Amazon Kindle Paperwhite draws bright line between e-readers, tablets


A United Parcel Service driver delivers packages from Amazon.com in Palo Alto, Calif., Thursday, June 30, 0211. Amazon has launched a new version of its Kindle Paperwhite reader for $119. The device will ship on Nov. 5. (Paul Sakuma/AP)
September 3, 2013

Amazon introduced a new version of its Kindle Paperwhite e-reader Tuesday, showing that it’s happy to play both sides of a conflict between e-book readers and tablets.

The new version of Amazon’s light-up e-reader, the company said in a statement Tuesday, makes a number of improvements to its most technologically advanced line of e-ink, black-and-white e-readers, with features such as higher contrast, integration with the reading site Goodreads, and the option to engage more with books by making vocabulary lists, adding in-line footnotes and a kid-focused program that gives readers “achievements” for hitting reading milestones.

E-readers saw a burst of popularity, particularly in 2012, but analysis firms such as IDC found in early 2013 that the single-focus devices were rapidly losing ground to tablets as users looked for more robust reading devices — particularly as tablet prices continue to drop.

That’s been bad news for companies like Sony, which saw its e-reader woes outlined in a New York Times article this weekend. According to that report, Amazon has quickly taken market share from Japanese-owned e-reader firms such as Sony and Kobo in large part thanks to its broad catalog of books.

For Amazon, however, the value of an e-reader or tablet comes not necessarily through the money it makes off of the device but rather the continued revenue stream off of the books it can sell through those devices. As a result, the company is willing to price its devices at a point that gives it very low profit margins.

That’s true of the new Kindle Paperwhite, which costs just $119 — the same as the original device — for the most-basic WiFi model. Adding 3G capability costs an additional $70, for a price of $189. The reader is expected to ship on November 5, and is up for pre-order now.

(Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos has agreed to buy The Washington Post newspaper.)

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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