When Amazon unleashed its Kindle electronic reading device in America in 2007 it sold out in five and a half hours. Since then it has refused to relinquish its grip on the e-reader market, and in doing so has provoked an unending debate on the future of book publishing.
The standard Kindle is now in its fifth generation, but on October 25 British readers will finally get their hands on a radically different version of the product, the Kindle Fire.
It’s the first Kindle to use LCD display instead of Amazon’s patented ‘E Ink’ electronic paper display, and it runs on Google’s popular Android operating system, which means it is essentially encroaching on the tablet playing field dominated by Apple’s iPad - at a fraction of the price.
As Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has announced, it’s not the only new addition to the Kindle family.
So what does the Kindle Fire offer?
The Kindle Fire’s dimensions are 7.5×4.7×0.45 inch (190×120×11 mm), and there is a multi-touch colour screen with a diagonal length of 7 inches (180 mm) and a 600×1024-pixel resolution.
The new version of the Kindle Fire (the one hitting British shops this month) has a 1.2GHz processor and 1GB RAM, which Amazon claims makes it 40 per cent faster than the original model. There is 8GB of memory, which Amazon claims is enough to hold 80 applications, plus either ten movies or 800 songs or 6,000 books, depending on your habits. There is also free unlimited cloud storage for all content bought from Amazon.
The Kindle Fire has built-in Wi-Fi, which enables video streaming, web browsing and all the web-related features we have come to expect from tablets. It runs on a customized version of Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. This allows access to the Amazon Appstore, an Amazon web browser and a built-in email client.
The Kindle Fire will cost £139 in the UK, making it only £70 more expensive than a standard Kindle. Amazon confirmed this week that it will not make a profit from sales of its latest devices. Unlike Apple, Amazon hopes to make its money from subsequent sales of books and other media.
While reviewers have not been too impressed with its battery life, the inclusion of adverts (which you can pay to have removed) and the fact that it is set to be instantly superseded by the HD version (see below), this is still an impressive tablet for its very low price.
Kindle Fire HD
Over in America tech junkies have been getting excited about the second generation Kindle Fire HD. The good news is that it will be available in the UK on the same date as the Kindle Fire (October 25).
It will be available in two sizes (7 inch and 8.9 inch). The smaller model has an improved resolution of 1280 × 800 while the larger version boasts 1920 × 1200. Amazon have announced a price tag of £169 for the 16GB model and £209 for 32GB.
For those avid readers who don’t want to be distracted by all that the internet has to offer, Amazon has also launched a new Kindle called Paperwhite with a sharper display, 25% higher contrast and, perhaps most importantly, a built-in front light. This may be enough to win over those who do their reading late at night without wanting to keep anyone else awake with the bedside light on.
The Paperwhite has already garnered glowing reviews as a significant step forward in strictly books-only e-reader technology. As for pricing, the Wi-Fi model will cost £109 and the 3G version will set you back £169.
And as if that series of innovations and launches wasn’t enough, there is also the new Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Provided Kindle owners have subscribed to Amazon Prime membership, they can borrow up to one book a month from a choice of 200,000 ebooks.
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