David CourseyDavid Coursey at PC World has latched onto the recent sighting of a job posting at Amazon for a web developer for an “innovative web browser” (See Quick Notes).   His article makes the same connection everyone else apparently has: That it must be an Amazonian plan to create a new browser for the Kindle. He then goes on to say that it will do no good for the device:

An innovative Web browser will not stop what is going to happen to Kindle. The device will not be able to compete with next-generation, color-screen tablets that feature e-reader functionality and do more.

Though the supposition may or may not be correct (Amazon could be planning a new browser for a new device, and not the existing Kindle), I find myself in agreement with the rest of the article. It essentially states the black-and-white Kindle’s days are numbered, and that Amazon will most likely abandon the hardware altogether at some point, the Kindle having accomplished its primary goal of kick-starting the e-book industry:

Ten years from now, we will fondly remember the Kindle as the device that helped take book publishing out of the forestry business and onto the small screen. It will have been a huge success in changing the world, but, alas, its days are presently numbered.


  1. Not sure I agree. The very fact that the Kindle doesn’t have all those bells and whistles is just what makes it attractive, more book-like. I think a large enough number of people will want to read as an escape from being constantly plugged-in that the Kindle, if it stays more or less like it is, will continue to have a market share.

  2. The very fact that the Kindle doesn’t have all those bells and whistles is just what makes it attractive, more book-like.

    $259.00 for one function and a slow black and white screen?

    $499.00 for 150,998 functions and a fast color screen?

    Let’s see… what would I buy?

  3. There’s a lot of people wishing they could make Amazon vanish.
    (Just like a lot of people wish Microsoft or Apple would vanish in a puff of smoke.)

    Just wishing things to happen doesn’t make them true, though, and they seem to be ignoring one crucial fact: Kindle isn’t Amazon’s only house-branded product. If anything, Amazon is slowly expanding their inventory of house-branded products into other areas where they can leverage their infrastructure for easy profits. And what better fit for an ebook retailer than to sell a dedicated reader?

    If dedicated readers are going to vanish overnight, then why is every asian electronics manufacturer, big and small, and every significant bookseller worldwise looking to get into the act?

    My own take is that Amazon is working on a webpad/tablet/LCD reader of their own to *complement* the eInk Kindles. Some folks seem willing to trade off battery life and screen size/weight for color and/or faster screens. Makes sense to give it to them.

    But eInk readers are only now starting to ride Moore’s law downwards. They sell by the millions at $249-299; how will they sell at $149? $99?

    When you consider that the key components that make the readers possible (screens, controllers, processors) are now coming from mutiple sources and manufacturing capacity is expanding, the reality is we are headed for a flood of eInk readers hitting the market in the next year or so. At that point, either the market absorbs them and the product becomes truly mainstream, or the flood starts off a price war and we find out once and for all how price sensitive the reader gadget market is.

    Either way, eink-based readers will remain with us for the next few years. And if anybody is selling eink readers at all, Amazon (of the 69% market share) is not going to walk away from the market mindshare leading product. (Shareholder lawsuits are made of less than that.)

    Especially now that the fix is in assuring them, whether they want it or not, a 30% profit margin on the ebooks themselves. Which most definitely makes a subsidized-hardware business model (cheap razor, expensive razor blades) a viable way to defend the Kindle empire.

    Since anybody can make predictions these days, here’s mine: we will sooner see $99 Kindles than Amazon walking away from reader hardware sales.

    (Like, duh, right?) 😉

  4. I hear you. But all that is just as distracting as it is useful. I’m not a fan of the Kindle’s proprietary format, etc., but as ebook devices grow increasingly sophisticated, like the iPad and the Vook and so forth, I increasingly appreciate its simplicity. I have a computer and / or smartphone to run all the apps. When I want to read, I just want to read. And as long as the Kindle remains simple in that way, I think it has a future, at least in a niche.

  5. Let’s see; $259 for free wireless connectivity and weeks of battery life versus $629 and $14.95 a month for 250MB/per month connectivity? Or $499-599 and hunting for WiFi hotspots?

    Trade-offs is what the game is made of: There’s room for more than one player in this business. One size fits all doesn’t work very well even for pantyhose so why expect it to work in electronics? Why not wait and see how consumers vote with their wallets?

    And, for the record, my reader of choice isn’t Kindle, but rather the delightful Pocketbook 360. Which offers up a paperback-sized 5″ screen that fits in my pants pocket and a month between batery charges, plus 32GB microSDHC and USB connectivity.

    Before that, I read on a Dell Axim 51V (4″ VGA Color LCD) and HP TC1100 tablet so I know all about ebook reading on general purpose devices. It works nicely; but not for weeks between charges. For small size, sharp text, and worry-free battery life B&W eInk (and its color succesors) will always have its place.

  6. So, to recap: a device that hasn’t been released is a lot better than something that’s been out year and a half. Genius piece of tech writing!

    Bold (/sarcasm) predictions: The B&W Kindle will drop in price, and a new version will be released with a colour eink screen, and a few more bells and whistles. And will be cheaper than the ipad.

  7. There seems an unfortunate perception amongst some people that if Apple does something it must succeed. I will admit they have had some fantastic successes lately, but they have also had failures, even under Steve Jobs. After all neither Apple TV nor the Mac Mini have really revolutionized their niches.

    Now will the iPad revolutionize tablet computers? Who knows? Its essentially an oversized iPod Touch. That is both one of its biggest advantages and one of its biggest disadvantages.

