The next generation of the Kindle eReader is going to have at least an optional lit display. We know that for a fact at this point. Even if previous reports of supply chain requests, patent purchasing, and “leaked” previews of the hardware weren’t enough, the no bid contract that Amazon signed with the US State Department clearly indicated that the devices they delivered would have front-lit E Ink displays. Unfortunately it might be a bit longer than we expected before we see these new lit Kindles.
According to information from DigiTimes (to which all the standard cautionary disclaimers regarding their notorious unreliability apply), there have been some problems coming up in the production of their new lighting. While reports of test units have indicated that the technology works, apparently something is going wrong now that they have stepped up to mass production.
This may have the effect of delaying shipments of the new Kindle eReader until late in the third quarter of 2012. Considering the fact that most people expected to see this new product announced as early as the end of July, the delays mark a major issue for Amazon’s continued investment in eReaders.
At the moment, the Nook Simple Touch w/ Glowlight is the most functional eReader on the market. Barnes & Noble, Amazon’s primary competition for eBook customers in the US, came out with their own lighting solution months before Amazon was even rumored to be ready with their own. This has not stopped the Kindle from remaining the most popular eReader on the market today but even with superior customer loyalty, satisfaction, and brand recognition you can’t think they will be happy about losing any customers over the hardware side of their business.
Even with these delays, there is no reason to expect the front-lit Kindle to be pushed back beyond the holidays or abandoned. Amazon is already committed to releasing such a device and it is about the only direction they could hope to improve their hardware at this point until color E Ink screens become less problematic.
The biggest problems with this delay will likely be experienced by users already invested in the Kindle platform. Many are hoping that the update to the Kindle’s hardware will address some of the more common complaints in addition to offering the convenience of lighting. Touchscreen Kindles from the latest generation have not included physical controls for turning pages, unlike the Nook Simple Touch, which is one of many customer demands that will likely come up here.
The Kindle Keyboard is still available and offers up all of the reading enjoyment that it ever did while not requiring the user to sacrifice screen quality, but it is also not receiving significant upgrades to its software features anymore and as such can’t quite compete with newer models for many users. Presumably the next installment will combine the advantages of both possible approaches now that Amazon has had a chance to see what worked and what didn’t when they moved the Kindle over to a touchscreen.
Naturally, there is a new Kindle Fire on the way. We are also expecting there to be a new E Ink Kindle eReader released alongside it. The Kindle Fire 2, or whatever Amazon decides to label their new device, has aroused a lot of interest over the past few weeks and the release of a Kindle that matches or exceeds the capabilities of the Nook Simple Touch w/ GlowLight will be a big thing for the company. Now, citing reliable sources rather than simply the less than reliable DigiTimes reports, CNET has come up with a July 31st launch event to introduce both of these products to potential customers.
Rumors have indicated that the Kindle Fire 2 will be improved in a number of ways. It will have a higher resolution 1280 x 800 screen while maintaining the same 7” size, according to most of the rumors today. This latest report indicates that it will also have a camera and physical volume control buttons. Both of these features will be welcome additions for many Kindle Fire users. One can only assume that with the addition of a camera Amazon will also have seen fit to include a mic to make their tablet into a viable communication tool.
The new Kindle eReader will also have minor improvements across the board. The most important of these will obviously be the ability to light up the screen. We saw several months ago that Amazon had bought a patent that would allow them to add a refraction layer for front-lighting their eReaders, but Barnes & Noble beat them to the punch. Given how well B&N has done in making a great lit eReader, we have to hope that Amazon has used the intervening time to improve more than just the lighting. Expect to at least see physical page turn buttons return to the Kindle Touch version of the next generation.
Amazon is expected to be selling these new devices for the same price as current models. The new Kindle Fire 2 will be going for $199 while the basic model of the new Kindle eReader will be just $79. While it is too early to say for sure, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to find out that Amazon was including lighting in all their eReaders at no extra charge, thereby undercutting Barnes & Noble’s prices yet again. The Kindle Fire that we know today will continue to be available in its present form for the indefinite future, but it is believed that the price will drop to just $149 as the new version hits shelves.
