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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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September 2014
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Kindle Fire Father’s Day Sale Going On Now

Going on now through the end of June 8th, Amazon is offering a $20 discount on any Kindle Fire HD, Kindle Fire HD 8.9”, or Kindle Fire HD 8.9” 4G if you remember to use the promo code “DADSFIRE” when you check out.  Supplies will probably hold out through the end, but you might want to get in early if you’re interested.

There are a few things to keep in mind when you take advantage of this offer.

Kindle Fire HDThe most important is probably that each of these models includes Special Offers from Amazon and its affiliates.  These can be removed, but it requires a $15 fee to be paid in addition to the purchase price.

Not a huge problem, but it’s worth being aware of since this is a sale centered on a gift giving holiday.  To be fair, the only time you’re likely to notice the ads is when you’re first turning on your tablet.  They mainly take up the lock screen.

It’s also important to note that none of the Kindle Fire HD options involved in this sale come with their own wall charger.  They will instead have a Micro USB cord to connect to any convenient computer.  If you have a phone charger with a removable USB cord, chances are good that you can simply plug your Kindle into that using the included cord.  Amazon doesn’t recommend that, but they’re selling independent wall plugs for $20 apiece so they might be biased.

The hardest part of this deal is really just deciding which model is the right one.  They are all fine devices, but they excel in different ways.

The Kindle Fire HD is the obvious choice in terms of price.  $179 for the 16GB model is a great deal.  You get a highly portable tablet with a great screen and some of the best sound available for the best price anywhere.

Of course, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9” is even better in its own ways.  At just $279 you’ll be able to pick up a significantly larger tablet.  Watching video on the larger model is much more pleasant, even if it means that you’re not going to be fitting it into even the largest pockets.  The sound is also much improved here since the speakers are able to sit even further apart.

The Kindle Fire HD 8.9” 4G is basically the same thing.  It’s a lot more expensive at $379, though.  Really this should only be considered if you’re giving it to somebody who travels outside the range of wireless networks on a regular basis.  The extra $100 won’t bring nearly as much benefit as you would think to most people.

While you’re shopping for Father’s Day, keep in mind that the Kindle is only as good as its media.  There are all sorts of books that are free or cheap enough to be easy to include with the tablet itself.  The app selection over at Amazon is also quite a bit more impressive than it used to be.  It’s easy to make a good gift great with just a little effort.

Kindle Fire HD 8.9” Takes on iPad But May Face Other, Unexpected Competition

We’ve recently talked about the release of the new Kindle Fire HD 8.9”.  It’s a solid device that gives every indication of being worth an investment.  While not quite as versatile as many Android tablets due to Amazon’s proprietary software configuration that prevents access to the Google Play service, there is little else to complain about and a lot to be excited for.  Some reports indicate that between this and the 7” model, Amazon’s tablets will outsell the iPad Mini 2 to 1 over the upcoming holiday season.

All that sounds great for Amazon and it’s definitely a sign that they will remain a major part of the Android tablet scene for some time to come.  They may be in trouble as time goes on, however.  The problem is not what many people have expected.  The iPad is hard to compete against, but the surge in video game consoles with touchscreen accessories may hit Amazon in a major way.

The Wii U just dropped, which is what brings this to mind.  Nintendo’s new console comes with a controller that doubles as a tablet.  It offers a supplementary second display that should come in handy in everything from game play to movie watching.  Sure, it requires a Wii U console to work, but that also allows the user to tap into a wide selection of content associated with that system.

Microsoft is also said to be working on a 7” tablet to supplement the Xbox 360 and the as-yet unannounced Xbox 720.  Their Smartglass software already allows anybody with a portable device (smartphone or tablet), or even a convenient PC, to tap into the console experience.  The Xbox Tablet, as it’s being called, will offer many of the same benefits that the Wii U controller boasts as well as serving the role of standalone portable.

Now, the main use of the Kindle Fire line is in consumption.  Amazon designed them for that purpose and there has been no real effort to make them into anything but a convenient gateway into Amazon’s digital content selection.  This means that in many ways the same customers they are looking at attracting are also likely to be interested in gaming and entertainment consoles, for obvious reasons.  If we’re looking at a class of devices that are exceedingly popular and tie into their own proprietary tablets, as in the case of these consoles, it may cut into Kindle Fire prospects.

While this is all speculation, I can’t help but feel that Amazon is going to have to come up with some special service that distinguishes their hardware offering in the next year or so.  The budget tablet market is still going strong, but there are a lot of big names that seem about as well equipped as Amazon who are set to enter the market.  Since all the digital content sold through the company is meant to be platform-agnostic, there’s going to need to be something special done.  Otherwise it’s only a matter of time before the iPad is just one of many strong competitors for the Kindle Fire HD.

