Amazon's New Kindle Could Boost E-Reader And E-Book Sales

  • Amazon recently announced the new Kindle Oasis e-book reader, with enhanced technology and sleek design.
  • The Oasis, with its ergonomic design for avid readers, could sell well despite its high price, like Apple's devices.
  • Reading on the Oasis feels like reading on paper and, with the other advantages of e-books, could become an irresistible value proposition.

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) announced Kindle Oasis - the eighth generation of the Kindle e-book reader - with technical improvements, a new thin and light design, plus an included charging cover that delivers months of battery life.

“To lean back and read for hours, you need a sanctuary from distraction,” said Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. “We want Kindle to disappear, and Kindle Oasis is the next big step in that mission. It’s the most advanced Kindle we’ve ever built - thin and ultra-lightweight, it gets out of the way so you can lose yourself in the author’s world.”

In fact, the new Kindle Oasis is all about sleek and ergonomic design for avid readers who spend hours reading. The reading experience on a Kindle is much better than, say, reading the iPad screen, because the Kindle screen can be read outdoors - even in bright sunlight - and even indoors it is much less tiring for the eyes. The Oasis display is based on the 300 pixel per inch (ppi) screen technology used in the Kindle Paperwhite, with enhanced new features to increase the consistency and range of screen brightness for improved reading in all types of lighting.

Gripping and handling are also important parts of ergonomic design. The Kindle Oasis is thicker on the grip side and thinner on the other side, which makes a difference when holding it for hours. "Kindle Oasis is designed for extended reading sessions," notes the announcement. "With an entirely reimagined shape, Kindle Oasis shifts the center of gravity to your palm, to rest in your hand like the spine of a book so that the device feels balanced for one-handed reading." The Oasis re-introduces two physical navigation buttons to turn the page, which is important for one-handed reading, and includes an accelerometer to detect whether the user is reading with the left or right hand, and rotate the page to match.

Contrary to previous Kindle generations, the Oasis comes with an included high quality leather cover. An interesting feature of the cover is that it includes an extra battery. In fact, the Kindle Oasis introduces a new dual-battery system. The device and the cover are charged simultaneously when the device is plugged in with the cover attached, and the battery in the cover, which uses a custom cell architecture that optimizes power and energy and delivers months of battery life, charges the Kindle Oasis when it's not plugged in. A new hibernation mode minimizes power consumption when the device is inactive.

The Wall Street Journal notes that new Kindle Oasis is the most radical redesign of the top-selling e-book reader since its keyboard vanished five years ago. But, even with the charging cover included, the device has a base price of $290 and a top price of $380 with extra options, which makes it three times more expensive than a Kindle Paperwhite.

Selling e-book readers is a side business for Amazon. Many analysts think that the e-commerce giant sells Kindle readers at cost, perhaps even below cost, to improve the sales of e-books and digital media content, which is where the money is. Therefore, Amazon doesn't really need to persuade Paperwhite owners to switch to the new Oasis at this moment, as long as they keep buying e-books. But it seems plausible that Amazon will be able to lower the price of the Oasis and next-generation readers in the future, and the Oasis ergonomic design and ease of use could persuade more consumers to switch from paper books to e-books, which is an important strategic goal for Amazon.

ZDNet notes that Amazon owns the e-book market and could be heading toward an "Apple moment" when its e-book readers, with sophisticated design and technology, become irresistible "must have" gadgets, craved by consumers despite high prices. That's how Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) makes money with MacBooks, iPhones and iPads, and Amazon could soon begin making money with Kindle readers as well.

E-books have been around since the 90s, when technology enthusiasts were already predicting the immediate demise of paper books, but at that time there weren’t really good e-book readers. The first Kindle reader introduced in 2007, the same year Apple introduced the first iPhone, was a game-changer and the first e-book reader to offer a smooth reading experience sufficiently similar to paper books.

The Kindle technology has steadily improved since 2007, and today reading on a modern Kindle such as the enhanced Oasis feels just like reading on paper, and arguably even better. Add the other advantages of e-books, such as immediate downloads, the possibility to store thousands of books on a very portable device, tunable backlighting, fast search, and social reading, and it’s easy to see how e-books could become an irresistible value proposition. That's what Amazon wants.

It seems likely that Amazon will continue to own the e-reader and e-book market, and persuade more and more consumers to read their books on Kindle screens, which is a reassuring news for Amazon investors.

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