Amazon is upping its game for e-readers. According to news reports, the giant retailer is coming out with a new Kindle Paperwhite after the holidays that will feature a higher-resolution e-ink screen.
The new model, codenamed Ice Wine and lighter than any previous Amazon e-reader, is expected to be released in second quarter of next year. It will sport a 300 ppi matte glass screen that is flush with the front edge. Given the standard six-inch screen size of a Kindle, that could result in a screen resolution of about 1440 x 1080. The current Paperwhite model features a 212 ppi screen, lower than the 265 ppi display on a competing Kobo Aura HD e-reader.
In addition to the high-res screen, the new Paperwhite will also reportedly come with a new, customized typography that improves on the reading experience. Font readability, of course, is a key metric of an e-reader, and the Kindle has received complaints on that front. An ambient light sensor is expected to automatically detect available light and dim or brighten the screen to compensate.
There are also reports that the new Kindle may feature squeezable buttons on the side that give tactile feedback when pressed, and that can be used to turn pages. The rear casing is said to be closer to the angular design of the Kindle Fire HDX tablets.
Last week, Time Magazine rated the top five e-readers, and chose the current Amazon Kindle Paperwhite as #1, followed in order by the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, the Kobo Glo, the Barnes & Noble NOOK Simple Touch Reader, and the Kobo Aura HD.
But, while reading e-books has become a common activity, there is a question about how long e-readers can survive when tablets can also act as e-readers, and much more, at prices under $200 for a Kindle Fire or about $250 for a Nexus 7, compared to $119 for Amazon’s bestselling Kindle e-reader.
In August, E Ink Holdings, which makes the screens for most e-readers, announced that its quarterly earnings and sales were down 46 percent year-over-year, resulting in a net loss of $33.6 million. It also predicted that e-reader sales will essentially remain flat for this year.
Industry research firm IDC has projected that e-reader sales will fall from their high of $26.4 million in 2011 to $11.7 million in 2017. According to IDC, Amazon intends to continue its upgrades for the Paperwhite so as to retain that core of customers who are most interested in a high-quality e-reading experience. That market, of course, also contains the most voracious consumers of e-books.
Amazon’s content sales is its real revenue stream, and the company is moving forward with various incentives to encourage a flow of e-books to loyal customers. In September, for instance, it announced MatchBook, a program that allows customers who have ever purchased a physical book from Amazon, to download a discounted or even free e-book version.