Good news, Android users, Amazon doesn't hate you after all. No longer the forgotten platform, Amazon on Monday announced the release of its Kindle for Android App, freely available in the Android Market.
"Our customers tell us they love the convenience of having their Kindle library with them everywhere and their reading synchronized across multiple devices," said Dorothy Nicholls, director, Amazon Kindle. "With Kindle for Android, customers can choose from a vast selection of over 620,000 books to read on their Android-powered phone, no matter where they are - on the bus, waiting for a cab, or in between meetings. Kindle for Android and the rest of the free Kindle apps are the perfect companions for readers who don't have their Kindle with them or don't yet own a Kindle."
It's essentially the same app that's available on other platforms, meaning you can read the first chapter of books for free, access your library of previously purchased Kindle books stored on Amazon's servers, customize the background color, font color, and font size, read in portrait or landscape mode, and adjust the screen brightness from within the app. You're also able to sync last page reads from other Kindle-enabled devices, including the Kindle and Kindle DX, iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, PC, Mac, and BlackBerry.
Amazon's Kindle reader apps for Apple's iOS devices – the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch – now support books with audio/video elements. The ability to play embedded video/audio, however, does not extend to its flagship eReader. There are currently 13 e-books that leverage this new feature, including five travel guides, a cookbook promising “heavenly cakes”, and a knitting guide for beginners.
"In the new Kindle Edition with audio/video of 'Rick Steves' London,' the embedded walking tours allow customers to listen to Rick as they explore the sites of London," said Bill Newlin, publisher of Avalon Travel. "Rick's narration adds depth to the reader's experience, while listeners can follow the routes more easily with the text."
Apple is trying to present the iPad as an alternative to dedicated eReaders like Amazon's Kindle. Factor in the growing number of mobile devices capable of doubling up as eReaders and dedicated eReaders begin to appear vulnerable.
But Amazon harbors no intentions of going down with the ship it commands, if it does drown. The company is hedging its bet by porting the Kindle experience to disparate consumer devices. It currently provides free reading apps for the PC, Mac, iOS devices and Blackberry, and plans to support Android soon. Its software presence across a wide range of devices is like an insurance policy against the threat these very devices pose to its eReader.
The Kindle, like the Nook, has free 3G wireless data and an eInk screen. Barnes and Noble also announced a cheaper Wi-Fi only model, but it sells for $150. That's only $40 less than the new Kindle price point. The Nook's new pricing tiers are clearly predicated on the Kindle being stuck at $260.
Overall, this is great for consumers. The eReader price war has finally begun, and not a moment too soon. We've always felt that these devices were far too expensive for what they do. Does the new Kindle price change the equation for you?
Bookseller Barnes and Noble is starting to hand out free coffee to encourage the use of their e-book software. For the duration of the limited time promotion, customers need only show a cafe server an open e-book running the Barnes and Noble software. This will net the user one free tall coffee. Devices qualifying for the promotion are iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches, Blackberry phones, the HTC HD2, Windows/Mac computers, and of course the Nook.
Barnes and Noble is in a race to catch up to the Kindle's lead in the e-book space, but the iPad may have them both beaten. If the tide turns against the monochrome eInk screens, these multiplatform apps are the bookseller's best hope.
Barnes and Noble has also been offering access to special content on the Nook that can be downloaded while in the store. They also allow Nook owners to read selected books for free, one hour per day, while in the store. Do these sorts of promotions make you want to live in the Barnes and Noble e-book ecosystem?
Before you know it, you'll be able to mosey down to the local Target department store and buy an Amazon Kindle; no internet use needed. The popular ebook reader has been showing up in a few retail locations for the past few months, but now we've got a date for the full-scale rollout. All Target stores will have a supply of the Kindle by June 6th.
Presumably, this will offer consumers the opportunity to try out a Kindle before they buy it. With the online only model, many people never hold a Kindle until they receive it in the mail. Target stores have been selling Sony ebook readers for years, but the Kindle has proven to be attractive to consumers even without a retail presence.
The price is expected to remain the same, at $259. We still feel like the price needs to drop for the device to be truly competitive. Do you know anyone that's more likely to buy one if they can try it first?
Borders is no stranger to the e-reader game. The brick and mortar book seller has had Sony units for sale for a number of years. But now in the face of rival Barnes and Noble's Nook push, Borders is looking to create a more integrated eBook solution, and offer customers more choice by stocking up to 10 different devices by the end of 2010. These e-readers are expected to run the gamut of price points. All the devices will be connected to Borders' as yet unlaunched Borders eBooks store in conjunction with Kobo. They will show off all the devices in the cunningly named "Area-e" section of the store.
