Amazon Kindle: A brief 10-year history from the original Kindle to the new Kindle Oasis | Apps & Software
The Amazon Kindle was launched with one real aim: to bring people books. The Kindle was never designed to compete with tablets and sticking to this principle has allowed the Kindle to evolve through to the present day and excel at its task.
The Kindle has remained one of our favourite devices. Where tablets, phones, PCs and TVs have seen radical changes, the technology and the functions of the Kindle have remained true to task, but evolving in pace with technology.
The Kindle gives you access to digital books and provides the best method for reading them and that’s the guiding principle that drives the Kindle on. It’s about reading, reading and reading. It’s a tool for a single job, not a tool for many (there’s the Kindle Fire for that, which we’re ignoring here.)
We’ve been looking over the archives of Kindle history, from Amazon’s original ebook reader, through to its brand new, premium, Oasis, to pick out the important steps in the Kindle’s journey.
Launched in November 2007, the Amazon Kindle was showcased in NewsWeek magazine. It went on sale on Amazon.com on 19 November and sold out within hours and was immediately dubbed “the iPod of reading”.
The original Kindle launched with a 6-inch E Ink display, offered a free wireless connection over Sprint’s EV-DO network, on the new Whispernet announced by Amazon.
There was no touch control, however, so the Kindle offered a full keyboard, navigation buttons and a quirky wedge-shaped design aiming to make it better to hold. It also offered a speaker and headphone socket, and expandable SD card storage.
Because page navigation was difficult, it featured a second display with a scroll wheel to help make selections on the display easier. That was needed because the E Ink display was too slow to refresh to give a natural navigation experience.
It cost $399 and was only available within the US, offering access to 90,000 books at launch.
Amazon Kindle 2
On 9 February 2009 Amazon updated the Kindle with the launch of the Kindle 2. The crazy design of the 2007 Kindle was swapped for a more conventional, flatter, design, with a button lay-out that was flatter and less dominating.
It retained the 6-inch E Ink display, however, improving the technology for faster page turns and better refreshing, while moving from the original 4 shades of grey to 16. There was a storage boost too, moving up wit 2GB of internal storage for 1000s of books.
A new navigation controller was added to make it easier to select text and options on the screen.
The Kindle Store by this time had expanded to around 230,000 titles and the Kindle 2 launched with a Steven King exclusive, called Ur.
It cost $359 originally, discounted to $299 and then $259. The Kindle 2 was then dropped for the Kindle 2 International edition that was announced on 7 October and shifted to GSM for global wireless connections.
The Kindle also fractured off into a line of larger devices called the Kindle DX aimed at magazine reading, but only survived two generations before they stopped being offered.
Amazon Kindle Keyboard
The Kindle Keyboard was the first Kindle to sell natively in the UK, announced on 29 July 2010. It was launched originally as Kindle 3, an obvious evolution of the Kindle 2, but then changed its name to the Kindle Keyboard.
The Kindle Keyboard again made the page turn controls more compact in the edges and slotted the navigation controller alongside the keyboard. It still didn’t offer a touchscreen, so that keyboard was used for browsing and buying from the Kindle store.
The other big departure was a Wi-Fi only version, meaning a lower pricing point. It was $139/£109 for Wi-Fi and the 3G version costing $189/£149. The new UK Kindle Store opened on 27 August 2010, with access to 400,000 books.
The display is still a 6-inch E Ink display, by now offering 600 x 800 pixels.
On 28 September 2011, Amazon had a huge day, announcing not only a fourth-generation Kindle, but also the Kindle Fire as it branched into tablets. However, for the Kindle family, the most important device was the Kindle Touch. The Touch was the first implementation of touchscreen, dropping the navigation keys and the keyboard.
The new device retained the 6-inch E Ink display, but now touch was added because Amazon felt the refresh rate was fast enough and the experience clean enough to make this move. There was 4GB of storage and a battery life of weeks.
