Amazon Throw Down The Gauntlet: Four New Devices, Basic Kindle $79, Tablet $199

In a very slick presentation in New York this morning, Amazon announced details of four new devices, surprising everyone with their aggressive pricing.

The basic Kindle (now without a keyboard) will retail for $79 (with Special Offers, $30 extra without). It’s a new model, faster page-turns, slightly smaller (same screen), black and white e-ink, wifi, one month-long battery life, and is 30% lighter than the Kindle 3, weighing a remarkable 6 ounces (that’s 170g for my metric peeps). It will hold 1,400 books.

The Kindle Touch is priced at $99 (again, without Special Offers for $30 more), same e-ink, same wifi, and despite the touchscreen, is lighter than the Kindle 3. It has a two month battery life and holds 3,000 books.

Next up is the Kindle Touch 3G, costing $149 (avoid ads for $40 more this time) – and that extra $50 gets you all of the above plus an unlimited data plan in over 100 countries so you can enjoy that 3G when roaming. Both Touch models have a couple of extra features not included in the entry level Kindle.

If you were a big fan of that keyboard (for word games, searching, or whatever), the old Kindle 3 remains on sale, now re-branded as the Kindle Keyboard (is it just me or does that sound like a kid’s piano?) which will now retail at the Special Offers supported price of just $99 (add $40 for no ads and/or add $40 for 3G).

But that last one wasn’t part of today’s announcement, and is not a new device. So what’s the fourth?

The Kindle Fire – a 7″ tablet, wifi only, for just $199.

Yesterday’s rumors had it pretty spot on, except for the price. Amazon won’t be bundling Prime with the tablet, instead giving a free 30-day trial. They must be confident that will be enough to suck plenty of customers in.

As detailed yesterday, the spec is not going to send techies into a frenzy. Essentially it’s a repurposed PlayBook, with the only real upgrade being on the software side which sounds pretty slick for movies, television, video, games, and books – all of which will be purchased, downloaded, streamed, or rented from Amazon (of course).

Amazon have customized an older version of Android which, while looking pretty nifty, will also lock people in to Amazon’s universe (no access to the Android marketplace for example, and no sign of Google apps thus far), especially after they sign up for Prime.

I don’t see the Kindle Fire as being aimed at readers as such and Amazon don’t seem to be positioning it that way either. It really seems to be for people who want a multi-function device but don’t want to spring for the technically superior iPad (whose most basic model is more than double the cost of this tablet).

Of course, it can read books, I’m just skeptical how many heavy readers will buy it, or use it for that purpose. For that reason, I won’t talk too much about it here, but if you want more, try this article from TechCrunch, or this article from CNET.

I’m more interested in the dedicated e-readers. Amazon’s aggressive pricing is bound to spawn a new wave of entrants into the e-book market. And if last Christmas is anything to go by, it could be a bumper season as all this new e-reader owners load up their devices – a binge which may continue through February.

Essentially, anyone that was on the fence about getting a Kindle is sure to get one now, and Amazon are covering all the bases: bog standard Kindle, one with a keyboard, one with touch, ads if you want them (or not), 3G or wifi.

And if you want a device that can do more, you can have that too.

The only people with restricted choices (for now at least) are those living outside the US, who will only be able to purchase the basic Kindle, or the older models.

Even in the two other countries where the Kindle has officially launched – the UK and Germany – the same restrictions apply. There is no indication if Amazon have plans to change this, but I would imagine it’s a matter of time.

In the UK, the new, basic Kindle model will retail for £89 (about $139). The price difference seems to spring from the fact that it has no ads. It’s a similar story in Germany where the entry model will cost 99 Euro (about $135).

For internationals outside the UK and Germany, things get a little more complicated (of course). While we can purchase the basic model from the US store, it is priced at $109 (presumably because a model with Special Offers is only available in the US for now), I’m not sure the ordering page is set up correctly.

The product page says that EU customers will only have to pay shipping and VAT on top of that price but, when I tried to purchase, it whacked on a load of customs duties, bringing the price up to around $165 – which is quite a bit extra. Hopefully, that’s just a glitch which gets resolved soon.

On the plus side, Amazon has finally included other default languages on the Kindle, and is now available in UK English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Brazilian Portuguese (which may give us some indication as to which Kindle Stores will open next).

