How Low Can They Go? New Kindle Priced at $139

While the publishing industry, and indeed readers themselves, are still figuring out just exactly what to do with e-readers and e-books, Amazon’s certainly not flagging. Engadget, and about 200 other media outlets, reports that Amazon’s new Kindle—in WiFi only format, of course—is going to be a paltry $139, just in time for the new school year.

Engadget reports a good smattering of improvements in the device itself, including better storage, purported quicker loading, and availability in two different colors (white and gray—oh, wow… such choice there, guys…). It’s also lighter and smaller than its predecessor. And, as always, if you want to continue selling your soul to AT&T, just as before, you can go with the $189 version that supports3G.

But still, we’re talking about the Kindle here, which by and large is very much built for one thing: reading books. I don’t own a Kindle, but there are plenty of folks out there who do—and I’ve probably heard more people go on about the joys of their special brand of e-ink than any other. Sure, other e-readers out there can juggle more things at once, including colors, but for the true bookish geek out there, the Kindle seems to be the way to go if you want your page to look as close to real print as possible. Apparently there will be a Webkit based browser with the new Kindle, but this is, as Engadget indicates, totally experimental. We’ll see what the verdict is on that, later.

As we’ve updated on the e-reader wars here at Geeks Are Sexy, you—the readers—have offered a number of options. Many of you prefer to read on your iPhones/smartphones, others take the Kindle anywhere including the beach; some just go with netbooks, while others are adamant about never giving up paperbacks (from your cold, dead hands… we know, we know!). And for those of us left over who just haven’t decided (myself included) or think you even have to decide (does getting a Kindle mean you have to burn all your books? … um, no) the price war is quite amusing to watch. How low is so low that these gadgets just become as common as iPods or cell phones?

One particular facet that the Kindle hasn’t really jumped on is the multitasking bandwagon, as with gadgets like the Nook or, of course, Apple’s iPad. But that’s just not what Amazon is about. Engadget is a little more tongue in cheek about it, but they do point us to this quote by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos:

“For the vast majority of books, adding video and animation is not going to be helpful. It is distracting rather than enhancing. You are not going to improve Hemingway by adding video snippets.”

On a level, I agree. A book is absolutely about imagination. But the Kindle, and e-readers, are not books. They’re gadgets. And for gadgets to really become integrated into the daily lives of people—even those in the non-geek crowd—I think inherent flexibility is paramount. As lovely as the ink looks on a Kindle, and as enticing as the price is, I’m just not willing to buy something that’s for one single purpose. Maybe if I read 100s of books a year, I’d consider it. But as it is, I manage a handful a year.

And just to serve by way of anecdote. I recently finished my current novel, and was in discussion with my very geeky, gadget-minded husband as to the easiest way for him to read it. The conversation ended up with him going, “Can you just print it out? Y’know, make it look like a book?” I rest my case.