Amazon has expanded its Kindle app offerings yet again, with an update to Kindle for Android that optimizes the e-reader software for tablets running Google Android 3.0 (code-named "Honeycomb"). In coming months, Honeycomb devices arriving on store shelves will challenge the Apple iPad's dominance of the tablet market.
The latest version of Kindle for Android includes a Honeycomb-optimized layout for newspaper and magazine reading, the ability to pause and resume downloads, enhanced word look-up ability, and a tablet-tailored shopping interface. Users can download the platform from either Android Marketplace or Amazon's Appstore for Android.
Amazon has been steadily building out features for its Kindle platform. On April 20, the online retailer announced a Kindle Library Lending Feature, due later in 2011, which will allow readers to borrow Kindle ebooks from more than 11,000 libraries in the United States.
In addition to checking out ebooks, customers will have the ability to make annotations within the text. Kindle Library Lending will work with both Kindle e-readers and the Kindle app for mobile devices and PCs. Kindle users can already lend ebooks to one another for 14 days.
Amazon has also sought to broaden Kindle adoption with an ad-supported device that retails for $114, slightly cheaper than the basic Kindle at $139 and the Kindle 3G at $189. While Amazon continues to command the lion's share of the e-reader market, it faces competition not only from rival e-readers such as Barnes & Noble's full-color Nook, but also Apple and Google, which have introduced e-reading platforms for tablets and smartphones.
Analysts have theorized recently that Amazon could eventually build an Android-based device capable of taking on the iPad and other Android tablet manufacturers.
"Amazon could create a compelling Android- or Linux-based tablet offering easy access to Amazon's storefront (including its forthcoming Android app store) and unique Amazon features like one-click purchasing, Amazon prime service, and its recommendation engine," Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps wrote in a March 10 blog posting. "More consumers considering buying a tablet say they would consider Amazon (24 percent) than Motorola (18 percent)."
Such a device would also allow Amazon to leverage its massive customer base.
"A Kindle-Android device could prove popular, building on the large installed base of Kindle users," added analyst Jack Gold. "And Amazon clearly has the largest -store' out there (bigger than the iTunes/app store world) so that could be a swaying factor if they got aggressive with offering special deals on their own device."
That being said, many users purchase the Kindle for its paperlike e-ink display and ultra-long battery life, two things by definition unavailable in a tablet. Whether or not Amazon decides to go the homegrown tablet route, though, it definitely seems intent on keeping Kindle software as up-to-date as possible with this new Honeycomb addition.