At the moment, and in spite of some admittedly impressive competition, the Kindle is pretty much the biggest thing in eReading. In a given review or opinion, another eReader might come out on top as the new Nook Simple Touch Reader has managed to do lately, but nothing else has managed the level of distribution and quality of content that Amazon has pulled off so far. The margin isn’t all that it used to be, though. In order to keep on top of things, they are going to have to do more than we have seen in the past couple months. While it would not be entirely out of line to assume that the current focus on the upcoming Kindle Tablet might be drawing attention away from the existing product line, I think there may be more to it than that.
The Kindle, as it stands right now in terms of both the physical eReader and the platform as a whole, is limited in a number of ways. The current level of control being exerted by publishers prevents any one-upsmanship in terms of pricing. Amazon has some of the smaller names experimenting with sale offerings, but we have to assume that even if companies start buying into the idea of discounted eBooks it will not be a platform specific thing. That avenue is closed for now. They’re doing a rather good job of getting a lot of self publishing authors into their stores, which helps, but assume that at the moment there is not much that can be done to fix up the store as we know it.
The device itself is also pretty much at the peak of what we can hope for. It has the best screen technology available, amazing battery life, whatever connectivity options you want, and a lot more. About the only thing left to complain about is the physical keyboard. I think this is the first place we can expect major change is here. We know that one of the new Kindle options we can expect in October will be a touchscreen eReader. Not only will this reduce the size of the Kindle without losing the functionality of the admittedly difficult to use keyboard and appease the crowd of people who really don’t like physical buttons anymore, it will allow true localization. Hard to really pull that off when every device you sell has a built-in English keyboard.
This also brings up what I believe will be the next big stage in Kindle expansion. Right now, while a hit in some places, the Kindle platform seems to only be dominating in the US. Amazon has the experience and resources to spread out a bit. I would anticipate, following the release of the Kindle Touch and the first generation of the Kindle Tablet (and, of course, the initial patching stage to iron out the bugs), a big effort to get the Kindle out to any market that Amazon thinks is large enough to be worth tackling. Possibly even before localized firmware is a reality, but with a promise of fully integrated language selection as a later option. There isn’t any reason to hold back now, and stagnation would lose them the edge. Amazon has to keep moving and this is the only way that really makes sense as far as eBooks go.