As of November 19th, the Kindle is five years old. Since its first incarnation we have watched it go from a fairly clunky attempt at introducing something new into the market to an elegant piece of technology that continues to deserve its position at the top of the same market it helped popularize. We’ve been watching this progression since the beginning (our first post here was less than a month after launch on December 15th 2007) and it’s been a great time.
Looking back at the first generation Kindle is a great way to help understand why it hasn’t been just the hardware keeping the line going. Amazon made a fairly good eReader, but even at the time there were superior options. The first Sony Readers to be released in the US were lighter, faster, and generally more pleasant to use. Still, Amazon pulled off a “good enough” device and supported it with the best digital reading content anywhere.
The Gen 1 Kindle had a resolution of 800 x 600, less than a quarter gigabyte of storage space, was uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time (compared to newer models, though it was great at the time), and would run you around $400 without a case or any books included. About the only thing it had going for it compared to future products was the SD card slot, which was eliminated in the second generation.
That’s not to say it was a bad device so much as to illustrate how far things have come. When new, the first Kindle captured the attention of huge numbers of people despite the price and was often held up as a valid alternative to the iPad. That comparison is nonsense, but it illustrates how interesting people found the idea.
For comparison, you can now get the Kindle Paperwhite (assuming you can find one since they are in short supply at the moment) for $119. It has a 6”, 212PPI display running with a 758 x 1024 resolution. Battery life will last you over a month at a time in many cases. The internal storage us up to two gigabytes and you can download your books on your home WiFi. There is lighting for the screen without any of the problems that E Ink was solving compared to lighted screens in the first place. Five years has meant a lot of progress.
Most importantly, the Kindle Store and Amazon’s support for its associated features have expanded even more. The whole publishing industry has been forced to take digital distribution seriously and nobody does it better. Kindles now enjoy a presence in millions of homes around the country and we expect to see even more of them in organizational settings like libraries now that central management tools have been released.
What is still to come for the Kindle is open to debate. Some people expect a move away from eReaders to concentrate on the Kindle Fire tablet line. Personally, I doubt it. The Kindle eReader is what put Amazon on the map in terms of computing devices and it will continue to be a major point of interest in the future. The only real question is how much further they can take it and in what direction.
We already know that Amazon intends for the Kindle Paperwhite to set the new standard for eReader hardware in every way they could manage. Some people might still wish for physical page turn buttons (I certainly do) but other than that it is a clear step ahead of all of the competition right now. That’s referring entirely to the US markets, of course, which may be a good reason that they have decided to update the Paperwhite firmware with some specific comic-related improvements in mind.
On a November 8th release, the new software improvements were made available for download. If you have a Paperwhite and haven’t gotten everything automatically delivered to your device at this point, check out the side-loading instructions located here.
Foremost in the advertised improvements is the list of optimized fonts. Palatino, Baskerville, and Futura have all been made sharper and smoother. It’s a small thing in many ways, but the change will stand out for anybody who prefers to use these fonts regularly.
The ability to remove Recommended Content from your Paperwhite’s home screen is now also included. This has become a point of annoyance for many users, but the ability to remove this particular advertising stream was added not long ago to new Kindle Fire models and was inevitable here as well. A more interesting update would have been producing the same stream for older models on demand, honestly.
The settings menu has been brought to the front of things a bit more as well. You can now jump straight into this menu directly from the menu while reading a book with no need to return to the home screen.
Perhaps most importantly, given the recent push into Japan, is the improved manga/comic display capability. A new Fit-to-Screen option will stretch images to fill the entire screen, addressing many situations where small panels were practically unreadable previously.
The Paperwhite is also now able to retain a manga/comic specific setting for page refresh preferences that is completely separate from the same options for book reading. This makes it easier to choose the proper setting to maximize both battery life and reading quality in two areas with distinctly different visual representation needs.
In preparation for a move beyond Japan into China, Simplified Chinese is now included as a font option. It’s a small note now, but could be vital in the long run.
The only other really notable change is in book samples. When picking up the full version of a given book after reading the sample you will now start off at the last position accessed in the sample. The sample itself will be removed from the library. Organization will be greatly improved as a result for anybody who regularly samples their books.
