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Amazon Overturned the E-reader Apple Cart

It’s a good thing I was sitting down at the press conference today, because with all the shocking news that Amazon handed out you could have knocked me over with a feather.

First and foremost, there have been a couple changes to their current models. Unlike in the past, they' re not going away. All 4 variations of the K3 Wifi and K3 3G will be sticking around as the Kindle Keyboard. Amazon will keep them at their current price and they are there to please the customer who doesn’t want to give up the keyboard on the Kindle.

But if you’re not planning to hold on to the past, have I got a treat for you.

Earlier today Amazon launched not the 2 ereaders that I found for last night, but in fact launched 3 different devices, all drool-worthy. All have lost the keyboard that the Kindle has had ever since it was copied from the Sony Librie.

The new base model "Kindle" (K4) has no keyboard, touchscreen, speakers, headphone jack, or card slot, but it does have (for those of us who can’t part with them) page turn buttons in about the same spot as on the KKb (Kindle Keyboard). It has Wifi, 1GB Flash storage, and just the 4 buttons and d-pad below the screen. There is an onscreen keyboard, so you can type in a note or search for something. I’m not sure you’re going to want to; using the d-pad will likely get tedious after a while.

It’s retailing for $109, and if you don’t mind adverts (and you live in the US) you can buy one for $79.

This one I actually got to put my hands on (before they realized it wasn’t allowed). It’s the D01200 model from the FCC paperwork I found last night. I found it to be surprisingly fast and light. I’m really looking forward to the new Kindle Cloud feature that it ships with; everything that you email to this Kindle will be archived – just like the content you buy from Amazon.

The other 2 new Kindles are largely the same device, with one difference; one has Wifi and the other has 3G. The Kindle Touch is based on the same Pearl E-ink screen and Neonode touchscreen that you can find on the Kobo Touch and Nook Touch.nit comes with 3GB Flash storage, speakers, and an onscreen keyboard,

Like the other Kindle the kTouch was surprisingly fast and light. There was something interesting about how Amazon handled the touchscreen zones. I didn’t get a complete explanation about what happened when you touched particular parts of the screen, but I know I want to take a deeper look. It seems delightfully intricate.

The new X-Ray feature also looks interesting. Kindle ebooks now come with an index like feature that tells you where n and how often a word or phrase pops up in a book. They also now come with background summaries (pulled from Wikipedia and Shelfari) that explain the characters and event referenced in each book.

The Kindle Touch models are retailing for the same price as the old K3 prices – $139 and $189. You can get them for less if you don’t mind the adverts (and you live in the US) . They ship next month.

So, did Amazon overturn the apple cart? I think they did, and even if you ignore the red herring of the $80 Kindle they still managed to stick it to the competition.

Amazon now offer 5 Kindle models to their competitors' 3 (1 each).  Amazon offer not only a cheaper option than any other premium ereader, but they also matched the hardware features and prices of their competitors. Want a touchscreen? Amazon will sell it to you. Keyboard? Ditto.

Amazon even introduced a basic model which is going to kill off the refurbished market. It  even looks like I might have to stop the Daily Deals. With a $110 Kindle on the market now I’m not sure that I will be able to find a whole lot of ereaders that cost less.

Admittedly, Amazon will probably never match the software features of the Sony Reader, but given how poorly Sony have promoted those features (they’re awesome, trust me) I don’t think many will realize what they’re missing.

P.S. Do you know what Amazon’s secret weapon is? No, it’s not the cheap Kindle. The one thing Amazon can do that their competition cannot is offer a 3G connection. That’s now a killer feature (along with the email conversion).

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karen wester newton September 28, 2011 um 11:15 pm

This is such cool news! Do you know if you can page forward with the KTouch by tapping the screen on one side? I hate the *&%$ K3 keyboard, but I do love the one-handed reading that came with having the page forward key on the right hand edge. I will find out eventually because I pre-ordered the KTouch 3G (no ads!). I figure if it’s not as easy to read with as my K3, I can give it to my husband.

fjtorres September 28, 2011 um 11:28 pm

Hint: 30 day, no question returns.

But, yes, you can page by tapping the screen, not just swiping.
(No physical paging buttons on the KT, though.)

Void September 29, 2011 um 11:17 am

That last one is my primary complaint based on what I have seen thus far. The only thing I wanted Sony to do with their new model was give it K3 like page turn buttons, and now Amazon goes and does everything I wanted it to do physically but gets rid of the one physical thing that I wanted them to keep.

Sherri September 29, 2011 um 12:11 am

Once I read that they had actually thought about one handed reading, and that swiping was not necessary to turn the page, I ordered the 3g Touch (w/o ads.) I also ordered the Fire. Impressive day for Amazon.

ijustwantaebookreader September 29, 2011 um 12:12 am

so which one is better? the ktouch or the nook touch? i am planning of getting one in december. 🙂

fjtorres September 29, 2011 um 1:01 pm

Better for what? Better is a function of your needs.
First you need to decide: do you care passionately about the epub "standard"?
If you do, Kindle is not for you.

