Author(s): Jasdeep Badyal
Last month, Amazon unveiled its latest version of the Kindle, the Kindle Oasis. This is the eighth-generation Kindle and is the thinnest and lightest model to date, yet also one of the most premium.
The most notable change in the design when compared with older versions is the addition of an ergonomic grip on the side; a neat addition allowing for readers to hold the device more comfortably and switch pages without needing to touch the screen. Underneath the grip lies the battery, backlight and processor. The Kindle Oasis weighs just 131 grams and is 3.4 mm at its thinnest point, making it 30 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter on average than any other Kindle.
The company has achieved this with an impressive engineering technique called structural electroplating. The frame of the Kindle Oasis is coated in metal during this process, and particular points in the metal casing are strengthened with smaller, added layers of metal. This allows the strong rigidity of the metal to strengthen the frame without adding significant weight to the casing.
Then there's the screen, which Amazon claims is its sharpest yet. It features a new side-mounted front light —allowing for more LEDs to be used, as opposed to the top of the screen — that uses cylindrical diffractive patterns to evenly spread the light out on the screen. This adds to Amazon's efforts to make the Kindle reading experience as close as possible to that of paper.
With the extra LEDs, there's extra drain on battery life. The Kindle Oasis alone has about two weeks of battery life, which is a short lifespan for e-readers with an e-ink display. However, the device comes with a stylish yet incredibly useful leather battery case, which extends the battery life to nine weeks of regular reading.
The integration of these new features and the enhanced hardware design would add a premium on any device, and with a launch price of £269.99 it certainly does that for the Kindle Oasis. This sets it well above some of the higher-end e-readers of its close competitors, such as Kobo and Barnes & Noble.
The premium price indicates that this is not Amazon pushing for people to upgrade from its Paperwhite or Kindle Voyage models, but forming an addition to its portfolio, hoping to attract new readers who value quality of reading. And by doing so, Amazon has created a strong line-up of devices with various prices and targeting different types of readers. But the high end may prove a bigger challenge considering the premium that Amazon has attached to the Kindle Oasis.
Another potential drawback is that the Kindle Oasis is not water-resistant – perhaps a feature that users would expect from a premium e-reader, particularly for the avid beach or pool-side user. Amazon's reason for not including this is that adding water resistance or waterproofing would mean the drop-rate survival of the e-reader would decrease, and in most cases it would cause the Kindle to not function as well, ultimately shortening the device's lifespan. In our view, it's a small sacrifice to ensure durability and a strong user experience.
Aside from the hardware, Amazon has continued to build a strong content story. There are now 4.4 million book titles available to read on a Kindle; this has grown from 90,000 in 2008, with 1.1 million titles added in the past 12 months.
Dedicated Kindle devices help drive e-book sales on Amazon, many of which are self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing. There is also the possibility of Kindles serving as a gateway that helps draw people to other products and deals on Amazon, including its Prime membership programme. Kindle is still an important and growing part of the Amazon business and the company has no intention of stopping after the Oasis model, with many more generations of the Kindle likely to come.