Will loyal fans of e-books be willing to pay tablet prices for dedicated e-readers? Amazon is about to find out.
The e-commerce giant’s latest Kindle is its smallest and lightest yet. But it’s also the most expensive, at $290 — almost a hundred bucks more than the Kindle Voyage. Now the company is betting that a sleek frame and a cover that doubles as a rechargeable battery will attract dedicated e-book users to the eighth generation device, called the Kindle Oasis.
Amazon says the new Kindle is 30 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter than previous Kindles.
One book-inspired trait that’s evident as soon as you look at the Kindle Oasis: It’s a little bit wedge-shaped. To minimize its weight and thickness, Amazon’s designers stuffed all of the major components onto one side — the same side that would be the spine on a physical book. When the Oasis is held, the slope between its two thicknesses acts as a grip for the hand.
The company’s goal with the Oasis? “To make the device disappear,” said Neal Lindsay, vice president of Amazon Devices, so that people can read without distraction.
David Limp, the senior vice president in charge of Amazon’s devices business, said there was enduring appeal for a dedicated e-reader that is a sanctuary from the hailstorm of distractions on other gadgets.
“There’s nothing wrong with reading on a phone or a tablet but in the modern world, when you read on a tablet, you are bombarded,” he said. “Incoming email. I might get a notification, a text message from my family. I might get a notification from Clash of Clans. It takes away from our original vision, which is to get lost in an author’s story.”
Like previous Kindles, the Oasis features a black-and-white screen designed to make reading easier. The LEDs that backlight the Oasis have moved from the bottom of the screen to the side. That means that there are more of them and that each has less surface area to illuminate, because they’re firing horizontally rather than vertically. The upshot, Amazon says, is that the screen’s background, when illuminated, is now “a whiter white.”
Thanks to a detachable leather case that looks like a book cover and functions as a backup battery, the new e-reader can go 30 minutes a day for two whole months on a single charge. The battery in the device itself holds two weeks of juice, while the case holds another seven. A new “hibernation mode” helps save power when you’re not using it.
Magnets in the battery pack on the cover solidly click together with the Kindle Oasis. Plug in the device with the case attached and they’ll charge together. “We don’t want our customers to ever worry about plugging in and charging,” Lindsay said.
For the company’s designers, the Oasis comes closer than any other Kindle to the ideal that they’ve had in mind all along — that is, a “magical sheet of paper” that can transform itself at a touch into any page of any book.
No, the Oasis isn’t nearly as light or thin or flexible as a sheet of paper. But thanks to what the company calls a “featherweight polymer frame” cloaked in “structural electroplating,” it is just 3.4 mm wide at its narrowest point and weighs a scant 4.6 ounces. (For comparison, the latest iPad Mini is more than 10 ounces.)
Global preorders for the Oasis started Wednesday; the device will ship on April 27.
Amazon sells its basic Kindle for $80, the Kindle Paperwhite with a high resolution display and adjustable front light for $120, and the Kindle Voyage with page press buttons for $200.
Reporting: Slate.com, Associated Press, New York Times