Many of these updates are small things, but added together they make for a great update. There is more than can and likely will be done to improve things, especially with regard to comic-reading. Now that we’re seeing a much bigger effort to get graphic storytelling into the Kindle marketplace, however, it’s safe to assume that a wider audience will demand attention and genre-specific features that will quickly optimize the eReaders as best a black and white display can be optimized.
Having used the Kindle Keyboard for quite some time and enjoyed it to the point of returning my Kindle Touch when it didn’t quite meet the same standards (it was fine and had its own perks, but wasn’t as strong in some of the areas I cared about), I didn’t jump on the Paperwhite when it was first available. I’ve played with it enough to know what I’m talking about in various capacities, but only recently have I picked up my own. Aside from one small complaint, it’s exactly what I was hoping it would be.
The contrast of the Kindle Keyboard was pretty much ideal for me. It created the experience of reading an old, familiar paperback. The new screen was troubling at first because the contrast was actually too extreme. I would say that it more or less resembles a newer high-gloss trade paperback. Not my favorite presentation, but it was very simple to get used to and quickly became a non-issue. All the other benefits of E Ink displays were naturally still around.
The Paperwhite’s signature feature is obviously the front-lighting technology. It was definitely an improvement over the Nook Simpletouch w/ Glowlight. The light was more evenly distributed and brighter without creating a greater drain on battery life. The issues with banding on the bottom of the display are not exaggerated necessarily, but they also have little effect on reading. I found it somewhat annoying to have trouble seeing the progress bar at some points when reading in complete darkness, but the dark areas are still readable and don’t tend to extend into the text in any meaningful way.
The overall experience beyond simply the screen is also worth noting. The loss of 1.2 ounces compared to the Kindle Keyboard makes a small difference overall, but I could see it being meaningful over long reading sessions for some people. As a reader used to holding the old model for hours at a time, it didn’t stand out as particularly useful (especially if you’re using a case anyway) but the reduction was still big enough to note.
The “Time to Read” meter is better than expected. It comes up with an accurate measure of your reading pace after a few minutes, basically enough time to fall into a measured pattern, and generally gets things right from there. Obviously it can’t account for breaks and distractions, but how could it?
If you’re in the market for a new eReader, the Paperwhite is the only real option at the moment. Nothing else comes close to offering the same quality.
Is it enough to consider going out of the way to upgrade from a previous model? Under most circumstances I would say yes. The only really obnoxious shortcoming the device has is a lack of physical page turn buttons. In every other way it’s a functional upgrade. For me, the weight of the accumulated features made the Paperwhite an appealing option, but it isn’t at all unreasonable to consider that a make or break factor. If you can, give it a try and find out for yourself.
While DC Entertainment is insisting that the move is not necessarily a switch away from Comixology, the publisher has now made the transition to offering its weekly content directly through the Kindle, Nook, and iBooks stores. There is now very little reason to expect anybody to continue using the Comixology apps given that their main selling point was exclusive access to DC content.
This change in distribution model comes at a time when digital distribution is up nearly 200% over 2011’s numbers. For comparison, DC has stated that their physical volume sales are up just 12%. Given the already comparatively strong sales of the weekly comics in question it is a lot simpler to increase the audience for digital content by an impressive percentage, but this also comes at a time when many publishers are seeing digital distribution begin to overwhelm their traditional sales market.
The plan for rollout is essentially what you would expect. The new titles, especially those that are part of DC’s “New 52” franchise reboot, will be available immediately as they are released. Over an as-yet undetermined period of time they will begin issuing the back catalogue. A DC spokesperson claimed that the only real reason that it would take some time to get to content that wasn’t brand new was the limitation of bandwidth. The more interest digital content generates, the faster they will get the whole library converted and available through the various stores.
