The Other Shoe Drops

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I recently mentioned that Kindle Paperwhite was in short supply, and that there was speculation that the lack of any real news was a sign that there was soon to be something new to replace the Paperwhite. That speculation made some sense, especially considering the outstanding popularity of the Kindle line, and of the Paperwhite in particular. Turns out that the speculation was mostly correct. The new Kindle is an improved version of the Paperwhite, and not something completely different. I think that’s close enough.

It features a number of hardware improvements such as a more sensitive touch screen, better front-lighting (the lighting system on the previous version was a source of many complaints for being uneven, although I thought it was OK), higher contrast, slightly faster processor (my experience is that a 25% processor speed increase is usually only barely noticeable), and longer battery life.

There are also some software changes (improvements?) in the new version of the Paperwhite. The dictionary lookup is supposed to be a lot smarter, being able to recognize differences in connotation from context. There is a new feature that notices when you look something up in the dictionary, and will prepare flash-card drills to help you with vocabulary-building. There is a new footnote feature that lets you call up a footnote, and then return to your place in the book. New parental control features (called Kindle Free Time, which sounds to me like a non sequitur) are supposed to make it easier for parents to get their children interested in reading.

And there is a marketing change, called Amazon Matchbook. It’s not immediately clear exactly how it will work, but Amazon is promising that if you have bought a hardcopy of a book, you can buy the Kindle edition for $2.99 or less, when (and if) the Kindle edition becomes available. Each book has to be “enrolled” in the program by the author to qualify, and no author is required to participate. But it will be retroactive back to 1995! There’s one new feature I would definitely use.

You can pre-order either the WiFi or the 3G Paperwhite now.

Next, I guess we’ll see what Amazon will do to invigorate sales of, or replace, the Kindle Fire.

Meanwhile, folks are still fretting over the direction Jeff Bezos will be taking the Washington Post. But if this story on Paid Content is accurate, it sounds like really good news to me. Mr. Bezos appears to have delivered a two-point message of change to the Washington Post: 1) Readers, not advertisers, will come first, and 2) Paywalls don’t work, so they are going to have to figure out a different way to make money. Sounds to me that he’s on the right track on both counts. Besides which, I don’t think that it’s even possible for Mr. Bezos to do any worse than the previous owners, who managed to convert a multi-billion dollar newspaper into a 250 million dollar newspaper.