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A Kindle Which Plays Games, and Speaking the Same Language

I had a conversation this week that made me sit back and wonder whether I missed a major shift in how people are talking about technology.

My teenage brother, who for various reasons lives on the other side of the country, wants to get an ebook reader. This is neither here nor there, but this past week our mother drafted me to help pick one out and find one that was a good value. Aside from one request, he wasn’t very picky, but my mother made it clear that she wanted to pay as little as possible.

His request? He wanted an ebook reader that could play games.

Now, I’m sure my more knowledgeable readers will know that the Kindle ebook readers can play games, but that’s not what he meant. After I asked a few more questions I realized that what my brother was looking for was a cheap tablet of some kind that could play games.

I ended up convincing my mom to get him a new Kindle Fire HD. The 2013 models are on sale this week at Best Buy for $119 (8GB) and $129(16GB), so it actually cost the same as some of the refurbs on And since the software other services were more polished than most tablets in that price range I thought it was a good value.

But never mind the tablet we got him; I am more interested today in his request.

While I was discussing the topic with my mother, she told me that it is not unusual for people to refer to a tablet by their primary use for it: as an ebook reader.  She also told me that the word Kindle has become the generic term for ebook reader – just like Xerox, Kleenex, Aspirin, and other brand names.

Is this true?

I am not raising this topic in order to argue that anyone is wrong; when it comes to inventing new uses for existing terms the general consensus is what defines proper usage.For example, Aspirin used to be a specific brand, but once people started using it to refer to all competing similar drugs it became a generic term.

And if enough people are using Kindle as a generic term for ebook readers then the same thing could be happening right under our noses.  And if enough people are referring to their tablets as ebook readers then that is the new normal.

So is my mother correct? How do you refer to the gadgets in question, if I may ask?

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The Commons March 16, 2014 um 1:05 am

I would suspect that more people would refer to a generic tablet as an iPad rather than a Kindle. Although it would be interesting if people used Kindle to refer to cheap tablets, since it appears to be one of the main selling points.

Bart Anderson March 16, 2014 um 2:52 am

Yes, I hear "Kindle" for e-reader, and "iPad" for tablet. I suspect this usage is strongest in the U.S. In other countries, it would be much less so, since Kindle and iPad aren’t so widespread there.

There seems to be widespread confusion about the difference between tablets and e-readers. They’re about the same size, they came out about the same time, so why not?

trekk March 16, 2014 um 6:08 am

Kindle and iPad are widespread in Germany, but generally a Kindle is an Amazone Reader, not a synonym for e-reader. An iPad is a device from Apple, not a synonym for a tablet.

Many people read on tablets or smartphones here, but if you speak of ebook readers, for most of the people it is clear, that you mean a device which uses e-Ink, and not a tablet.

Hanako Richter March 16, 2014 um 3:07 am

I have to agree with Bart and add that this seems to be the case for the UK as well; an ereader is a kindle, a tablet is an iPad. As someone who enjoys gadgets and distinguishing between them, it real bugs me. I try to explain the differences but they only seem to matter when I’m handed a device and asked to "fix it".

puzzled March 16, 2014 um 4:47 am

"Aspirin" lost its trademarkedness as a result of being on the losing side in WW1.

fjtorres March 16, 2014 um 10:49 am

This is only going to get worse in the US.

As far as mainstream buyers are concerned, the market for ereaders is down to Kindle and Nook and Nook is iffy.
It is quite common for products that thoroughly dominate a category to become synonymous with that category and the Kindle brand, through the readers and the apps, is well along the road to that.

The tablet issue is less clear, but given that Amazon ads routinely compare iPads to both Kindle lines, and that the most common reading app on non-iPads is Kindle, some confusion might arise.

Apple has established a pretty clear identity as a high-end tablet and Kindle has the highest visibility (though not sales) among the alternatives so, my best guess is they really meant "a non-Apple reading device that can play games".

Mary March 16, 2014 um 1:52 pm

Not to get picky here but I suspect everyone calls it Asprin because acetylsalicylic acid is a mouthful.

I don’t know that I have ever heard anyone call a tablet an e-reader. Some do not know the generic name and will say, "Something like an iPad, only cheaper." Not that all of them are cheaper. Has it occurred to you that your brother’s calling it an e-reader, meaning a tablet, was to imply that he would be mostly reading on it. I can see a kid doing this, even though he might spend 90% of his time playing games.

Heather March 16, 2014 um 6:28 pm

Maybe jumping a track here, but the fact you say Kindles can play games put me in another view. Someone showed me a post about a high end games company now seeing the gamers as their customer, not retailers.

I suddenly got to thinking Amazon was selling Kindles on a payment plan so more gamers would buy a Kindle.

I got the direct impression, Jeff Bezos was about 'readers' and Kindles. The fact you remind me of this and I hear this recent post makes me wonder if Amazon is after that same gamers market. ?


Al the Great and Powerful March 16, 2014 um 7:20 pm

The e-readers I see locally are all Kindle or Nook (Borders was late to the game selling Sony and other brands, so they didn’t take root here in any numbers) and if you don’t know you ask what it is, there’s no generic label associated with all e-readers.

I never think of, and never hear locally, the use of iPad for all tablets. I use 'tablet' or the actual brand name (I call mine 'a tablet' or 'a Nexus 7') while my wife just calls hers her Kindle (Its the basic Kindle Fire), if others know the difference, they use brand name or say 'what is that?' and if they don’t know, they usually ask 'what is that?'
I DO get 'Is that an iPad?' when I’m carrying my Kindle DX, because of the size.

Anne March 17, 2014 um 2:07 pm

This discussion actually came up at my parents house last weekend. Numerous family members were visiting and included nine kids aged 4 to 10.

All the kids referred to ereaders as kindles regardless of brand. They all seemed aware that there is a difference between a reader and a tablet but couldn’t tell one reader from another. I thought at the time that was a sign that the word kindle was becoming generic.

Most of the kids called tablets tablets but two of them referred to a Fire as a Fire and the four year old referred to a Nexus 7 as an ipad.

I don’t know if I could go back to figure out which products each family has but I do know one of the kids does have his own Fire, all the adults have readers and probably 60% of them also have a tablet. With this post, I kind of wish we had thought to poll the kids. Maybe next time.

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