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What’s in Store for the Kindle in 2010 and Beyond?

In case you missed it, Apple is now taking pre-orders for the iPad for delivery on April 3 (or late April, if you want 3G with your iPad). I’ve decided at least, for now, to forego the early adopter tax and try to duck being called an idiot by PC World magazone, so I’m going to wait, at least for now, before buying an iPad. For now, anyway.

But it does seem like a good time to take stock of where we are and to review the forthcoming Kindle features that we are currently expecting — or in some cases hoping — to see sometime in 2010.

First, Dylan Tweney at Wired.com has a concise, helpful comparison of 10 ereaders here. Spoiler alert: Dylan rates the latest-generation Kindle #1 with 9 out of 10 stars, ahead of the iPhone and the Kindle DX in second and third place, respectively.

Meanwhile, here’s my quick checklist of Kindle features that I expect or hope to see in the near future:

New Features for All Kindle Owners

  • A content management system of folders or labels. (Promised for the first half of 2010, in this November 2009 announcement on Amazon’s official Amazon Kindle Facebook page:  “Kindle Customers, We have heard from many of you that you would like to have a better way to organize your growing Kindle libraries.  We are currently working on a solution that will allow you to organize your Kindle libraries.  We will be releasing this functionality as an over-the-air software update as soon as it is ready, in the first half of next year.”)
  • Improved accessibility features including audible menuing and a new super-sized font. (Promised for the first half of 2010 in a December 2009 news release entitled Blind and Vision-Impaired Readers to Benefit from New Kindle Features in 2010.)
  • A Kindle Apps store with a wide range of applications to make the Kindle more useful and user-friendly for reading and other purposes. (Promised for the first half of 2010 in a January 2010 news release entitled Amazon Announces Kindle Development Kit–Software Developers Can Now Build Active Content for Kindle.)
  • Steady dramatic increases in selection with little or no “windowing” and continued pressure from Amazon to keep the vast majority of ebooks at prices under $10.
  • Engagement with book-oriented cataloging and networking services such as Shelfari (which was acquired by Amazon in August 2008).
  • Front-door default support for email, Twitter, and mobile Facebook applications. 
  • Continued aggressive expansion of support for multiple ebook formats allowing Kindle to read a widening range of ebooks from sources other than Kindle Store including a growing list of free public domain books.

New Features for Global Kindle Owners

  • Access to Kindle blogs and periodicals beyond U.S. borders.
  • Extended and expanded wireless coverage with new carrier contracts to mitigate against per-document wireless fees beyond U.S. borders.
  • Possibility of  tiered pricing for unlimited international web access and data transmission.
  • Extensions of local country Kindle Store nexus (initially in Canada, U.K., and Australia?) that would allow Amazon to mitigate against value-added taxes and import duties. (Promised, for UK with no date specified, by UK Amazon manager).
  • Steady dramatic expansion of multilingual Kindle catalog and steady dramatic expansion of Kindle language and alphabet support.

New Features Driven by SuperKindle Hardware Enhancements

“No Kindle Required” – Kindle Apps and Widgets for Other Devices

As you know, you can already run the Kindle app that allows you to buy, download, and read Kindle books on the PC, the iPhone, the iPod Touch and the BlackBerry. I believe Amazon is investing major efforts in expanding this offering to include the following additional devices, most of them during 2010, and may also be developing Kindle Widgets for browsers such as Internet Explorer and Firefox:

  • Mac (Already promised; has been listed as coming soon on the Kindle site since October 2009).
  • iPad (Should be active at or near the iPad’s April 3 release date. At its January 27 iPad announcement event Apple said that the iPad would run all iPhone Apps, and Barnes & Noble recently announced that there will be a Nook App on the iPad. It remains to be seen whether the Kindle for iPad App will include enhancements not already available with the Kindle for iPhone/iPod Touch App).
  • Microsoft Phones and Tablets
  • Dell Streak/Mini 5 Android Phone
  • Droid, Nexus One, All Android Devices
  • Fisher-Price iXL
  • Palm Devices
  • Other dedicated ebook readers

