September 7, 2012
I won't be in the market for one any time soon, but I love what Amazon is doing to tablets with its Kindle lineup that was updated Thursday.
The Kindle is the original device that made me think about reading books digitally. I never did buy one since they were still more than $200 for just the e-reader version when I didn't own an iPad. But I buy all of my books now through the Kindle service. I started buying on my iPhone in the pre-iPad days, and I had no interest in opening up 8 different apps to read my books by going with Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, etc.
The original Kindle Fire added tablet features to the Kindle last year. My cousin bought one, and though it lacked a lot of things I was used to on an iPad, you couldn't beat that thing at $199.
Now, Amazon has made a few improvements to the 7-inch Kindle Fire and introduced the Kindle Fire HD. The Fire HD looks like a straight-up competitor to the iPad at about 9 inches -- the iPad is 9.7 -- more storage -- up to 64GB, same as iPad -- and 4G LTE connectivity. They differ in many ways, such as the lack of a rear camera on the Fire HD, its single $50/year 250 MB/month data plan, the iPad's slightly superior screen. But if you are invested in the Amazon ecosystem of media, including books, music and movies, this is a great option.
The lower-end e-readers are also getting better and better. Start out with just $69 for the Kindle Touch. For real. This is a device better than the Kindle people bought like crazy a few years ago at $400. Now it's barely more expensive than a Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 game. A friend of mine owns one of the Kindles, which uses a very paperlike e-ink technology to display text instead of an LCD screen. If you hate the look of text on your computer monitor or a tablet, you should check out displays at Target or somewhere else to see how wondeful text looks on these displays.
Amazon also unleashed a new Kindle with lighting, called Paperwhite. I didn't know that the Nook had something like this already before reading the news. But this is an obvious attempt to get more nighttime readers who like LCD screens because of the glorious backlighting. For people who like the look of e-ink and want to read in the dark without a lamp, this could be a great addition.
If you want buying advice, my recommendation is to wait and see what Apple does over the next month. Next week the next-generation iPhone will be announced -- likely called the iPhone 5 -- and at some point we are likely to see a smaller iPad to compete with the 7-inch Kindle Fire. If you have the cash, I still recommend an iPad with 32GB or more of storage because of the awesome display and the vast selection of apps. But if your budget requires a smaller hit, see what Apple does. This smaller iPad might now come out at $199 to hit Amazon hard. Apple is now the biggest company on the planet, and it can afford low profit margins to get more people buying apps, music, videos, books, etc. on iPads.
Any way you go, it's a good time to be in the market for a tablet. If you don't have one, you need to check them out.
Michael Buckelew is a contributing writer for the Gwinnett Daily Post.