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.
3 thoughts on “The Amazon Kindle’s International Future”
“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.”
A week or two ago I posted the following here:
“Sooner or later some EBR-maker (hopefully Amazon) is going to have the nerve to offer a keychord keyboard on the back of the device, with finger-loops. This would allow fast typing, after the new interface had been learned, and would reduce the device’s footprint.”
Internationalization would be another “plus” of such a keyboard. The user would select a local language in the Settings section.
I like the idea, but I think that the current preference in portable devices like this is to move away from mechanical interfaces. I would be more annoyed than I could say if the next Kindle didn’t have physical page turn buttons, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Even if they’re there, I just don’t see much of anything else being present besides a touchscreen.
Thanks for the comment; it gives me an opportunity to fill in an omission. I envisage this “keychord” version as a niche item (at least initially) that would be offered at a premium price (say $275). It wouldn’t supplant any mainstream versions Amazon is planning (K4, Touch Kindle, and tablet, presumably). It would have these advantages:
More rapid and more comfortable typing;
Access to more characters than the current keyboard (e.g., access to numerals);
A screen not occupied by an overlaying keyboard when typing, not rotated to landscape mode, and not blurred by a touch overlay;
No keyboard lettering to wear off;
A smaller (shorter) device (lacking a keyboard below the screen);
A firmer grasp on the reader, but without the need for a death grip (thanks to the finger loops in back), reducing breakage.
The target audience would be current Kindle owners who would like a device that’s faster and easier to type on and is more compact.