Kobo isn't just running the technology behind the eBook store, they are also making an eReader that Borders plans to begin selling this month. The Kobo is expected to retail for $149. Much lower than the competing Nook and Kindle. The so-called Alex dual screen e-reader has also been rumored for months, Add to that the just announced Libre e-reader which should sell for a downright reasonable $120, and the Borders strategy becomes more clear. They will offer products at all prices to lure in consumers, and get them to commit to their book ecosystem. The Libre will have a black and white LCD (instead of eInk), and users will have to load books on via a PC of SD cards.
Do you think this is a better strategy than the Amazon and Barnes and Noble model of having a single hero device?
The iPad may have sucked all the wind out of the Amazon Kindle's sails, but rumor has it a refresh of the lineup could be coming as early as August. Sources quoted by Bloomberg claim that the new device will be significantly thinner and lighter than the previous model and would feature a higher resolution display.
This sounds like a promising start, but those holding out for a color or touch screen version will probably be stuck buying an iPad since neither feature seems very likely this time around. It would seem that Amazon is content to concede the market for e-readers with benefits to Apple, and will continue to focus it's efforts on the hardcore book reading crowd who continue to favor dedicated devices that are lighter to hold, and easier on the eyes.
By reducing the weight and improving the legibility of the display, Amazon appears to be in a good position to continue fending off competitors such as Sony who have done a fairly competent job of catching up feature wise. It remains to be seen just how big the market for dedicated reading devices ends up being, but I would venture to guess that it's a heck of a lot smaller than the tablet crowd.
Do you have any interest in the Kindle? Or is your fickle fancy leading you more towards a tablet?
Amazon last year launched its Kindle Pilot Program, in which it sold a number of Kindle DX readers to several universities at a 50 percent discount. Students were allowed to use them free of charge, but as it turns out, most college students aren't yet ready to trade in their textbooks for Kindles.
At the University of Virginia, for example, about 80 percent of MBA students who participated in the program said they wouldn't recommend the Kindle DX for classroom use, even though they enjoyed it for recreational reading. And at Princeton University and Reed College, students said they missed the ability to write in the margins, easily highlight passages, or view color charts and graphics, the Seattle Times reports.
"You don't read textbooks in the same linear way as a novel," said Roesner, a 23-year-old graduate student. "You have to flip back and forth between pages, an the Kindle is too slow for that. Also, the bookmarking function is buggy."
The complaints haven't fallen on deaf ears. Amazon last month announced software upgrades that enable Kindle users to sort books into collections and zoom PDF documents.
"The pilot programs are doing their job -- getting us valuable feedback," said spokesman Drew Herdener.
Any hope for the release of a magical new version of the Amazon Kindle with a color screen was effectively destroyed today by Amazon chief Jeff Bezos. At a shareholder meeting in Seattle Bezos said that adding color to the Kindle's eInk screen was a difficult technical challenge. While he claimed to have seen some things in the lab, he was quick to point out they were not ready for wide scale use. According to Bezos, a color Kindle isn't coming anytime soon.
This is interesting for a number of reasons. First, Amazon doesn't seem to be showing any signs of worry in the wake of the iPad launch. Bezos often talks about selling millions of Kindles. Another thing the CEO's statements tell us is that Amazon is committed to sticking to eInk technology. If they intended to make an LCD eReader, it wouldn't matter how far along eInk technology was. Clearly, they feel the amazing battery life offered by the Kindle is their edge.
Amazon has taken steps to get their ebook platform on multiple devices, including the iPad. It could be they're just not that concerned with selling the Kindle hardware. Come to think of it, how long has it been since they tried to push a new version of the hardware on us? Would you be tempted by a color Kindle? Or is color best kept on tablets and computers?
Bookseller and Nook purveyor Barnes and Noble has decided to partner with Pandigital to bring a $199.99 color ereader to the market. The device, known as the Pandigital Novel, will use a regular backlit LCD instead of an eInk display like the Kindle or Nook. The Android-based Novel will have a 7-inch 800x600 resolution resistive touchscreen display, and ARM 11 CPU, Wi-Fi, and 1GB of internal storage with support for SD cards.
In many ways, it's really more of an inexpensive tablet that happens to be sold by a bookseller. The Novel will have a full web browser, and multimedia capabilities. Details on just what sort of multimedia experience would be available were not forthcoming, but it will play MP3s and some video formats. Experience with Android means probably H.264 encoded files. As far as ebooks, we're pleased to hear it will support books from Barnes and Noble's store as well as any files formatted as PDF, EPUB, or HTML. Battery life for reading is listed as only 6 hours though.
It's clearly not a match for the iPad on features, but the price is less than half of even the low end model of the Apple device. It is even cheaper than standard eInk-based readers, which often clock in at $260. We'll be interested to see if anyone goes for this device over the competition. Look for it to ship in June.