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.
In most of the ways that matter we can safely say that the eBook war is over. Owning a Kindle is no longer strange or a sign that one is obsessed with gadgets. Where does all this lead, though? In many ways there is nowhere left to go for these devices, or at least nowhere obvious, and while they will certainly persist in at least as advanced a form as they have already achieved there is the question of how much room for growth the eReader market will eventually have.
I bring this up because of reliability issues in eReading devices. Unlike most electronics that I have owned, my worry here is that they tend to be overly reliable. I have owned a handful of such devices since my first in 2006. That one, a Sony Reader PRS-500, still works as well as the day I bought it. The battery was a little worse for wear after sitting for six months in a closet, but the screen is fine. The same is true of every other example I have on hand.
Until now, upgrading was a matter of often drastic improvements in screen contrast and refresh rate. Five minutes on a first generation Kindle will have you tearing your hair out if you’re used to using a Kindle Keyboard. With E Ink Pearl displays we have hit a point where you are basically looking at paper. Thanks to the Nook Simple Touch w/ GlowLight, and soon its anticipated Kindle counterpart, we are able to read in the dark without trouble.
Short of introducing color and non-perceivable screen refreshes there is not a lot of room to grow. If anybody manages to figure out both of those without introducing severe downsides like battery life reduction then chances are good that the displays will be more useful on tablets anyway and the dedicated eReader will remain a niche purchase.
If we have a product that will not likely see much in the way of hardware improvement beyond the next generation or two, especially one that can last as long as a Kindle, it could cause rather lower sales rates than one expects in consumer electronics. The newest eReader I own has already outlasted the newest laptop I own despite having seen ten times the use. Looking purely at the hardware side of my purchasing pattern would give the wrong idea about my preferences as a consumer.
Essentially, I’m wondering how long the idea that the hardware and media sides of the Kindle business model can be kept even nominally separate. There may come a time when stagnant growth for the line is not the sign of problems.
I don’t doubt that eReaders in general and the Kindle in particular will continue to be updated. If nothing else, there are parts besides the screens that will need to be updated to keep up with new software features as time goes on. I only wonder how often people will feel the need to upgrade. It is hard to see huge performance improvement as a necessary factor when you’re talking about a device meant to emulate the experience of flipping over pieces of paper to see what’s on the other side.
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 recently read a couple of articles discussing the idea that the Kindle Fire has dipped into the sales of its e-ink counterparts, the Kindle and Kindle Touch. more
Well sure, this shouldn’t be too surprising, but there are other factors to consider as well.
First off, e-book prices have gone way up in the past year. Bestsellers used to be capped at $9.99. At that price, they were well below hardcovers, so I bought them all the time. Now they can be as high as $14.99. You can have a cheap e-reader to boot, but e-books with that high of a price makes the e-reader’s cheap price (almost) useless. I say almost because there are other options such as library lending, free or reduced priced books, or Kindle Daily Deals.
With the Kindle Fire, there are so many other options to choose from, which makes reading just one small component of what the device can do. You can surf the web, play games, watch videos, and the list goes on…
Another thing is that we’re in that usual slow first quarter sales slump that is sandwiched between the holiday rush and the slew of new product releases that start showing up in the spring.
Speaking of new product releases in relation to the e-ink Kindle. I will be interested to see if the rumored color e-ink is in the cards for the next e-ink Kindle refresh. If this does come to be, then it will give the e-ink models a much needed jump start.
I love my Kindle Touch. It is extremely portable, and allows me to enlarge the font to a comfortable size. But I have been using it less and less because of the rising e-book prices. I hope that one day soon, my local library will carry more bestsellers for the Kindle, and I also hope that a deal can be worked out to make e-book prices more reasonable.
By producing the Kindle Fire, Amazon has shown that it is willing to move out of the realm of traditional e-readers to compete in the tablet market. This ability to innovate will be key to their success in the long run in terms of future e-readers and tablets.
I got tricked by Amazon and thought the release date for the Kindle Touch was November 21 so I had mine sent to my parents’ house since I would be there for the holidays. I am just now getting to try out my new Kindle first hand, and very pleased with it so far.
As many know, the Kindle Touch was released a week early along with the Kindle Fire. Both hit the market at rock bottom prices, and well before Black Friday. That gave developers time to create apps and games for the e-reader and tablet. Reviews are good for both overall.
The Kindle Touch‘s screen has a glow like quality to it. At first I thought it might glow in the dark, but it doesn’t. It is just the big upgrade in screen quality and e-ink quality between the Kindle 2 and Kindle Touch. I decided to skip the Kindle 3 generation because when it came out, my Kindle 2 was barely 6 months old.
So far, I’m loving the compact size of the Touch, the crisp screen, and the grip on the back. My Kindle 2 seems incredibly clunky now especially because of the keyboard. The touch screen on the new Kindle works great, and I’m able to turn pages with ease. I’ve already finished one book, and adjusted the font size to where I could read it without straining my eyes.
