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Kobos and Kindles: New Additions and Winning Combinations

Last week saw the release of a new Kobo range, and (not to be outdone) the yearly release of the new Kindle line. Despite Bezos’ insistence that he doesn’t need his customers on the ‘upgrade treadmill’, Amazon released an upgrade to pretty much every single one of their devices, including two new Kindle Fire tablets and the predicted backlit eInk reader. So, as readers, what are we looking at for Christmas this year?

The Kobos

Kobo Glo – £99Kobo Glo

6″, 2GB standard storage size, with optional SD card

eInk, backlight. 1 month battery life.

Kobo Arc – £160 (8gb) / £190 (16gb)

7″, music player, video player, 720p HD front-facing camera

1.5 GHz dual core processor; 1 GB RAM,  215 ppi display 1280×800 HD resolution

Access to the Kobo bookstore, nearly 3 million books, Android app store.

Kobo Mini – £59

5″, 2GB storage, 2 weeks battery life.

Available at WH Smith and kobobooks.com

 

I tend to take Kobo seriously as an eReader because there’s always movement in their ranks. They’re by no means front runners, but they partnered with WH Smith quite early on, offer Android as an operating system, and are always improving their line. I don’t mind the idea of a cheap 5″ Kobo, and the fact they are shipping the Kobo Glo to the UK means between they’re only battling Nook for new eInk buyers. I don’t think many people will be that impressed with buying an eReader without a backlight now, to be honest, particularly when the price difference is so minimal.

Although their market share is pitiful, their hardware is actually decent. They are making tablets for readers, with new features to augment the experience. Not all readers will want this. But not all readers want to be locked into buying eBooks from one megalith retailer forever, either. Personally, I’d rather have access to the Android app store and a bit of flexibility than access to the 180,000 exclusive Kindle titles (KDP titles? Who knows.) Amazon is using as a selling point for all their Kindles now.

Kindle Fire HD

 

The Kindles

Kindle (standard) – £69

6″, 2GB storage

180,000 Kindle-exlusive titles

Available on Amazon.co.uk and Waterstones (November)

Kindle Fire HD – £169 (16gb) / £199 (32gb)

7″, 215 ppi display 1280×800 HD resolution

11 hours continual mixed use, access to Amazon Mp3s, LoveFilm, Amazon eBooks.

Available on Amazon.co.uk and Waterstones (November)

 

Amazon launches are becoming an event. What might partially be fear from other industries (how crazy-low will they set their prices now?) no denying their hardware is in high demand. Thursday’s press conference saw the release of the new Kindle Fire range, and Kindle Paperwhite, their backlit answer to the Nook GlowLight. Almost irrelevant for us in the UK, as Amazon aren’t shipping this model out here (yet?).

However, we will be treated to the new Kindle Fire HD – what some called Amazon’s shot at the iPad. With a 7″ screen and a £169 starting price, I don’t think they’re quite aiming for the same market, but that’s no bad thing. This feels younger, more of a crossover for people who won’t need the massive app store and huge screen but want something more powerful than a book.

Bezos believes in this product. In fact, he believes in it so much he took the whole Amazon.co.uk homepage over with a ‘letter’ to customers announcing the Kindles’ release dates in the UK. The interesting thing about this ‘letter’ (pro tip: if you’re going to try to make a computer screen look like a piece of paper, make a bit of effort. Also, homepage takeovers should never be ugly. See Apple.) was its focus on the content library you’ll be buying into.

A month’s free trial of LoveFilm, allowing you to stream movies and tv shows including ‘Gnomeo & JulietUnknownDesperate Housewives and 24 ‘ (uh, great?), the Amazon MP3 store, the Amazon Appstore, and of course bookstore. It’s an appealing offer. Bezos successfully creates the feeling that this is a Safe Bet, and that regardless of what else happens in this fluctuating tablet market, buying into the Kindle ecosystem will mean you will never be wanting in the content department.

This, more than any fancy hardware, is what makes Amazon such an incredibly terrifying adversary. They provide all the content a user would want, not just part of it. They are themselves media providers, and once inside the system it is (like Apple) very difficult to move away not only technically, but also because as a consumer there’s really no need.

I guess this is why everyone was/is so worried about the Waterstones/Amazon partnership. Buying the Kindle Fire means you’ve got a bookshop at home, complete with the (Amazon-dictated) non-optional shop window-esque advertisements for new books/films etc on the lock screen.

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Felice Howden

Felice Howden had opinions before she knew what the word 'opinion' meant. She wrote for the publishing and ideas blog Socratic Ignorance Is Bliss, and has had short stories published around the place. She graduated from the University of Melbourne in 2008 with a degree in English and Philosophy, and now spends her time typing code and hatching brain eggs for the future of publishing in a major publishing house.

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