Amazon on Tuesday rolled out a new Kindle Paperwhite with hardware improvements such as a new touch grid, faster processor and higher contrast display, but the real win will come with an over-the-air update that aims to boost engagement with Goodreads integration and a gamification-powered Freetime for kids.
The company, which already spilled the beans with an early store update about the new Paperwhite earlier, has Kindle e-reader update that may be worth an upgrade. What's unclear at this point is whether Amazon will add Goodreads to the previous version of the Paperwhite. If not, the new Paperwhite is worth the upgrade. Even so, the brighter screen and in-line use of tools like footnotes and vocabulary builder may be worth it.
Amazon is holding the Paperwhite prices the same---$119 for a Wi-Fi version---and a Wi-Fi + 3G one at $189. Coupled with Amazon's launch of Kindle MatchBook---a service where buyers of previous physical book purchases can get e-versions for 99 cents to $2.99---and the master plan boils down to more engagement with the assumption sales will follow.
Peter Larsen, vice president of product management at Kindle, walked through the new Paperwhite. On the surface, the new version looks like last year's model, but it's hard to ignore the better resolution. The new one has a higher contrast, light that is easier on the eyes, a 25 percent faster Freescale 1GHz processor, touch technology that cuts down on mistake page turns and Goodreads integration.
The latter will probably show the synergy between social and shopping. Amazon bought Goodreads earlier this year, but today Goodreads lives in a separate place---a PC or a phone. With the new Kindle software, Goodreads reviews, recommendations, friends and followers are all integrated as you're reading. Larsen's walkthrough showed a deep integration that will be useful.
Amazon has integrated Goodreads as a top menu choice next to home and the shopping cart with a simple G. In other words, you can go from friend recommendation to review to purchase in a few seconds. . "We look at Goodreads as a customer experience problem to solve. People love Goodreads, but today it's in two different places," said Larsen. Goodreads continues to run independently like Zappos, but the integration makes reading much more social. Larsen didn't have the overlap between Kindle readers and Goodreads, but it's far from 1:1.
The other notable addition is Freetime for the Kindle Paperwhite. Amazon went with a gamification approach with this feature. Kids can earn badges and accomplishments can be sent to parents in a report. Freetime was originally designed for the Kindle Fire as a way to limit usage of video and apps. The problem with Freetime on a tablet is your kid will ask you why she only gets an hour of Minecraft. With Paperwhite Freetime the options are limited to reading. I'd also bet that messages in the lower left quarter that says "you read an extra 10 minutes" will probably boost reading overall.
Amazon's software updates and Goodreads integration will be available in the next couple of months in an over the air update.