Today Amazon announced their latest-generation e-reader, the “All-New Kindle Paperwhite,” starting at $119.
I’m not really sure about the name. First of all, it’s not exactly “all new,” although that’s not necessarily a bad thing, since the Kindle has been refined over time and is a pretty great e-Ink-based e-reader. I guess Amazon didn’t want to name it the “Kindle Paperwhite 2” or the “Kindle 6,” as it’s the second Kindle generation to include the side lighting system, and the sixth Kindle generation overall.
In any event, what is new about the All-New Kindle Paperwhite is:
- 50% Improved Contrast with E-Ink Carta (whiter white background and darker blacks)
- 25% Faster Processor (for faster page turns)
- A “Next Generation” lighting system (lit from the side, not the back, so it’s easier on your eyes)
The specs, which are similar to the previous model, are:
- 6″ e-Ink Carta display, 212 ppi
- 6.7″ x 4.6″ x 0.36″ (169 mm x 117 mm x 9.1 mm)
- 7.3 ounces (206 grams) — “30% lighter than an iPad Mini”
- 2 GB internal storage (about 1,100 books)
- Wi-Fi wireless connectivity
- Battery lasts about 8 weeks (Wi-Fi off and reading for 30 minutes per day)
It is available with “Special Offers” for $119 (with free shipping), or without them for $139, and ships September 30.
Also coming soon is the version that also includes 3G wireless connectivity (in addition to Wi-Fi), coming November 5 for $189.
It looks to me like a solid, although not necessarily game-changing update to a very successful product. Better contrast (which was already excellent starting with the Kindle 3 and getting better from there) is always welcome, as is the faster processor. If any readers get their hands on one, please leave me your hands-on experiences in the comments below. Thanks!
UPDATE: The new e-Ink display technology used by the new Kindle is called “E-Ink Carta.” According to E-Ink:
“E Ink Carta delivers a dramatic 50% increase in contrast over earlier generations of ePaper, giving eReaders a contrast ratio close to that of a paperback book. The crisp text and detailed graphics are also highly readable in direct sunlight. Carta’s 16 levels of grey produce the sharpest rendering of images with smooth tones and rich detail.”
The newest Kindle (Kindle 5?), called the Kindle Paperwhite, came out a couple of weeks ago, and from all the reviews I’ve seen, it’s a big hit.
The main new feature is the side-lit e-Ink display, which allows for reading at night or in low light, while still retaining the easy-on-the-eyes nature of e-Ink and ability to be read in direct sunlight. Reviews also say the lighting is more even than the similar Nook Glowlight, and that it noticeably improves the contrast of the display (Amazon says by 25%), because it makes the greyish background look more white. In the pics and videos I’ve seen of it so far, that was the first thing I noticed — the effect seems pretty dramatic. The display is also higher resolution (212 ppi vs. 167 ppi, or 62% more pixels) than the previous e-Ink Pearl screen used in the last two Kindle generations.
The Kindle Paperwhite is available in both Wi-Fi and WiFi + 3G flavors:
- Kindle Wi-Fi (with “special offers”): $119
- Kindle Wi-Fi (without “special offers”): $139
- Kindle Wi-Fi + 3G (with “special offers”): $179
- Kindle Wi-Fi + 3G (without “special offers”): $199
The new Kindle weighs 7.5 oz, or 7.8 oz for the 3G version, either of which are comfortable enough to easily hold in one hand. (For comparison, the Kindle 4, now just called the “Kindle,” weighs 5.98 oz and is available for just $69. The Kindle 3, known as the “Kindle Keyboard,” weighs 8.7 oz and comes with 3G for $139.)
While the new Kindle is impressive, and is probably a must-have for anyone who likes reading at night, it does lose some features from earlier models. Obviously, there is no physical keyboard, which Amazon went away from with the last generation Kindle Touch, but everything is accomplished through the touchscreen — including typing on a touchscreen keyboard and tapping or swiping on the screen to turn pages when reading. It also only has 2GB of storage (down from 4GB), although that is still enough to hold a thousand books or so, and Amazon will back up all your purchases in their “cloud” for free, so it’s not much of a limitation. The newest Kindle also removes the speakers and headphone jack, and thus is unable to play text-to-speech, which is a deal-breaker for some people. It comes with a USB cable (which you can plug into your computer to charge the device), but if you want a power outlet adapter, that’s an extra $10 now. (Again, if any of these limitations bothers you, the Kindle Keyboard is still available.)