Kindle Black Friday Specials for 2012

Every year Black Friday sales get more hyped and involve more ridiculous deals.  In some cases that’s a bad thing, especially when it involves camping outside stores for silly amounts of time to get a chance at one of the only two units available in a particular sale.  In many others it’s just a great time to save some money.

Since we know that a sale is on the way let’s take a look at what to expect as far as discounts this week.

According to Buyer’s Review, we can expect the following deals in brick & mortal stores this Friday:

  • Best Buy: Amazon Kindle Fire – $159.99 bundled with free $30 Best Buy Gift Card
  • Office Depot: Amazon Kindle Fire – $159.99 bundled with $25 Visa Card
  • Staples: Amazon Kindle Fire – $159, bundled with $20 Staples Gift Card
  • Office Max: Amazon Kindle Fire – $159
  • Best Buy: 16GB Amazon Kindle Fire HD – $199.99 free $30 Best Buy Gift Card included
  • Office Max: 16GB Amazon Kindle Fire HD – $199, bundled with $25 Office Max Gift Card
  • Staples: 16GB Amazon Kindle Fire HD – $199, bundled with $20 Staples Gift Card
  • Staples: 32GB Amazon Kindle Fire HD – $249, bundled with $20 Staples Gift Card

We do have every reason to believe that Amazon will use this opportunity to further promote the Kindle line directly through their own storefront as well, though.

Sadly, we’re not going to be seeing a sale on the Kindle Paperwhite.  The eReader side of things has proven so popular since the Paperwhite was released that an order today will take over a month to get to its destination, just barely making it in time for Christmas if you spring for 2-day shipping.  In a matter of days it will likely be impossible to order a Kindle Paperwhite and have it before 2013.

We will certainly be seeing this sale day used as an opportunity to promote the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD, however.  An effort was clearly made to get the Kindle Fire HD 8.9” out before Black Friday, which indicates that the larger tablet will be a part of the promotion as well.

Looking at the store offers above, nobody is actually discounting the Kindle Fires themselves.  All that is being added is a promo gift card.  Given all the blowback Amazon has been getting from these same retailers about showrooming, I expect that the online deal will go a bit further.  How much further is difficult to predict, but 10-20% off the price would create a huge surge of interest.

Remember that Amazon is using the Kindle Fire as a cheap option for content sales.  They’re not making much on the devices themselves.  As such I don’t think we can expect to see a $99 Kindle Fire, even using refurbished 1st Gen models.  Since recent teardowns point to there being a bit more profit than the earlier generation allowed for in a single unit, however, they have some leeway.

I know that I’ll be watching for a $160 Kindle Fire HD and I would be surprised if I don’t see one by the end of the week.

Kindle Fire HD Teardown Shows Small Profits Compared to Competition

When the original Kindle Fire was introduced, it was a huge shock to see such a powerful device offered for so little money.  It was literally the device that changed the Android tablet market.  A year later it’s no shock to see brand new 7” devices going for around $199.  Are we still getting the same sort of value for that hardware price, though?  An IHS iSuppli teardown team has looked into the components in details to give us an idea about exactly that.

What they have managed to determine is that while Amazon may not be subsidizing the Kindle Fire HD as they are suspected to have done with the first run of the Kindle Fire, it is still not a big money maker at the time of initial sales.  This fits with a previous assertion by Jeff Bezos that the tablet is sold at cost.

Exploded Kindle Fire HD – Image Credit to AllThingsD

Because they were planning to make any real profits off of digital content sales down the line, the Kindle Fire didn’t need to make money right away.  The first teardowns estimated that it cost anywhere from $187-202 in materials alone per device.  Factoring in the development costs and other miscellaneous expenses means that there was little chance of breaking even on a $199 sale.

This newest teardown indicates that the Kindle Fire HD is composed of about $165 worth of material.  The major components come from LG Display, Texas Instruments, and Samsung.  Basically we’re looking at a more advanced device built by a more established name in tablets for less money.

That might explain why the ability to remove the Special Offers on these devices was added so quickly after protests and made so cheap.  If it’s not losing money then there is no good reason to force the ad subsidy.

While it does appear that Amazon might be making at least small profits on the Kindle Fire HD now, they’re not exactly trying to turn it into a major revenue stream.  Consider the competition.  Similar teardowns of the Google Nexus 7 and iPad Mini show material costs of $152 and $188 respectively.  If we’re ignoring after-purchase digital sales entirely, Amazon and Google are making less than $50 per tablet they sell compared to Apple’s $140 with Amazon bringing in the least of the three.

