Amazon announced Kindle Paperwhite, the newest addition to their e-reader family, today in Santa Monica, confirming advance speculation that the online retailer might add to their product base. But for movie fans, the more notable developments came from the upgrades to Amazon’s existing Kindle Fire.
In an event held at the Barker Hangar near Santa Monica Airport, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos began his address to the audience by stating that “people don’t want gadgets anymore. They want services. Kindle Fire is a service. It greets you by name. It makes recommendations for you. A hardware device as a service, that’s what people want.”
Although the initial emphasis was on the new font design, lighting configuration and new X-Ray feature that allows for easy search within a book, all features on the new Paperwhite, the new features for the Kindle Fire model became the centerpiece. The device, now base priced at $159, will offer increased resolution and a laminated touch sensor designed to reduce screen glare. A built-in, embedded Dolby Digital Plus, dual speaker sound system is also featured for handheld viewing. (The HD upgraded Kindle Fire will be available for $199 at its base 7-inch, 16 GB device.)
Bezos’ demo of a clip from “The Hunger Games” highlighted the X-Ray feature’s crossover into the video realm. When the film was paused, an IMDb-powered window identified the three featured actors in the scene, with quick access to their filmography.
In terms of addressing their competition, there were minimal mentions of Apple’s iPad, only in comparison with respect to additional antennas and buffering speed, a major selling point for home-consumed entertainment. Although Bezos mentioned Amazon’s recent acquisition of Epix, there were no significant developments related to Amazon’s existing catalogue of 25,000 streaming movies and TV episodes. Presumably, the increased connectivity and enhanced visual components will hope to strengthen the company’s answer to the Apple-Netflix in-home streaming partnership.
Most of the other innovations as part of this new product expansion centered more on the consumption of written material. “Who are the creators we’ve never known?” Bezos posited in his presentation. Amazon’s new Kindle Serials will allow stories with multiple installments to be released over a period of time, bringing a web-series style sensibility to digital and independent publishing. Although that philosophy wasn’t explicitly connected to the distribution of independent film and transmedia content, this may be a point of focus as this new technology becomes widely available in the coming weeks.
Update: Although X-Ray in its video form is currently only available for movies, Kindle Vice President Peter Larsen explained that since the feature uses data from IMDb, Amazon hasn’t ruled out bringing the technology to TV shows. The information stored as part of X-Ray is tied to a scene database that allows for the most immediate form of updating as the film progresses. Not every film available for purchase through Amazon is enabled with that requisite information, but as they grow their catalogue through ventures like the Epix acquisition, they hope to implement X-Ray in its various forms.