Will Amazon Release a New Kindle in 2011?

Kindle Touch Mock-up

I received an email asking if I thought Amazon would be releasing a new Kindle, the “Kindle 4”, later this year, and if so what new features would it likely have.

Thinking about it, that’s a really good question.

With Barnes and Noble and Kobo both releasing new touchscreen ebook readers in June, and with Sony rumored to unveil a new ereader or two soon, Amazon probably won’t be content to stick with the Kindle 3 through the rest of the year . . . or will they?

One approach that Amazon may take in lieu of a new Kindle is to drop the price even more on the existing Kindle 3 line. The Kindle WiFi with Special Offers is currently priced at $114. That could easily drop to $99 for Christmas.

Or, another rumor that’s gaining a lot of momentum is that Amazon is going to release a line of Android tablets this fall, what some would call the color Kindle, or Kindle Tablet. But I don’t agree with that assumption. If Amazon were to release Android tablets, they probably wouldn’t have anything to do with the “Kindle” brand name; Android tablets would build off all of Amazon’s electronic services, music, video, cloud storage, etc., not just the Kindle Android app.

So if Amazon does release Android tablets later this year, that doesn’t mean a Kindle 4 couldn’t come along too. In fact, I’d say the odds are good that a new Kindle will be released in 2011. The Kindle 3 is already nearing its 1 year birthday in August. And Amazon released new Kindles in 2009 and 2010, so why would 2011 be any different? Especially now that ebooks are more popular than ever.

Kindle 4 Possible Features

So if Amazon does indeed have a new E Ink Kindle in the works, what new features will it have?

The most obvious answer is of course a touchscreen. Since all the major brands have touchscreens now, a new Kindle would most certainly have a touchscreen too, which would make it the first Kindle without an external keyboard, something that would make a lot of people happy.

If it’s going to have a touchscreen, it will need a new updated user interface, more like the touchscreen-friendly Kindle reading apps for Android and iPad. It could use other software upgrades too, like more fonts choices, more ebook organizing options, increased social tools, page re-fresh settings, better performance, and so forth.

Another likely upgrade, since the Kindle 3’s battery life magically doubled overnight after the Nook Touch was revealed to have a 2 month battery life, it’s safe to assume that a new Kindle will have an even longer battery life, complete with exaggerated claims.

Support for DRM-free EPUB ebooks would be huge. DRM’d EPUBs will never happen so there’s no hope for that. But there’s no reason why Amazon couldn’t add support for DRM-free EPUB ebooks. They don’t need to release a new Kindle for that, though, just a firmware update.

Perhaps it isn’t the 6″ Kindle that will be updated. A new large-screened Kindle could be a possibility too. Or maybe even a super-cheap 5″ Kindle for Kids.

Other than that, I don’t see many other potential changes happening. A color Kindle is a possibility but not likely. E Ink unveiled color epaper, called Triton, last November, but it still hasn’t been used on any ebook readers thus far, at least not outside Asia. The technology, while advanced for E Ink, is slow to go mainstream, perhaps because colors aren’t as bright as most are accustomed to with traditional LCD displays since there is no backlight to illuminate the screen. Mirasol, another possibility for color screens, scrapped their planned ereader because it wasn’t good enough. So if it’s going to be color, it’s most likely going to be an LCD tablet, not a color Kindle.

That means the main upgrades, if a new Kindle is indeed coming, will be the addition of a touchscreen and updated user interface, which will probably include some new features like on-board ebook lending and borrowing.

Of course this is all just speculation, especially when it comes to the touchscreen. Adding a touchscreen to a Kindle sounds easy, but pretty much everything from a software standpoint has to change for it. And what about all the Kindle games and apps that are designed for use with the Kindle’s nav controller and cursor? The web browser would have to change for a touchscreen too. All the menus, settings, zooming, scrolling. Pretty much everything. That could take some time to perfect.

Nevertheless, a new Kindle will come along at some point—that much is certain. The matter of when is the big question, and what shiny new features it will come with.

14 Responses to “Will Amazon Release a New Kindle in 2011?”

  1. I’m pretty sure they will, and it will be similar to the Nook Simple Touch: Touchscreen (no more keyboard), but not much else different. They have the advantage of the 3G worldwide that is really useful for travelers, so I don’t expect that they will bother with anything else, especially allowing epub. They want to sell books, which is clear by the Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de Kindle sites.

  2. Oh God, please no touchscreen. I don’t want any smudges on the screen, and I’m perfectly happy to navigate with buttons (after all, most of the time you only need the turn page buttons on the side of the Kindle anyway). Also, the touchscreen layer of the Sony ebook readers are causing bad reflections (not sure about other ereaders). If amazon does introduce touchscreens (just because it’s considered hip) I’ll hold on to my Kindle 3 until it falls apart…

    • The touchscreens on the new Sonys don’t have any glare, the same as the new Nook and Kobo. They use infrared so it doesn’t affect the screen in any way. Also, smudges really aren’t a problem with these types of screens, nothing like glossy tablet or cell phone screens. You get a little bit of smudges but you can’t really see them and they wipe off easy. Of course I live in a dry climate so it might be worse where there’s lots of humidity.

  3. The best e-reader for your money seems to be a 4-way tie between Kindle 3 WiFi, Nook Touch, Kobo Touch, and Pocketbook Pro 360 Plus. It would be a 5-way tie if Sony Reader 650 sold in that price range. They’re all good for reading, but every one has a feature or two the others don’t have, and every one lacks something the others do have.

  4. Techno-challenged B&N managed to create a touch-screen model of NOOK, so I’m pretty sure that Amazon wouldn’t have any trouble at all.

    Capability-wise, the new NOOK is well behind the original. No 3G option, no eReader PDB support, no color display of book covers, no music/audiobook player, no games, no Web browser (officially).

    But that doesn’t matter. It’s selling on ergonomics — smaller form factor, reduced weight, more direct user interface, longer battery life — and maybe to a small extent on price: it’s $10 cheaper than the old NOOK Wi-Fi was. From what I’ve seen on Teh Intartubes, the new NOOK’s selling strongly.

  5. My wish: a Kindle with touchscreen.

    A touchscreen would be really comfortable to search words in the dictionary, a nice feature if you usually read books in languages other than yours.

  6. Kindle remains the best choice and there is no reason for Kindle 4 to not come out. Market is flooded with entry level readers but Kindle still has it’s strong base. And touchscreen is to come for sure, you cannot imagine a eBook reader without touch, it eases the functionality.

  7. Dear Nathan,
    And what about the just released AIPTEK 8′?

  8. Dear Nathan, here is the link: it looks that it has everything we need, including android market.


    • That actually looks like it would make a fairly decent budget tablet for $170, given that it runs Android 2.2 and has market access, which I thought required a camera but I guess they count the fact that you can connect an Aiptek camera to it. It reminds me a little of the Next3 with that screen size, but it has better specs. Interesting…

  9. Hey Nathan are you reviewing that AIPtek tablet?
    ’cause if you are I want to read your thoughts, it looks pretty good, but I dont want to buy anything that without at least a couple of trusted reviews!

    by the way alutarek libre pro its at 69 dlls in amazon and target.

  10. I would like to see a new Kindle DX with the following features:

    Basic voice command support, for (mostly) hands-free usage.

    Two-page format, for viewing either facing pages of text, or to display a map or some other such info on one page, text on the other page.

    Much better rendition of images, up to the standard of the Poissons screen saver. Currently, images in ebooks are tiny and blurry, and almost indecipherable.

    For ebooks that have an professionally read audiobook version, the ability to switch between reading and listening, without losing your place.