I noticed a comment in another post about the Kindle Touch on this blog that made a good point. The Easy Reach software makes it easy to tap and move to the next page, but it can be a challenge for lefties. I am left handed, and do see that it is a little more challenging to turn pages. Amazon could probably add a next page tap on the left side like they did with the buttons in the past. That is really the only criticism I have so far.
I can hold the whole Kindle in one hand. It is about 3/4 the size of my Kindle 2. It is amazing how quickly technology can change in just two short years!
I chose the wi-fi only with special offers version, so I am also getting used to not having 3G available on a whim. It isn’t too much of a hindrance because I can access a wi-fi hotspot just about anywhere. Even if I don’t have wi-fi, I can use the USB to connect my Kindle to the computer and download the book files that way.
So, I give the Kindle Touch a thumbs up, and recommend it for anyone looking to upgrade or try a Kindle for the first time. I am a hard core reader, and I can see the e-reader holding it’s own for the foreseeable future. E-readers have the look and feel of a regular book. To me, they don’t fit in the same category as computers, tablets and smartphones. I don’t find myself looking for a break from my Kindle like I do the other gadgets.
A combination of the high expectations surrounding the upcoming Amazon Kindle Tablet and the lack of substantial information regarding the expected hardware update to the existing Kindle eReader line has led to some speculation about secretly substantial change being just around the corner for the bestselling eReading device. Domain name acquisitions have pushed some people into a belief in the importance of a touchscreen for the Kindle, but more ambitious sources are holding out hope for a truly impressive jump forward. Wouldn’t having the first affordable Color E INK eReader be quite the coup for Amazon, after all? It would certainly make the Nook Simple Touch a bit less shiny by comparison.
Still, and I say this with nothing but regret, there is next to no chance that we will be getting a true Kindle Color any time soon. Sure the Kindle Tablet will have the ability to read, but only in the same way that the Nook Color or your average smartphone can technically be an eReader if the user so desires. Until screen technology advances a bit further, nobody is likely to want to gamble on a good color reading display.
The problem right now is the tradeoffs. To make a Kindle Color worthwhile, Amazon would need to have a vibrant color display that didn’t detract from the existing touted benefits of the Kindle’s display. That means you can’t have a back-light, high battery draw, or less than crisp text. Nothing currently being produced meets all those criteria while still being affordable enough to keep things competitive. If they did, the Kindle Tablet would be looking at such a screen and would have a significant advantage over every other Tablet PC on sale today.
Naturally something has to give. The Kindle device is going strong at the moment, but that’s mostly sue to a combination of momentum and strong backing from the platform as a whole. If the hardware faces too much competition that can match or surpass it, Kindle sales and by extension Kindle eBook sales will suffer. Amazon has to know this. As such, I would say that getting your hopes up for an updated Kindle is totally safe.
What can we expect if not a color screen? Well, a touchscreen is inevitable to match the competition from B&N, Sony, and Kobo, if nothing else. Given the Kindle Scribe rumors, it wouldn’t be at all shocking if a stylus were included in the design. Since nobody else is using 3G coverage Amazon could technically let that slip, but the recent ad deal with AT&T would seem to indicate that they value the ability to bring that sort of thing to customers. Beyond these things, however, it’s anybody’s guess. Higher resolution screens? Bluetooth? Strange magical powers? All possibilities!
Current speculation places the updated Kindle‘s release in late October, but that information is several weeks old now. Given the most recent Kindle Tablet developments, and the fact that Amazon is likely to emphasize the new branch of Kindle products heavily for this holiday season, we may not be seeing new Kindles before late November. More updates will show up here as we dig them up.
There’s been talk of the potential for Kindle vs iPad conflict since months before the latter device was ever actually unleashed on the public. While I do believe that there was some degree of overlap between them for certain customers, the larger trend appears to have involved just grabbing both, if you’re going to get an iPad anyway. The Kindle is almost universally held to be the superior eReader, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the versatility of the iPad in any other way. Apparently Apple may have decided that this situation is less than satisfactory?
Recent reports of an Apple patent just recently made public have been causing a great deal of speculation about the future of this conflict. The proposed display would contain a standard(LCD or OLED) video layer underneath a form of electronic paper(similar to the Kindle’s E Ink display), with a touch interface on top. Perhaps the most interesting part of the proposition is that since the layers would be independent of each other and software controlled, it would be possible to operate both in tandem, in theory, to create an environment extremely conducive to web browsing and video-enhanced eBook reading without sacrificing the readability of the text itself. Thinking this through, however, I’m left wondering if it really addresses the shortcomings of the existing Apple tablet offerings with regard to reading.
I’m going to make the assumption that the electronic paper display that is noted in the patent’s design is somehow transparent when not in use. I’m sure that the technology for that is available, I was just still under the impression that it was not really ready yet. This would give the proposed design an “advantage” that many Kindle naysayers have been looking for for a long time: An E Ink-like screen with a back light. Of course, this also removes a major component of the readability improvement that is enjoyed with current eReaders. Even assuming that you could completely turn off the back light any time you wanted to, and I would definitely assume that this is an intended feature that nobody would think of leaving out, you would be left with text hovering on a transparent plane over a recessed background. Intuitively this seems awkward somehow.