The Kindle Touch was again available in Wi-Fi and 3G versions, it introduced Amazon’s X-Ray feature. It was originally launched in the US, but became international in March 2012. The Kindle Touch cost $99 for Wi-Fi and $149 for 3G at launch in the US.
The rumours of a front-lit Kindle appeared not long after the launch of the Touch, but it was 6 September 2012 when Amazon announced the Kindle Paperwhite. The first generation device added illumination to the display which was a major breakthrough, meaning you could now read in the dark, with manual brightness adjustment.
It was originally launched with a 6-inch 212ppi display and in 3G and Wi-Fi editions, again relying solely on touchscreen navigation.
The second edition (Paperwhite 2) was announced on 3 September 2013 with an upgraded E Ink display offering better contrast and faster page turns thanks to a more powerful processor. The illumination was also improved for more a more even front light.
The third edition Kindle Paperwhite was announced on 30 June 2015 and stepped the E Ink display up to 300ppi, with twice the number of pixels of the 2012 model. This model also saw the debut of the Bookerly font, Amazon’s own font designed for reading.
The Kindle Paperwhite (2015) costs £109.99 (Wi-Fi)/$119.99 (Wi-Fi) and £169.99 (3G)/$189.99 (3G) with special offers. The Kindle Paperwhite is Amazon’s best selling Kindle.
While most of the attention has been taken by the advancements firstly to touch and then to the front lighting of the Paperwhite, the humble Kindle continued.
Announced in 2014, this version of the Amazon Kindle was heralded mostly for its price, launched alongside the advanced Kindle Voyage. This Kindle is perhaps basic by comparison, but with a price of only £59/$79, it’s the cheapest Kindle, but still fully featured, offering a great entry point into the world of ebook readers.
The Kindle offers full touch control and a 6-inch E Ink display, but doesn’t offer a 3G connection, sticking to Wi-Fi only. But there’s 4GB of storage and a battery that will last you through weeks of reading.
Amazon Kindle Voyage
The Kindle Voyage takes much of what Amazon has done elsewhere and refines it further. It was announced on 18 September 2014 alongside the £59 basic Kindle, offering quite a contrast in the Kindle family.
The Kindle Voyage looked to enhance the Kindle experience, removing the bezel and placing touch controllers next to the display to make page turning easier without having to swipe the display. At the same time the display steps-up offering adaptive front lighting, a feature unique to this model.
The display is still a 6-inch E Ink display, offering a 300ppi resolution. The Kindle Voyage aimed to give users a premium reading experience and it did so, but comes with hefty £169/$199 price for the Wi-Fi model, or £229.99/$289 for the 3G version.
Amazon Kindle Oasis
The Amazon Kindle Oasis was announced on 13 April 2016 and is a radical departure for the Kindle design, breaking the device down and starting again.
It offers a device that’s much thinner and lighter than any previous Kindle, pulling the hardware into the grip on one side and offering two top page turning buttons. The aim is to make it a superlative one-handed reading device.
It offers enhanced front lighting, but lacks the adaptive lighting of the Voyage, and again sticks to a 6-inch E Ink display with 300ppi.
It comes with a battery cover that will extend the life up to about 9 weeks, making this the longest-lasting Kindle so far. But it’s also the most expensive, with a £269.99 price tag.
New Amazon Kindle Oasis
There’s a new Oasis in town, and this time Amazon is making a big change we’ve not seen so far on this list: it’s bumping the screen size up to 7 inches. While the resolution stays the same 300dpi, the new Oasis is a lot more ambitious than the 2016 version.
Announced on 11 October, the new Oasis offers IPX8 waterproofing, another first for Kindle, as well as offering support for Audible books – although that’s also coming to some of the older models.
It also brings a welcome price drop, offering this skinny reading experience for £229.99, a £40 price decrease from the previous model. You also get 8GB storage for that (with 32GB an option), meaning more space for all those audiobooks.
It also now has adaptive front lighting too.