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Digital Publishing on Digital Publishing

What Will the Kindle Platform Look Like in 2012?

Amazon is well positioned to advance the Kindle platform much faster and further than they have in any 6-12 month period up to now.  Here's where I hope they end up between now and the middle of next year:

An insanely inexpensive entry-level device.  Picture the current Kindle, but for $99 or less.  How about $49?  Better yet, how about free with a customer commitment to buy a minimum of X books in each of the next 2 years?  Sounds a lot like a cell phone plan, doesn't it?  If instead your'e looking for something a bit more powerful and extendable, how about...

An Android tablet device with an LCD screen.  This one is the worst kept secret since the iPhone 4.  Amazon didn't launch that Appstore for Android because they want to push more cell phone sales.  The only questions here are (1) when?, (2) how much?, and (3) how open?  If they're smart the answers will be (1) any day, (2) $300 max, and (3) wide open.  You can't stand the thought of reading long-form content on an LCD screen, so how about...

That same Android tablet with a hybrid eInk/LCD screen.  That's right.  A single device offering both the bright light comfort of eInk with the backlit option of LCD.  Unfortunately for Amazon, it seems Apple is the one who's taking the lead on this front.  Just Bing the phrase "hybrid eInk LCD display" and you get nothing but Apple news.  That's a bummer since the first company to offer this solution could own the high end (and my loyalty).  A fully open Android tablet with hybrid eInk/LCD could easily command a $500 price or higher.

That's all great for the hardware side, but what about the rest of the platform?  Will Amazon really stick with the proprietary AZW file format that's based on mobi, even as the rest of the world embraces EPUB?  For backwards compatibility reasons they probably have to stick with mobi.  What a shame though.  EPUB is where the action is and EPUB3 adds a great deal of functionality to enable much richer content than the Kindle supports.

Expanding into a tablet with LCD display means the Kindle will no longer be hamstrung by the limits of eInk.  What a terrific opportunity Amazon has to offer (and encourage the development of) richer content than just words on the screen.  But will they?  I've been critical of the glacial pace at which Amazon implements Kindle enhancements but I hope they take advantage of this opportunity early on.

Regarding formats and flexibility, I'd love to see Amazon support mobi and EPUB.  Better yet, if they have the confidence to provide an open device, how about letting it run any reader app from the competition?  Let me put the nook app on my Kindle device and may the best content provider win.  Now that would be a bold move!  After all, if I could own an Amazon device that lets me buy content from any store, why woud I ever consider buying a device from anyone else?


James Moushon

Joe: I think you’re right on spot with this one. With a color tablet and the ability to run multiple apps allowing the viewing of all formats and under $400, they would hit another home run. Like your blog.

Carolyn Jewel

Oh, if only!!!


I think they need an LCD screen for graphic novels and comics. That's one market the Kindle has been unable to promote with the e-ink only screen. I would LOVE to be able to read The Walking Dead and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen on a Kindle!

SL Clark

This speculation misses the point. Amazon will do what is 100% best for Amazon. While everything mentioned feels warm & cozy, what is BEST for Amazon; Apple will have the best reader / tablet, but without the books; i.e. Eisler deals.

Amazon is the elephant, it doesn't need to be first or best with anything, just the most profit oriented. Their retail engine causes extended sales, not the hardware. Sure color is on the way, but please a hybrid and both file formats? How is this best for Amazon; the company that pioneered closed environment?

book reviews

I really hope you are right that an entry level Kindle will start at around $100. I have yet to buy one myself and I have to say that I am honestly torn between buying one and not. I really love the print version of books because I love making the crease in them and I love being able to look at bookshelf and see all the books that I have read. The only problem with print books is that most bookstores never have what I am looking for and they are more expensive then eBooks are.

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