So unless you’ve been hiding under a log with your fingers in your ears this week, you’ll have heard that Amazon have announced a new bunch of Kindles. In fact, they announced three on Wednesday: the new Kindle, the Kindle Touch and the Kindle Fire. The old Kindle has been rebranded the Kindle Keyboard, which means there are now four Kindles on sale. That’s a lot of Kindles.
This, for me, raises two questions: why so many, and which is the best one to go for? A lot of people have also been asking, will the Kindle Fire topple the iPad? That’s a question for another day, though.
Why so many? Because Amazon want to capture as much of the market as they can. The new Kindle is cheaper than any Kindle has ever been, meaning that those who didn’t want to shell out £100+ for an ereader can now be tempted into the fold. The Kindle Touch is a direct competitor to the Nook and a reaction to the unarguable success of touch devices; Amazon wants in on that. And the Kindle Fire is a reaction to the equally unarguable success of tablets. For a company that sells books, films and music, to not offer a tablet device is just daft.
Which is the best to go for? That depends on what you want to do. To read books you now have three options (or, if you live in the UK, two; the Kindle Touch is, oddly, not being released here until next year). The new Kindle is the cheapest because it’s effectively the old Kindle Keyboard without the keyboard. It’s smaller and lighter, but it’s actually a step backwards in terms of functionality. If you want to type something on the new Kindle (say, if you want to look for a book on the Kindle store), you have to use a five way selector to pick out letters from an onscreen keyboard. Ugh. But, then, you’re paying a lot less, so it’s hard to complain when you’re saving $20 (or, in the UK, £20). The Kindle Keyboard and the Kindle Touch are the same price. The Keyboard is for those who don’t like touchscreens. Easy.
The Fire, though, is a different beast. It’s not a dedicated reading device. It’s a tablet. You can read on it, of course, but you can also read comics and illustrated books in colour, as well as watch movies, TV shows and listen to music. You can also do it for a very good price: just $199 (again, this won’t be available in the UK until next year, so the UK price is unknown). But, if you want to read books, this isn’t your best bet; the Fire has a colour LED screen, not an e-ink screen. This means it will be subject to screen glare, eye-strain and so on.
In the interests of disclosure, I think tablets are cool but haven’t yet been sold on their necessity, especially as I have an iPhone already (which is effectively a tiny tablet). So whilst the Fire is definitely cool, it’s still a tablet. If you want to read books, I would recommend looking at the e-ink models. And, amongst them, there’s really only two choices:
1) do I want an easy-to-use keyboard? If not, go for the new Kindle, otherwise go to choice 2.
2) Do I like touchscreens? If yes, go for the Kindle Touch (bad luck, UK). Otherwise, go for the Kindle Keyboard.
It’s that easy.