None of this tells us anything about a new larger Kindle Fire model. While reports still indicate that such a tablet is on the way, the rumor mills are surprisingly quiet about the details. Presumably it will be more powerful and have features comparable to other large tablets, but things like price and release date are completely unknown and barely speculated on. We’ll try to bring you more on this when the information becomes available.
When I got my iPad, I also got an external keyboard. It worked okay, but since it wasn’t directly integrated with the tablet, it did have some lag time. My biggest hope is for the tablet to merge with the laptop.
I was unsure of how long it would take for this to happen until the release of the Microsoft Surface tablet. It has a keyboard built into its cover. This is the catalyst that will nudge tablets towards a hybrid laptop/tablet deal. I’m really excited about this new development because it eliminates the need for both a computer and tablet, adds portability, and increases accessibility.
Now, to my point. Rumors are indicating that Amazon is set to release a 10.1 inch Kindle Fire. How much of this is just wishful thinking, it is hard to tell. I have no doubt that the online retail giant can create a competitive larger tablet, but will they lose their original focus?
The competition gap and functionality of large and small tablets is widening. Larger tablets more computer like in terms of power, whereas smaller tablets such as the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are more for gaming, reading, and internet browsing.
I would love to see Amazon create a Kindle Fire that would provide both an optimal reading experience and serve as a multi purpose device. There really aren’t that many major adjustments for e-ink Kindles left, at least not any that we know of at this point. We’ll get a glowlight version this year, and maybe color next year.
Maybe a few years from now, the technology will be there to do a hybrid e-reader and tablet. But, considering how quickly technology changes, there may be something completely different hitting the big market by then.
So, basically, I think Amazon definitely has the resources to build a larger tablet that will sell well. But, I would like to see them hang on to their core mission: a better reading experience. Better to excel at one or a couple of products than to make a slew of mediocre ones.
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 ranks are closing in on Amazon and the Kindle. Barnes & Noble is currently holding a Mother”s Day Sale on the Nook Simple Touch basic model, and the Nook Color. This is apparently a push on its the less popular models. The sale ends May 12.
Most e-reader fans are more intrigued by the new Nook GlowLight and the Nook Tablet. The GlowLight includes a cool, more readable light that enables readers to still read at night comfortably. It doesn’t cause eye strain or suck up battery life like the LCD tablets do.
So the sale brings the Nook Simple Touch down to $79, and the Nook Color down to $149. Both $20 less than they are normally.
I don’t really see these models as a huge threat to their Kindle counterparts, however, I do think that the Nook Simple Touch at $79 is a better deal than the $79 Kindle, which is not touch screen.
The Kindle Fire is also in more direct competition with the Nook Tablet than the Nook Color. Refurbished Kindle Fires go for $139 occasionally. These offers go quickly, so you have to watch closely, or you’ll miss them.
So, in short, if you’re looking for a bargain and a good gift idea for Mother’s Day, this is a good option to consider.
Barnes & Noble has really ramped up the competition with a backing from Microsoft and with the introduction of a Nook with a built in light. So, it will be interesting to see how Amazon responds.
The leapfrogging between Amazon and its competitors is likely to happen again this year. Usually the Kindle competitors start the new trend of the year, and Amazon picks up on it, and makes an even better product with it. Amazon will come up with its own GlowLight Kindle, and I’m sure this year’s refresh of the whole Kindle line up will go at the price to beat.
The biggest complaint about eReaders since Day 1 has been the fact that you can’t read them in the dark. Now, normally I’m the first to call out such complaints as poorly informed since they tend to involve comparisons between E Ink Kindles and LCD alternatives. Apparently that will no longer be an important distinction soon. The Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight has begun shipping ahead of schedule and should already be in the hands of many of the earliest preorder customers.