My guess would be that this is meant more as a power-saving measure on potential future tablets than as a serious delving into eReading as a direct Kindle competitor. Think about an iPad with a week’s worth of battery life now that the screen doesn’t need to refresh large sections regularly unless the user demands it. That would be an impressive selling point. This would also address, though to what degree would depend on proper implementation, the complaints of readability in direct sunlight that the iPad has met with.
It remains to be seen what will actually happen, of course, and I’ve only touched on a handful of possibilities. For all I know, this could end up being an offshoot of the iPhone, a competitor for the Nook Color, or the greatest thing ever to happen to the eReading world. A patent just isn’t enough to go off of if you want definitive. Any move away from standard LCDs in portable devices with batteries is always going to get the benefit of the doubt from me, though.
It’s possible that this goes without saying, but the huge jump in sales of the Kindle has resulted in some major benefits for their screen producer, E Ink Holdings. E Ink, for those who are unfamiliar, is the company that currently drives the eReader market with its durable, low-power, highly readable displays, and is used on both Amazon’s offering as well as the original Barnes & Noble Nook.
Projections regarding E Ink Holdings are indicating that the company is likely to post better than expected profits for the fourth quarter of 2010, in spite of the fact that earlier estimates already placed them at a 60% improvement over the previous quarter. Overall, it’s been a good year for them, it seems.
Even better, for E Ink and for fans of eReaders in general, 2011 is looking like it will be anything but a plateau for the industry. Analysts are anticipating as many as 22 million sales this year, up from slightly fewer than 11 million in 2010. It only makes sense. Sales are up, prices are down, selections are only getting better, and people are starting to finally get over the idea that Tablet PCs will negatively affect the eReader market. E Ink themselves claim that one in ten consumers already have an eReading device, which is definitely a persuasive factor for many potential customers. A large user group, few of whom have complaints, means a reliable product, after all.
Moving forward with existing screen technology isn’t all that e Ink has going for them, either. Recently, especially since the introduction of the Nook Color, people are thinking that color displays on eReaders are just ever so slightly over the horizon. I’d tend to agree, personally. The offering along those lines from E Ink is their Triton display: a color active matrix display that uses the proven tech we know and love, adapted to show us thousands of entertaining color combinations.
This, assuming it takes off in the face of competition from other widely anticipated display products such as Mirasol’s product, will allow eReaders using the new display to take on things like textbooks, cook books, books for kids, and any number of other types of books traditionally relying on colorful illustration. Is anybody else looking forward to digital copies of Where’s Waldo? I know I am!
For now, the Kindle is doing amazingly with the E Ink Pearl screen technology and manages to stay consistently on top of the market. The screen clarity and contrast is unmatched, so far as I’ve experienced, and it lends itself to battery life that is almost too good to be believed compared to anything we’ve seen previously. Also, it doesn’t hurt that it’s a non-backlit option for reading which most (though yes, I know not all) people who give it a chance tend to appreciate. It’ll be fun to watch where things go from here, but it’s hard to deny that they earned the success they’ve gotten so far, or that things are looking up for the very near future.
The small business start up, Kakai has revealed plans for a dual screen device that will rival Kindle for the classroom. This article from Electronista provides a brief overview of the device. It is not a sure thing yet and it isn’t projected to be available for demonstrations for several months. It will be powered by the Linux operating system and feature LCD display instead of the e-ink technology that the Kindle uses. It is said to be both a notepad and e-reader in one with web access and easier textbook downloads. A notepad would be useful for students because it provides an easy way to take notes on the book they are studying.
Overall, the Linux operating system has been a computer techie’s domain because of its fully open source nature. It hasn’t really taken off in the mainstream consumer population. There really aren’t many programs compatible with the operating system at this time. However, it might be a totally different ballgame on an e-reader system.
The Kindle can be quite clunky at times with slow page turns and download speeds. However, the Kindle uses e-ink which supposedly does not cause eye strain like the LCD display does. So that will be an issue that will be interesting to watch in terms of whether it plays any factor in which device is better for educational purposes.
According to Andrew Nusca’s article on potential growth in the e-book market following the Apple iPad launch, “the average e-reader is 47 years old, makes 75,000 a year and reads two books per month.” This generation tends to associate reading with pleasure, and the lightweight, easy to navigate, Kindle 2 strives to meet those demands. Therefore, the e-ink technology that the Kindle uses is much more akin to reading a regular print book than any computer. The general consensus is that the e-ink technology is more comfortable for reading for longer periods of time. Can anyone picture curling up with an iPad at the beach?
The tablet market, which includes the Apple iPad , is geared towards younger, internet savvy users. The younger group tends to search the internet for smaller chunks of information such as articles, blogs or social networking sites. The average teen spends nearly a full time work week surfing and downloading media from the internet each week according to Nusca.
Another key factor for growth is price. Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, suggested that Amazon will lower the price of the Kindle to $149 according to an article from CNET News. That would distance the single purpose e-reader market from the multifunctional tablet market. So, in essence, its all about the marketing strategy.