Amazon.com plans on introducing two new features to its Kindle e-reader franchise: the ability to receive newspapers and other periodicals via the free Kindle app, and lending for Kindle, which will allow e-books to be shared between users.
"Each book can be lent once for a loan period of 14 days and the lender cannot read the book during the loan period," reads an Oct. 22 on Amazon's Website. "Additionally, not all e-books will be lendable-this is solely up to the publisher or rights holder, who determines which titles are enabled for lending."
With the feature, Amazon follows in the steps of Barnes & Noble, which includes lending as part of its Nook e-reader platform.
The new Kindle features, on the heels of similar updates throughout 2010, represent Amazon's continued attempts to keep ahead of other e-reader manufacturers-notably Barnes & Noble-as well as Apple's e-reader application for iPad. In September, Amazon added new features to its Kindle for Android app, yet another escalation in its longtime strategy of pushing Kindle software onto as many devices as possible.
Kindle for Android now allows users to search within e-books via typing or voice, add notes and highlights to text and have those annotations sync between devices and look up terms in Wikipedia. An e-text can also be locked in landscape or portrait mode.
Amazon's latest updates to the Kindle e-reader include a higher-contrast e-ink screen, longer battery life, Wikipedia access, support for password-protected PDFs, and a more lightweight body. The WiFi-only version of the device retails for $139, while the next-generation version with 3G connectivity sells for $189.
Analytics firm In-Stat predicts that e-reader shipments will grow from around 12 million units in 2010 to 35 million in 2014. "Tablet PC shipments are taking off, fueled in particular by the Apple iPad introduction. Yet there will still be a revenue opportunity for e-reader suppliers and OEMs since tablet PCs and e-readers target different consumers," Stephanie Ethier, an analyst with In-Stat, wrote in a Sept. 14 research note. "Standalone e-readers will address the needs of avid readers, to whom the reading experience is central. Tablets are better suited for consumers who prefer a stronger multimedia experience and only light reading."
Nonetheless, some analysts see the rising popularity of tablet PCs-led for the moment by Apple's iPad-as potentially cannibalizing the market for e-readers.
Amazon likely views tablet PCs as a growing threat, which would certainly explain why its latest television ad campaign tries to draw contrasts between those devices and the Kindle. The first 30-second spot shows a man and woman, poolside, with the man struggling to read his tablet PC's screen in bright sunlight. The woman, by contrast, reads merrily away at her Kindle while extolling the virtues of its lower price-point.