E-Commerce Connect-the-Dots Possibilities

  • The Kindle has the potential to become the ultimate e-commerce Trojan horse for Amazon by taking the Kindle’s version of Amazon’s recently patented one-click purchasing facility and connecting it directly to every item in Amazon’s Store including streaming MP3 audio and Video on Demand content that could download directly and play on the SuperKindle.
  • Bundling Kindle and hardcopy editions or Kindle and Audible.com for a premium price that allows savings on each part of the transaction
  • Re-integration of Kindle content with Amazon Associates: Originally, beginning with the Kindle launch in November 2007, Amazon paid a 10 percent commission on links to all Kindle hardware, branded accessories, and content. This was much higher than the usual Amazon Associates commission of 4 to 8.5 percent, but early in 2009 Amazon zeroed out Kindle content commissions, presumably due to thin or negative Kindle book margins. Now, with intensifying competition with other ebook content providers and Kindle content margins rising to at least 30 per cent given changes in Amazon’s relationships with publishers, it would make good business sense for Amazon to re-establish Amazon Associates commissions for all content in the Kindle Store to drive more traffic there.

Wrap it up and tie it with a bow, Jeff, and deliver it to my house, and I’ll never buy that iPad.

How Much Money is Publishing’s BS Cabal Leaving on the Table? 10 Million eReaders to Be Shipped in 2010, Says Leading Display Manufacturer PVI

By Stephen Windwalker
(Originally posted February 4, 2010 at Kindle Nation Daily – © Kindle Nation Daily 2010)

Prime View International (PVI), the Taiwanese company that bought Cambridge, MA-based eInk last year and is the leading manufacturer of display components used in the Kindle and several other ereaders, anticipates now that as many as 10 million ereaders could be shipped in 2010, reports Digitimes’ Susie Pan from Taipei. Prior to this statement by PVI chairman Scott Liu, most estimates of 2010 ereader shipments have been around 6 million.

It is not known whether PVI’s projections are intended to include figures for 2010 shipments of non-dedicated devices such as Apple’s new iPad, which is slated to begin shipping in late March and by some accounts could account for sales in the 3 to 5 million unit range in 2010.

So, if the US book publishing industry’s BS Cabal (the Big Six publishers and Apple’s Steve Jobs) continue to base their strategies on a belief that they can resist the ebook revolution and pursue collusive  anti-consumer pricing and content withholding schemes, one wonders:

  • How much money they will leave on the table before they get it?
  • How many independent and/or traditionally published authors will just decide to connect directly with new technology platforms like the Kindle’s Digital Text Platform in order to make their books available and cut out the middle men so that they can enjoy all of the coming 70 percent royalties?
  • How many readers will reject the traditional publishers’ roles as gatekeepers and arbiters of taste, gradually shift their attentions to more and more independent authors and publishers?

Coming to the Kindle: A Flexible Color Touch Screen?

Via a tweet from Bufo Calvin, here’s a potentially exciting rumor that is being reported today by the New York Times’ Nick Bilton and Brad Stone on their Bits technology blog:

In a sign that Amazon wants to upgrade its Kindle e-reader to compete head-on with the Apple iPad, Amazon has acquired Touchco, a New York-based start-up specializing in touch-screen technology, a person briefed on the deal said Wednesday.

According to Engadget, “the startup claims its interpolating force-sensitive resistance tech can be made completely transparent, works with color LCDs, and can detect ‘an unlimited number of simultaneous touch points’ as well as distinguish between a finger and stylus.”

There are a lot of cool Kindle developments coming our way in the next few months, but this acquisition strongly suggests that a little further out we may see a color touchscreen on the Kindle. Apparently the tiny Touchco staff is being merged with Amazon’s Lab 126 unit of Kindle engineers in Cupertino, CA.

Here’s a link to a few minutes of video on Touchco’s technology: