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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 2016
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Can Microsoft Surface Inspire Kindle Interface Enhancement?

The introduction of eReaders into the portable electronics world immediately led to prophetic statements declaring them irrelevant in a world that already had access to tablets.  The Kindle vs iPad debate was long and monotonous, but over time people have generally come to accept that there is a distinction between the two types of device.  While most tablet functions would be more or less ridiculous to add to a dedicated reading device like the Kindle, however, Microsoft’s upcoming Surface tablet has introduced a useful concept that may have important implications for the future of electronic reading devices.

The Surface will incorporate technology that separates general touch recognition from stylus recognition, making it possible to take notes conveniently on the screen of the tablet without having to worry about where your fingers are positioned.  As anybody who tries to write naturally on a tablet for the first time will likely be immediately aware, it can be quite difficult to manage without either setting the device down or letting a thumb wrap around onto the screen.

Amazon has already done something great for Kindle users with Whispernet.  Having all of your annotations saved, along with bookmarks, page position, and so on, regardless of where you are loading your content from allows the Kindle platform to be device independent and convenient for just about anybody.  Unfortunately, taking notes on an actual Kindle eReader is a huge inconvenience.  Even with the keyboard provided by the Kindle Keyboard (or the virtual one on the Kindle Touch), it’s a slow and annoying process that will usually result in there being few such notes taken.

While it would definitely mean a slightly higher production cost, and would probably require a greater expense as far as data transfer and storage in concerned due to the increase in use, Amazon would be wise to adopt a similar option in their next Kindle upgrade.

The last remaining hurdle for eReaders at this point is their inability to match the convenience of paper books when it comes to direct interaction.  Annotation is part of that.  This would not make it any easier to flip rapidly from place to place in your favorite book, but that is not a sensation that can be replicated on a screen.  The pleasure of making one’s own contribution to a personal copy of a book is far simpler to bring to the new medium.

There is no indication that Amazon is going to make this sort of change.  This is merely speculation about what could eventually become a major selling point.  Until color E Ink style screens advance to the point where they are worth integrating, there isn’t a lot that can be done to make the Kindle a better reading tool.  The screen is already offering basically the same reading experience that you get from paper.  It’s not easy to find ways to make paper replication an exciting new thing once you reach this level of sophistication.  Improved writing inputs could be just what the Kindle needs in that respect.

Microsoft Surface Tablet Isn’t Kindle Competition Exactly, But…

Ok, so as much as the Microsoft tablet announcement seemed potentially poised to do something even more unsettling to the small tablet market than Amazon’s $199 Kindle Fire pricing could accomplish, the danger has mostly passed.  There is no way that either of the versions of Microsoft’s new Surface tablet are going to be priced comparably to consumption-specific tablets any time soon.

They do bring a few things to the table that might make people think twice about bringing anything else into an academic situation, though.  That could be bad news for the Kindle given Amazon’s emphasis on academic applications for their devices.  While many students couldn’t afford something like an iPad in addition to their computer, a tablet like the Surface has the potential to let students do without a computer while still retaining much of the functionality of a Kindle Fire type of device.

Looking specifically at the ARM-driven Windows RT model, which will be the first to become available, there are really interesting things going on.  No, it will not have anything approximating an E Ink display, but it will come with a 10.6” HD screen.  That’s going to make a big difference for everything from movie viewing to game playing.

On top of that, the device integrates two digitizers.  One of those handles normal touch behavior while the other is specific to stylus contact.  In the event you are writing with a stylus, the Surface knows to ignore your fingers so that you can write naturally.  This will be huge for everything from in-text annotation to general note taking.  Comfortable one-handed scribbling on the go might finally be possible on a tablet.

For media, the Microsoft tablet will have outputs so that you can put your video on an HDTV or monitor as desired.  This was an important enough feature that they practically opened the reveal by talking about how there would be a Netflix app available at launch.  It is also something that the Kindle Fire has definitely been missing.

It will, as always, come down to price.  Right now we know nothing besides that the Surface for Windows RT will be priced close to comparable ARM tablet alternatives.  That probably means that it will run at least $400.  In that case, Amazon has little to worry about among their primary customers.

The biggest concern is going to be when Amazon reveals their new Kindle Fire later this year.  A 10.1” Kindle Fire would be nice, but if it doesn’t significantly undercut both the iPad 2 and the Surface then there will be trouble.  I love the tight integration that Amazon has given their tablet, but when you have something that is literally intended to be a complete PC you don’t need that.

The best we can hope for is that Amazon will stick to their undercutting strategy and market the newer, larger model of the Kindle Fire for something like $250 to maintain its position as a valid alternative for the consumer on a budget.