The apps themselves can be used right away just as with usual Android apps.
After that the sky is the limit.
First thing that I did was to download Kindle application and verify that it works – it did. See – for yourself.
While this works, it’s not 100%. Initially I had some problems with apps not downloading via the market app. Reboot fixed that. Kobo app for android logs in and displays the list of books but then all books get stuck in “Waiting for download” state. Kindle app didn’t have such problems.
I also tried Youtube, remote desktop, Gmail and Angry Birds and that worked well.
All-in-all, I’m quite happy with this experiment as it shows once again that Kindle books can cross device boundaries and run even on competing devices. Does it add value to Kindle or NOOKcolor? I think both. If you have Barnes&Noble LCD eReader you can now get books from either store. Kindle opponents meanwhile have one less reason to complain about device-restricting DRM system.
I wanted to do Kindle vs. NOOKcolor review first, but this post turned out more about how these two devices cooperate rather than compete. The comparison review will be posted sometime early next year. I promise.
Unrooting and updating
Some people claim that using NOOKcolor can be “unrooted” by “Settings” >> “Device Info” >> “Erase & Deregister Device” but I haven’t tested it yet. I’m quite happy with my rooted NOOKcolor. Another method is to hold power, nook and Volume+ buttons pressed until you are prompted for device reset.
I’ve tried both methods and both reset the nook but apps were still present on the “extras” screen.
The official 1.0.1 update got installed without problems and after rebooting all rooting extras were completely gone.
I then went ahead to re-rooted the device and installed the Kindle reader apps back.
With commercially viable Kindle Color eInk displays announced in November, Mirasol displays being around for a while and Barnes & Noble Nook Color being widely perceived (though not by me) as first color eReader, it seems inevitable to me that Kindle Color is going to be released sometime soon.
Therefore I would like to hold a small guessing contest. The idea is to guess how will be called when it is released. While Kindle Color seems to be most obvious idea, there’s not telling how Amazon will end up naming the device. It seems reasonable that Kindle part will stay since it’s a well established brand that is recognized by customers and heavily advertised. I’m open to suggestion about the second part. So I propose a following two stage contest:
Until December 25th inclusive you can leave your ideas about Kindle Color name as comments on this post. On the 26th I will randomly choose a comment and present the winner with Lighted Leather Cover in any available color. If you would prefer a cover without light, that’s a viable option too. You will be able to select either once I contact you in case you are the winner.
The grand prize would be the Kindle Color eReader device itself once it comes out. It will be awarded to whoever first guesses the device name. Since I want this to be a contest of creativity rather than speed, “Kindle Color” name is not eligible for the grand prize. If it indeed turns out to be the name, I’ll donate the grand prize to some good charitable cause.
So, happy guessing! I’m looking forward to these comments!