Sunday, 24 April 2016

For & Against the Kindle Oasis

Generally, the Kindle Oasis brought what was predicted - incremental updates, including premium design features and a charging case (it is not solar powered). Surprisingly, there is no Bluetooth or waterproof features. Some complaints and objections came with the Oasis’s release, with its unjustified high price for little relative improvement. Overall, the Oasis, in my opinion, does not offer substantial improvements to warrant its ‘premium’ tag or its price difference to the Kindle Paperwhite, let alone the Kindle Voyage. Below are arguments for and against the Kindle Oasis:

For the Kindle Oasis 

The Kindle Oasis offers an improved front-light and an enhanced case. In regards to front light improvements, we have ten LEDs, rather than the eight on the Voyage, resulting in a more evenly lit front light. In this improvement, Amazon aims to mimic the feel of ink on paper. Considering the Oasis’s super lightweight (131 grams), better front-light, intuitive ergonomics and a bundled case that significantly prolongs battery life, then we could arguably justify an increase of £100 compared to the Voyage.

Further, regarding pricing, premium end smartphones retail considerably higher; the question arises if premium smartphone pricing, for example, an Apple iPhone or Samsung S7, are justified in their retail cost. Many websites seem to answer that there can be no justification for Oasis's pricing - it is, in their view, “crazy expensive”. Maybe this points to a broader issue of how reviewers pre-define what they envisage as use case scenarios for consumer devices. Thus, e-readers are considered secondary devices, while smartphones would be primary ones, and some do not comprehend a ‘premium’ single-use device.

Other technology writers seem to believe that many e-readers do the same thing and it would be frivolous to justify upgrades similar to smartphones. The point here is that the Kindle Oasis is intended for dedicated e-readers and, accordingly, they would want the best possible reading experience. For this intended segment of users, an e-reader could be a primary device and the Kindle Oasis is a reading tool that beats anything out there for its size and features.

Against the Kindle Oasis 

Overall, the case is stronger against the Kindle Oasis. The main problem is in a device that maintains the same display size, e-ink technology (Carta), 300 dpi and even slightly worse contrast ratio to other Kindle models. Contrast ratios are vital on e-readers and more so with a device that markets itself as the best of the best. In regards to a case prolonging battery life than e-ink e-readers offer more than enough battery. The same can be said with an improved front-light, mimicking the feel of printed paper - the Paperwhite’s front light, in comparison, is bright and even enough to make little difference.

What could make the Oasis worthy of its inflated price would be something that significantly improves the end user's reading experience with a substantive upgrade in hardware. Hence this means either a larger display, e.g., an eight inch one, or Liquavista colour to complement a larger display. For the end-user differentiation in size means better functionality with PDF files and text immersion with e-books. However, this would likely go against Amazon’s ethos of selling hardware as a gateway to their content. The point of the Oasis is not to just provide the best possible e-reader but to specifically provide the best possible e-reader to access Amazon’s Kindle ecosystem. For Amazon, the Kindle is primarily viewed as a device to access Amazon e-books, rather than a multi-functional e-reading hardware platform. The same may be stated with Kobo’s strategy, after exiting the tablet segment and concentrating on e-readers.

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