We do not yet have a firm idea about when the Amazon Kindle 4 reader will be ready. Before the 3rd generation reader was released, it was able to be pre-ordered. It will likely be the same with the next version of this device. But both current Kindle users and people who do not yet own an electronic reading device have a host of questions regarding this newer model. For example:

  • Will it have a color screen?
  • If it does, will this mean a move away from electronic paper in favor of an LCD display?
  • Will it offer touch functionality similar to the iPad?
  • How much will it cost?
  • When will it be ready?

Some of these questions are a bit easier to answer than other. For some, we simply have to wait for an announcement from Amazon. However, we can certainly take an educated guess at most of them simply from the information that is already available online. For example, by looking at media reports and going direct to the websites of companies involved in the innovation of technology that the Kindle uses, we can glean a lot of useful information.

Firstly, there is every chance that we shall be reading using a color Kindle 4 in the not so distant future. This is more than just a dream. The fact of the matter is that a color electronic display is already a reality. At the moment, it is a company called E Ink who make the screens for the Kindle 3. The version that is used for this model is called Pearl. Their newer version which can display more than 4,000 different colors is called Triton. Since Amazon already have a relationship with this company and are comfortable using their inventions, it is a logical step that they will move to use the most up to date electronic paper display technology.

Whether or not a color screen will add a great deal to the user experience is debatable. That said, it will be a major marketing device to be able to compare the Kindle reader, at its lower cost, to the flashier iPad tablet devices. The fact of the matter is that the Kindle and the iPad are only really in competition with each other to the extent that they are both hand held electronic gadgets. But the thing is, they are really designed to do different tasks. The Kindle has one primary function, to allow its users to read electronic books. The iPad on the other hand offers a wider range of capabilities but does not have one specific function. The Kindle is more functional while the iPad is cooler. Bringing out a Kindle with a color screen might not add too much functionality but it certainly gives this gadget an improved coolness factor.

As you will have gathered from the preceding paragraphs, a color screen does not necessitate an LCD display. There is no doubt that LCD screens can operate at higher resolutions. After all, this is the type of screens that computers use. But electronic paper displays offer some advantages of their own. These include a far superior battery life when compared to devices like laptops, mobile phones and the iPad. The current version of the Kindle reader can go for one month between battery charges. Secondly, reading with the Amazon Kindle really is just the same as reading a book, as far as your eyes are concerned. I have yet to get a headache or feel the effects of eye strain from using my Kindle. They are definitely more relaxing to use than looking at a computer screen for a long time.

Another cool feature that the iPad offers is its touch ability. The 3rd generation Kindle makes use of a small QWERTY keyboard that sits at the bottom of the device. However, whether the Kindle 4 will still have a keyboard or not is still unknown. Developments in this area include Amazon’s purchase of a company called TouchCo in 2010. This firm was developing touch functionality for electronic paper displays. Indeed, at the time of their purchase, it they had already invented working prototypes. Therefore, making another assumption, it may well be the case that this technology is now fully operational. We do not know for sure whether Amazon will choose to include this in their Kindle 4 reader but as long as they have it working correctly, it would be surprising if they did not make use of this innovation.

So it may well be the case that Amazon will be able to steal some of the thunder of the iPad device. As far as the marketing of their next hand held reader is concerned, having both a color screen and touch functionality would be of major value. The question is whether these features will add much, if anything, to the price of the device itself.

At the moment there are three different models of Kindle. Two 6″ versions (Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi + 3G) as well as the larger DX device. We could say that the 6″ Kindles are the standard type while the DX is a luxury version. The cost of the Kindle DX is about twice the price of the cheapest model and double the price of the one with 3G. Will Amazon be able to sell a color and touch version of their product for less than $150? A massive part of the appeal of the Kindle reader is its affordability. It would be a shame if the price had to rise to over $200, for instance. This would certainly limit some people’s ability to be able to purchase the hand set.

As I mentioned at the start of this article, we do not know exactly when the Kindle 4 will be released. There has been no announcement from Amazon other than to say that it is still a long way off. To date, there have been three versions of the Kindle so far. The first one came on sale in November 2007. That was just over three years ago. So if they stick to a similar sort of time scale it may be possible to purchase a Kindle 4 before the end of 2011. Bringing out the next version would ensure record breaking sales in the run up to Christmas. But potentially more important to Amazon than short term profit is ensuring that the Kindle 4 electronic reader is the best device of its type. Therefore rather than working to a sales timetable, it seems likely that they will only bring out the next incarnation of their bestselling handset when the device is good and ready. This might not be until 2012.

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