Do I Get a Kindle, and Which One?

As Amazon, Kindle, or tech watchers know, Amazon released new versions of their very popular Kindle eBook readers early last week. My Aunt wrote me yesterday and asked me my opinion about the announcement (she’s a huge fan of the Kindle and a voracious reader). So, instead of writing an email, I figure I’ll take this opportunity to write a tech-related posted on my blog.

In one word, my response is… impressive. They’ve come a long way, baby, with the Kindle since the first generation, which I was a happy owner of. Really, there’s two Kindle’s to speak of, especially if you’re a current owner of an older generation. The Kindle Touch and the Kindle Fire. The first is simply a evolutionary enhancement from the last generation. If you’re happy with your current Kindle, I wouldn’t bother updating. On the other hand, if you hate using the directional buttons click click click click to navigate, it might be an option. The screen is marginally better, and it’s marginally lighter, but not a big enough difference to make the upgrade cost effective.

The Kindle Fire, of course, is the big news. It’s really the first real threat to the 800 pound gorilla in the tablet space, the iPad. To get this out of the way, it’s NOT a feature-by-feature match with the iPad, and it wasn’t supposed to be. It’s smaller, has less battery life, and is less suited for non-media applications. Think of it like this — they start in different places with different goals. The iPad was always meant to be a tabula rasa, with it’s applications providing it’s usefulness, but with Apple not really going out of it’s way to make it good at any one thing. It’s a jack of all trades. The Kindle Fire, though, knows what it wants to do: provide you with a platform for consuming Amazon-sourced content. Books, of course, but also their digital music, TV shows, movies, and games. In those areas, I suspect it’ll compete rather well with the iPad. It has the full force of the Amazon media ecosystem behind it, second only to Apple’s, and vastly superior to any other competitor. In other jobs, it’ll likely be not a top performer.

This, of course, is all speculation. The announcements have been made, but the reviewers haven’t got the slabs of plastic in their hot little hands to really dig into yet. I’ll close with this: when I bought my iPad, I gave up the Kindle. I’m seriously thinking about getting one again, though. The iPad just isn’t a great eBook reader. It’s too heavy, and the screen is just pathetic in the sun. If I do pull the trigger for the third time, though, it’ll be the Kindle Touch, not the Fire. It’s hard to imagine the Fire being really superior to the iPad in anything except eBook reading.

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