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On e-Reader Tech News we track down the latest e-Reader 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 e-reader tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest devices and accessories.

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February 2017
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Amazon Brings HBO GO to Kindle Fire

Beginning immediately, Kindle Fire owners are able to take advantage of the new HBO GO app.  This app, downloadable from the Amazon Appstore for Android, lets HBO subscribers watch their favorite content on demand right from their Kindle.  This means immediate access to, among other things, over 1,400 episodes of HBO’s original content.

You’ll find a lot of that content already available through Amazon’s Instant Video store, but how likely is anybody to pay the $2.99 per episode they’re asking for Game of Thrones at the moment even if DVDs aren’t available?  Chances are good that if you’re really excited about these shows then you already have an HBO subscription and as such will incur no extra charges when bringing your Kindle Fire out as a viewing option.

Amazon has invested a lot of time into making their video selection competitive.  The Instant Video service has gone from somewhat helpful at best to being a genuinely persuasive reason to consider Amazon Prime.  The fact that the Kindle Fire offers convenient direct access to these videos is a large part of why the device was so important to Amazon’s efforts.  After the Kindle eReader took off so strongly they were naturally after a way to turn that model around for other forms of media.

Some people were genuinely worried that Amazon’s emphasis on selling video content and Amazon Prime subscriptions would lead them to exclude other providers to varying degrees.  This is even more of a concern now that they keep expanding.  One of these days there might even be real competition with services like Netflix.  It’s good to see that Amazon’s interest in being a part of the digital video business isn’t so important to them that they would make it difficult for apps like this one to get to customers.

Subscribers will be able to create their own Watchlists to keep track of things.  You also get to mark your favorite shows so that your Watchlist is immediately updated with new episodes as they become available.  From what I can tell, this content is out for streaming almost immediately upon airing, so it makes a lot of sense for those of us unlikely to schedule around weekly TV viewing rituals.

There will also be access to bonus content.  Viewers will be able to pull up behind the scenes extras, interviews with cast and crew, recaps of prior episodes to keep you up to date, and the usual DVR-style interface that we have come to expect.  As in most cases like this, if you are viewing a video on one device and have to stop for whatever reason you can pick up where you left off later regardless of whether you are still on that same device.

HBO still carries a subscription outside of anything related to the Kindle Fire.  This is a great deal if you already have that subscription.  If not, chances are good that this will not be quite enough to push you over the edge into buying.  It’s a neat app and HBO shows are some of the best in production right now by any measure.  That should be your deciding factor.  The Kindle Fire access is just a hugely convenient bonus.

Amazon on Netflix: No Monthly Instant Video Service Planned For Immediate Future

Since just before the official announcement of the Kindle Fire, and clearly in preparation for the anticipated release, Amazon has been making efforts to beef up their Amazon Instant Video selection.  Many of these new acquisitions have even been made part of the Prime Instant Videos library, which allows customers subscribing annually to the Amazon Prime service to stream available content to any compatible device whenever they want with no additional purchase necessary.  More than anything, this is the reason that new Kindle Fire owners find themselves enjoying a month of free Amazon Prime membership.  It works well to get potential subscribers hooked.  More and more, however, people have been viewing the ever-expanding collection of titles as a direct assault on Netflix.

As the most popular video streaming service on the internet today, Netflix caters to over 24 million subscribers and accounted for about a third of all internet bandwidth being used as of last fall.  They have had some issues recently after mishandling the publicizing of rate hikes necessitated by expiring streaming rights deals as well as a poorly thought out attempt to split the company into two separate entities specializing in only one aspect of the physical media and digital video combination that customers have come to expect, but subscriptions have since rebounded and there is little sign that they are in immediate danger.

When Netflix CEO Reed Hastings mentioned in a letter to shareholders that he is expecting Amazon to start breaking the Instant Video service away from Amazon Prime in favor of a monthly model more analogous to what Netflix is known for, it was finally enough to elicit comment from Amazon.  Brad Beale, the Head of Video Acquisition for Amazon, made clear in a recent interview that it is not the intent of the company to change the way they’re handling things in the near future.  He seems to have avoided implying that this was something that would never happen, but at least for the moment Netflix is safe.

The logic behind the decision is sound.  Amazon Prime is already less expensive than even the cheapest Netflix subscription.  The video content you get with it is not nearly as extensive at this point as what Netflix offers, but nobody claims that it is.  By subscribing to Amazon’s service though, even if your goal is just to take advantage of the Kindle Fire’s integration with Amazon services, customers also get free 2-day shipping on anything Amazon sells.  The video streaming might not be the biggest money maker in the world, but the associated shipping benefit has a tendency to make impulse purchasing far more appealing.  This translates into more regular profits as well as customer loyalty.

Compared to that, it is hard to imagine a huge desire on Amazon’s part to start attacking Netflix on their own terms.  For the moment, at least, video distribution appears to remain a relatively small part of the company.  The Kindle Fire is obviously meant to change that and it does a good job of showing off the content, but the day when physical goods are less important to the company than digital sales has yet to arrive.

