Yesterday Amazon had their Kindle event where they released their expected tablet device along with two other e-ink based Kindles.
There are now three tiers to the Kindle line starting with the cheapest device simply referred to as the Kindle. Although the price starts at $79.00 that includes advertisements being sent to and displayed on the device. Unlike most websites with advertisements the Kindle’s ads appear to be unobtrusive although I would still pay the extra $30.00 to have an ad-free device. This device should really be considered a dedicated reader as it lacks a hardware keyboard and instead relies on an on-screen keyboard where you use the four-way navigation button on the unit to highlight and select keys individually. So long as you don’t type notes on your Kindle very often this probably shouldn’t act as too much of a deterrent. If you really want a keyboard the previous Kindle can still be had for $99.00 if you’re OK with ads and $139.00 if you want an ad-free experience.
The next tier in the Kindle line is the new touch-screen equipped Kindle Touch. Like the previous Kindle the Kindle Touch comes in two variaties; Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi with free lifetime 3G. The Wi-Fi only Kindle Touch runs $99.00 for the ad-supported version and $139.00 for the ad-free version. The 3G equipped unit starts at $149.00 for the ad-supported version and $189.00 for the ad-free version. When the Nook Touch came out and I was able to get some hands on time with it I said Amazon would be guaranteed to have some of my money if they ever came out with a touch-screen enabled Kindle. Well they did and Amazon now has $189.00 of my money as I pre-ordered the ad-free 3G version of the Kindle Touch the second it became available for pre-order on Amazon’s website. Sadly I have to wait until November 21st for the unit to ship.
Finally Amazon surprised nobody with the announcement of their new tablet, the Kindle Fire. The Fire will set you back $199.00 (period, there is no ad-supported version) which is pretty reasonable considering the price of most tablets currently on the market. For that $199.00 you will get a Wi-Fi equipped tablet device with a 7″ screen, dual-core processor, and 8GB of on-board storage. While 8GB of on-board storage seems small you also get free cloud storage of all Amazon content which includes both music and movies offered by the retailer. Another thing that you get is access to the Amazon App Store which is really just Amazon’s own version of the Android App Market. Yes the Fire is an Android tablet but you’d never know that by looking at the interface as that has been completely customized by Amazon. While I will reserved judgement until I actually get to play with the unit I will say at first glance this looks to be the first real competitor to Apple’s iPad.
Overall I must say that Amazon continues to find new and inventive ways to get my money. I wish Amazon would put native ePub support on their readers so I wouldn’t have to use Caliber to convert titles in that format to Mobi, that is a very minor issue. It’s great to see competition in the e-reader market as well. Even though Amazon kickstarted the e-reader market with the first Kindle, Barnes and Noble has been doing a great job at releasing competitive products. When the free market is allowed to work the real winners end up being consumers.