Syn September 29, 2011 um 12:49 am

I think the Kindle is better, it has a lot more features now then B&N. I can’t live without the indexing feature and phrase search across all my books.

Void September 29, 2011 um 11:19 am

Odds say you still can’t set up your collections remotely. Being able to have Calibre automatically handle all of my sorting is what makes me stick with Sony. I won’t switch until another company realizes that I don’t have the time to sit there and put books in collections one by one.

fjtorres September 29, 2011 um 1:08 pm

You do know they are several PC- based collection management apps for Kindle, right?
Calibre is a wonderful tool but it isn’t the only ebook management tool out there.

Sweetpea September 29, 2011 um 2:28 am

I’d like the body of the K4, with a touchscreen, please.

No "home" button, no "paging" buttons… I doubt I’d ever buy one of those. There are times when I simply don’t want to touch the screen with my fingers.

Void September 29, 2011 um 11:19 am

Like say when you are reading and eating at the same time. You can clean a little shmutz off the page turn buttons easily; good luck if you get something on the screen.

fjtorres September 29, 2011 um 1:12 pm

I like the K4 fine without touch.
I just want 3g with it.

lomdar67 September 29, 2011 um 2:44 am

Did the elaborate more on "everything that you email to this Kindle will be archived"? Does this mean I can send mobi ebooks to my kindle, that I have not bought else where, and Amazon is storing them? That would be a great feature, especially if whispersnyc would be working with those books too…

If only we would get the Touch outside the US…

Nate Hoffelder September 29, 2011 um 7:37 am

I’m not sure that this feature will archive the annotations on all Kindles, but yes, if you email a mobi to you Kindle Amazon will archive it for you.

I looked at the help pages and the annotations should be archived from the K3, K4 and kTouch. It also looks like all docs you email to your Kindle will now be archived.

Richard Adin September 29, 2011 um 5:09 am

Although I won’t be buying one, I admit that Amazon has finally gotten the design correct by eliminating the keyboard. It really is too bad that it is Amazon that will capitalize on Sony’s design but Sony has only itself to blame. (With the improved design, I will also admit that I would consider one of these devices if they came with ePub support.)

But even with all its improvements, the Sony 950, which Sony appears to have abandoned, is a better device for readers. The new Kindles come close but still lag a little behind the 950.

The new X-ray feature puzzles me. I understand what it does, but I cannot figure out how many people care how many instances of the word "intangible" occur in a book — or why they care. The ability to lookup a reference to Rhett Butler certainly is worthwhile, but I can do that on my Sony 950.

No mention of how the dictionary (or are there multiple dictionaries?) work, which I think would be of much greater value to a reader. I never thought I would make great use of it but I find myself constantly checking out words and usage.

Mike Cane September 29, 2011 um 7:55 am

You left out the fact the new basic Kindle lacks a speaker and headphone jack. It’s just for reading now, not Audible or MP3s too.

Nate Hoffelder September 29, 2011 um 7:57 am

I pointed out that it lacks speakers.

Lizzie September 29, 2011 um 7:58 am

I love my K3, would never give up my keyboard, it’s just faster for highlighting and annotating. I very badly want a Kindle Fire though.
I’ve wanted something with color for knitting patterns and cookbooks for some time, perhaps a 10″ would be better for both though….

Laura September 29, 2011 um 8:36 am

The X-ray feature is only mentioned on the K Touch — not on the base model.

Nate Hoffelder September 29, 2011 um 8:49 am

I’m pretty sure that they showed it to me on the K4. But let me go confirm that.

Edit: Nope. You were right. Thanks!

Void September 29, 2011 um 11:22 am

"The Kindle Touch is based on the same Pearl E-ink screen and Neonode touchscreen that you can find on the Kobo Touch and Nook Touch"

Everyone seems to have forgotten that SONY had this screen almost a year before anyone else. Not just you, Nate, I mean everyone. Sony needs a new PR team desperately.

Sweetpea September 29, 2011 um 1:36 pm

I don’t think it was a year, as the Sony and the K3 came out at around the same time (if I remember correctly). But as the K3 already had Pearl, it only makes sense to keep using it for all future readers (until something better comes along, that is)

Allwin September 29, 2011 um 2:42 pm

I was hoping for a new kindle dx, guess I’m SOL 🙁

Void September 29, 2011 um 5:32 pm

Me too. Reading academic papers (typically PDFs with multiple columns and heavy graphics) is a lost cause on a 6″ screen, to say nothing of text books.

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