Kindle Fire & Nook Tablet Video Focus Brings Android Attention

It was known well ahead of the official announcement for the device ever took place that the Kindle Fire would be intended for video more than anything else.  Perhaps due to that pressure and perhaps just as part of an overall trend in the market, the Nook Tablet was designed along similar lines.  While this doesn’t necessarily mean much on its own, it spurred along at least one other development that might mean a great deal more attention for the Android community as a whole.

Amazon’s intent to promote their own streaming video service is clear.  Their library has been growing quickly over time, including many titles being given away “free” with Amazon Prime.  This is naturally something of a concern for a company like Netflix that is suddenly faced with competition from somebody as big as Amazon.  Although Netflix has not commented on it, something definitely spurred them along to push forward their new tablet app upgrade for Android weeks or months ahead of iOS.

The Nook Tablet practically relies on Netflix and other streaming services to function, all the more so because Barnes & Noble currently offers nothing analogous to Amazon’s video services.  They also began advertising a uniquely deep connection with Netflix immediately following the reveal.  As Kindle Fire owners have likely noticed by now, the Netflix app in the Amazon App Store isn’t exactly lacking either.  They went for the maximum possible audience with this update and it seems likely to take.

The implications here go beyond benefits for owners of these new 7″ tablets, however nice those are to have.  This is one of the first times that the Android platform has received special attention ahead of the iOS equivalent.  That sort of thing does not happen without a fair degree of confidence in the potential profitability. If the Kindle Fire alone, or even the collection group of it and all of the competing $200 tablets springing up from companies like B&N and Kobo, is considered important enough to be prioritized ahead of the market dominating iPad then it could easily be a sign that tides are changing.

Part of the bar to Android’s widespread adoption in tablets has been the fact that quality development tends to get prioritized for the competition.  Whether you blame it on the fragmentation of the ecosystem due to frequent non-mandatory upgrades, lack of faith in Google’s offering as a whole, or the lack of a truly major name product to line up behind, the situation has now changed. With luck, this will build up some momentum.

While I have nothing against Apple or the iPad, some heated competition would go a long way toward not only improving their product but creating some genuinely functional alternatives.  The strength of iOS that everybody else lacks isn’t the iPad’s hardware or aesthetic.  Its main virtue is the functionality that primarily comes from the Apple App Store.  Neither the Kindle Fire nor the Amazon App Store is a match for Apple.  It isn’t likely that a single company or product will be any time soon.  What it does do is get the ball rolling, so to speak.

Amazon Expands Prime Video Offerings For Kindle Fire Release With PBS Deal

While it does other things as well, in a lot of ways the Kindle Fire seems to be intended to do for internet video what the Kindle eReader line has done for the eBook.  While Amazon hasn’t quite got the content of, say, Netflix, they’re doing a great job of building up the lists in preparation for the launch of the new media tablet.  Deals have been made with the likes of Fox, CBS, and others to offer a selection that will cater to practically any taste.  The big trick is to get people interested in buying.

In order to ease customers into the experience, new Kindle Fire owners will be getting a month of free Amazon Prime membership.  Now, in addition to the well known benefit of free two day shipping on almost anything Amazon.com sells for the duration of a Prime membership, everybody with said membership get to stream a fairly large segment of the Amazon Instant Video library for free any time they want to.  It isn’t the whole collection by any means, but there’s been some good stuff there.

Now there is even more.  Amazon has arranged to make a large selection of popular PBS titles available as part of the Prime package.  This will include Frontline, Antiques Roadshow, Julia Child’s The French Chef, and a great deal more.  All told, over 1,000 new episodes will show up over the next couple months, bringing the general total of this free streaming category to over 12,000.  PBS has declared that this is part of a larger overall strategy to bring their programming to anybody who wants it whenever and wherever they want to experience it.

Obviously this works out well for customers.  Freely available content is nice and it will give people a chance to assess the value of the Amazon Prime program on an individual basis.  For Amazon it’s even more useful since it gives them an opportunity to impress. They’re reportedly selling the Kindle Fire for a slight loss on every unit, which means that money has to be made through other avenues besides hardware.  Amazon Prime membership is one of those.  This means that the company has every incentive to make the service worth the $79 annual fee.  As most people who have used this service come to realize, it tends to be.  It also lets people test out their own situation with streaming video in terms of connectivity and reliability.  Nobody wants to be stuck spending money on video without knowing if they will actually be able to watch it.  The trial is good news for all involved.

It’s likely this won’t be the last we hear about expanded video content in the next few months.  That includes both Prime and regular content, of course, but the service is clearly poised to expand.  With the recent dissatisfaction with Internet Streaming giant Netflix, it’s a good time to be presenting customers with an alternative opportunity.  If you’re a fan of this sort of technology, it’s something to keep an eye on around and immediately following the Kindle Fire launch.