On the plus side, the Fire is a lot for $90. Up to 12 hours of battery life. A 1.3 GHz quadcore CPU. 1.5G of RAM. 16G of built-in storage in the basic configuration ($120 for the 32G model). 200GB more storage via a microSD card slot. Stereo speakers with Dolby sound. Forthcoming access to Alexa. Front and back cameras, even if their resolutions could be better.
And if you’re a book lover? “Choose from millions of Kindle e-book and magazine titles. Connect with the largest online community of book lovers on Goodreads. Discover over a million titles with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. Also, listen to your favorite books with Audible. Plus, enjoy exclusive Kindle features you only get from Amazon like X-Ray, Whispersync, Vocabulary Builder, Page Flip, Blue Shade and more.”
Still, could Amazon have done even more for book lovers. How about a higher-resolution screen than the current 189 ppi / 1280 x 800 one, which is adequate but far from optimal? Or page turning buttons? I’d happily make do with less RAM or storage and pay a little more to enjoy those features.
No to mention the presumably still-AWOL option for all-text boldface, along with other typographical options that we can find on Kobo ereaders—including the ability to supply your own fonts.
Or what about an actual mechanical switch to create “quiet time” with minimal effort? While leaving on WiFi if you wanted, the QT mode could instantly turn off social media distractions while still letting you follow Web links within books.
I get it. Amazon needs to make a profit, and that means creating a powerful, affordable multimedia device that can display zillions of videos from the company’s inventory and other sources. Still, what if Amazon cared more than now about books on its tablets?
This issue of no small interest to those of us caring about books and mass literacy. Paul St John Mackintosh, TeleRead’s associate editor, has raised questions in the past about Amazon backing off from E Ink devices in favor of multimedia tablets—and so far I see noting to disprove him.
Amazon’s 290 E Ink Oasis is really a niche device, and the new $80 basic Kindle is pretty pathetic without a front light.
No, the new Fire is hardly a loser, but if Amazon doesn’t care about E Ink as much as before, perhaps it can work harder to make its tablets more book-friendly.