Now that there are actual devices available for review it is possible to make a more informed comparison. We can start with the Nook Simple Touch that we already know and love. The differences between the two models are minimal. The new incarnation has a gray border around the outer edge of the device, but it is otherwise hard to tell them apart. It apparently has an screen protector to reduce glare laminated to the display, but this does not reduce clarity in any significant way even in side by side comparisons. There is no essential loss involved in the addition of the new technology.
What you gain by going with the GlowLight version of the Nook Simple Touch is fairly impressive. Any other additions aside, the lighting feature is the important part. It is not, as some have claimed, an example of back-lit E Ink. The new Nook uses a type of LED-lit front-lighting to spread the illumination evenly without causing any significant increase in eye strain. Unlike the situation for many reading on something like the Nook Tablet or Kindle Fire, there will be no noticeable discomfort due to the light even after hours of extended use. It also does not drain the battery in a shocking fashion. While I have not had a chance to map out the exact side by side comparisons in battery life with the original Nook Simple Touch, the drain from the GlowLight feature seems to pale in comparison to the WiFi connectivity that comes standard in every device.
There are downsides, as always, but in this case they are minimal. The extra forty dollars added to a $99 eReader is a fairly big jump, but the expanded number of potential use environments will likely more than make up for that in the eyes of many. There is currently no option to get this model with 3G connectivity or integrated audio.
The Kindle has a lot of catching up to do. While they still have what is arguably the best eBook selection on the net, this development puts Amazon way behind in terms of hardware features. Nothing that has happened since the release of E Ink Pearl has been more important to the development of the eReader as a product and we can only hope that Amazon gets their front-lit Kindle in production and ready for sale as soon as possible. In the meantime, the Kindle might honestly not be the best option for new users regardless of how much nicer the integrated store is than the Nook’s.
While we recently learned that Amazon was planning something new with a front-lit version of the Kindle, Barnes & Noble has gone a step further and launched a lit Nook complete with release date. There’s no reason to think this is anything but a reaction to the leaked info regarding Amazon’s plans, but the fact that they already had a response prepared like this indicates a great deal of foresight. What was already quite possibly the best eReading hardware on the market will be the first to get upgraded for the next generation.
Those familiar with the Nook Simple Touch will also have a good impression of the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight. They are the same product, as the name might imply. GlowLight, Barnes & Noble’s solution to the problem of reading in poor lighting, has just been added into the existing model with minimal fuss. It doesn’t even get in the way of what have traditionally been the strengths of the un-lit eReader.
The new Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight will still have the same E Ink screen that we’re used to. It will work as well as ever in direct sunlight and any other situation where reading from a paper book would be plausible. The difference now is that holding down the ‘n’ button on the Nook will turn on a set of LEDs along the sides of the display. This provides sufficient light for any situation while avoiding a drastic increase in battery drain.
This upgrade will add an additional $40 to the price tag of the Nook. It is likely more than worth the investment, though. You are getting all of the advantages of E Ink with the conveniences a standard LCD would provide, but supplied in such a way as to be fairly easy on the eyes even when the adjustable lighting is in use. That’s the sort of convenience you really can’t pass up in an eReader.
The Kindle product line is still my preference and the eReader line that I would recommend to anybody I knew personally. That is not so much a matter of hardware superiority at this point, though. If anything, it is a matter of hardware adequacy and highly superior back-end support to shore up the physical product by comparison. There is nothing wrong with the Kindle Touch, per se, but it also doesn’t come with any such compellingly interesting new features.
We know that Amazon will be releasing something similar to GlowLight. Chances are even good that now that B&N has set a May release date for the new Nook, a shiny new Kindle will appear by June. If circumstances surrounding the settlements in the DOJ price fixing investigation didn’t seem likely to offer Kindle owners some truly amazing advantages in the near future, though, this would be the time when Amazon needed to sweat a little over the competition’s superior offering.