The battery life is supposed to be excellent — 8 weeks even with the light on (at 30 minutes per day). All the reviews I’ve seen have reported that the battery life is excellent — you’ll probably only need to charge it once a month or less.
The software on the new Kindle Paperwhite is a big departure from the simple, text-based lists that dominated the older Kindle user experience. The user interface is much more “tablet-like,” with a scrollable list of book covers, and a strip of menus across the top. Everything is accomplished using the touch screen, including adjusting the strength of the light (in 24 steps, from very dim to quite bright), selecting a book to read, shopping in the Kindle Store, or tapping and holding on a word to bring up options to search that word in the built-in dictionary, look it up on Wikipedia, or even have it translated. While the addition of cover art to the home screen seems like a welcome change and an easier way to browse books, Amazon does place a strip of “Suggested Books” or “Bestselling Books” at the bottom of the display — and this is in addition to the “Special Offers” below that if you opted for the cheaper model — which shows that Amazon is selling Kindles and Kindle Fires at very aggressive prices partially in the hopes that users will buy lots of stuff from their excellent and expanding content ecosystem, including Kindle Books and newspapers, as well as videos and songs and apps for the Kindle Fire.
In any event, it looks like a solid offering from Amazon. While it came out later than Nook’s Glowlight model, every review I’ve seen has praised the Kindle Paperwhite’s lighting system as superior to the Glowlight’s, so those of you who like to read at night will probably be glad you waited.
Do you have a Kindle Paperwhite? Please feel free to share your experiences and thoughts about it in the comments below.
The big news in the e-reader device world this year is the introduction of the Kindle Fire, a 7″ touchscreen LCD tablet that goes head-to-head with the new Nook Tablet, and undercuts the larger, more expensive Apple iPad 2. There is also a new generation of e-Ink-based e-reader devices, mostly focusing on adding touchscreens to the reading experience. And prices have come down fairly dramatically from last year, with sub-$100 e-readers fairly common.
Click on the device names in the bullet point lists for my more detailed posts about each model.
On the e-reader side, Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Sony all have new e-Ink based offerings, each offering touchscreen models. Prices have come down to about $100.
Amazon has an array of new 4th-generation Kindles this holiday season, starting at just $79 for the simply-named “Kindle,” which is their basic e-reader, lacking a touchscreen and keyboard (the 3rd-generation models are now called “Kindle Keyboards”). They make up for lacking these features with a small size, low weight, and very low price, starting at just $79 ($109 without “special offers“).
Amazon also offers the Kindle Touch, which adds a touchscreen and starts at $99 ($139 without offers). Both models come with Wi-Fi connectivity. If you want to add 3G, the Kindle Touch 3G is $149 ($189 without offers).
- Kindle ($79 from Amazon): Wi-Fi, 5-way controller, 5.98 oz., 2 GB
- Kindle Touch ($99 from Amazon): Wi-Fi, touchscreen, 7.5 oz., 4 GB
- Kindle Touch 3G ($149 from Amazon): Wi-Fi + free 3G, touchscreen, 7.8 ounces, 4 GB
Black Friday Deals:
Find the Kindle Keyboard 3G (normally $139) for just $89 at Best Buy. Target is offering it for $85 in-store on Black Friday.
Staples offers the $79 Kindle (with offers) with a free $15 gift card. Radio Shack does the same with a $10 gift card.
Of course, $79 for the basic Kindle is hard to beat — and you can order from Amazon or buy it anywhere without waiting in Black Friday lines.
UPDATE: The 9.7″ Kindle DX is $120 off, just $259 from Amazon until Monday.
Barnes & Noble Nook
Barnes & Noble’s Nook Simple Touch has the same 6″ e-Ink Pearl screen as the Kindles, and (as the name implies) comes with a touchscreen. It is 7.5 ounces, has Wi-Fi, and adds an SD memory card reader. It retails for $139.
Black Friday Deals:
The Nook Simple Touch is just $79 for Black Friday, matching Amazon’s non-touchscreen Kindle, even without “special offers.” Alternately, Target offers a $30 gift card with the purchase of the Simple Touch for $99.
Kobo offers its $99 Kobo Wireless and $139 Kobo Touch, both of which have the same 6″ e-Ink screen as the B&N and Amazon models. Both models offer Wi-Fi connectivity, and the more expensive Touch (as the name implies) adds a touchscreen. They have only 1 GB of storage, but do include an expandable SD card slot, and come pre-loaded with 100 free public domain books.
