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Why New Kindles Will Supplement, Not Replace, My iPad

As much as I’m tied into Apple’s (AAPL) ecosystem for hardware and apps, my e-book loyalty lies with (AMZN). A big reason for that is when it comes to e-books, I like the flexibility that comes with a vendor that makes it easy for me to read my books on any device. And that’s a big part of why I’m interested in Amazon’s new offerings.

My recent experiences during a major power outage showed to me the one big downside to going 100 percent digital on books: When your battery dies, you can’t read a book, even in the daylight. Plus, the iPad was a little too large to just toss in my pocket when I left the house. Some people can’t leave the house without a pack of smokes; I can’t leave without a book.

I started becoming more interested in Kindle hardware in light of those problems. However, the prices just weren’t at a point I was happy with for a supplemental device. Today’s announcements have changed that.

Kindle Fire

While the Kindle Fire is likely to be a fine tablet, for me it underscores some problems I have with the iPad: The IPS screen is going to be a nightmare to read outside, and at eight hours of battery life, it doesn’t have the month (or two) of long-lasting power that the e-ink Kindles do. My mobile gaming needs are met quite well with the iPad. As a technology commentator, though, I expect I’ll get one. The $199 price tag for a non-iPad tablet is a much easier pill to swallow than the $499 and up for other Android tablets. I do find it interesting that Amazon merged two distinct approaches: taking advantage of an open operating system (Android), yet creating a curated experience like Apple’s.

Were I not a tech commentator, and instead the average iPad user, I could see myself getting a Fire in these scenarios: Either I use Amazon streaming a lot or I want a second tablet that travels better owing to its small size. In this economy, unless you can pretend you need one for “work,” I have a hard time seeing anyone needing a second tablet, no matter the price. But for those who can justify the expense, the Kindle Fire fills in some gaps, especially for users already heavily invested in the Android ecosystem.

The new Kindles

Now we’re talking. Books are my primary media consumption. The iPad isn’t good for reading in any situation where light is being cast on the screen. Ten hours of battery life is nice, but I’d like to not have to worry about that at all, which is what the e-ink Kindles offer. The size of the new e-readers is also right for “throw it in my jacket pocket” situations.

A Kindle reader under a hundred bucks perfectly fits my price point for buying a second reading device in addition to the iPad. I’ve ordered a Kindle for $79. Sure, it’s ad-supported, but from what I’ve been hearing the ads aren’t intrusive to my reading experience anyway.

A tale of apps

The big difference between Amazon and Apple is that Apple wants to sell you hardware, and Amazon just wants to sell you content. I believe Apple releasing iBooks for Android would be a sign of failure for its strategy. Amazon, on the other hand, doesn’t give a hoot what you read your book on, just that you buy the book from them.

Up until today, my e-reading plan was to buy the book on Amazon and read it on my iPad. Now, I’m going to be mostly using the Kindle to read my books. Whispersync will do its job and I can read on my iPad, too, without losing my place. The lack of a keyboard or touch interface on the new entry-level Kindle doesn’t bother me. Almost all of my Kindle books are purchased via the Web on my Mac.

Amazon has done something very smart with its table and e-reader strategy: priced its devices at a point where owning them in addition to other devices makes sense. The new Kindles don’t have to beat the iPad, especially when Amazon’s app strategy means they can all play nice together.

Also from GigaOM:

The Connected Planet: Smartphones Aren’t the Only Player (subscription required)

Yes, VMware Has a Big Data Play

Kindle Fire Will Prime the Pump for Amazon Video

(Armed With Cloud) Amazon’s Silk Joins the Browser Wars

Wheelz: Car Sharing for Campuses

Mark Crump is a writer for GigaOM.

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