New Kindle Lineup Faster, Lighter and More Locked Down

Amazon announced a series of new Kindle tablets yesterday. Some of the intriguing features of this new lineup include a faster processor, improved battery life and a slimmer, lighter profile. As for the ‘lowlight,’ these tablets are more integrated than ever into the Amazon ecosystem, and that can be both a feature and a curse. A few examples:

1) Goodreads Integration

Now that Amazon owns Goodreads, they will be integrating it into all of their software interfaces, for both the tablets and the e-ink readers. That’s great, if you like Goodreads! But what if you’d rather use a different social book site? Or none at all? I learned this lesson already with the Kobo people, who baked in the ‘discovery’ feature into their Arc tablets and didn’t give people a settings option to turn it off. I don’t need Kobo to help me find books, but it’s going to, whether I like it or not! When a rep from Kobo actually joined in the discussion at MobileRead on this, he was incredulous that this was such an issue for people. I know, I know. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature. But I hope Amazon gives people the option to turn this feature off.

2) Amazon Content Integration

This is an Amazon tablet, so it’s no surprise they are touting ‘deep integration’ with their content ecosystem as a major selling point. But this can be a drawback too—if their content system is missing content that you want, how easy will it be for you to load it on from elsewhere? I remember when Netflix ended their contract with Viacom and thousands of customers lost their access to streaming children’s programs that they relied on. It’s fine to say ‘don’t buy it if you don’t like Amazon’s stuff’ but remember that Amazon’s stuff today might not be around tomorrow! If you have to jailbreak your tablet to play the content you prefer, how happy will you be?

3) Customized OS Integration

Remember, too, that Amazon uses a proprietary Android OS which is non-standard. That means you have to wait for them to apply updates and integrate new features. If they don’t do that on as regular a schedule as you might prefer, would that be an issue for you? Do you feel you must have the best and most recent OS, or are you happy letting Amazon pick and choose the features for you?

I think the new tablets sound great, from a technical standpoint. But here in Canada, the Amazon ecosystem is much more limited, so when people have asked me, I have steered them to plain-vanilla Android devices which can run any app they choose. If you are blessed with a better Amazon offering than we are here in Canada, this might be a good purchase for you. Just be aware of the potential pitfalls before you buy.

13 Comments on New Kindle Lineup Faster, Lighter and More Locked Down

  1. Joanna,

    You’re absolutely right about it being more locked down than other tablets. I’m not planning to buy one, for that reason, even though I love the ability to download Prime Instant videos. And for Canadians, you’re even more correct.

    However, what I’ve learned hanging out with Kindle owners is that they love their products and are extremely loyal to them and to Amazon. I haven’t had time today to hang out on KBoards, but I’m pretty sure there is “great rejoicing in the land” over there. And those are the people Amazon is trying to attract and retain. For them, this is a nice upgrade.

  2. I’d be interested in reading a survey of devices (dedicated eReaders and multi-purpose units) with a focus on the various ways that one can introduce content and services that do not originate with the vendor without jailbreaking/rooting them or circumventing DRM. I suppose that it could be summarized in a matrix of some sort. Getty fancy, we might assign a number to each device that represents the degree of freedom an owner may exercise without hacking the hardware.

  3. @Frank, that’s a good idea. Let me take a look at that and see what I can come up with. Unless Joanna wants to take in on instead.

  4. Juli, I don’t have access to Nook or Amazon tablets. I have used Kobo, Google and iPad tablets and all of them could run the popular multi-platform apps (Netflix, YouTube, Kindle and Kobo reading apps, Google Drive and so on) with no issues.

  5. I have the current Fire HD 7 and the Fire HD 8.9 and Amazon makes it just soooooo dreadfully hard to install third party apps without rooting it.

    You have to tap Settings, then tap Device, then tap Allow Installation of Applications From Unknown Sources.

  6. @ Joanna-

    How is the new one more locked down? As long as it still allows for the installation of apps from unknown sources, I don’t see this being the case. Does anyone know if that option is going away?

  7. “The main text of published authors (e.g. the story, non-fiction description, poems, etc.) is often surrounded by other material supplied by editors, printers, and publishers, which is known as the paratext. These added elements form a frame for the main text, and can change the reception of a text or its interpretation by the public.” This Wiki description of paratext relates to bibliographic study of paper books, TeleRead is pioneering paratext description for screen books.

    Many of the TeleRead postings relate to the screen reading environment as the continuing discussion of DRM illustrates. Affordances of specific devices are compared in detail. Such pioneering of an emerging paratext study for screen books is a wonderful TeleRead service to bibliographics!

  8. I’m probably going to pass on this model. I bought a 8.9″ Kindle Fire last year and don’t feel the need to always upgrade. Every other year should be fine unless something breaks early.

    The Goodreads intergration may be bothersome. I do have a Goodreads account but I probably wouldn’t want them synced with my Kindle. I also don’t want recommendations. I have different emails for Goodreads and Amazon so the should be no problem there. But will the new Fire try to sign me up to Goodreads under my Amazon account?

  9. You can even install the Nook app on a Kindle Fire.

  10. borax99 (Alain C.) // October 2, 2013 at 11:59 am //

    Against my better judgment, I purchased an older-model Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch tablet a couple of months ago. Sure enough, if you have a Canadian account, you cannot get: movies, music or magazines – and the app selection is very limited. Until Amazon wakes up, should stick to something like a Nexus 7 or – if you just like to read a lot – the Paperwhite.

  11. Alain, you can probably make that Kindle a lot more useful by rooting it with CyanogenMod. At least then you’ll be running stock Android and have the Google Play store available.

  12. @Chris and Alain, or you could use N2A for Kindle

    http://www.n2aos.com/

    A friend of mine used it on his Kindle Fire and said it was easy. $19.99 might be worth it if you aren’t a DIYer.

  13. borax99 (Alain C.) // October 3, 2013 at 1:56 pm //

    Thank you Chris and Juli. Time is money, so I elected to try n2aos. There were a few nail-biting moments, but – it worked. The “useless” tablet has now become a content-surfing machine. (Chris, I was inspired to follow Juli’s recommendation when I saw just how many folks posted on xdadevelopers that they bricked their Kindle)

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