- Kobo Wireless ($99 from Kobo): Wi-Fi, 5-way controller, 7.8 oz., 1 GB
- Kobo Touch ($139 from Kobo): Wi-Fi, touchscreen, 6.5 oz, 2 GB
Black Friday Deals:
Kobo is offering its Touch e-reader with “offers” for just $99.
The latest Sony e-reader, the PRS-T1 (also called the “Reader Wi-Fi”), continues Sony’s touchscreen tradition (while the Kindle, Nook, and Kobo are recent touchscreen converts, Sony e-readers have had touchscreens for years). Like the other 3 above, this model also comes with the 6″ e-Ink Pearl screen and Wi-Fi connectivity. The Sony touts itself as the lightest 6″ touchscreen e-reader (just 5.9 oz) and, like B&N, takes aim at Amazon’s ad-supported “special offers” models by calling itself “Awesomely Ad Free.” Sadly, at nearly double the cost of Amazon’s entry-level model, Sony maintains its tradition of overpricing.
Black Friday Deals:
I haven’t seen any yet, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled and update this post if I find any.
Amazon and B&N’s new 7-inch offerings highlight the new tablet/e-reader hybrids, and Apple’s iPad 2 continues to be the top-selling tablet by a wide margin.
Amazon’s Kindle Fire boasts a 7″ LCD touchscreen, a dual-core 1 GHz processor, and 8 GB of storage for movies and other content. More impressive than the hardware is Amazon’s custom software (including its cloud-computing-accelerated Silk Browser and unlimited cloud storage for Amazon content) and content ecosystem, which includes Amazon Video on Demand, the Amazon MP3 store, the Amazon Android App Store, and of course the Amazon Kindle Store with over 1 million e-book titles.
Probably the most impressive thing about the new Kindle Fire, however, is the price: at just $199, it undercuts B&N’s tablet substantially and is well under half the cost of the least expensive iPad 2.
Black Friday Deals:
I haven’t seen any yet, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled and update this post if I find any.
B&N Nook Tablet
B&N’s Nook Tablet is an update of last year’s Nook Color, and is of similar size to the Kindle Fire, with the same 7″ LCD touchscreen (although B&N boasts a laminated & bonded “VividView” display that is said to reduce glare and improve readability).
Its hardware specs are a little better than the Kindle Fire, with double the RAM and internal storage, although B&N only allows users to access a paltry 1 GB of that storage for their own stuff — the rest of the space is kept free to buy stuff from B&N. B&N lacks the large content ecosystem that Amazon has created, although it does have a healthy e-book store, interactive children’s books, magazines, and a small but growing app store.
Black Friday Deals:
If you’re OK with last year’s tablet model (the Nook Color), you can get it plus a $30 Target gift card for $199 at Target stores.
Apple iPad 2
Apple’s iPad 2 is still the 900-pound gorilla of the tablet world (no, that’s not a crack about its weight), outselling all other tablets by a considerable margin. The smaller, lighter, cheaper Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet might be its first serious competition. However, the iPad counters their low prices with a larger 9.7″ LCD touchscreen, an external video camera, GPS, Bluetooth connectivity, available 3G connectivity, and a much more robust App Store.
On the down side, the iPad 2’s price ranges from $499 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi model, all the way up to $829 (plus data fees) for the 64 GB Wi-Fi + 3G model.
- Apple iPad 2 ($499 from Apple): Wi-Fi (3G avail.), 9.7″ LCD touchscreen, 21.2 oz., 16-64 GB
Black Friday Deals:
Apple will be knocking $41 to $61 off the price of the iPad 2, so the 16 GB Wi-Fi model will sell for $458.
If you’re not sure which tablet you want, check out my Kindle Fire vs. Nook Tablet comparison post here. Whatever you decide, good luck with your holiday shopping, and please be sure to come back and comment if you find a better deal, or to let us know how you like your new e-reader or tablet!
Today Amazon unveiled their newest Kindle versions (what would be considered the Kindle 4), and is calling them simply the “Kindle” and the “Kindle Touch” for the touchscreen version. Both keep the 6″ e-Ink Pearl screen of their predecessors, and both lose the physical keyboard (replacing them with on-screen keyboards). The big news is probably the price: the Kindle now starts at just $79. Considering that people have predicted for a while that e-reader sales would explode when they got below $100, $79 (for the Kindle) and $99 (for the Kindle Touch) is pretty big news.
