Fire on the Amazon: The Kindle gets an upgrade

It’s already reaching the point where I feel like every other word I use writing these articles is either ‘Amazon’ or ‘Kindle’. Obviously, however, that kind of total market saturation isn’t enough for the hyper-multi-national, because yesterday saw the announcement of the next generation of Kindle, one aimed not just at taking down traditional bookshops, but taking down the taker-down of traditional record shops: Apple.

The new Kindle is, in fact, not just a mere update of the current Kindle, but a touch pad tablet along the lines of the market-leading iPad. It’s less sophisticated – no mobile connection, smaller screen, no camera – but, crucially, it’s also half the price, retailing in America at $199 (which, at current market rates, works out at a hair under £128, although expect that figure to be rounded to a higher number that ends in a 0, 5 or 9).

Might as well learn the name now, because you’ll be hearing little else over the coming months in publishing news: making the subconscious pyromaniac tendencies buried in the name ‘Kindle’ totally overt, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the world the Kindle Fire. At this rate, expect to see the Kindle Fire Run Away From Burning Bookshop Before Fire Brigade Gets Here on the market sometime around 2031 (also, beat the snarky cool kids to the punch by making all the Sandra Bullock jokes you can before everyone on Twitter realises this exists – I’d suggest something to do with ‘Santos, charismatic leader of the union of rubber tappers’).

I’m left pondering a question, however: is this really publishing news? None of the announced upgrades seem in any way tailored to enhance the experience of actually reading a book. There was the quieter announcement of a simpler, cheaper Kindle given its own touch-screen makeover, buried two thirds down most reports on the launch, but Amazon’s goals appear to have moved on exponentially from popularising digital reading to totally dominating the realm of portable media. Which is fine if the one thing you feel the Kindle’s been lacking so far is the ability to listen to Spotify while you read, but that aside it’s hard to see what impact this will really have for publishers, other than that significantly more people will likely own one. Whether any of those new uptakers will actually want to use the device to buy books, though, is something else entirely. Updates, inevitably, inexorably, incessantly, to follow over the coming days, weeks and months.

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