While there is not yet any way to get the DC catalogue in a readable format for a black and white eReader like the Kindle Paperwhite it is possible that this situation may change in the not too distant future. Representatives of the company are interested in the idea of making their content available to eReader owners and see little reason for that to be prevented if a positive experience with black and white reading can be confirmed. Senior VP of Digital for DC Hank Kanalz went so far as to explain his position:
“We’re taking a look at whether we like how it looks in the black-and-white space. My attitude is that if you’re stuck on a train, and you only have your Paperwhite or other black-and-white device, you can read it then and see it in color later”
This should go a long way toward both increasing interest in digital comic distribution and proving that an online distribution model will work for such a large publisher of graphic storytelling. Seventy titles are already present in the Kindle Store and more will be around soon. Perhaps it’s a matter of personal opinion, but I doubt there will be much concern over the end of Comixology’s reign when it comes to comic content being served to Kindle Fire owners. It’s only a matter of time now before everybody else catches on.
The Kindle Paperwhite is a big step forward for its whole product line. It provides a way for the user to read a book in a dark room without providing their own external light or straining their eyes. That’s something people have been hoping for out of eReaders since the day they started hitting shelves. It’s probably to be expected that the response has been enthusiastic. Even Amazon appears to be surprised by how enthusiastic people are getting, though.
While it’s only the beginning of November, we have already seen Kindle Paperwhite shipping dates slip back twice. First they were pushed back to the beginning of December and now as I’m writing this they are set for the week of December 17th.
The most popular reading device on the market experienced such a surge of consumer interest that Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer and producer of the previous millions of Kindles sold, was taken by surprise and left unable to ship promptly. That’s good news for fans of the Kindle and great news for eReaders in general, somewhat putting to rest the recurring speculation that it’s a market on the way out due to competition from tablets.
Unfortunately, it also calls into question Amazon’s ability to meet holiday sales demands. While their track record indicates that there’s a good chance many of those orders will ship well before the 17th of December, that date wouldn’t be on display if they could guarantee things sooner. If we’re already pushing orders back until a week before Christmas with seven weeks to go before the holiday, Amazon will have to be producing to exceed current high demand levels. Nobody really believes that demand will drop abruptly before the end of the year at this point.
A month is a long time to get production sped up. Maybe it’s premature to be talking about this. The fact that the orders put in today are being set back so far is strange, though. If you’re hoping to make the new Kindle a big stocking stuffer for your family and friends, it might be best to get a jump on shopping. At this point I think the best we can hope for is last minute deliveries and nobody likes gambling on FedEx and UPS being prompt at that time of year.
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.
One of the questions I’ve been asked frequently lately is what the point of a Kindle eReader could possibly be now that it’s lit up. Obviously this has been addressed before, but maybe it’s worth going over again now that the Kindle Paperwhite finally pulls off a positive reading experience that includes a light.
First off, the main attraction of the Paperwhite is that it retains the E Ink display’s advantages while still allowing the user to read in the dark. Unlike the LCD you’re likely to find on a tablet, including the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD, the lighting used in the new eReader is not coming from behind the screen. Instead it is reflected through a layer on top of the print which spreads illumination evenly from the lights on the bottom of the screen. Many people, perhaps even most, find that this causes significantly less eye strain during extended periods of reading because the light is not being directed outward at the eyes.
The E Ink screen underlying this lighting layer is not your typical display either. E Ink has been around for a while, but since I still get some questions it is worth explaining.
The premise is simple enough. Each pixel on your Kindle’s monochrome screen has two settings. It can be either dark or light. This state is only changed when there is reason to change it. This means that unlike constantly refreshing displays like the monitor you are likely reading this on, the Kindle’s E Ink uses practically no power. It also reflects light much like paper does, which helps provide a pleasant reading experience.
There are downsides to just about anything, of course. E Ink eReaders in general are known for showing a flicker each time a page is turned. This relates to the same behavior that provides these devices with such amazing battery life.
Remember that the screen only refreshed when needed, so it clears the current selection this way before putting up the next page. The flicker has gone from a 1-2 second annoyance in early eReaders to a barely noticeable flicker that takes a fraction of the time turning a physical page would on the Kindle Paperwhite, but it does still exist.