Of note, the new “default” price is the price with “special offers,” which means you get ads as screensavers and at the bottom of your home screen (but not during reading). I discuss it further here, but the ad-supported versions have become Amazon’s most popular, and some of the ads are even legitimately great deals (like a $20 Amazon gift card for $10). The non-ad-supported versions are $30 or $40 more each.
- Kindle ($79, or $109 without ads): Wi-Fi, 5-way controller, 5.98 oz., 2 GB
- Kindle Touch ($99, or $139 without ads): Wi-Fi, touchscreen, 7.5 oz., 4 GB
- Kindle Touch 3G ($149, or $189 without ads): Wi-Fi + free 3G, touchscreen, 7.8 ounces, 4 GB
The older (Kindle 3) model has been renamed the “Kindle Keyboard,” and has been discounted: $99 for the Kindle 3 Wi-Fi ($139 without special offers), and $139 for the Kindle 3 Wi-Fi + 3G ($189 without special offers).
- Kindle Keyboard ($99, or $139 without ads): Wi-Fi, 5-way controller + physical keyboard, 8.5 oz., 4 GB
- Kindle Keyboard 3G ($139, or $189 without ads): Wi-Fi + free 3G, 5-way controller + physical keyboard, 8.7 oz., 4 GB
While I am not as convinced of the merits of a touchscreen as most people seem to be, what jumps out at me is the $79 Kindle: you get the same 6″ e-Ink Pearl screen, access to Amazon’s world-leading e-bookstore, all Kindles now have access to library e-book lending, and it weighs just under 6 ounces. That is a very impressive bang for the buck, and the light weight makes it pretty perfect for a lot of users. The lack of a physical keyboard mainly only comes into play for those who like to take lots of notes or surf the web a lot; for the few times you might need the keyboard during normal use (to create and name a new “collection,” for example), I’d imagine the 5-way controller and on-screen keyboard will be fine. At the bottom of the Kindle (Kindle 4? New Kindle? Kindle Sans Keyboard & Sans Touch?) is the 5-way controller from the previous Kindle, as well as home, back, keyboard, and menu buttons. It also retains the narrow page turn buttons on each side, which I like in my Kindle 3.
Of course, if you like touchscreens, for just $20 more, you can get the Kindle Touch for $99. Like Sony and B&N, the Kindle Touch uses a series of infrared beams to detect your fingers instead of an extra touchscreen layer (which would somewhat muddle the screen beneath). The Kindle Touch (and Kindle Touch 3G, which looks the same on the outside) has no physical buttons on the front or the sides — it seems everything is now accomplished through the touchscreen. Turning pages requires a swipe or tap on the side of the screen you want (left for back, right for forward).
Both models are small and light, with the non-touchscreen Kindle an ounce or two lighter and slightly smaller (6.5″ x 4.5″ x 0.34″ vs. 6.8″ x 4.7″ x 0.4″ for the Kindle Touch). The $79 Kindle also has less battery life (listed at 1 month instead of 2) and storage space (2 GB instead of 4 GB); however, both should be more than enough for most users. The $79 Kindle doesn’t include speakers (so no text-to-speech). Both new models incorporate a trick used on the new Nook Touch: it only refreshes the e-Ink screen (which causes a brief black-on-white flash) every 6 page turns instead of each time. E-Ink flash never bothered me, but some people might prefer the new system.
My analysis? Well, I haven’t been able to physically try one yet, but considering they have the same screen as my current Kindle 3 (sorry, I mean “Kindle Keyboard”), I think I can make some good guesses. I think the $79 Kindle 4 is going to be very popular this holiday season, because I think it gives most people everything they really need in an e-book reader, and at under 6 ounces.
On the other hand, I’m not quite as impressed by the Kindle Touch versions. For people who like touchscreens, they will be great, but I’m just not on the touchscreen bandwagon. And, to compare apples to apples, the prices are really about the same as the versions they’re replacing when you compare ad-supported vs. ad-supported models; Amazon is (probably wisely) just focusing more on the ad-supported price instead of what used to be the “regular” non-ad-supported price. On the other hand, getting an e-reader from the industry leader, with library lending, Wi-Fi, and a touchscreen for under $100 is still a heck of a deal.
