The first signs of what Amazon’s ‘worst kept secret’ tablet device might be like emerged last week, based on the hands-on experience of Tech Crunch’s MG Seigler. From some not too strenuous deduction work, his write up indicates that this tablet will be one where reading itself takes centre stage.
The Kindle Tablet (already a dead giveaway) will be a seven inch, back-lit colour touch screen device, said to have a similar exterior to the Blackberry Playbook. It runs on Android, but apparently has a unique operating system unseen on previous devices. It comes with no 3G and no Camera.
So what does this spec tell us? And more importantly, what does it hold in store for the digital book industry?
Firstly, contrary to much of the pre-match billing, the Amazon Tablet does not appear to be going head-to-head with the iPad, or at least not across the board in terms of the features it offers. Instead, as suggested by Seigler, the device may well act as a hub for Amazon content to be effortlessly accessed and consumed. And it is consumption that is the operative word; Amazon’s general store, movies and music are just a tap away, and the device also comes preloaded with the Kindle Reading App.
So rather than going toe to toe with the iPad giant, it seems the closest thing the Amazon tablet will have to a direct competitor is the Barnes and Noble Nook, as reflected by the competitive $250 price tag.
What might see Amazon trump this competitor is their firmly established content platform in the shape of the Kindle store. By walking before they can run in this regard, the customer’s familiarity with the Kindle store process may well see a kindle tablet device as the next logical step.
If this is indeed an Amazon content device, it is impossible to ignore what impact it might have on the content it remains inextricably linked to – books, and in particular digital books.
Until now, Amazon has not had the hardware to provide a faithful representation of all the readable content it sells on the Kindle bookstore. With this device, Kindle has covered the bases it had previously left open. Illustrated books, Children’s books, Magazines and any colour publications will now look and feel as they are supposed to on the devices seven inch colour touchscreen.
For publishers of titles who place real emphasis on aesthetics, initial signs for the Amazon Tablet are indisputably positive. The fact that Amazon – a name synonymous with digital reading – are putting their name to hardware that allows colour, interactive texts to flourish shows a great faith in the growth of reading beyond the capabilities of e-ink.
In a previous blog for this site, we suggested the definition of digital reading is expanding and developing all the time. With this new tablet device, it could well prove that Amazon are looking to embrace this diversity, while also making a play for the lucrative tablet market.