All told, it’s safe to claim that Amazon is still offering great value for the money on the Kindle Fire HD.  You can’t necessarily equate the cost of components to the quality of the hardware, but it’s not a completely worthless indication either.  Amazon’s ability to sell their hardware at cost will continue to make it more difficult for newcomers without their own ecosystems to break into the affordable tablet market, but for the moment it is good for the customer.  The industry is hardly likely to stagnate with Apple, Amazon, and Google all fighting to get the lion’s share of small tablet sales.

First Japanese-Language Kindles Coming Next Month

The move away from physical keyboards gave Amazon an easy route into any number of non-Anglophone markets for the first time.  They’ve made good use of that since the Kindle Touch was first released.  In addition to being able to find a Kindle practically anywhere in the world, localized versions of the popular eReader can now be found for a number of language options.  Now, for the first time, Amazon is pushing their efforts into Asia with the first ever Japanese Kindle.

Amazon.co.jp will now have its own Kindle Store and will be offering the Kindle Paperwhite for sale.  Preordering is now open for both the WiFi and 3G versions of the device.  The prices are currently ¥8,480 and ¥12,980 respectively.  They will begin shipping on November 19th.

Japan has proven a hard market for Amazon to move the Kindle into so far.  Their site has been operating successfully there for twelve years now, but it has been reported that they had trouble getting Japanese publishers interested in doing business with them after all of the conflict between Amazon and the Big 6 publishing houses in US markets.  It seems that terms have now been reached that are considered satisfactory.  The press release for this announcement indicates that over 50,000 Japanese-language titles will be available at launch and that these will include the largest selection of Oricon best sellers anywhere.

Naturally all of these titles will be accessible through Amazon’s various distribution channels.  Kindle Paperwhite owners will be able to make use of the new store, but so will Kindle Fire owners, Kindle app users, and anybody with a web browser.

Introducing the Kindle line to Japan is a particularly important move for Amazon if they want to keep expanding the customer base.  While geographically small, Japan is home to one of the most literate cultures in the world.  It also enjoys the widest newspaper circulation anywhere and may prove a useful place to renew interest in digitally distributed newspapers and magazines.

There is also a large market for graphic literature to be exploited.  This launch will include over 15,000 manga selections.  Kindle Format 8’s Panel View will come in handy for this and the high contrast Kindle Paperwhite display could prove an ideal medium for these books.

The Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD are also now available in Japan and should be shipping on December 19th, one month after the Paperwhite goes out.  While this caters to a different market, having options is never a bad idea.  The Kindle Fire HD might not be quite as good for reading as its single-purpose eReader counterpart, but it does provide a greater versatility and convenience for the money.

Kindle Fire HD Software Improvements

The most obvious improvements coming in with the Kindle Fire HD are in the hardware.  It’s hard to get more attention-catching than the increased screen size provided by the 8.9” model.  Most of the really interesting stuff seems to be coming through the software side, though.  It’s somewhat harder to lay out in simple graph form, but it’s a lot more interesting.

Android 4.0

Where the original Kindle Fire ran a modified version of Android 2.3, the new Kindle Fire HD will be using version 4.0.  This is the first version of Android made specifically with tablets in mind as well as smartphones, so the inclusion on a larger device is probably an obvious move on Amazon’s part.  Between performance improvements and general compatibility issues, however, this is a big improvement.

Parental Controls

Maybe the parental controls weren’t the biggest issue that the Kindle Fire had in its software design, but the people who needed them were among the loudest of Amazon’s critics.  Over time there were various controls added in that more or less meet most needs, but this new version takes things a bit further.  FreeTime, as the new service is being called, will allow parents to set specific time restrictions on their devices.  This means finely grained control over all sorts of things.  Want your kids to be able to read on the tablet and watch the TV shows you’ve downloaded but not run games except from 6pm to 8pm?  You can do that now.

X-RAY

The X-Ray feature included with the Kindle Touch at its release was an interesting way to access details about your books at a glance.  It pulls up things like character names and bios, important locations in the plot, and an assortment of other information.  Useful for anybody who needs a refresher after putting down their reading for a bit, even if you don’t factor in the links to Shelfari and Wikipedia.

Now the Kindle Fire HD will have that feature for both books and movies.  Amazon is touting the ability of their X-Ray for Movies service to tell you who’s on the screen at any given time, link you to their other films, see anything related to the film or actor from IMDB, and more.  It’s a fun concept that might win you a Trivial Pursuit game some time.

Skype

One of the most anticipated hardware improvements in the Kindle Fire HD has been the camera.  To make use of this, every device will include a copy of Skype pre-installed.  This means instant access to that complete network.  Naturally this won’t be the only service you can take advantage of the hardware through, but it is almost certain to be the biggest.