A couple of final notes for now (I’m sure I will have more soon about these new models): back in January, I advised readers that the next-generation Kindle would not arrive for “at least 6 months, probably closer to a year (maybe just before Xmas).” That was just over 8 months ago. The $79 Kindle is available now, while the Kindle Touch version should start shipping November 21, pretty much just before Xmas. I also predicted that color e-Ink or Mirasol was probably further away than that.
Speaking of color, today Amazon also announced the Kindle Fire, the long-anticipated “Kindle Tablet,” which sports a 7″ color LCD (not e-Ink) screen and is more of a direct competitor to the B&N Nook Color, and a smaller, cheaper alternative to Apple’s iPad. At just $199 and 14.6 ounces, it will read e-books, play movies (from Amazon’s video on demand service), play music (from Amazon’s MP3 service), and run apps and games (from Amazon’s Android App Store). I will have a separate post about the Kindle Fire shortly. (UPDATE: As promised, here it is.)
Wal-Mart just announced that you will be able to try out and purchase Kindles at Wal-Mart starting tomorrow, May 5. The announcement claims they will sell the $189 Kindle 3 Wi-Fi + 3G and the new $114 Kindle 3 Wi-Fi with “Special Offers” (meaning “ads” — detailed further here) — no mention of the $139 Kindle 3 Wi-Fi.
Kindles are now available direct through Amazon, and in retail stores at Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, and Staples.
If you haven’t had a chance to see a Kindle or an e-Ink screen hands-on yet, I definitely recommend you check one out at your next trip to one of the stores listed above. The Kindle 3’s light weight, and how easy on the eyes the e-Ink screen is consistently amazes people when I show them my Kindle.
Just a heads-up on a very nice Mother’s Day deal from Amazon: buy a $189 Kindle 3 Wi-Fi + 3G, or a $379 Kindle DX 2 with 3G, and get a free $25 Amazon gift card. They also include free shipping. That’s like getting the Kindle 3G (review here) for just $164, which is a great deal. The deal lasts until May 8, 2011.
Your Kindle buying options:
In a bit of surprising good news, today Amazon announced “Kindle Library Lending,” which will bring library e-book lending to the Kindle range of devices and Kindle desktop & smartphone apps. The program will work through OverDrive, the major player in library e-book lending. Amazon says the feature will launch “later this year.”
The lack of access to library e-books was often mentioned as the single greatest weakness of the Kindle compared to its ePub-reading brethren (like the Nook, Kobo, and Sony E-Readers). (I just bought a Kobo Wireless and started checking out library e-books; the process does work, but is difficult to set up and the e-book selection at most libraries is quite limited. My review of the process is here.)
In a nice touch, Amazon will save any notes or highlights you make on the e-book you check out, and will sync those notes up through Whispersync if you check out the e-book again or even if you decide to buy it. Pretty cool for people who like taking notes in their e-books. (The notes will not show up for the next patron who checks the e-book out from the library; they’re saved to your Amazon account.)
All in all, it’s a very positive feature, and another example of Amazon improving (through software updates or added features) the Kindles we already own.
I do have to say I’m a little surprised. On the one hand, adding this feature will probably win over some people who would have bought e-readers other than the Kindle just due to the lack of library access. (Honestly, I can’t think of a single important reason to buy an e-reader other than the Kindle 3 right now — library lending was the one key feature the Kindle was missing.) On the other hand, Amazon already owns the lion’s share of the e-book market, and most e-books borrowed from libraries are e-books that won’t be purchased from Amazon. I always saw library lending as something the other e-readers had to do in order to compete with Amazon.
In any event, look for library lending to come to a Kindle near you later this year.
It was only a matter of time.
Once Apple entered the e-book business back in April with the launch of the iPad and the iBook Store — and partnered with publishers to cram the agency pricing model down Amazon’s throat — a collision like this was probably inevitable. After all, Apple has been selling e-books to be read on iDevices through the iBook store, while Amazon has been selling e-books for those same iDevices through the Kindle for iPhone/iPad apps. And, it’s pretty clear which of those two e-book retailers has been more successful: Amazon still commands the strong majority of e-book sales, while Apple’s iBook Store has floundered. So, is Apple OK with Amazon moving in and selling all those e-books to iDevice owners?
