What is the Deal with Amazon and Last Year’s Basic Kindle?

Basic Kindle Standoff

Yesterday I noticed something odd over at Amazon while researching the sales and deals post.

For some reason Amazon has started promoting last year’s basic Kindle over this year’s version. Last year’s model has a gray exterior (they call it graphite) and the newer one is black (onyx).

The family stripe at the top of Kindle device pages now shows the gray model instead of the black one, and whenever you click on any link for the newer model it automatically defaults to the gray Kindle from last year.

Both Kindles are pretty much exactly alike except for the color, so it’s not a huge deal, but there is one important difference aside from that you should be aware of before buying.

The screen on the newer black model is slightly better than the one on the gray model. The background color is a little whiter on the new model.

This difference in the screens may just be because I’m comparing a new Kindle with a gray one purchased last year. Perhaps the gray units have better screens now too, or maybe Amazon is trying to clear their remaining stock of the gray ones. It’s hard to tell. They may be running out of the newer ones like they are with the Kindle Paperwhite, which is on backorder until December 17th.

Personally, I think the gray Kindles look a little classier, but based on my side-by-side comparison I’d go with the black one for the whiter screen and slightly darker text.

12 Responses to “What is the Deal with Amazon and Last Year’s Basic Kindle?”

  1. Well, just ordered the graphite model yesterday—I didn’t realize that it was last years model. Too late to cancel, so probably will refuse it when it arrives or return it. I consider Amazon an “above board” store, but I’m rather disappointed in this order.
    Your site is first class, and your responses to several of my questions have been fast and accurate. Where do you find the time to respond, and also write your blog???

    • Nathan is the best!

    • If they are using the newer screens on the graphite ones I’d personally prefer that one actually, but who knows what Amazon is doing. The graphite one isn’t slower or anything. I guess I’m just getting tired of black because 90% of my ereaders and tablets are black.

      Keeping up with this website does take a lot of time, and I never get half as much done as I want to, but that’s how it always is isn’t it? I’m going to be looking in to trying to find a part time article writer in the near future to keep things moving along smoother.

  2. Sorry, but I don’t think this is quite right.

    The default color displayed is graphite, but there are *two* colors:


    On that page there is the $69 price.
    Below that is “special offers” price ( or not). This is followed by the choice of two colors: Graphite and Onyx.

    Even on the Graphite example mode, lower down when they outline the features the example Kindle is black.

    I think it is a marketing call to show the graphite one in the line up against the two onyx Paperwhites along the top row. Those are not very big pictures and if the colors were exactly the same you’d have to look very close to pick out the lack of a controller on the bottom bezel. The current line up makes it easy to pick out “old school” from “new school”.

    If just go to amazon main page and make a generic search for “Kindle” get two other product ID numbers



    But the specs and everything else about the pages are all the same.

    • The layout is new with the options to chose. They used to have separate pages for each color. It’s just weird that they are defaulting to the gray one in the family stripe and previous links.

  3. I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that the graphite model now has the same features of the black model – just two colors to choose from.

  4. I went to check it out and notice that there is an option to select either the graphite or the onyx versions. Is that new??

  5. Amazon must have updated it- you can choose between black and gray color…

    yes Nathan is the best 🙂

  6. International version (graphite) seems to be Kindle 4: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0051QVF7A/

    International version (black) seems to be Kindle 5:

    What’s more, even though B0051QVF7A is in stock, Amazon all of a sudden refuses to ship to South Africa: “Some of the items in your order cannot be shipped to the selected addres”

    Any comments or corrections?

    • I had those product codes confused with serial numbers, I e-mailed Amazon and got a half-baked reply.

  7. Guess I’ve finally figured it out. Kindle’s and Kobo’s e-readers are practically the same thing. They have many details in common, plus a few differences. Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Glo both have higher resolution screens with illumination, both are without audio, and both have an improved system with many features. Hence, both have an edge over Nook’s and Sony’s newer e-readers.

    But Kindle and Kobo have their own unique platform that limits their customers to read only their e-books from their e-stores only. Sony’s PRS-T2 can let its customers buy and read from a wider range of sources, and its system is Android, so it has an edge over Kindle and Kobo.

    However, Kindle and Kobo have their differences. Kobo has no landscape mode at all, except for PDF files. Kindle has landscape and a few other extra bells and whistles, so it has an edge over Kobo. The only edge Kobo Glo seems to have is its fairly inexpensive price.

    So the main choice among the current models is: a sharper screen with good lighting, or more freedom and versatility? Or possibly both, if you spend $100-$150 more and get the Onyx Boox Firefly. That one, from what I’ve heard, has its Paperwhite-like screen, and its Android-like system with its app-like widgets. But for the lower price range, any of the other e-readers ought to be good enough.

    • You got it mostly right but Kobo’s ereaders aren’t locked into the Kobo ecosystem. They support Adobe DRM for ebooks from various sources just the same as the PRS-T2.