    Here is what we do know, people have been producing tablet computers for years now, both as full functioning computers and as PMPs. None of them has managed to break out into the mainstream. Apple did it before with the iPod, but I am not sure the tablet has quite the same upside. the iPod essentially replaced the walkman… the iPad and indeed most tablets seem to be a cool idea that is looking for a reason to exist.

    Now as for the kindle and other e-book readers… I have no doubt that in 2 or 3 years, no one will be selling readers with the current displays. They will be replaced by a new generation of high quality displays that use run on a fraction of the power of a traditional LCD display but which can display color and which when needed can refresh quickly.


  8. “$259.00 for one function and a slow black and white screen?
    $499.00 for 150,998 functions and a fast color screen?
    Let’s see… what would I buy?”


    B&W screen without eye strain, for reading books that don’t need color anyway. Great battery life, lightweight. Perfect for reading novels.

    150K+ apps, with too many crapps. Hurts your eyes when you use it too long. Poorer battery, heavier. Good for other functions tho..

    I don’t think so. I’d probably get an iPad if it’s really good, but for other functions. For ebooks, it’s still a dedicated ereader – color or otherwise.

  9. Recall the miracle of the advent of word processing and the nightmare morass of the current monster applications. If there is one thing the paper book can teach the screen book it is that constraints are attributes.

  10. Ah, Teddypig, the proof to back me is that my eyes DO burn if I am on a backlit screen too long. I am happy for you and for those who do not experience this, but please don’t tell me what I feel. People’s eyes are different, and mine have always been sensitive to light. I cannot even go outside on a bright overcast day without sunglasses.

    I have every intention of getting an iPad, but do not intend to do any type of sustained reading on it such as several hours reading a novel. For that I prefer my Kindle. One device does not obliterate the other.

  11. Ok, here’s another perspective. Ever since I had seen “2001: A Space Odyssey” waaayyy back in 1969 I have been waiting for an iPad. Having said that, I understand that people’s perceptions of what a mobile device should and should not be able to do are different. The Kindle is limited in that it cannot project color images, nor can it support art book files of 10MB or more. That is a negative. Add to that a short battery life for the iPad, which is still in its infancy. Add to that the price of the device. Backlit screens satisfy the needs of readers who like to read in bed with the light off. The lumins can be turned down, just as you can do with a laptop (Fn arrow up or arrow down). There is a pop-up blocker, so you don’t have to be distracted by advertising. There may also be an AC adapter for the iPad (I hope) to save the battery life. Kindle does only one thing, whereas you can multi-task on an iPad. Ultimately what it comes down to is choice and price. Why buy two devices, when you can buy one and save?

  12. The thing is people keep insisting that for one to succeed, the other must fail. Not true. Just because you can read ebooks on iPad doesn’t mean everybody who wants to read will prefer iPad.
    Clearly, they don’t.
    And failing to chose so doesn’t mean they are wrong; all it means is they have different needs and *know* they have different needs.
    Humans aren’t herd creatures, merely tribal.

    Bear in mind that, just because something can be used for a certain function by *some* people does not automatically imply that all people (or even a majority of them) will in fact use the device that way.

    You can haul manure in a Ferrari or a pickup truck and the ferrari will haul it a whole lot faster. But most people will generally prefer to use the slower, uglier pickup truck because it is optimized to their specific manure hauling needs. Using a ferrari to haul manure can be done but it says more about the owner than the car. 😉

    The kindle is optimized for reading general fiction; that is what it does best. It is not optimized for textbooks, it is not optimized for artbooks or comics or watching video.

    And the iPad is, conversely, *not* optimized for general fiction.

    In fact, the case can be made it is not optimized for *anything*, by design. If you look around, you will find tablets that display HD video better than the iPad, that surf the web better, that manage information better, that have far more robust productivity apps and can even multitask them. But none of them will carry the Apple logo and hence will be deemed inferior by many. That says more about the owners than the product but it is also verging off-topic.

    But for a lot of people, picking the proper tool for the job matters. Optimization, matters. Actual usage matter more than potential usage. And doubling the cost of a product so you can get a warm, fuzzy feeling over all the “amazing” things you *could* do with it, *if* you had the need for them, buys you *nothing* if you don’t have the need for those features.

    General-purpose vs fixed function devices is a false choice; the proper answer isn’t one or the other.
    The proper answer is both; some people will choose one, some will choose the other.
    Why deny anybody the opportunity to choose what *they* prefer?

    Everything in life isn’t a zero sum game, children.

  13. @Felix Torres: What an excellent post. You said everything I would have wanted to say, and more. Too many seem to want to force one device on everyone. I don’t wish to narrow the field to one or two devices. People will read on what is most comfortable for them and most appropriate for the content. I agree with you heartily that the Kindle in its present form is not the best device for textbooks. Maybe the iPad is. But yes, the Kindle is great for reading novels and if I get an iPad, I’ll bet it will be outstanding for cookbooks.

  14. Teddypig says :
    “$259.00 for one function and a slow black and white screen?
    $499.00 for 150,998 functions and a fast color screen?
    Let’s see… what would I buy?”

    I agree with some of the above posters that there will be a place for a simple “one-function” book-like e-reader, although Teddypig makes a good point. The price wil have to come down – a lot.
    I daresay as new multifunction all singing and dancing ereading gadgets come onto the market, the price of the “traditional” Kindle will come down. It would be a far more attractive proposition at say $ 30.00 – $ 50.00 per unit.

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