Amazon’s 3rd-generation Kindle e-reader, set to be released on August 27th, had me worried for a little while. My gadget-y friends and I often wonder aloud about upcoming features and technology advances, and many of them assumed Amazon would try to make it more like an iPad. As a happy owner of a 2nd-generation Kindle, I figured that would be a mistake.
The Kindle is for reading books, and the iPad is a tablet computer. Yes, there is a web browser on the Kindle, but it’s clunkiness relegates it to “emergency browser” status. So, I was scared that Amazon might feel compelled to try to add color to the Kindle, or more applications, or a touch screen, or any number of features that would make it less of a device for reading books. Thankfully, they haven’t.
Instead, they focused on improving the reading-in-sunlight situation, speeding up the page-turning time (which doesn’t currently seem slow to me, it’s always turned pages faster than I would with a paper book), making it lighter and sleeker and introducing crisper fonts. There is a mention of a WebKit-based browser, same as on the iOS devices, but they even went so far as to point out that it’s experimental. Amazon seems committed to making an excellent book reader, and limiting its features so that it does one thing really well, much like Apple started taking over when it committed to making an ideal MP3 player.
In doing so, and by keeping the price of the new device the same or lower than the old device, Amazon is taking the right page out of Apple’s playbook, while simultaneously refusing to compete with their products. That all seems incredibly smart to me. The only thing they haven’t done is created an intensely compelling reason for current Kindle owners to upgrade. The 2nd-gen Kindle is already kind of perfect, and though 1st-gen owners might be tempted, I don’t think they’d feel a need to upgrade, the way I felt a need to upgrade from the iPhone 3G to the iPhone 4.
I doubt that bothers Amazon. The Kindle apparently has been added to the most Wish Lists, been given as a gift more than anything else, and has the most 5-star reviews of any product that Amazon sells, and Amazon sells iPods.