New Amazon Kindles Coming This October?

In all of the speculation about the potential for a Kindle Tablet release later this year, few people have speculated much on the future of the Kindle itself.  Possibly we’re simply running out of good ideas to improve the device without causing a problem with the streamlined user experience?  Whatever the reason, we now have news that there are indeed two completely new Kindles on the way.  A recent Wall Street Journal article has indicated, based on sources familiar with the matter, that this October we can expect to be seeing both a newer, cheaper Kindle of the type we are already used to, and a Kindle with a touchscreen.

While at a glance the Kindle Touch, or whatever Amazon chooses to call it, seems to be a reaction to the incredibly popular new Nook Simple Touch, the timing makes that less of an issue.  October is also the anticipated release month for the first piece in the new Kindle Tablet line.  Many people have been wondering if this meant the death of the Kindle, either by way of abandonment in favor of the newer product, or simply by eroding the existing customer base by offering an affordable alternative that does more than can be handled by existing eReaders.  The latter is far-fetched, since customers have shown a distinct appreciation for dedicated reading devices so far and seem more inclined toward dual-ownership rather than abandonment of the Kindle in favor of any tablet.  The former was a concern, but by launching the new Kindles at the same time as the Kindle Tablet, Amazon has the opportunity to provide what I assume will be their first sub-$100 eReader, as well as a new more advanced model, and thereby reaffirm their commitment to providing a dedicated reading experience for their Kindle customers.

Assuming that Amazon can be counted on to take advantage of the time remaining before the release to address any remaining shortcomings in their design as compared to the competition, such as the Nook’s current superiority in terms of speed boosts and social networking integration, these new Kindles can’t really help but make a splash.  The move at least partially away from the physical keyboard will even leave open the potential for true localization of the newer model without retooling the hardware for every country they decide to open a Kindle Store in.  The fact that many expect the Kindle Tablet to come with a customized front end for the Amazon.com site that is geared toward optimized tablet shopping will almost certainly bode well for the new Kindle as well, should it prove true.

It isn’t going to be the color E Ink eReader that many people were, I think, hoping for.  It would just be too much of a shock to see the price of the Kindle’s newest model jump to accommodate the higher production costs of something like that.  That does not mean that the Kindle Tablet won’t pick up the ball as far as that demand is concerned, though.  Time will tell what needs Amazon has chosen to prioritize, but it is heartening to see that they won’t be letting eReading become a minor aspect of their bigger media distribution effort.

Kindle Tablet to Hit the Market in October

I haven’t seen an official Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) announcement yet, but according to the Wall Street Journal, the Kindle Tablet and two other Kindle upgrades are set to arrive in October.  The Kindle Tablet that has been under speculation for months will directly compete with the iPad, while a new touch version of the Kindle will compete with the Nook and Kobo Touch editions.

To be honest, in a matter of personal preference, I am more excited about the possibility of a touch version of the Kindle because I’m not a big fan of the keyboard.  Whenever this does get release, I’ll be ready to upgrade my Kindle.  The keys are way too small and somewhat difficult to press.  However, when the touch version does arrive, there will need to be some kind of audio enabled to make sure it is accessible for people with disabilities.

As for the tablet.  This is exciting news, but the iPad has a pretty solid hold on the tablet market, and is said to be successful on into the next year.  So, I think that it will be awhile before the Kindle Tablet will make a huge dent in iPad sales.  There are also a number of other tablets to choose from as well.  Although, I will say, a much cheaper Kindle Tablet might just give Amazon a good start in the tablet game, as will the well liked Android operating system.  I see the iPad to the tablet market as the Kindle is to the e-reader market.  They are both the inventors of their own niches, and were the only ones to hold their niches for a good length of time.

Lastly, there will be an upgrade on the current version of the Kindle.  It will be similar in structure, but include better features and a lower price.  Prices are dropping constantly.  Amazon just dropped the Kindle 3G Special Offers version from $164 to $139.  So, perhaps a $99 or less version of the Kindle is in the near future?  We can only hope!

Barnes & Noble e-Reader release possible in November

While release of international Kindle 2 may have been the biggest move by Amazon since Kindle was originally released on the November 19, 2007, it is going to face some serious competition this holiday season. According to Wall Street Journal, Barnes and Noble may start selling their own device as early as November.

The device will have:

  • 6 inch grayscale E-Ink screen
  • Touchscreen interface with virtual keyboard
  • 3G Wireless via AT&T to download eBooks from Barnes & Noble store

Amtek International Co filed the request for FCC approval on behalf of Barnes & Noble and the approval was given in September.

To me the Barnes&Noble device seems like Sony PRS-600 but with 3G wireless. And this just might make a huge difference and make the device competitive. I’ve been playing around with my PRS-600 and so far found touchscreen to be a mixed blessing. It’s hard to tell how it will be with B&N reader as it depends on the implementation. However with 3G wireless unless B&N will totally blow it will be a device comparable to Kindle. With iRex and Plastic Logic readers also compatible with their store consumers will have more choice in hardware and this can be an advantage for B&N as eBook vendor.

On the other hand Amazon is still several steps ahead of the competition with the recent international release of Kindle 2 as well as established hi-end Kindle DX product line.

It will be an interesting holiday season for eBook industry. Depending on how it plays out for all the companies involved it may shape the future of the whole market for the years to come.

I was about to publish this post when I came by a peculiar rumor leak at gizmodo: they claim that Barnes&Noble eReader will run Google’s Android OS. Personally I find it highly unlikely though definitely intriguing.

Plastic Logic eReader Update From All Things D

Yesterday Plastic Logic demoed their upcoming eReader on All Things D conference.

Here’s a summary of features that were announced so far:

  • OS: Windows CE
  • PC OS Supported: Windows XP/Vista and Mac OS
  • Size: 8.5″ x 11″ x 0.25″
  • Weight: less than 16 oz
  • Screen Size: ~10″ touchscreen active eInk
  • Connectivity: USB, 3G, WiFi, Bluetooth
  • Battery life: “days, not hours”
  • Formats supported: PDF, DOC(X), XLS(X), PPT(X), TEXT, RTF, HTML, JPEG, PNG, BMP, ePub, eReader Format
  • DRM: undisclosed at the moment
  • Release date: 2010 Q1
  • Price: undisclosed at the moment

Some highlights from the video:

  • Device is geared towards business users rather than eBook readers.
  • Documents are organized into folders called binders.
  • Documents can be scribbled on, annotated and highlighted using touch screen. Nice feature is partial screen refresh.

Verdict: at the moment prospects of this device seem mediocre at best. There are no strong indicators that would show it will be successful as eBook reader. Mainly because nothing is yet known about book store which was crucial to Kindle’s success. As for business documents while this device is good for reading and annotating, I doubt that it will provide good experience for editing and creating new documents. This would be important for business users. While battery life that is “days, not hours” is important for business people on the go, there are notebooks available today that can go 6-8 hours on a single charge and run full-featured version of Microsoft Office. 6-8 hours is more than enough for most users. By the time Plastic Logic will release their product battery technology would have improved and this advantage would diminish even more.

Plastic Logic eReader

Plastic Logic eReader

Overall it seems that many companies were inspired by success of Kindle and Sony eReader and decided to jump into what seems to be a promising market. But you can’t expect to succeed just because market is great and growing fast and you offer something that’s different from competitors.