Apparently not. In the past week, Apple has started “clarifying” its position on e-book stores (and magazine and newspaper publishers) selling content through iOS apps to (what Apple sees as) Apple’s customers. The first salvo was when Apple denied the Sony E-Reader app, claiming that it violated guidelines related to in-app purchases. Over the ensuing week, Apple’s position became more clear, as it is apparently gearing up to require vendors who sell content to do so through in-app purchases. At issue is the current practice of many current apps (like Kindle for iPhone) that take users to Safari to purchase e-books over the Internet, bypassing Apple’s app store and its 30% cut of all app and in-app purchase proceeds. And Apple has given existing apps until June 30 to comply with the new requirement, which is that any app offering out-of-app purchases (like those over the Internet), must also offer an in-app option (at the same price). Of course, the in-app option (which will just be a click, attached to your existing Apple account and payment method) will be much more convenient for most users than launching a website and signing in. (Crazy side-note: Apple licenses Amazon’s patented 1-Click purchasing system.) Even worse, it appears from Apple’s latest statements that apps can’t even link to outside stores (like Amazon), but only offer the in-app purchase!
“Our philosophy is simple — when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30% share,” said CEO Steve Jobs in a statement Tuesday. “When the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100% and Apple earns nothing.”
“Apple does require that if a publisher chooses to sell a digital subscription separately outside of the app, that same subscription offer must be made available, at the same price or less, to customers who wish to subscribe from within the app.”
Think about that for a minute: Apple will now require e-book vendors (Amazon, B&N, Sony), magazine publishers, streaming video apps, and anyone else who sells anything that can be accessed through an App Store app to remove external Internet “buy links” and instead offer an in-app purchase option. And Apple will get 30% of all of those sales. In the case of e-books, the agency model agreements already specify that e-book retailers only get 30% of the sale price, which means that Apple would get all of the profit (and then some, since Amazon has some costs) from e-book sales: 70% would go to publishers, and 30% to Apple, with Amazon getting nothing. And while it currently appears that customers could choose to bypass the one-click in-app purchase and buy directly from Amazon’s website instead (from their computer, or by going to Safari themselves), how many will? And what is to stop Apple from preventing external purchases from being usable inside an app?
Obviously, Amazon can’t let this stand. There’s no way they’re going to agree to create the world’s largest e-book store, write an iOS app, deliver e-books to customers, and provide tech support for purchases, yet give all the revenue from Kindle app users to Apple. But, Amazon has promoted the “Buy Once, Read Anywhere” tagline, as it lets users read e-books purchased from the Kindle Store on Kindles, Macs, PCs, smartphones, Android, and Apple iOS devices. Yes, pulling the Kindle for iPad app would hurt Apple and the iPad’s already-damaged reputation as an “e-reader” and would tick off customers who bought an iPad thinking they could unify their Amazon, B&N, Sony, Kobo, and Apple e-book libraries on one device, but it would also tick off Amazon customers and Kindle owners who like to read from time to time on their iPhones. It’s pretty much a lose-lose situation, but Apple seems to be forcing the issue.
What’s the upshot of all this for iDevice owners? Will their iPhones and iPads become less useful overnight? I think being able to access Kindle e-books on the iPad was an important selling feature for Apple. How much other content will iDevice users lose access to? What other apps will this new policy affect? Would you want to develop an iOS app right now?
Even more disturbing are the future ramifications of such a move by Apple. If Apple considers iOS users as its customers for third-party goods (in a way that Dell, for example, never does when you use one of their computers to buy something online), what else will they try to “tax”? Now that Apple has earned a dominant position in the mobile app field (the Apple App Store is far ahead of the Android Marketplace or any competitors), how long until it starts changing the terms on developers? Although those developers provided a large portion of the value of Apple’s “platform” (the iDevice + wide variety of cool apps in the App Store) and helped make it #1, now that Apple is the dominant smartphone and tablet computer platform, it doesn’t need any one developer nearly as much as that developer needs Apple. What’s Apple’s next move here? Perhaps requiring exclusivity from its apps to prevent Android from becoming a threat?
This new Apple policy is a pretty disturbing move (that is almost certain to hurt consumers, however it shakes out), but even more disturbing is how Apple has morphed from the plucky underdog to the ruthless, monopolistic giant corporation that uses its power to squash competition. To complete the irony, perhaps the best hope to tame the Apple juggernaut is a partnership between Nokia and a plucky upstart in the mobile operating system field: Microsoft.