So, in short, there will be a lot of new e-reader owners over the next few months, and not just in the US. I’d better get back to work on that book.


David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

54 Replies to “Amazon Throw Down The Gauntlet: Four New Devices, Basic Kindle $79, Tablet $199”

    1. I don’t, but I’ve heard that they are non-intrusive, and only appear on start-up and as screensaver. They are full-page graphic ads, rather than Google type text ads, and you never see them while reading.

    2. I do.

      The ads are non intrusive. When reading there are NO ads.

      When at your “home” page where you select a book to read there’s a small banner at the bottom of the screen. It’s so unobtrusive I’ve never noticed what ads are on it.

      When the device is not in use (effectively off, since e-ink holds an image when off,) there is a full screen advertisement. This doesn’t bother me. Maybe someone else would prefer some “cool” screensaver, or not want their friends to see some ad when checking out their new toy, but I couldn’t care less.

      The marketing blurbs hint that the ads will be “cool” reader-centric kind of stuff but I haven’t found that to be the case so far. Right now, for example, it’s offering me an Amazon branded credit card. Amazon, why aren’t you trying to sell me books?

    1. and the rest…

      $79 just blows me away. I thought they would go to $99, but not this low, not yet. Amazing. Anyone, and I mean anyone, that was half-thinking of buying a Kindle will pick one up now.

      1. I was sure it would be Christmas before we saw a $99 ad-supported Kindle. $79 for the same and we’re not even into October? Amazon is going to kill with this thing.

        1. Yep.

          I imagine the Apple disciples and the techies will slate the specs, especially of the tablet. But I think these are aimed at the next wave of customers to go digital. They care less about specs and more about price and content selection. I think they will sell millions and millions of them before the year is out. I think the $79 Kindle will sell most of all.

      2. It’s the non-Apple folks that argue specs. Apple has never even spoken of the specs in the iPhone or iPad. Amazon took the best page from Apple’s playbook here (no pun intended with the reference to RIM’s turd of a tablet). The only thing Bezos mentioned about the Fire’s specs was that it had a dual-core processor. That’s it.

        Real people don’t care about specs, they care about experience. Apple knows this. Apple sells it all on the experience, never on the specs. Watch any of their commercials about people crying over FaceTime with their kids and doctors helping people with an iPad in their hand. They don’t sell specs, they sell experience. Don Draper Caroussel style.

        Amazon made the right move. The didn’t mention that it runs an old, custom version of Android. They didn’t say how much memory it has. They didn’t say what kind of chips it has in it. They just showed you how great it was. Look at the screens behind Bezos in the pictures from the event. He’s learned much from Apple, and he’s right to copy their style here.

      3. The $79 price point blows me away… One breaks even versus a $4.99 ebook at:

        Hardcover ($19.99): 5 Ebooks or just over two weeks for an ‘intense reader’
        MMBP ($8.99): 26 ebooks or about 3 months for an ‘intense reader’

        This is a gift to indie authors.


  1. I am almost wishing I hadn’t received the wireless Kindle in June for my birthday. However, I thought it was time I gave my husband back the Kindle 1 that he bought three years ago.

  2. Thanks, David, for sumarising this important news. Out of all the new models on offer, none tempt me. But then I edit a lot of books and annotate submissions on my Kindle, so I couldn’t do without a keyboard.
    And you’re right: ‘Kindle Keyboard’ just doesn’t sound right.

  3. My co-writer A J Burton and I are racing to finish books before Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our intuition was correct. Get those books edited and out! Amazon is making it clear that having started the ebook ereader revolution it is not about to let that market languish! Go Indie Publishing!
    Thanks for your posts David. Always useful and informative.

  4. $79 — that makes deciding if I could afford to give them as gifts to my mom and kids a little easier to contemplate.
    By the way, I agree that if you don’t want to be distracted while reading you do need the designated ereader device. Speaking as one easily distracted person to another, the iPad really makes knocking out my TBR pile a little bit of a challenge.
    Dave, do you think you are going to take the plunge and buy one soon?

    1. Yes. I’m going to get the rock bottom $79 Kindle. Bring on the ads!

      I don’t really care about touchscreen technology, not when all I am doing is reading. And I imagine I would flip pages by accident all the time, being quite sausage-fingered (alas, I will never play the harp). Ads don’t bother me, not when they are just on startup and screensavers – not enough to shell out $30/$40 more to get read of them.

