Amazon announces new Kindle range, including touch screen and colour devices. Too bad we’re in Australia.
Today, Amazon announced its latest line-up of Kindle devices. For the first time, Kindle will be offering touch screen eInk devices (Kindle Touch), as well as an iPad competitor, the Kindle Fire.
The most attractive features? The budget prices.
The latest generation Kindles start from as low as US$79. The touch screen Kindles start at US$99, and the Kindle Fire will set you back a measly US$199. (See the update below for pricing differences for Australian customers.)
When you think about the entry-level Kindle, it’s hard to see how anyone even remotely interested in trying ebooks can pass it up at that price. It’s convenient, integrated and, at that price, pretty much disposable if you end up hating the thing. It also recoups its cost after you buy a handful of newish release books at less than $10, when Australian RRPs start at $20 for trade paperbacks, if you’re lucky.
At the pricier end, it’s clear from the product page that Amazon is targeting women and children, or—let’s give them the benefit of doubt—families in general. Most of the marketing images appeal to people who like fashion, cooking, games or kids’ books and shows.
The bad news is that neither the Kindle Touch nor the Kindle Fire are available to Australian readers, and no one has heard of a release date.
The upside is that this leaves some room for Sony’s new Reader model and Kobo’s new touch screen model to compete with the Kindles. Then again, Sony haven’t really been quick to market with their devices, so I’m not holding my breath.
The other area to watch is the rumoured ebook reader that will be sold by independent Australian bookshops. Last I heard, it will be a colour device, though, so you’re out of luck if you have your heart set on e-ink.
Advertising — the fine print
UPDATE: As @Tim_Coronel reminded me, the cheaper, ad-supported Kindles are only available to US customers. This means that Australian customers buying the new Kindles will, by default, have to pay the extra $30 for the ‘without special offers’ version. The basic new model will be priced at AU$137, including shipping.
If you read all the specs on the product pages, you’ll notice this bit:
Special Offers and Sponsored Screensavers
You’ll receive special offers and sponsored screensavers directly on your Kindle Touch. Examples of past special offers include:
• $10 for $20 Amazon.com Gift Card
• Save up to $500 off Amazon’s already low prices on select HDTVs
• $1 for a Kindle book, choose from thousands of books
Your offers display on your Kindle Touch screensaver and on the bottom of the home screen – they don’t interrupt reading. You have control over your offers experience: you can set your personal Kindle Screensaver Preferences to give us hints on the style and types of sponsored screensavers you’d like to see.
And if you read the press release:
All three new Kindle e-readers also come with special offers and sponsored screensavers that appear when you’re not reading. Customers enjoy special money-saving offers delivered wirelessly sponsored by AT&T, the Dove beauty brand and Amazon.com Rewards Visa Card by Chase. Kindle e-reader customers will also receive special offers in their own backyards from AmazonLocal, Amazon’s local deals marketplace with discounts on local services, products, and experiences. Customers can also choose to purchase a Kindle without special offers and sponsored screensavers.
That’s right. All the Kindles will now ship with advertising as part of the basic product. You’ll have to pay an extra US$30 to remove them. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, of course, but as industry insider and analyst Joel Naoum points out, this is a different business model, and one that Amazon seems to have rolled out fairly ingeniously.
I remember a few years back when (romance) authors were just adamant that advertising in digital books would never work (it might have been on Dear Author, but I’m too lazy to check). A pity they didn’t experiment more broadly with idea, because as a reader I’d prefer to have authors and publishers spruiking their stuff on my ebook reader, rather than credit card companies, telcos and beauty product manufacturers.
One last potential area of concern is the issue of privacy:
The Kindle Fire web browser Amazon Silk introduces a radical new paradigm – a “split browser” architecture that accelerates the power of the mobile device hardware by using the computing speed and power of the Amazon Web Services Cloud. The Silk browser software resides both on Kindle Fire and on the massive server fleet that comprises the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). With each page request, Silk dynamically determines a division of labor between the mobile hardware and Amazon EC2 (i.e. which browser sub-components run where) that takes into consideration factors like network conditions, page complexity, and cached content.
In other words—and please correct me if I’m wrong, because we’re getting technical here—each time you try to connect to a URL using the Kindle browser, the Silk software in the Kindle will effectively intercept the connection and redirect it to the Amazon cloud. The cloud then decides the best way to fetch the information you need. It may also cache, resize and otherwise manipulate page objects in order to help speed up the connection and decrease the amount of work the actual device has to do (which should improve battery life).
What this means, however, is that Amazon will have access to every single URL and, potentially, every piece of data, that you send or retrieve via the Kindle browser.
Don’t get me wrong; they may, in fact, treat your data with the utmost care and that’s fantastic. But whether or not you’re comfortable with Amazon’s security controls is a matter for you and your own levels of paranoia.
The good news is that you can opt out of using the cloud.
The bad news is…well, let’s face it. You wouldn’t even have thought twice about this if I hadn’t mentioned it. And neither will the bajillion other Kindle users.
- Smell of Books — Amazon Just Made Ads in Books Work – Whether We Like it or Not (via @joelnaoum)
- Booku — Infuriating Amazon spurns us again (via @ebookish)
- CNET Australia — Amazon unveils Kindle Fire (via @cnetaustralia)
- Naked Security — Amazon Kindle Fire’s Silk browser sounds privacy alarm bells (via @fangbooks)