This week the gods seemed to have smiled on Amazon. On Thursday (September 6), Denise Cote, the federal district judge in Manhattan, approved a settlement between the Department of Justice and three major publishers – Simon & Schuster, Hachette and HarperCollins – in a civil antitrust case that accused five of the world’s leading publishers of collusion in the pricing of digital books. No doubt, music to Amazon’s ears!
Penguin, Macmillan and Apple who are also facing ebook price-fixing charges, are continuing to fight the accusations.
As the New York Times noted, the judge’s ruling “promised to empower Amazon … to drop the price of many e-books back to $9.99 or even lower in the coming months, a move that could pressure competing retailers to do the same.”
On the same day of the judge’s ruling (coincidence?), Amazon unveiled its newest line of Kindle Fire tablets, signalling in no uncertain terms it’s getting ready to rumble!
“Amazon Takes on the High-End” with “the New Kindle Fire HD Family” the e-tailing giant crowed, a veiled warning to the likes of Apple, creator of the world’s top-rated tablet, that they’ve got them in their sights.
Here’s a brief line-up of Amazon’s latest offerings:
Kindle e-reader: A slightly upgraded version of its basic e-ink reader with an improved display but no touch screen for $69 (ad-supported) and $89 without ads.
Kindle Paperwhite: A self-illuminating e-ink reader (Amazon’s first) equipped with a touch-screen. It’s $119 with Wi-Fi, $179 for 3G (both ad-supported). The add-free version costs $20 extra. Ships October 1.
Kindle Fire: Amazon’s new baseline tablet (a non-HD version)– it has a faster CPU and longer battery life than the older model and costs $159.
Kindle Fire HD (7-inch): A 7” tablet, with a custom HD display, Wi-Fi, dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus audio, powerful processor and graphics engine, and 16 GB of storage. It’s $199 for 16GB and $249 for 32GB
Kindle Fire HD (8.9-inch): A large-screen version with 1920×1200 HD display touch screen with 254 ppi and a powerful OMAP4 4470 processor and graphics engine and16 GB of local storage. The 16GB model costs $299 and the 32GB is $369. Ships November 20.
$499 gets you the same high-end HD tablet, with 32 GB of storage, plus ultra-fast 4G LTE wireless powered by the latest generation 4G chipset, and Amazon’s $49.99 one year 4G LTE data package. The new Kindle Fire tablets also have a front-facing HD camera with custom Skype application for video calling from anywhere in the world.
Amazon claims to have the world’s “best content ecosystem” – over 22 million movies, TV shows, songs, apps, games, books, audiobooks and magazines.
“Immersion Reading” and “Whispersync for Voice”
In collaboration with Audible.com, the world’s leading provider of digital spoken-word entertainment and a subsidiary of Amazon.com, Amazon unveiled “Immersion Reading” and “Whispersync for Voice,” two new features that are exclusive to the Kindle ecosystem.
Amazon’s Whispersync technology enables users to automatically and seamlessly switch between different devices while reading a Kindle book without losing their place. For example, you can start watching a video on your Kindle Fire and pick up where you left off on your big-screen TV. The technology also allows Kindle and Kindle Fire users to switch seamlessly between reading a book and listening to the professionally narrated Audible audiobook on any iOS or Android phone without losing their place.
Interestingly, Arstechnica.com notes that all Kindle Fires sold to US customers will have home screen ads – whether they like it or not. It says there is “no option for US customers to purchase Kindle Fires without “special offers” that display on the lock screen and the lower left corner of the home screen.”
Other Amazon innovations
Kindle Serials – It allows readers to buy a book once and immediately receive all existing episodes, followed later by future episodes when they are published. When new episodes arrive, they are added to the end of your existing book, keeping your place and retaining your highlights and notes. Readers can also join the conversation on Amazon discussion boards as the stories unfold – allowing the authors to interact with their readers in real-time.
Check out Amazon for more Kindle Fire info.