On September 28, Amazon announced three new Kindles — a $79 Kindle, the $99 Kindle Touch, and the $199 Android-based color touch screen Kindle Fire tablet. Technology pundits have criticized the Kindle Fire’s touch screen and various aspects of the user interface (see Daily Report: Kindle Fire Attracts Critics, and Buyers – NYTimes.com). I have observed the shortcomings also, but I think the device has a market niche that will be well served — people who like to read books. At $199, it is less than half the cost of an iPad. Amazon will relentlessly promote the Fire on its site and is rumored to be nearly ready to provide software updates for better performance and improved user interface.
I remain a believer in purpose-built devices. The iPad is great for documents, weather, stocks, surfing the web, and reading books at the kitchen counter. The Kindle Fire is great for reading books. That is what it does best. It can also do most everything the iPad can, but not everything. I don’t see myself giving a slide presentation with a projector and the Fire. I don’t plan to put 40 gigtabytes of dropbox folders containing all my data on the Fire. The Fire is great for reading a book, listening to music, or watching a movie. It is basically a media player. You can do many tablet computing tasks, but that is not what it is best at. The device I like the best for reading books is the new Kindle Touch. It weighs six ounces and has no moving parts. Turning pages and setting bookmarks is as easy as a touch. You can change the font size to the optimum and read comfortably for long periods of time wherever you may be — incuding outdoors in the sun, which you can do with an iPad. If I am at the kitchen counter and want to read for ten minutes, I launch the Kindle app on the iPad and it automatically takes me to wherever I left off on the Fire or iPhone or wherever I last read — a seamless experience. So many gadgets, so little time! I plan to donate the entry-model Kindle to the senior center.