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Kindle Paperwhite officially in SA

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The front-lit Kindle Paperwhite has a 212ppi display and 25% more contrast.
The front-lit Kindle Paperwhite has a 212ppi display and 25% more contrast.

The Kindle Paperwhite has officially become available in SA, after supply constraints delayed its local release.

Circuit City, the retail distributor of Kindle products in SA, says after the Kindle Paperwhite was released in the US in September last year, demand was so high that Amazon struggled to keep up and the global rollout was consequently pushed back.

The Kindle Paperwhite is the first to feature new LED lighting technology with mounted LEDs in the four edges of the display and a transparent light guide, which directs the light downwards onto the display surface.

The Kindle Paperwhite's six-inch display is said to offer 25% more contrast than its predecessor and 62% more pixels, with 212ppi. The Paperwhite also has improved 3G technology and promises that books can be downloaded within 60 seconds.

Amazon has also added a new "Time to Read" feature, which calculates the user's reading speed and gives a time estimate of how much longer it will take to finish a chapter or whole book. The latest Kindle also allows the user to choose from a range of font styles, while also adjusting font size, line spacing and margins.

The battery life of the Kindle Paperwhite is the same as its predecessor, at eight weeks (although this is conditional on turning off WiFi and 3G).

Local pricing for the Kindle Paperwhite is R2 249 for the WiFi-only version and R2 999 for the 3G version. The device is available at Makro, Incredible Connection and Dion Wired.

E-readers aren't dead

Circuit City MD Steve Nossel acknowledges there has been a lot of speculation around the future of single-purpose devices such as e-readers, amid the growth of the tablet and smartphone markets.

A report released by market research firm IHS iSuppli in December last year stated the e-reader market was on an "alarmingly precipitous decline".

According to the report, shipments of e-readers at the end of 2012 were expected to total 14.9 million units, which was down 36% compared to 2011 (which it says appears to have been the year the e-reader market peaked). The report also predicted there would be a further 27% drop in 2013, when shipments would be about 10.9 million units.

"By 2016, the e-book reader space will amount to just 7.1 million units - equivalent to a loss of more than two-thirds of its peak volume in 2011," said the report, adding that uni-tasking devices like e-readers are being replaced by multipurpose devices like smartphones and tablets.

The IDC's latest tablet market report also said: "The growth of low-cost tablets is clearly damaging the prospects of the single-use e-reader." The IDC reduced its forecast for the category by an average of 14% between 2013 and 2016.

Nossel said the alarmist reports of the decline of the e-reader market are laughable: "E-readers are not dead - not now, or in the future."

According to Nossel, reading a book on an LCD display on a tablet or smartphone is a poor substitute for the e-reader experience.

"Front-lit e-readers offer major benefits over tablets. They weigh less, the screens are easier to read on and the battery lasts longer," says Nossel.

Referring to the idea of single-purpose devices being replaced, Nossel uses the analogy of photographers not swapping out their SLR cameras for iPhones, arguing that avid readers will not prefer a tablet over an e-reader.

Nossel also says that according to Amazon's data, since the introduction of the Kindle 3G, people have been reading 36% more on average.

Addressing the question of whether the Kindle Fire tablet will ever be released in SA, Nossel says: "It's a matter of when rather than if."

He adds Amazon still just needs to overcome some obstacles around local copyright laws. "But with a little patience and luck, they will have crossed all the t's and dotted the i's and hopefully it will be available in SA before year-end," says Nossel, adding that they can't make any promises.

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13 Aug
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