Amazon has recently announced the release of its tablet reader, the Kindle Fire, in the UK. Previously released in the US towards the end of last year, the Fire aims to combine the features of the existing traditional Kindle eReaders, with an Android tablet. The device sold very successfully in the US and has become one of the leaders in the Android tablet market, competing with the Apple iPad. However while the Kindle in tablet form now has lots more features and can be used for many purposes other than reading, the reading experience itself has been diminished somewhat. With the introduction of the LCD touchscreen, the Kindle Fire doesn’t read as well as the E Ink screens on ordinary Kindles, which have no glare and are easier on the eyes. One big plus however is that this is the first Kindle with a colour screen. As we send all our eBooks in full colour, this is great news for those of you who have written textbooks or books with pictures or graphics.
Not wanting to be outdone, Kobo have also announced new additions to their line of eReaders, which will be released in the next two months. Firstly they have also announced a new tablet, an update on their unsuccessful Vox, called the Arc. This will be similar to the Kindle Fire as an Android tablet designed towards being an eReader and have a 7-inch colour display. However the more exciting news from Kobo is the new Kobo Glo, which will be the first E Ink reader with in-built lighting available in the UK. The Glo will feature a front-lit screen that will be possible to read in low-light conditions, the only major drawback of the existing E Ink readers. With the just-announced Kindle Paperwhite also featuring very similar front-lit technology and the existing Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight having a slightly less slick version, it is not a new benchmark. However, with Barnes & Noble not operating outside America and the Paperwhite set to be released only in the US for now, the Kobo Glo is a big deal for us Brits, providing the best of the E Ink and lit-display worlds in one. Lastly from Kobo, they have also announced a new Kobo Mini, which is very similar to the existing Kobo Touch but with a 5-inch E Ink display that means it’s the perfect size for handbags and jacket pockets. While the reading experience will not be as impressive on the smaller screen, the lower price and greater portability will encourage those who spend most of life on the move to consider an eReader for the first time.
So as eBook sales continue to soar, with Amazon announcing this summer that UK eBook sales have overtaken that of physical books, its good to see that the technology in the eReader market is continuing to develop to meet the demand. Will we eventually see the death of the paper book? I personally think it is possible, but not for many years. However it is heartening to know that TV, film and celebrity culture have not killed off literature entirely, even if it is having to adapt to survive.