      And I definitely don’t want a tablet. If I want to be connected, I’ll open my laptop.

      Although, I liked the pure black of the Kindle 3 much more. This silverish thing doesn’t jive.

  5. The Fire looks pretty cool, but it’s only barely an e-reader. I use my iPad for reading books (with the Kindle app) if it happens to be near me, but I still love my Kindle as a dedicated reader. I think most people who read a lot would say the same. It’s not on the same level as the iPad, but it’ll do just fine for most people.

    $79 base Kindle? Holy Shi’ite! And a $99 touch model to boot?! Amazon is going to kill this Christmas. It was already inching toward the “$99 impulse purchase” level with the $114 version, but this? They’re going to sell millions of them and millions of ebooks to go right along with them.

    If you’re sitting on some book and waiting to put it out, now might be the time to start wrapping it up. There’s going to be a whole lot of new e-readers this Christmas.

    1. I’m like you–except the Kindle part. What matters is what consumers (readers) are doing, and what they’re doing is snatching up tablets in droves and only wanting one or two devices in their pockets/bags.

      Amazon saw it, panicked, and ran out to hire somebody to paste an Amazon logo and customized Android onto an existing tablet. Amazon isn’t going into the manufacturing business. Ever. Their business is being the middleman, the drop-shipper, the content aggregator.

      I’ll say it again–existing Kindles (except the Fire) will be giveaway items within a year or so. Consumers are going portable, and they don’t want to carry several devices.

      The Tech-Savvy Writer

    2. There’s going to be a whole lot of new e-readers this Christmas.
      Understatement! Expect them starting in mid-November. How many customers will spend more on books than the ereader within the first month? I expect it to be quite a few…

      Amazon also has the gift card thing down pat. Why wouldn’t grandma give a $20 gift card with the $79 Kindle to her little reader? This is going to shake up the industry *fast*! Did you see the cute girl reading the pink colored Kindle on the Kindle touch page on Amazon? If that isn’t selling to Grandma, I don’t know what is…


  6. I have the Kindle 3 with the ads; it’s fine. They are not the least intrusive. This is exciting news and will ratchet up the gift-giving of Kindles for Christmas. I’m stoked. Like you, David, I’m trying to get my next novel done in time to catch this building wave of momentum.

    Joanna Penn also wrote a post about this that accentuates the positives of this move by Amazon:


    1. Well written link.

      The only thing missing is how the very light weight of these new Kindles will also reduce the barrier to purchase and use!

      I agree with the link that this is the game changer that takes ereaders mainstream. At least the sub-$100 ereaders.


  7. David wrote:
    I was thinking the exact same thing when I saw those backdrops.
    And that provides a clue about who Amazon is *really* competing against. I’m telling you, B&N, etc. is merely a speed bump on Amazon’s Path to Content Dominance.

  8. Hi David, I also wrote about this too. I see this as a real Game Changer in the market. Pretty exciting times for writers with the additional exposure they’ll receive from all the new comers to the ebook market.

  9. It’s the price point and the technology of the Kindle Fire that I find breathtaking. Now there is a tablet for k-12 in a comfortable size and affordable (at least for affluent kids) price, with an unbeatably fast browser and a non-copyable system. Amazon knows how to create, not only new markets, but revolutions. A little bit scary, too.

    1. Susan,

      I’ve had some experience in that area. K-12 schools in America aren’t much (yet) into buying cheap, dedicated e-readers. When they spend tech money, they want flexible, multipurpose mobile devices that can do true multimedia, are easy for students to use–and are robust enough to allow IT departments to manage security and applications across hundreds or thousands of devices and customize them.

      Right now, that’s the iPad. The Kindle Fire is childish and awkward in comparison, and more importantly–it’s retail consumption-oriented, not education- or user-oriented. Amazon’s aim is retail content domination, not–dare I say it–improve the human condition or providing a stellar user-friendly platform.

      And in higher education in the US, the iPad is *it*. They’re insanely popular now, and becoming more so every month. It’s changing the world of college textbooks. in both K-12 *and* higher ed, textbook authors are aiming at the iPad, not e-readers or devices like the Kindle Fire (which is a tablet in name only).

      I’m glad that the Fire’s out, because it’s cheap and will be great for authors. But I don’t see it as anything more than a cheap retail consumer device.