Specific to the Kindle Paperwhite and Nook Simple Touch w/ Glowlight is the problem of uneven lighting. While not nearly as obvious as the Nook’s, the Kindle Paperwhite’s lights are visible at the bottom of the display in some situations. This is especially easy to spot when holding the Kindle at extreme angles or when reading with the light turned up particularly high in a poorly lit room. Few people seem to be troubled enough for this to be a major problem, but it is common enough to be worth noting. In certain situations the lighting will not be 100% evenly distributed.
Overall, the advantages of the Kindle Paperwhite are basically the same as those the Kindle has enjoyed over tablets all along. It costs less than a tablet, doesn’t use a light source that is hard on the eyes, runs for weeks at a time without charging even when being used regularly, and provides a better overall reading experience. While it isn’t nearly as bad to read on a tablet as it used to be, the Kindle Paperwhite is highly recommended for anybody who reads frequently or for extended periods of time.
The Kindle Paperwhite is reclaiming the top of the e-ink reader market with positive early reviews.
The Kindle Paperwhite is Amazon’s newest generation Kindle that includes front-lit lighting designed to enable readers to read at night, or in darker settings without eyestrain.
Notable improvements over predecessors
The e-ink quality is better, leading to sharper text and images.
The screen is designed to create a reading experience closer to that of reading print books. This was the original goal when Amazon first developed the Kindle. The touch screen isn’t as sensitive. The Kindle Touch would skip chapters or pages sometimes if I so much as breathed on it.
The device itself is smaller, more streamlined, and includes a grip back cover similar to the Kindle Fire.
Then, last but not least, there is the built in light, designed to spread evenly across the screen and give off a cool ambiance that does not hurt the eyes.
The Audio Controversy
Not including audio is mostly an author or publisher issue. It knocks out consumers who rely on audio to read. For example, readers who are blind, or others who just prefer audiobooks over text-based books.
While it isn’t an issue with the majority of readers, including audio is a good feature to work on for future software updates or Kindle generations if Amazon really wants to reach out to the broadest audience possible.
Here’s what reviewers are saying about the Kindle Paperwhite
“I’ve been very impressed with my new Kindle. The screen and light are absolutely gorgeous and the page turns are much faster than my old Kindle Touch. Although I know that it isn’t heavier than the last version it someone feels more substantial and solid than the older version. I am a little disappointed1111111111111 that they took away audio capabilities, but I rarely used that anyway. Overall a fantastic upgrade that I know will keep me reading!”
“Its amazing. It actually looks like a real white paper with black ink text. I have used Sony eBook reader, nook touch and older kindles in the past, but the dull gray screen was something which always made eBooks inferior to a real paper book. No more. In my opinion, this is a quantum leap!”
Out of this year’s Kindle lineup, I am the most excited about the Kindle Paperwhite.
Other than the light, it looks just like the traditional e-ink Kindle that is compact and easy to carry around in your purse or bag.
The front-lit screen is the major draw for me. I am a voracious reader, and often wish I could read my Kindle in situations where it is dark, like night time car rides, etc.
It will be interesting to see how this new lighted Kindle will impact the book lights that are currently out on the market. My best guess is that they’ll hold their own for awhile since so many people still own the older models or the basic Kindle.
The other major reason is a much needed upgrade for the touchscreen technology. The Kindle Touch had issues with trails from previous pages. The text is crisp, but it could use a tune up.
A few more notable features include:
- Two month battery life even with the light, which is impressive considering most LCD tablets and phones are battery hogs
- Time to read feature that measures your reading speed and lets you know when you’ll finish reading a chapter
- Better pixel resolution and sharper contrast
- New, hand-tuned fonts
The complete list of features can be found on Amazon. The Kindle Paperwhite comes with or without Special Offers. It also comes in a 3G or Wi-Fi only model.
After light, there is only one major upgrade: color. At least, that we can think of. Technology changes almost daily. Next year perhaps? I would like to see a tablet that can use both LCD and e-ink, or something that fulfills the purposes of each. That way, I wouldn’t have to tote a bunch of difference devices around.
The Kindle Paperwhite ships October 22nd just in time for the holiday shopping season and should give the Nook Glowlight a run for its money.
As 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.