How Can Amazon Win the E-Reader Race? By Not Competing With the iPad

Expected in 2012, Amazon's (AMZN) next Kindle is probably going to trounce the Apple (APPL) iBookstore and the Barnes & Noble (BKS) Nook Color. Forget the ancillary apps: The Kindle's expected color, reader-friendly E-Ink screen will pull in users in a way the competitors cannot.

The only thing Amazon is waiting on is the next generation of E Ink screens provided by a company called, what else, E Ink. Speaking to PC Magazine, E Ink's Chief Marketing Officer Sri Peruvemba highlighted several improvements in the fifth generation E Ink screen, including:

  • A full touchscreen
  • Updates every 50 milliseconds compared to every 250 milliseconds, which allows it to do full video
  • Flexible, bendable displays, something the next Kindle may use
Imagine a color, touchscreen-based, full-video device that folds into your pocket. Peruvemba says E Ink only releases a new screen update every two years, so, with last year's Kindle release, we can guess the next version will be out in 2012. The device will also be a great vehicle for Amazon's new AppStore, which will likely have thousands of apps by the time the next Kindle launches.

But apps, video, and other multimedia are secondary. The real emphasis here is on creating the best reader experience, which is one area where both the iPad and the Nook Color fall short.

Amazon doesn't need another Kindle right now
Despite rumors of a new Kindle this fall, the E Ink cycle is just one of many reasons why a new Kindle will not be out this year.
First, Kindle book sales are doing extraordinarily well. Last year Amazon sold more Kindle books than paperbacks and hardcovers combined. The "read anywhere" strategy is paying off, allowing readers to use PC, Mac, Android, Blackberry, and even Apple devices to access their books. Readers don't need color screens at the moment.

Second, the expected threat from Apple's iBookstore is still far, far away. Though it has full color, the iBookstore is still dealing with the same limitations I addressed last fall, including a disorganized, small catalog. There are great innovations happening on the iPad, like Al Gore's interactive Our Choice book through Push Pop Press, but these are apps -- and still haven't been integrated into iBooks themselves.

Third, the Nook Color, the closest e-reader competition, has essentially turned itself into a mini-tablet. As BNET's own Erik Sherman noted recently, the latest Nook Color update has it looking more like a low-end iPad than an e-reader. Of course, the Nook Color was already using a less reader-friendly LCD display, but the recent jack-of-all-trades change makes the iPad, and not the Kindle, the Nook's main competition.

The iBookstore is still disorganized and the Nook Color screen is less readable than even the current edition Kindle, so Amazon has no reason to rush the next-gen Kindle out the door. And, by sticking with E Ink, it will be able to eventually support color while still excelling at its primary feature: reading.

Photo courtesy of unleashingmephotography // CC 2.0
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