      1. Netbooks are the go to for technology in our school district (in a suburb of Seattle where Microsoft reigns). Next year, it’s laptops for all students at my son’s high school. Most of their textbooks are available on-line and students are being encouraged to go there.

        My 12-year-old daughter just took “my Kindle” to school (junior high) today to read in her class. We’ve already had the discussion about the Kindle touch, but she hasn’t made up her mind yet. The miracle about the above scenario is that she is not a reader, struggles with reading. Yet, if the Kindle pulls her in to reading, Jeff Bezos is my new tech hero. And, let’s not stop there. I loaded the Kindle app on Dad’s iPad and she read from that all last night. The pull-through technology is what distinguishes Amazon from everybody else. I can read my e-book bought at Amazon on my iPhone or my Kindle or my iPad or my computer (wherever I have the Kindle application loaded) and it knows where I stopped in the book and brings me to that page no matter the device. Powerful stuff.

        As to the aside about marketing of these four devices, I think Amazon is taking a lesson from Apple. They’re bringing out these devices despite lacking some of the features: e-ink for Kindle fire and no color on the touch devices et al… What are they learning? People will buy and buy again (the upgrades). iPhones. My husband’s iPhone 3 works perfectly fine, but he will be one of the first in line October 4th for the iPhone 5.

    1. Excellent. Hopefully that will keep the pressure up on Amazon’s international rollout.

      No word on local language books (which is what will really drive the relative markets, bar Ireland), and I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple have done little there.

  10. In my opinion, here’s why tablets (not e-readers) are what your future readers are going to demand:

    For comparison:

    If you think the main difference here is web page design or apps, I recommend a closer look. In a nutshell, folks, here’s the main difference between the iPad and the Kindle Fire: The iPad is an active device, designed to help the user be creative in several different mediums; The Kindle Fire is a passive device, designed to provide content.

    I know we’re focused on books and writing here, but I think us authors need to open the door and step outside for a look around. If you’re interested in readers, it’s startlingly clear that readers–based on trends everywhere, from consumers to education–are eagerly taking part in a sea change in computing. Not content consumption: computing. And since many authors are focused on e-books, congratulations: your “content” is now heavily dependent on the computing world.

    1. I’m not dismissing your argument, but as a counterpoint, a Pew survey released over the summer showed that e-reader ownership had doubled from 6% to 12% between November 2010 and May 2011 – just six months. In that same timeframe, tablet ownership only rose to 8% (from 7%).

      I have no doubt that the next generation will shun simple e-readers in favor of multi-function devices. However, this generation – the heavy readers at least – seem to prefer e-readers.

      And to be honest, that suits me perfectly. Simple text files with minor formatting are far cheaper, easier, and quicker to produce. If some kind of multimedia interactive apps became the preferred form of “book” tomorrow, that would blow a hole in my business model.

      I agree with your take on the Kindle Fire. It’s an entertainment/shopping console – not really a computing device. But I think a lot of people want that, and it will sell like crazy. Remember when the first game consoles came out? People were freaking that there was no keyboard, and that you couldn’t write your own simple programs in Basic or whatever. Turned out that people didn’t care. They were just looking for entertainment.

      1. I think sometimes when we are arguing about reader dominance in ereaders or tablets we may betaking about two distinct groups. I think hardcore readers will have an ereader only function, something large enough that doesn’t require their glasses, but small and light weight enough to take to the beach, car ride, ect..

        Then I think there is everyone else who may read occasionally, maybe up to three books a year. These will like the tablets and smart phones the most. I think they will most likely be best seller chasers and not necessarily who most mid-list authors will be able to sway. However, it is my guess that it is these people that sway a book from obscurity to popularity. Just my two cents.

      2. David,

        I agree the Kindle Fire will be for entertainment. I already know of a half dozen *non-readers* who have pre-ordered the Fire. They were simply waiting for a low risk (low-cost) way to ‘test the tablet waters.’ Now low-risk also implies from a known vendor, known functionality, good advertising to remove aversion to buying, etc. $199 is also cheap enough to risk giving a Fire to a young child. (An iPad? Too pricey)

        I also agree heavy readers prefer e-readers. 40 percent of iPad owners had a Kindle back in January. I know of only one person (my sister, ironically) who has abandoned the Kindle for the iPad. I know dozens of iPad owners who own Kindles for ‘heavy reading.’

