New Kindle software, hardware expand Amazon's e-book system, blur its identity
Over the last few days, Amazon has shipped three major updates to its Kindle electronic-book system that expand its capabilities but also confuse its identity.
On those devices, the Kindle app can now play audio and video files embedded in some Kindle releases. For example, a preview copy of travel writer Rick Steves' latest guide to London features the author reading aloud his descriptions--a useful option while walking around the city.
But you won't see or hear any of that multimedia goodness in the other Kindle software introduced this week--the reader program for Android smartphones that Amazon announced on Monday. The free Kindle for Android, which requires devices to at least run the 1.6 release of Google's operating system, resembles the Seattle retailer's older iPhone software and the BlackBerry application it shipped in February.
Like those earlier programs, Kindle for Android displays books you've bought on the Kindle Store and even keeps your place as you switch your reading from one Kindle device or program to another. But shopping requires switching over to an Android phone's Web browser, and you can't read newspapers, magazines or blogs to which you've subscribed through the Kindle Store.
To enjoy those subscriptions, you'd instead have to switch to Amazon's third release of the week, an updated Kindle DX e-reader tablet introduced Thursday. The new Kindle DX, shipping July 7, features an e-ink screen that Amazon says offers 50 percent more contrast than that of its predecessor.
It sells for $379, down from $489, and comes clad in dark-gray plastic that should hide dirt better than the old DX's off-white exterior. But even at $379, the DX doesn't seem to compare well to a $499 iPad that will let you read the same books, allow you to peruse blogs, newspapers and magazines through its Web browser or add-on apps, and which also happens to be a decent computer in its own right.
(One could say the same about the smaller Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook; prices were cut on each last week.)
How do you see this shaking out? Will "Kindle" become shorthand for a family of reader programs, or will people continue to think of a specific set of e-reader tablets when you say the name?
July 2, 2010; 4:05 PM ET
Categories: E-books , Gadgets , Mobile
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