Since the launch of the very first Kindle eReader, the persistent and constantly repeated complaint has been that it lacks color. Everything else that began problematically, from screen refresh time to clunky controls, has been addressed in later iterations of the Kindle line. Sadly, you just can’t do much yet in terms of color without sacrificing the E Ink screen. Barnes & Noble managed to effectively market their Nook Color for over a year on nothing more than the ability to overcome this limitation (regardless of the resultant shortcomings of their device) and it was inevitable that it be a big issue in terms of Kindle Fire reviewing, no matter how much Amazon might prefer to focus on other things.
How big a deal could this possibly be, though? Upon closer inspection, more than I thought. The obvious example that most people jump to for their color reading needs is the magazine. Let’s simply disregard that one for the time being, though. It involves a slightly different pricing model since only the newest issue of a given publication is likely to be in demand, shortening the life of each installment to a month or so in many cases. I would love to comment but, without a better understanding of how the advertising model generally makes the transition to the sort of device that has the potential to simply block out images with a few tweaks, I simply don’t feel qualified at the moment.
We can definitely consider general book sales, though. Assume that the majority of book sales are fiction. Particularly Romance novels, I’m told. Not too much need for color illustration in those, for the most part. That does not mean that non-fiction is a negligible area, however. Self Help and History are two of the most impressive genres of the past few years in terms of sales. Both of them, in their own way can benefit from the inclusion of color.
While this is definitely important, though, it’s difficult to believe that it will really be a major factor moving into the next round of Kindle vs Nook competition. Barnes & Noble’s book focus is completely understandable. It only makes sense to do what you know best and they simply don’t have the structure in place to handle much else. Amazon has already moved past that, adding competing capabilities and book selections almost in passing, and brought the emphasis around to video.
The Kindle Fire might not be a match for the iPad when it comes to hardware, but Amazon is building up their whole digital presence to the point of rivaling Apple’s more established one. The book emphasis only made sense as long as the limitations of the device being sold restricted use to that media. The future will be an overall digital experience. Sure magazines and color reading will be a part of it, but on their own the effect just doesn’t seem likely to be big enough to matter. There are rumors of a Nook Tablet video store on the horizon, as well as a push to increase the app content for that line of devices. That’s likely to make a far bigger difference.