5 Things to Like About the New Kindle Touch

The new Amazon Tablet — Kindle Fire — made a lot of headlines this week, but personally, I think the also-announced Kindle Touch is going to be what the ebook reading population will be more interested in. There are enough things to like about the Kindle Touch to have current Kindle owners considering an upgrade (like me), and at $99, it’s an attractive enough price point to probably entice many casual readers to give the whole ebook thing a try.

That being said, here are five things to think about —

1. Price:

At $99 [or, more precisely: $99 for the Special Offers version, $139 for the ads-free version] the new Kindle Touch pricing is aggressively setting the market for e-reading devices. Hey, that’s good for us.

[update:Wow, that was fast. Per CNET: “And so it begins: Nook Color down to $149.99”]

I’m personally not much of a fan of the Special Offers (a topic we also looked at here: “Amazon’s Kindle, ebooks, and the Advertising Question”), and since I’ve grown tired of looking at dead authors on my screensaver, I habitually power my Kindle off anyways when not in use. But there is something psychologically important enough about that $99 price tag, that I have no doubt it’s a tradeoff many will happily make. And to be fair, if Special Offers does a good enough job with relevant offers — sort of like a Google AdWords for ebooks — it might not be so bad.

2. Touchscreen (finally):

Navigation on the Kindle was the one legitimate gripe we could all make. The keyboard and cursor-based navigation had an undeniably clunky feel to it. So if the touchscreen is as good as initial impressions say it is, Kindle Touch is going to present a serious threat for Barnes & Noble’s Nook Touch (which, generally speaking, compares rather favorably to the Kindle 3).

I do rather like the compactness of the Kindle, and being able to read one-handed is something that can be very useful. Kudos to Amazon for understanding that and bringing something new: Easy Reach:

Amazon invented a new type of touch experience that eliminates the fatigue caused by continuously swiping to turn the page, and that allows readers to hold Kindle with either hand while still turning pages comfortably. With EasyReach, Kindle Touch users can effortlessly page forward in a book or a periodical while holding the device with either hand. Tapping on most of the screen area will page forward, the most common action done when reading; tapping in a narrow area near the left edge of the device turns to the previous page; and tapping on the top part of the screen brings up the toolbars for further options.”

3. Better Battery Life, Smaller and Lighter:

According to Amazon — Kindle Touch is going to be 11% smaller, 8% lighter (like you’d really be able to notice that difference), and more importantly: up to 2 months of battery life, which is quite impressive.

4. Connectivity:

For those opting for the 3G Kindle Touch for $149, it really could be a pretty darn useful thing to have when you consider that means free lifetime data for over 100 countries. And, the free AT&T wi-fi access at hotspots (Starbucks, etc.) is a nice feature to include.

The free cloud backup offered with the new Kindle is something that’s been curiously lacking with the iPad and other e-reading devices. Come to think of it, I just have this feeling that Amazon has bigger plans for its Cloud Storage service, but we’ll see.

5. X-Ray:

This one is my favorite of the five. Not so much because of what it is right now (integration with Wikipedia and Shelfari), but because this approach could potentially be a very good one for improving the reading experience and even has the potential to make ebooks a superior navigation experience from print and ink. Maybe.

I have to admit, I’m very curious to see how X-Ray works in practice (here’s an intriguing glimpse of X-Ray from an early demo):

“Amazon invented X-Ray, a new feature that lets customers explore the “bones of the book.” With a single tap, readers can see all the passages across a book that mention ideas, fictional characters, historical figures, places or topics that interest them, as well as more detailed descriptions from Wikipedia and Shelfari, Amazon’s community-powered encyclopedia for book lovers.”

As far as first impressions go, Engadget has a favorable one: (“This Is Amazon’s New $99 Kindle Touch”) —

The Kindle Touch is a beautiful piece of tablet. Thin, grip-able, and fine looking. The matte front is a great compliment to the e-ink display, and the absence of buttons is wonderfully minimal. But, most importantly, the Touch’s touch works just swell. Keyboards inputs and taps were very responsive — very impressive for an IR display, which usually pales in comparison to a capacitive screen like the iPad’s.”


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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

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