One point made very strongly by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in Amazon’s press conference this week was that while Amazon of course wants to make devices its customers will like and want to buy, if customers don’t find themselves actually wanting to use the device very much, the device is a failure. It doesn’t matter how much processing power it has, how sleek the design, or how long you waited in line to buy it: if that shiny new toy spends more time on the shelf than in your hands, it was a waste of money.
Bezos’ answer to this pitfall he’s seen so many competitors stumble over is to provide not only a family of devices to suit all needs and budgets, but to back them up with services and built-in apps that will have consumers reaching for those devices countless times throughout the day. This strategy was evident in Amazon’s announcement of the many new services and built-in functionalities being rolled out with the new Paperwhite and Kindle Fire HD tablets.
Time to Read – This Paperwhite feature allows the reader to see an estimate of how much more time is needed to finish the current chapter, or the entire book, based on the reader’s average reading pace on the book.
Kindle Book X-Ray – Within Kindle books with X-Ray enabled (where available, X-Ray shows up in the toolbar for the book), readers have access to detailed character and plot information, related Wikipedia and Shelfari entries, and the ability to see at a glance a listing of all parts of the book where a given character appears. This feature is now available for many textbooks as well, expanding their usability by bringing in outside information sources from the web.
Movie X-Ray – The new family of Kindle Fire HD devices provide functionality similar to Kindle Book X-Ray, but for movies. When you pause a film on your KFHD device, an X-Ray menu pops up to let you view IMDB data about the cast, crew, and more. You can view lists of other movies featuring the same actor or director, see online photo albums from the film or cast and crew, and view biographies too.
FreeTime – This is the new suite of parental controls being rolled out with the new Kindle devices: it’s on Paperwhite and KFHD models. With Free Time, parents can set up separate user accounts for each child or family member and set parental controls on a per-account, per-content-type basis. For example, you can set a time limit for playing games or watching video, but allow for unlimited reading. When FreeTime is in use the screen background changes to blue, so parents can see it at a glance, from a distance.
Whispersync for Voice – Now you can start listening to a book in Audible audiobook format, then pick up right where you left off in the Kindle version of the book! Just buy the Kindle book on Amazon, then click the link on its product page to buy the discounted, matching Audible audiobook edition.
Amazingly, this service is even being offered on a generous selection of free, public-domain classic Kindle books. Click here to see the included Kindle titles, and be sure to also get the free Audible audiobook editions by clicking on the Whispersync for Voice link on the product detail page—the Audible editions are free for a limited time only, so get these right away!
IMPORTANT NOTE FOR AUDIBLE MEMBERS: when you go to the Audible product page to ‘buy’ the free audiobook, by default, the box to “apply listener credit” will be checked off. Click the box to un-check it; you’ll still get the audiobook for free, and your Audible Listener Credit will remain unused.
Immersion Reading – This new feature allows you to hear the Audible audiobook being read while you follow along in the Kindle edition onscreen. Engaging multiple senses is a great way to speed and strengthen learning and retention, so students will find this feature particularly useful.
Whispersync for Games – Don’t you hate it when you have to replace an old device, or decide to upgrade to a new one, only to find all your hard-earned progress in your games has been lost when you re-install? This won’t be a problem with the new Kindle devices (those capable of playing games), because Whispersync for Games is built in, and it automatically saves your game data and progress to Amazon’s Cloud.
Kindle Serials – Amazon’s bringing back the serial novel format of yesteryear, allowing customers to purchase all episodes of a serial at once and then have them automatically delivered to their Kindle device as each is released. Readers of a serial can discuss the book amongst themselves if they wish, using social features of the program, as well as offering feedback to the author where the author has enabled this capability. We may soon be seeing the first crowd-sourced novels through this program.
NBC And EPIX Programs Added to Amazon Prime Instant Video Catalog – Amazon recently inked deals with NBC and EPIX, more than doubling the original Prime Instant Video catalog of offerings. EPIX studio partners include MGM, Paramount and Lionsgate, so this has opened a veritable floodgate of new, quality movies for Prime members to view at no extra cost.