        At $79 (or $99 for the Kindle touch or ‘Kindle Keyboard’), affluent customers will continue to buy both. I know of one individual buying multiple Kindles as now he can leave one next to the bed, one for travel (always in the suitcase overnight), and the old K1 tucked into his desk if he feels like a read and cannot be bothered to walk to the bed, a 2nd one for the wife (so she doesn’t ‘borrow’ his Kindle when hers is across the home…).

        Downside is the number of books sold per Kindle is going to drop. Cest la vie. The rate of Kindle sales will be fast enough to grow the market quickly.

      3. David, in a 2,000-person phone survey where the results are four percentage points apart, and the margin of error is two percentage points, the conclusion is: inconclusive. In other words, the gap could be wider–or the percentages for both could be exactly the same. I can say confidently that when you see these sorts of “surveys” with such a spread, it’s safe to ignore them–they’re effectively press releases for the survey firm.

  11. I find that Apple thinks it is throwing down a gauntlet amusing. They can’t even do the basic promotional ads for their US store. I think I’ve received only one ad from them in my inbox in the year that I have been buying ebooks. I frequently buy my kids books through them because I keep that app. younger reader friendly, i.e. no adult covers or titles (not that I get anything too bad, but the covers are a bit suggestive at times).
    I don’t really see the point unless their new stores are a launching pad for something else or maybe it is just a corporate pi**ing contest?
    I am glad for authors who will now (I hope) be able to put their books into another venue.

      1. Ahh..That’s what rushing will get me. I still don’t understand why they are doing more of something that they are clearly underwhelmed by. There is no real joy, pride, or enthusiasm in their marketing.

  12. I also agree heavy readers prefer e-readers. 40 percent of iPad owners had a Kindle
    A small, self-selected group surveyed by JD Power? I won’t get into statistical wonkery here, but–don’t put any money on that.

    Apple tells you how many iPads they’ve sold. As of Q2 2011, they’ve sold almost 30 million iPads, worldwide, and are on target to easily be at around 50 million by Q1 2012. These aren’t speculative–they’re verifiable, in filed reports, shareholder meeting minutes, and analyst statements.

    Amazon won’t tell you how many Kindles they’ve sold. Most analysts have estimated “several million”, and some also estimate anet loss of about $50 on each Kindle Fire sale. That sounds right to me, because the screen, case and processor alone would cost almost $200 to manufacture. There’s a reason the iPad starts at $499 and is unmatched in quality–it’s expensive to manufacture, and will be for years.

    The iPad is already available in 64 countries–and only half of iPad sales are in the US. The Kindle Fire is reported to be available in only one country: the US. Guess which company “gets” the global market?

    I think Amazon will sell tons of Kindle Fires, and that’s a good thing. I’m not invested in a particular e-book technology “winning”, but I can’t stress enough that (a) there’s a enormous technological struggle here that’s going to significantly affect authors, and (b) authors who bet their gold on e-books are now at the mercy of the technology world–and Amazon and Apple. There is no “diversifying” or “multiple income stream” creation here. If you’re going to bet your career on e-book sales, you’re betting your career on e-book *e-readers*–and the world of consumer technology.

    Remember when all a reader needed was two hands to hold a paper book?

    1. James,
      I don’t know what everyone is betting on as far as what the future holds, but what we know right now is there are ebooks and ebook apps. and people are buying them. Authors are only content providers not publishers who have big overhead to worry about. If I as a content provider can’t keep up with the change in technology then the big publishers won’t be able to either, they have huge systems in place and they can’t feasibly convert overnight. What ever technology comes next there has to be some lead in so people can use it otherwise it’s worthless.

      I understand the caution you are suggesting (at least I think I do), but all I have is right now. My screen just went blank so I’ll have to stop.

      1. Josephine,
        You’re right about the “right now” part. I’ve had several thoughts percolating about this for a while, and finally put them down on “paper”. Let me know what you think.

        PS: Hopefully, my comment above didn’t make your screen go blank. That’d be a cool trick, though.

  13. James,
    I left you a comment and I don’t know what happened before, but maybe it was my guardian angels keeping me from making a fool of myself.
    Dave is probably wondering how he can tap into those angels and get me from commenting more often 😉 .

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