So, Apple burst onto the e-book scene almost a year ago with the release of their iPad and the iBook Store in April. But, as of 6 months ago, Apple was still only a minor player on the e-book sales scene, with Amazon dominating 75% of e-book sales and B&N with another 20% or so. Apple was hindered by (a) being late on the e-book scene, (b) the fact that reading on a backlit LCD screen just isn’t as “magical” as Apple wants you to believe, and (c) the iBook Store doesn’t have the selection of other e-book stores, with no Random House titles and only about 30,000 total in-copyright titles (compared to Amazon’s 800,000 or so).
Adding insult to injury, a Codex Group survey from November 2010 found that even iPad owners were buying more e-books from Amazon (which can be read on Amazon’s Kindle for iPad app) than from the iBook Store: Amazon e-books accounted for 40% of iPad users’ purchases, while Apple e-books were 29%.
Most observers have noted that Apple’s e-book business is struggling, including The Unofficial Apple Weblog, who looked at the iBook Store 6 months after launch and found that:
I figured that this would be a good time to see just how the iBookstore has progressed. The answer, in a word: poorly … very poorly.
Or how about this review?
However, after six months of offering up downloadable text content to capable iOS devices, it appears that the once seemingly mighty contender hasn’t been able to do much more than land a few rabbit punches. Despite the iPad’s rabid popularity, neither major publishers, nor the book buying public have embraced iBooks.
After more than half a year online, Apple’s iBook Store is still only offering up approximately 60,000 titles. When held up against the 700,000 titles offered by Amazon for their Kindle reader software and hardware solutions, Cupertino’s library looks pretty weak. Did we mention that about half of the titles available as iBooks are also available from Project Gutenberg? C’mon Steve, this is embarrassing.
And that came from the staunchly pro-Apple folks over at Mac Life. Ouch.
So, did Apple take these criticisms to heart and improve the iBooks experience? Did they prove they’re serious about the e-book market? Has Apple gotten Random House to sign on? Increased their selection to at least keep up with Amazon’s rate of growth, let alone closed the gap? Improved their store navigation or implemented a recommendation engine? What have we heard from Apple about the iBook Store in the months since those less-than-glowing articles were written?
Nothing. Well, I can’t say I’m shocked, since the whole iBook Store and marketing of the iPad as a reading device never seemed sincere to me. It’s just so far inferior to a Kindle 3 as a reading device (harder on the eyes, triple the weight, far less battery life, etc.), it’s not really in the discussion for me. Add in the fact that the K3 is around 1/4th the price ($139 for Wi-Fi, $189 for free-for-life 3G), and there’s no comparison when it comes to reading.
More telling is the fact that Apple pretty much abandoned the marketing talk about the iPad as an e-reader soon after launch. I always thought that was just a marketing ploy, a way to position itself as the #1 seller in the e-reader category (a “Kindle killer”), instead of as a minor player in the much larger laptop or netbook market. And Apple hasn’t mentioned the iPad’s e-reading capabilities in a long time, they haven’t added titles, they haven’t upgraded the shopping experience at all, and they’ve made only minor updates to the iBooks app. Contrast that to Amazon, which incessantly markets their e-readers as devices focused on reading, has commercials touting their outdoor reading ability as superior to the iPad, upgrades their Kindle software and Kindle apps often, adds about 30,000 new titles every month, and even came out with the much-improved Kindle 3 in August. As a reader, you know Amazon is devoted to reading, e-books, and the Kindle. And Apple never really cared about reading to begin with, and it shows. After all, Steve Jobs dismissed the Kindle and reading in general as recently as 2008, saying that:
“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”
Did anyone really think he so dramatically changed his mind and did a complete 180 between that statement and when he made the iPad (which came out in 2010 but was probably in development even when Jobs uttered those words)? Or was “e-reader” just a convenient marketing label Apple decided to attach to a multi-purpose device designed primarily to do other things?
Chess is probably one of the most popular computer games, and it’s a great candidate for the Kindle since it doesn’t rely on great graphics or video or even color — the pieces are, after all, black and white. It’s also a great fit considering the general slant of Kindle games so far: more cerebral, thinking games (like word games and Sudoku) rather than action / arcade types of games.
Chess is available now for your Kindle for $2.99 here:
There is also a steadily-growing list of Kindle games, including poker, blackjack, Scrabble, hangman, Monopoly, and more. Several of them are even free. There are even choose-your-own-adventure Kindle e-book / apps. You can find the current available games & apps here, along with lists of freebies, bestsellers, and highest-rated games:
If you try out the chess game (or any of the others), please leave a comment and tell us what you think of it!