Read-To-Me

Test to Speech software is back thanks to the Kindle Fire HD.  It was confusingly missing in the first Kindle Fire and there seems to be no way to get it out of any of the new Kindle eReaders either.  Fortunately now it will be present through the tablets, wherever agreements with publishers allow.

Kindle Fire Ad Debacle Resolved!

It took all of a day before Amazon realized the extent of their mistake in creating mandatory ad space on every Kindle Fire and changed their tune.  Users will not be able to disable ads on their Kindle Fire tablets in the same way that they can when using the Kindle eReader.  This removes what was by far the most upsetting bit of information related to the launch of these devices.

The use of ads to subsidize a very cheap price on all hardware sales is something that Amazon has been working with for a while now.  The original Kindle Fire has not been covered by any ad revenue so far, but it was inevitable that the next generation would be.  The bad decision to force the ads on everybody would indeed make them far more profitable for Amazon since advertisers have expressed concern about the variability of their audience, but it would also drive away sales.  Clearly the scales were not balanced in the way that Amazon expected given the quickness of their response to consumer pressure.

The new plan is to offer the ability to opt-out of Special Offers on the Kindle Fire HD for just $15.  While Amazon has indicated that very few customers end up going through with the removal of these ads, the fact that the option is available will earn a great deal of goodwill.

The opt-out page will be available when the device begins to ship.  That is currently scheduled for September 14th.

As much as the ads were not a deal breaker if handled properly and implemented on an otherwise impressive piece of hardware, I think many people who wanted a Kindle Fire HD are breathing a sigh of relief right now.

New Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD 8.9”, and Kindle Paperwhite Revealed

Kindle Fire HDAs I write this, Jeff Bezos is on stage in Santa Monica, California presenting the newest developments in the Kindle product line.  It’s been greatly anticipated the last several weeks and this is the time to learn what all the fuss has been about.

The first reveal of the day was the update to the Kindle eReader.  The newest version of this Kindle is known as the “Kindle Paperwhite”.

The biggest appeal of this product is, as might be expected, improved screen technology.  The Paperwhite has sharply improved contrast that everything crisper.  Text will stand out more sharply than has been the case in other models as a result.

It also boasts a greater pixel density than previous models.  The Kindle Paperwhite’s screen has 212 pixels per inch, up from the last generation’s 167ppi.

Rather than the three font options that we’ve had access to before, the new model will have six.  New additions include Palatino, Helvetica, and Futura.

Battery life is still the same, offering up to 8 weeks of uninterrupted use.

Most importantly, the Kindle Paperwhite will have a lit screen, despite rumors about supply line issues.  The light source is placed on the bottom edge of the screen itself and appears to do a great job of spreading illumination evenly across the display area.

As always, this new eReader will be thinner and lighter than previous models.  As Bezos put it, “It’s thinner than a magazine, lighter than a paper”.

The new Kindle Paperwhite will be just $119 ($179 for the unlimited 3G model) and will be available in October, though preorders will begin immediately.  The basic Kindle will also be getting a screen upgrade and a price drop to just $69.

In other Kindle hardware news we get the new updated Kindle Fire.

The replacement for the existing Kindle Fire will be 40% faster than its predecessor.  Battery life has been extended a vague but apparently significant amount.  The price has also dropped to just $159.  It will be available on September 14th, explaining the sudden lack of Kindle Fires in the Amazon store this week.

More importantly, we now know about the Kindle Fire HD.  This will come in two sizes, as many had hoped.  The newer, larger Kindle Fire will be 8.9” and have a 1920 x 1200 resolution.  Not quite as large as the iPad, but definitely moving in on Apple’s territory.

Both versions of the Kindle Fire HD will have stereo speakers to replace the mediocre sound quality of the first device.

They will also have greatly improved wireless connectivity.  Anybody who was following the first Kindle Fire launch will remember that the device ran into trouble on many networks.  This time around it will have two antennas, work on the 5GHz band, and have over 40% faster speed than the iPad’s wireless.

The 7” Kindle Fire HD will be shipping on September 14th for just $199.  The 8.9” Kindle Fire HD will be $299 and ship sometime in November.  Both models will have 16GB of storage space at these prices.

There will also be a $499 Kindle Fire HD that has 4G LTE cellular connectivity.  This model will have 32GB of storage space and the data plan associated with it will run $50 per year.  That meets one of the community’s big demands for the new model, so we will see how widespread adoption is.

Depending on how performance holds up in actual testing, and it seems to be impressive based on presentation alone, the Kindle Fire HD might just have what it takes to build Amazon up well beyond even the 20%+ tablet market share they claim to currently enjoy.

Stay tuned and we will keep you up to date on all the latest news related to this launch.