Thoughts on the new Kindles and what they mean

Let’s start at the very beginning. That’s a very good place to start, don’t you think, Julie?

Never mind.

Amazon unveiled four new Kindle devices last week, for all types of users and at multiple price points. Let’s look briefly at the devices and what they seem to mean in the e-reader world.

The Basic Kindle – $79 (with special offers, $109 without) – This is as close as what I own as the new models get. I have the Kindle with Special Offers that I paid $114 for a few months ago. I love this device. It’s small, fits happily in the back pocket of my jeans. The e-ink display is amazing! It looks like a real books. And I love the way the device turns pages with either hand, so no matter whether you’re right-handed or lefty, you can always operate the device one-handed. I kinda hate that the keyboard is going away, but honestly I never use mine, so I guess that’s what they’re finding in a lot of people, so they’ve killed the keyboard.

The special offers don’t annoy me at all. They only show up when I turn the device off, so that’s oddly enough when I’m not looking at it. So I don’t care what’s on the screen when it’s sitting in my bag, or on my bedside table, or wherever. And for $79, this is clearly meant to be an entry-level device, and I think most people will opt to not play the $30 extra charge just to not have screen savers.

I don’t think we can ever discount the price point of this device. For a long time $99 has been touted as the tipping point for e-readers. That’s been the theoretical price at which the sales growth of these device skyrockets. Amazon not only hit that price point with this device, but blew through it. For a ton of people, anything less than $100 is an impulse buy, and getting all the way down to $79 is going to be huge.

And having now two choices in the sub-$100 market is even bigger.

The next two models of Kindle are really just variations on the same device – the Kindle Touch. Amazon’s first entry into the touchscreen device market promises to be lighter, smaller and generally cooler than its predecessors, although I don’t necessarily agree with that assessment. There are plusses and minuses to the touchscreen device, in my opinion, but I think the price and the cool factor will pretty quickly jump the Kindle Touch to the front of the e-ink device line.

Honestly, I’m not going to buy one of these. I have an iPad, so if I want to read on a touchscreen, I’m good. I have a Kindle, so I’m covered for e-ink display (which really is tons better for long reading sessions). But the thing that I dislike about the Kindle Touch is that you have to use two hands to turn the page. It’s a little thing, I know, but I’m spoiled by my Kindle. I can sit in a restaurant, eat a burger or a pizza with one hand, and have one hand free to read. And I can turn pages without putting my device down. I know, it’s a little thing, but that’s what makes decision-making happen in the world of competing electronic toys.

There are four versions of the Kindle Touch – with and without special offers, and with and without 3G. For my money, if I were to buy these items, I’d go the cheap-o route, because I rarely am in a situation where I have to have a new book right damn now, unless I’m at home, and I have wi-fi. I think most of the time you could go to a friggin’ McDonald’s in a pinch. But that’s me. If I lived in rural SC where my parents still live, I’d be all about some 3g.

Then there’s the mac-daddy – the new Kindle Fire. But I’m out of time, so we’ll talk about the spankiest of new toys tomorrow or the next day. In the meantime, go buy a book. Keep me fed.

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